|"Our ambition was to make great music. Music as great as the music that inspired us. On the whole I think we got there."
Sometimes you get to write about the things that make the world so special that you really don't know where to begin. This is one of those moments.
In the sleeve notes for Bellavista Terrace, Robert Forster says that "ideally this should have been called 'The Go-Betweens Greatest Hits'. But it's not. Because we didn't have any. Hits, that is." That's as painfully honest a place to start as any, so let's just do that. Lets echo Robert's words and tell the world that despite making the most perfectly crafted, most deliciously natural, seductive Pop gems of the entire decade, The Go-Betweens left the 1980s as a group who barely sniffed the charts. Let's tell the world that the Go-Betweens faded from view into the realm of memories, where echoes of melody and poetic charm held sway, softly calling from the dusty corners. Always comforting, always there, always able to turn the head, to turn a weary smile of beatific magic. The music of the Go-Betweens is the sound of breathing in the shadows, kissed with the memory of sunlight and warmth.
It's been said before, but really in many ways The Go-Betweens made their Pop in the wrong decade. Forster notes on this too, saying that the '80s was a "decade often described by people in a way that bears no relation to the decade I lived in". It's true to say that the times you remember are the times you live through, and that the times you live through rarely make it onto television shows and magazine retrospectives. So that for all the froth of the rediscovered facades of times there are the undercurrents, the forgotten moments and the sights and sounds that documented them. Sights and sounds that stayed underground all along, kept from view for reasons seldom clear and even more seldom filled with integrity. All the same, those moments do get recorded. They do get out. The music of the Go-Betweens and Bellavista Terrace is proof of that.
But music should not be about always looking back to times that should have been different. The Go-Betweens made music that was at once out of time and timeless, so that played through now, some ten to twenty years on, the songs retain the essential essence that will elucidate passionate response regardless of whether it's the familiar return of a friendly refrain or the magical first time of hearing something that makes your heart sing and take flight.
Every one of the fourteen (fifteen if you count the unlisted bonus track, their debut single from 1979, the simply adorable 'Lee Remick') songs on Bellavista Terrace is a bona-fide copper bottomed classic. From the rousing opener 'Was There Anything I Could Do?' (from the final LP 16 Lovers Lane) to the spaciously desolate twin-peaked coupling of 'Part Company' and 'Cattle and Cane', with unforgettable lyrics like 'that's her handwriting, that's the way she writes' and 'his father's watch, he left it in the showers' respectively; from the gently swaying, tender as the night, 'Bachelor Kisses' and the skyscraping 'Bye Bye Pride' to the beautiful, haunting, sonically melancholic yet lyrically affirmative closing 'Dive For Your Memory'; every song is so full of spirit, so naturally blessed with the core of the flame that is magical Pop. What's more, they made so very many more of them, such that Bellavista Terrace, as sublime as it is, is nevertheless merely the tip of an iceberg made of solid gold. Forster himself attests to this, suggesting that listeners do indeed do themselves a favour and "go out and get at least a couple [of the LPs]". It's sound advice. And as a starting point to discovering the beauty of the Go-Betweens, because you either missed out at the time or because you are young and in love with the magical qualities of Pop, Bellavista Terrace is a sparkling place to begin.
© Alistair Fitchett 1999.
More Go-Betweens on Tangents:
Dive For Your Memory. Kevin Pearce with some personal recollections based around the Go-Betweens songs.
The Go-Betweens Retrospective. An article previously printed in Fantastique! fanzine, and currently available in Alistair Fitchett's book Young and Foolish.