Grant McLennan

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Grant McLennan
Grant McLennan.jpg
Grant McLennan, 1994
Background information
Birth name Grant William McLennan
Born (1958-02-12)12 February 1958
Rockhampton, Queensland
Died 6 May 2006(2006-05-06) (aged 48)
Brisbane, Queensland
Genres Rock, alternative rock
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter, singer
Instruments Vocals, guitar, percussion, bass guitar
Years active 1977–2006
Labels Mushroom, Postcard, Rough Trade, Beggars Banquet, Atlantic
Associated acts The Go-Betweens, The Lemons, Tuff Monks, Jack Frost, Grant McLennan Trio, Far Out Corporation, Tomboy

Grant William McLennan (12 February 1958 – 6 May 2006) was an Australian alternative rock singer-songwriter-guitarist. He co-founded the Go-Betweens with Robert Forster in Brisbane in 1977. In addition to his work with the Go-Betweens (1977–89, 2000–06) he issued four solo albums, Watershed (1991), Fireboy (1992), Horsebreaker Star (1994) and In Your Bright Ray (1997). He also undertook side-projects and collaborations with other artists. McLennan received a number of accolades recognising his achievements and contributions as songwriter and lyricist. In May 2001 the Australasian Performing Right Association listed "Cattle and Cane" (1983), written by McLennan, as one of their top 30 Australian songs of all time. McLennan died of a heart attack at the age of 48 and was survived by his fiancée, Emma Pursey.

Early life[edit]

Grant William McLennan,[1] was born on 12 February 1958 in Rockhampton, Queensland.[2][3] His father was a general practitioner, Mclennan grew up with a younger brother and sister.[2] After the death of their father, when McLennan was four years old, his family moved to Cairns. He spent five years at the Anglican Church Grammar School in Brisbane as a boarder.[2] His mother remarried and the family then relocated to a cattle station in central Far North Queensland.

McLennan's songs which evoke the impressions and imagery of the regional background of his childhood include "Cattle and Cane",[4] "Unkind and Unwise", "Dusty in Here" (about his father), "Boundary Rider" and "Bye Bye Pride".

In 1976 McLennan began a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Queensland. Joh Bjelke-Petersen was Premier of Queensland at the time, and McLennan was arrested in a student protest against aspects of that government's conservative policies.[5]

The Go-Betweens[edit]

Main article: The Go-Betweens

In 1977 Grant McLennan met Robert Forster at university. Forster encouraged him to learn bass guitar – McLennan had no musical training – and to form an alternative rock band, the Go-Betweens, in Brisbane.[6] For several months they used a succession of interim drummers, with McLennan on bass guitar and Forster on lead guitar and lead vocals.[7][8] The group released their first single in September 1978, "Lee Remick", which was written by Forster.[7]

During the group's initial period Forster provided most of the song writing and lead vocals.[7][8] In November 1979 the Go-Betweens' McLennan and Forster travelled to England and then to Scotland, where they recorded new material, including their third single, "I Need Two Heads" (June 1980).[7][8][9] By the time it appeared they had returned to Australia.[9] As McLennan's own distinctive compositional style developed the two shared lead vocal duties almost equally. For Go-Betweens releases from about 1980 forward, some songs were credited to "Forster/McLennan", although the two generally wrote separately, each singing their own compositions.[2]

In November 1981 the Go-Betweens issued their debut album, Send Me a Lullaby, with Lindy Morrison as their permanent drummer.[7][8] Aside from lead vocals and bass guitar McLennan also provides lead guitar for three of its eight tracks – he wrote four tracks and co-wrote one with Forster.[10] McLennan told Gavin Sawford of Rave magazine, in April 1996, that "[it] is to me an inauspicious debut... if I'd heard that and I wasn't in the band, I think my comment would have been 'What the fuck is going on here.' There's great melodies but then there's changes which to this day I can't work out. There's lyrics to this day which I don't understand and when I actually summon up enough courage to get to the microphone, I sound like a choirboy with a mouthful of fruitcake."[10]

In 1982 they relocated to London and recorded new material, also during that year McLennan was part of a side project, Tuff Monks, with Forster and Morrison joined by label mates, Nick Cave, Mick Harvey and Rowland S. Howard of the Birthday Party.[7][8] The group released only a single, "After the Fireworks", on Missing Link Records.[9]:93, 114–115[11] In late 1983 the Go-Betweens added Robert Vickers on bass guitar – which allowed McLennan to shift to lead guitar.[7][8]

Late in 1986 Amanda Brown joined on oboe, violin, guitar, keyboards and backing vocals.[7][8] McLennan and Brown were soon in a romantic relationship.[12][13] Many of McLennan's new lyrics were about this relationship.[12][13] McLennan and Brown had separated as a couple prior to 1989.

John Willsteed replaced Vickers on bass guitar in November 1987.[7][8] After recording six albums the Go-Betweens disbanded in December 1989.[7][8] McLennan and Forster each pursued solo careers while Brown and Morrison formed Cleopatra Wong in 1991.[7][8] McLennan and Forster reformed The Go-Betweens in 2000, and recorded three more studio albums. Their last one, Oceans Apart (October 2005), won the band their first ARIA Award: for Best Adult Contemporary Album at the 2005 ceremony.[14] Their live album, That Striped Sunlight Sound (2006), was nominated for Best Music DVD at the 2006 awards.[14]

Solo and collaborations[edit]

In 1990 Grant McLennan on lead vocals, bass guitar, lead guitar and keyboards formed a rock band, Jack Frost, in Sydney with the Church's front man, Steve Kilbey on lead vocals, bass guitar, lead guitar, keyboards and drums.[8][9]:180[15] The group released a self-titled album in 1991 and the pair resumed the collaboration in 1995 for a second album, Snow Job.[8][9]:180 Also in 1990 McLennan produced the debut single, "On and On", for Sydney-based duo, Club Hoy.[16]

He released his debut solo album, Watershed, under the name G. W. McLennan in 1991, which was produced by Dave Dobbyn (DD Smash) on Mushroom Records' White Records label.[8][16] For its United Kingdom version it appeared on Beggars Banquet.[8] Australian musicologist, Ian McFarlane, felt it was an "ambitious and highly personalised collection of songs charted McLennan's emotions in the wake of The Go-Betweens' break-up... [it] revealed McLennan to be, in turns, the introspective singer/songwriter or the carefree and gregarious performer." AllMusic's Norm Elrod noticed that McLennan "isn't the most talented singer; his voice is a bit plain, and his range somewhat limited. He isn't the most gifted guitarist; his playing sometimes amounts to basic acoustic strums. He is, however, a truly exceptional artist who, in the spirit of Lloyd Cole, crafts moments of brilliance to fit his limitations."[17]

In November 1992 McLennan issued his second album, Fireboy, which was produced by Dobbyn again.[8][16] McFarlane compared it with his previous one and found it was "an even more melancholy set of songs that boasted fuller (though never obtrusive) arrangements."[16] Ned Raggett of AllMusic felt it "finds the musician in excellent form, with a baker's dozen worth of songs that won't challenge preconceptions, but do make for a great listen all around" with "sweetly sparkling, sometimes barbed, numbers."[18] Robert Christgau, an American journalist, preferred the tracks "The Dark Side of Town", "Riddle in the Rain" and "Whose Side Are You On?", which were "living tunes in studio-rock amber."[19] During 1993 he toured Australia with a backing band comprising Michael Barclay on drums, Pedro Bull on keyboards (both ex-ex-Paul Kelly and the Messengers), Maurice Frawley on guitar (ex-Paul Kelly and the Dots) and Phil Kakulas on bass guitar (ex-Blackeyed Susans).[8][16]

McLennan's third album, Horsebreaker Star, appeared in December 1994 as a double-CD.[8][16] It was recorded in Athens, Georgia with American session musicians and was produced by John Keane (R.E.M., Indigo Girls, Vic Chesnutt).[8][20] Christgau found it was McLennan's "most consistently catchy solo album" providing "30 snapshots of a resigned romantic" while "unrolling tune after sweet, simple-seeming tune."[19] McFarlane praised "its wide-screen outlook, the album shifted from country rock to bright acoustic pop with a great deal of optimism and passion."[16] Raggett opined that it was "more of a country/Southern rock bent... [while] his ear for focused, sharp lyrical portraits of life and love, paired with his ever-striking crisp singing style, continues to lead the way."[20]

On 23 September 1997 McLennan released his fourth solo album, In Your Bright Ray, with Wayne Connolly producing (You Am I, Bluebottle Kiss, Underground Lovers).[8][16] AllMusic's Jack Rabid found it "returns him to his more well-trodden ground... [and] is as warm and soft as a cake out of the oven, a just-washed blanket, and an Eskimo coat."[21] In 1998 he collaborated with Powderfinger's Ian Haug on guitar in Far Out Corporation.[8][16] They were joined by Ross MacLennan (no relation) on drums (ex-Turtlebox) and Adele Pickvance on bass guitar.[8][16] McFarlane described them as a "conceptual art group with a pop orientation."[16] They issued their sole album, FOC in October 1998, which was co-produced by Tim Whitten with the group.[8][16]


Grant William McLennan died at his Brisbane home on 6 May 2006, aged 48, from a heart attack.[5][22] He was preparing for a party to celebrate with his fiancée, Emma Pursey; he complained of feeling unwell, and went upstairs to rest. He was found dead soon after by Pursey, his flatmate and friends.[22] Over 1,000 people attended his funeral, including musicians Dave Dobbyn, Bernard Fanning, Ian Haug, Lindy Morrison, Dave McCormack, Steve Kilbey, Paul Kelly and Ed Kuepper.[23]




Extended plays[edit]

  • Surround Me (October 1992)

Compilation albums[edit]


  • "Easy Come, Easy Go" (1991)
  • "Word Gets Around" (1991)
  • "Lighting Fires" (October 1993)
  • "Simone and Perry" (1995)
  • "Don't You Cry" (1995)
  • "Comet Scar" (July 1997)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "'Black Mule' at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 12 September 2015.  Note: User may have to click 'Search again' and provide details at 'Enter a title:' e.g Black Mule; or at 'Performer:' Go Betweens
  2. ^ a b c d Zuel, Bernard (8 May 2006). "From the cane fields, songs of love and loss". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 8 May 2006. 
  3. ^ "Grant McLennan Biography", Encyclopaedia Brittanica, retrieved 23 April 2015
  4. ^ Kruger, Debbie (2 May 2001). "The songs that resonate through the years". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 12 September 2015. 
  5. ^ a b staff writer (7 May 2006). "Go-Betweens frontman McLennan dies". ABC News Online. Retrieved 8 May 2006. 
  6. ^ Stafford, Andrew (2004). Pig City: from the Saints to Savage Garden. St Lucia, Queensland: University of Queensland Press. pp. 65–78. ISBN 0-7022-3360-9. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k McFarlane 'The Go-Betweens' entry. Archived from the original on 29 August 2004. Retrieved 13 September 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Grant McLennan at the Australian Rock Database:
    • Grant McLennan: Holmgren, Magnus; Warnqvist, Stefan; Simonetti, Vincent. "Grant McLennan". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 4 March 2012. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
    • The Go-Betweens (1977–89, 2000–present): Holmgren, Magnus; Warnqvist, Stefan. "The Go-Betweens". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 7 April 2012. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
    • Tuff Monks (1982): Holmgren, Magnus. "Tuff Monks". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 16 January 2004. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
    • Jack Frost (1990–91, 1995): Holmgren, Magnus; Warnqvist, Stefan. "Jack Frost". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 27 July 2010. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
    • Far Out Corporation (1998): Holmgren, Magnus; Warnqvist, Stefan. "Far Out Corporation". Australian Rock Database (Magnus Holmgren). Archived from the original on 16 January 2004. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  9. ^ a b c d e David, Nichols (2003). The Go-Betweens. Portland, OR: Verse Chorus Press. ISBN 1-891241-16-8.  Note: [online] version has limited functionality.
  10. ^ a b Sawford, Gavin (12 April 1996). "Gazing on a Sunny Afternoon". Rave (Stones Corner, QLD: Rave Magazine Pty Ltd): 7–8. 
  11. ^ Johnston, Ian (1996). Bad Seed. London: Abacus. p. 102. ISBN 0-349-10778-5. 
  12. ^ a b Kingsmill, Richard (31 August 2000). "J Files: The Go-Betweens". Triple J. Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  13. ^ a b Beriyant, Matthew (7 May 2006). "Unfinished Business: R.I.P. Grant McLennan". The Big Takeover (Big Takeover Magazine (Jack Rabid)). Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  14. ^ a b "Search results for 'Go Betweens'". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  15. ^ McFarlane 'The Church' entry. Archived from the original on 4 June 2004. Retrieved 13 September 2015.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l McFarlane 'G. W. McLennan' entry. Archived from the original on 11 July 2002. Retrieved 13 September 2015.
  17. ^ Elrod, Norm. "Watershed G. W. McLennan". AllMusic. All Media Guide. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  18. ^ Raggett, Ned. "Fireboy G. W. McLennan". AllMusic. All Media Guide. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  19. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "G. W. McLennan [extended]". Consumer Guide. Robert Christgau. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  20. ^ a b Raggett, Ned. "Horsebreaker Star G. W. McLennan/Grant McLennan". AllMusic. All Media Guide. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  21. ^ Rabid, Jack. "In Your Bright Ray Grant McLennan". AllMusic. All Media Guide. Retrieved 13 September 2015. 
  22. ^ a b Mengel, Noel (8 May 2006). "Band founder dead at 48". The Courier-Mail. p. 3. Archived from the original on 24 September 2006. Retrieved 8 May 2006. 
  23. ^ Moses, Alexa (13 May 2006). "Rockers go to church and send McLennan a lullaby". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 

External links[edit]