pwm1979

I n the small but vibrant Brisbane punk/new wave scene of the late Seventies, it seemed that everyone knew or knew of everyone else. Peter Milton Walsh, though, was someone that fellow Go-Between Grant McLennan and I had heard of before we had met him. The mysteries and myths that loom large over the man and his music didn’t begin on early Eighties New York rooftops or in Sydney terraced houses or during Summer days at Keats Grove by Hampstead Heath. There they were enhanced but Peter, from first acquaintance, came with whispers and claims on his trail—a princely person more formed than most, certainly more than Grant and I.

We asked him into The Go-Betweens when a world wide contract was waved at us and he played some great guitar on recordings we made. His band, however, was The Apartments. Peter was always a leader, and his group was alive and dangerous from the get-go. Grant and I saw most shows they did in their first incarnation, when the freshly written Help and Nobody Like You were performed. It was a time when everything could be clocked, when every good song that anyone in town had was known to us, and these songs were in direct relation/competition to what we thought were the very best of our own. It’s such a small world, I saw it first. Baby begs for kisses, all on Sunday. These and other lines rang out and were received. There was another pop-poet in town; a band and a songwriter feeding on the small, static scene and aware that there was more to music, more to life, than that which might be gained from the latest Buzzcocks single. The Apartments, Act I, were a sight to behold.

Then things got foggy. Travel. New cities. Brisbane had two good years of energy in it but no more. The Go-Betweens crept on, The Apartments stopped, Peter as indomitable spirit remained. He was ghostly. A correspondent through letters, someone you saw for a night only to then vanish. Again he became a person of heroic unseen exploits, head shaking stuff that got passed around kitchens and bars. His music was fracturing and growing, which continued a symbiosis between himself and The Go-Betweens, as we both tried to attach new feelings to new music.

This was difficult—a world was trying to be invented but a lack of money and recognition conspired against it. Everybody who was pushing was struggling. And the times when Grant, Lindy and I did wonder how and why to go on—a new song, a visit, a letter or a quote would come through from Peter, and the three of us, with inspiration again in pocket, would turn back to the crusade.

Which is why in Eastbourne in late ’82, when The Go-Betweens were recording Before Hollywood, Grant could easily ask me, “Can you help with a lyric to this song? It’s about Peter Walsh”. (An historical note. Peter Milton Walsh would have to be the only person of male gender to inspire two Go-Betweens songs—That Way, just mentioned, and Don’t Let Him Come Back)

Can you help with a lyric to this song? It’s about Peter Walsh

 All You Wanted was Peter’s return to The Apartments, to songs, to sha-la-la. It’s no surprise that this number and others destined for the evening visits…and stays for years were written during a long sojourn in New York. Peter was of a New York State Of Mind; his adhesion to the city not just through the Brill Building/Commander Lou Reed/scratch and electricity of 70s CBGB’s axis, but to a time before, of Moon River and Capote, Andy before the soup cans—and Sinatra. After all, the band was named after a Billy Wilder film—and the best Wilder film at that.

My favourite cuts today, (it may change tomorrow—light rain would immediately turn me to All The Birthdays and Speechless With Tuesday), are the pop songs—What’s The Morning For? and Great Fool, the latter with its The ki-i-ind who ke-e-eep the wo-or-orld al-i-ight chorus, the philosophical cri de couer of the album. Day comes up sicker than a cat, off Mr Somewhere is of course, one of the best opening lines of all time. Grant and I took note, and from mid-1985 on the lesson was put into practice; the beauty and impact of first lines had to be improved.

The instrumentation on the album was rich, and one of the reasons why the record has lasted. There are many more things to be said in praise of the songwriting and the impassioned singing, but I shall leave that to the scholars. I am a fan—and it’s wonderful to be reacquainted with the album.


Robert Forster

Geiselhöring, Bavaria
January, 2014