Saturday 17 September 2016

Grant and I by Robert Forster

"I woke the morning after his death with him telling me two things. The first was that I must put to paper everything that had happened to us, write our adventures down, which was the moment this book was born."
The book's title is slightly misleading. It's as much a Robert Forster autobiography than it is a Go-Betweens biography.

This bias, though, isn't born of vanity. Yes, Forster has never projected any lack of self-confidence (exhibit A: I Love Myself and I Always Have from last year's Songs To Play) but in this book we learn that "Grant was emotionally constrained and had to be approached respectfully."

Forster approaches Grant's life respectfully, and with great admiration for his talents. If you're familiar with Forster's music journalism, you'll know how he measures his subjects with a musician's respect and a fan's heart. He does the same with his songwriting partner.

Forster was in a relationship with McLennan for almost 30 years: "We created the most romantic thing two heterosexual men can, a pop group." He makes many acute insights and observations about McLennan as a person - his music, relationships with women and his family, his lifestyle - with a gently wise understanding that only his closest friend can.

Grant and I is a much better Go-Betweens biography than David Nichols' book. Nichols, perhaps as an Australian or an author in Australia without the means in a pre-internet age to properly explore the band's time in London, devotes much of his book to The Go-Betweens' very early years.

This shortcoming left a 5-year hole, 1982-7, in the biography. Grant and I covers these years - all years, in fact - with a critic's eye and an insider's perspective. No matter the tumult, Forster is a steady hand on the tiller.

Even so, Forster offers a much more intriguing historical view than Nichols' sociological leanings. You want to know what 1984 was like? It was a "sunglasses-after-dark kinda scene...A time when you didn't consider one consequence of your deeds, a time so unusual Dylan was making bad albums."

There's - predictably, thrillingly - no modesty in declaring any Go-Betweens songs classics. Equally, he's candid about the band's studio failures and why they never crossed over to the big time.

Grant and I is an incredibly easy, enjoyable read. This is largely down to Forster's spry prose which can sparkle with luminous wit. After breaking up with Lindy he realises that he's 29, at his physical peak and single in London: "rock'n'roll ambitions had me thin, and swivel-hipped dangerous."

All that remains is the casting for the biopic.


  1. Thanks for the review. Very much looking forward to getting this. Do you know if it will be readily available in the UK or is it initially just out in Australia.