Caught by the River

Spring Hill Fair

12th February 2012

Kevin Pearce on The Go Betweens third album:

One of the absurdities of a critic’s role is to make snap judgements about a record, when in real life it often takes a good long while for secrets to be revealed. Some records need to be lived with. They need to be ignored and rejected then rediscovered and explored anew. The instant reaction can be all wrong. Time is needed to find out what a record is really all about. Sometimes they need to be looked at or listened to in an entirely different way. Spring Hill Fair is one of those records.

The secret to Spring Hill Fair is perhaps on the cover. The group were photographed by Sheila Rock in one of the ornate boxes in the glamorous setting of London’s Richmond Theatre. They look like the leading cast members of a new production, posing reluctantly for promotional shots. Robert F., for example, looks as wonderfully cadaverous as Jeremy Brett in Sherlock Holmes. And there is about Spring Hill Fair a sense of drama, a whiff of the theatricals, a rather thespian air. Forget about the guitars and drums. This is vaudeville and variety. Imagine instead the songs performed onstage, a big cast, a chorus line, the orchestra in the pit, and definitely dance routines, slapstick and pathos. That’s when it starts making sense.

‘Five Words’ may be a deconstruction of religion and its place in society, but with its call-and-response delivery it’s easy to picture Grant and Robert centre-stage, doing the old soft-shoe shuffle, wiseguys wisecracking, trading insults, an unseen part of the Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra collection, singing smart lines: “Hail to the generals. But hell for the public. Bows for the bishop. And bones for believers”. ‘The Old Way Out’ suggests the full ensemble onstage, arms linked, stomping away in the background, driven by Lindy’s glam racket drums, everyone joining Robert in the chorus, with lots of Glitter Band style pointing. It always seemed a bit odd putting that song where it was on the LP. It would have made a fantastic finale.

Spring Hill Fair was the first LP The Go-Betweens made as a four-piece, and it’s interesting that Robert Vickers plays bass in a more rhythmic way than Grant had done. ‘Slow, Slow Music’ is perhaps the nearest The Go-Betweens got to the dancefloor. It is tempting to imagine the group sat outside the château, enjoying the region’s fine wines, listening to Prince, Cameo, Womack & Womack, and admiring the archness and articulateness of songs like ‘Love Wars’ and ‘She’s Strange’, studying the technique and sound. That mental image makes for one hell of a contrast to the poverty and distractions of the daily getting-by in a King’s Cross squat. Bohemian demi-monde it may have been but that doesn’t make it any the warmer in winter. Robert sang, appropriately, in ‘Draining The Pool For You’: “Your interest in freaks. The side show, the low life holds nothing for me. Because I have seen it. Almost been it, and it’s not my cup of thrills”.

This is an extract from, Consequences, the latest edition of Kevin’s fanzine, Your Heart Out. The full story can be downloaded HERE.