Wednesday 3 June 2015

Head Full Of Steam by The Go-Betweens

In 1964 George "Shadow" Morton entered the Brill Building with a demo of Remember (Walking In The Sand) he'd made with 4 young ladies, The Shangri-Las, and played it to Jerry Leiber.

Leiber recalled: "It was a very strange sounding thing. It had this kind of 'swim' in the sound, that kind of tension that was very attractive."

I imagine that 21 years later in a London recording studio, Robert Forster asked his producer to put that strange swim in Head Full Of Steam. It matches the suggestive, cryptic lyric - "she never had a nickname but then nor have I" and "her mother works in exports, but that's of no importance at all" - and the way Forster raises the madness of love's ignition to mythical status.

On Man O'Sand To Girl O'Sea Forster sang with complete certainty, "I feel so sure of our love, I write a song about us breaking up"; on Head Full Of Steam he's chasing a fool's dream. It's as captivating and baroque and ambiguous as love. It is, I think, his greatest song.

It's on the best side (2) of The Go-Betweens' greatest album (Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express). Then there's this Whistle Test performance with the classic line-up. The band are on fire. Lindy's clearly the world's greatest drummer. Forster knows exactly what he's doing and where the camera is at all times. I can see why people enjoy Morrissey and Julian Cope from the same period. I can't see why Forster's not at least as highly regarded.

Why this song, why now? Because respected international blog Finest Kiss wrote about Forster's 10 best songs. I called out blog supremo Toby for omitting Head Full Of Steam. He suggested I start my own blog. So I did. Yes, there have been posts previous to this, but no one read them.

1 comment:

  1. another person who thinks that Liberty bell is their best album. Streets of your town was a monster track but you are right, 16 Lovers Lane is not as good as Liberty bell