Published in Billboard.biz
Grant McLennan, founding member of celebrated Australian folk-pop band the Go-Betweens, was found dead at his Brisbane home on Saturday (May 6) after suffering an apparent heart attack. He was 48.
Although praised by music critics at home and abroad for their melodic and bittersweet song-craft on such works as “Streets of Your Town,” “Cattle and Cane” and “Spring Rain,” the band surprisingly never achieved the matching chart success.
In a 1996 interview, republished in David Nichols’ 2003 biography “The Go-Betweens” (Verse Chorus Press), McLennan admitted, “Looking back, a lot of people would say that’s unsuccessful (to not have had a hit record). It really doesn’t matter. To me the things I like and that a lot of my friends like have fallen under the floorboards a bit. I always thought to myself, what are we doing wrong? But by that extension, what are we doing right?”
McLennan was born in Rockhampton, Queensland on Feb. 12, 1958. While studying at Brisbane’s University of Queensland, he formed the band with fellow arts student Robert Forster in 1977. It was a year after local contemporaries the Saints broke-out internationally with “(I’m) Stranded,” a track now widely regarded as a watershed for the punk movement.
Drawing inspiration from Bob Dylan, Television and the Velvet Underground, the sound of the Go-Betweens, however, was a world away from the Saints or Nick Cave’s raw, unhinged gothic act the Birthday Party, from Melbourne.
The Go-Betweens later relocated to Melbourne with drummer Lindy Morrison and in 1982 moved to London, where they established a cult fanbase and won-over critics at the influential music weekly the New Music Express (NME) and swathes of British tastemakers.
While band members came and went, McLennan and Forster continued as the songwriting driving-forces of the band until they effectively split in 1989.
Through the 1990s, McLennan continued to perform solo and in collaborations, including the Jack Frost partnership with the Church’s Steve Kilbey.
McLennan’s career proved intrinsically linked with that of Forster. The pair renewed association from the mid-1990s playing as a duo project under their own names.
The new millennium saw the band re-form and re-record under the Go-Betweens moniker. A comeback album “Friends of Rachel Worth” was released in 2000 and a follow up, “Bright Yellow Bright Orange,” came in 2001. Their most recent, “Oceans Apart” from 2005, won an Australian Record Industry Assn. Award.
McLennan was producing a number of works at the time of his death, including the debut album of Brisbane alternative rock group Charles Foster Kane. “As a songwriter Grant McLennan had that rare and masterful ability to deliver an unnerving honesty within a soul soothing melody,” says Charles Foster Kane keyboardist Andrew Holloway. “He brought that same ability to his life, for which he was widely respected and will be greatly missed by the countless he has inspired.”
McLennan is survived by his mother, sister, brother and girlfriend Emma.