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The Go-Betweens – Cattle and Cane

The Go-Betweens – Cattle And Cane
1983, Rough Trade
mp3 / RS

In the sky, a rain of falling cinders. From time to time the waste. Memory wastes.
Another one of the late great Grant McLennan‘s finest moments, the sublime “Cattle and Cane” from the seminal and supremely influential Before Hollywood LP.

“Cattle and Cane” was released as a 7″ vinyl single in February 1983.

by bleed-the-sky

One of the first songs where Grant delved into clearly autobiographical subject matter; this time his growing up on a cattle station in the wilds of Queensland.

A beautiful melody here accompanies vivid pastoral poetry dredging up memories of better times. Youthful times. Times long gone in a faraway place.

This great song’s a celebration of those times and that faraway place. A sadness for those times. A longing for those times and for that place.

However, much like what Highway 61 represented for a young Bob Dylan growing up far from the big city in the remote rural heartland of Duluth, Minnesota, it’s “the railroad” here that represents for a young Grant an escape from the remote rural heartland of Queensland to the big city, the wider world of creativity, the future.

In the end, all he has of that treasured fledgling time is what exists in memory.

However, alas, as the lyric emphasises, “memory wastes … memory wastes.

Grant spoke about “Cattle and Cane” in an interview soon after its release in 83:

I wrote (the song) to please my mother. She hasn’t heard it yet because my mother and stepfather live (on a cattle station) and they can’t get 240 volts electricity there, so I have to sing it over the phone to her […]

I don’t like the word nostalgic; to me, it’s a sloppy yearning for the past, and I’m not trying to do that in that song. I

‘m just trying to put three vignettes of a person, who’s a lot like myself, growing up in Queensland, and just juxtaposing that against how I am now.

– Grant McLennan, 1983

In May 2001 “Cattle and Cane” was selected by Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) as one of the Top Australian songs of all time.

art by etherealspace

I recall a schoolboy coming home
Through fields of cane
To a house of tin and timber
And in the sky
A rain of falling cinders
From time to time
The waste, memory wastes.
I recall a boy in bigger pants
Like everyone
Just waiting for a chance
His father’s watch
He left it in the showers
From time to time
The waste, memory wastes
I recall a bigger brighter world
A world of books
And silent times in thought
And then the railroad
The railroad takes him home
Through fields of cattle
Through fields of cane
From time to time
The waste, memory wastes
The waste, memory wastes
Further, longer, higher, older

– Grant McLennan

Two versions here, both great.

Firstly, the original video of the song, recorded in 1982 for the great Before Hollywood LP.

Secondly, the Go-Betweens perform Cattle and Cane live on Aussie TV on the show Rock Arena, in February 1983.

The Go-Betweens – Cattle And Cane
1983, Rough Trade

Side One:
Cattle And Cane

Side Two:
Heaven Says

Released as a 7″ vinyl single in February 1983: UK: Rough Trade RT 124
Australia: Stunn BFA 952

Here she be

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March 7, 2009 - Posted by | Go-Betweens, Grant McLennan, Music_Alternative, Robert Forster, _MUSIC, _PHOTOGRAPHY, _POETRY, _VIDEO

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