It began with a desperate call from my Dad. He’d lost his birth certificate and citizenship papers. Were they in that box of his old negatives and prints he’d given me during 2020’s lockdown he asked.
He was applying for a new passport and mumbled something about getting deported. I said I’d look and call him back. I soon found the papers he was after but in doing so I saw a picture of a smiling blonde woman lying on a bed, holding a hairbrush. I’d completely forgotten about this strange image.
I’d rung my mum when I first saw it and said, “Is this Lindy Morrison?” Mum had explained it was indeed Lindy from the Go-Betweens. But this was a promotional shot taken by my father for a play Lindy was acting in a year or so before she had joined the band.
Once Dad had calmed down he said the play was called “The Kiss” which was written by someone called Jackie McKimmie.
I began to wonder if Lindy had a copy of this photo – or had even seen it. That night I messaged Adele Pickvance who played bass for the reformed Go-Betweens — someone I knew through my days playing in a rock band with Wintah Thompson – the son of another member of the reformed Go-Betweens – Glenn Thompson. Glenn is also famous for drumming in Custard.
So Adele got permission and I soon had Lindy’s email. I waited until the next day and fired off a message with a copy of the photo. Very soon I got a wonderful reply.
She was delighted. “You have no idea how much joy this photo gives me,” she wrote. “I have nothing but a poster from this period….It was such a great play. Such a great time.”
I wrote back promising a better scan as I’d only taken an iPhone photo of the print. Plus I said I’d have a dig around those negatives because I suspected there were other photos she might be interested in.
Photo: Paul Hannah
See back in 2020 I had had a cursory look at those negs. Dad had dabbled in photography in the late 70s and early 80s. A few weddings, some sports photography for The Sun newspaper. He’d even had a Polaroid camera and had gone to restaurants seeing if punters were interested in a picture for a small fee. (Of course none of those ended up in this collection.)
There was a pub shoot of a 1979 meeting of the Brisbane Poets Union with some extra shots taken out the back of the Pink Palace Apartments on a massive fire-escape. These shots ended up in Time Off and in the UQ student paper — Semper Floreat. And there were many more shots from the play Lindy was in – all on negative film.
Now I was determined to have a proper look at all this stuff so I bought a cheap negative scanner from the internet and a few weeks later it arrived.
I got stuck in and after a few hours I had got through most of the film but there was a grubby bag leftover labeled my aunt’s engagement. I almost didn’t bother looking at these but I eventually pulled them out and sure enough the first 9 or 10 shots were of the happy couple but then there were shots of a weird party with a band I didn’t recognise. (There was even a couple lying on the floor pretending to be dead.) I texted my aunt and she was equally mystified: there was no party for her engagement.
But then I got caught up in tracking down everyone in the other pictures. My mum’s friend and my old boss Robert Whyte helped by sending me the Time Off story for the poet’s union. The big group picture was thankfully captioned and I reunited lots of people with pictures of themselves they hadn’t realised (or had forgotten) existed.
Meanwhile my dad managed to identify those party shots as a pretend “Wake” my mum had held for the funding cut which led to the cancelation of the 1978 Queensland University Review. Another important detail here is that my mother worked at Activities in UQ and was part of the production team for that play Lindy was in. She had roped my father in to taking all those promo shots — perhaps for flyers, posters etc.
Then I was at my sister’s place on Sunday afternoon and telling her the story. She used to work at State Library and suggested I get in touch with John Willsteed – another member of the Go-Betweens and a local academic and according to my sister — a good old-fashioned local historian and archivist. That night I sent him a Facebook message and started feeding him random images. Turns out John used to live in the Pink Palace and he recognised a few people. He sent me his number and I promised to get in touch the next day.
So I had a chat with John, told him the story so far and he was keen for me to write everything down and submit the pictures to State Library. I said, “No problem!” And in the meantime I promised to send him the rest of the scans.
Later that day I dumped them all on him in a series of emails. And at the end I decided to tack on those images of the “wake party” and the band which I assumed were just the entertainment that night. I labeled the photo “Mystery Band”.
Next thing I know John sends me a message saying the mystery band was in fact The Go-Betweens. Like THE GO-BETWEENS. One of the most, if not THE most, iconic bands from Brisbane. One of my favourite bands it should be said too. And here I was, the biggest dork in the world, sending someone an image of the band he was actually a part of, with a message practically saying I have no idea who these jokers are.
In my defence it is Tim Mustafa on drums, Grant McLennan has an odd haircut and Robert Forster is looming in the dark in a difficult profile. Plus the image was taken over a year before Lindy joined. You kinda forget that there was an extended period when Lindy wasn’t part of the band in their formative period.
And then a whole lot of things made sense. Growing up I knew my mum had some connection to the Go-Betweens. In my head over the years the story became mum had given the Go-Betweens their very first gig. And this was at the UQ Student Union refectory. And so in 1997 the very first gig my own band ever played happened to be supporting Custard and Grant McLennan. After our soundcheck I brazenly went up to Grant and said as much and he was very polite and pretended it might be true. And then I think I backtracked – maybe it was just your first paying gig? Maybe you were just, like, at a party…? Oh gosh!
And then of course all those documentaries came out and I did my own research and eventually read Robert Forster’s book and there was never any mention of a gig at the Student Union Refec. I cringed over and over at what I had said to Grant that night. And much, much later I met Robert Forster a few times but every time I carefully took note to never mention that story.
But now there might be some truth to it. It was definitely not their first gig – but it was most definitely one of their earliest. And these pictures are perhaps some of the very first of the band performing — and the very first time they have been seen. I certainly cannot find any image of Tim Mustafa playing with Grant and Robert – so there is that.
After all this I sent my dad a message: “You know that picture you took of the band at the Wake? You won’t believe who they are.”
All photos below: Paul Hannah