Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Robert Forster: A Fashion Tribute

Robert Forster’s gig at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Friday was a belter. Long-term fans might have been surprised, however, by Robert’s rather muted attire. The trademark canary-yellow safari suit was gone and the sombre grey imagery of The Evangelist album cover (‘captain of industry relaxes at country club’) was sported.

We should not, however, forget Robert’s colourful contribution to rock fashion. Typical of his egregious taste in shirts was the number you can see him modelling (above) on stage at Tower Records, London, on August 25, 1994 (yes, I did tape-record that gig; no, I don’t know how to digitise it).

After many years’ admiring Robert’s shirts, in 1996 I decided to pay tribute to the great man’s fashion sense. Before his gig at The Garage (12 October, 1996) I marched into a charity shop on Chapel Market, interrupted the workers’ shy flirtations and announced: “I would like the vilest shirt you have on offer. It must be so offensive to the eye that middle-aged American tourists would be repulsed by its vulgarity and colour-blind sex maniacs would consider it too outré.”

The young lad broke into a silly grin and scampered downstairs to the stock room. During his foraging the young girl asked me if I was going to a fancy-dress party. Something much more important, I assured her: “I am going to see Mr Robert Forster, international rock star and fashion icon, to whom I am going to offer a shirt as a pagan tribute.”

The lad returned with the three ugliest shirts I’ve seen. Obviously, I chose the worst. At the gig, my friend threw it at Robert. It landed on his mic stand. You will see from the shirt that Robert’s wearing in the picture that the shirt offered to him was in keeping with his “style”.

Robert threw the shirt into the audience. Some bloke right by me caught it. I expect it’s probably mounted in his trophy cabinet as a piece of Rock Memorabilia. At Robert’s next London gig, my friend who threw the shirt got Robert to sign a CD. Following an explanation of his exploits at Robert’s last show, the inscription read in part: “Thanks for the shirt."


harveyw said...

In the olden days, a regulation indie horizontally-striped t-shirt was sufficient...


FireEscape said...

That was just after his dress-wearing days. The attempt to crack America with Spring Hill Fair was going very well, with radio support increasing, until a network radio programmer met Forster, who was wearing a dress, at a party and said, "I ain't promoting no faggot on my radio stations." At least that's what a Go-Betweens UK record exec told me; I asked RF about this but he denied all knowledge...
Part 2 of that documentary is great. "Most of the people who used to see us [in Brisbane] are either dead or insane or have moved to Sydney" (note: those three characteristics are interchangeable). Also! Footage of The Riptides! Amazing!

Eponymous said...

I once did a phone interview with Lindy in some hotel room overseas when they were touring. Robert answered the phone "Hello, the King of Rock and Roll...". At the end of the interview Lindy said "I've got to go now. Robert's just come into the room wearing a dress and wants to go to the beach." Strange but lovely people.

This is possibly my favourite Robert "look" (and one of my favourite GBs songs too): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30Kk54KUptc

ally. said...

what a guy.

our northern trip was saved by a treck to see forster in a library. a real live library in lancaster -there couldn't be a better spot. and he did an acoustic set first. more people should be their own support acts.

FireEscape said...

Students at Blackburn College filmed an interview with RF and him playing a song on the acoustic guitar. I was fortunate enough to be sent this footage; sadly, I'm not allowed to upload it. On the evidence of that one song I bet the gig you saw was a gem.