Sunday, September 7, 2008

16 Lovers Lane

“there’s a cat in my alleyway
dreaming of birds that are blue
sometimes girl when I’m lonely
this is how I think about you”

- Grant McLennan at his beguiling best, from ‘Love Goes On’

I'm a funny chap, y'know, often takes me about 20 years after a band's finest moment to start taking interest in them! In this instance it's the Go-Betweens.

Last Saturday night there was this fantastic documentary on the band as part of the 'Great Australian Album' series. The album featured was the Go-Between's 16 Lovers Lane, from 1988. The album was recorded during the the first few months of 1988 and was to be the band's final album with their generic 80's line-up. The main songwriters, Robert Forster and Grant McLennan, re-grouped in 2000.

The documentary reminded me heavily of a similar feature of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours. I almost feel in some ways the Go-Between are Australian's answer to Fleetwood Mac, both being cross-gender bands with paired relationships and multiple songwriters. Mind you the Go-Betweens were far cleaner, no stories of boozing or coking coming through in this documentary. The only touring pastime revealed by Amanda Brown is high-brow literature.

I'd never heard of 16 Lovers Lane to be honest. I kind of ignored the Go-Betweens when they were contemporary in their 80's heyday. They seemed a bit too, well, twee, and lacked a bit of bite that I tended to like at the time. I found songs like 'Cattle and Cain' to be almost obtuse and unlistenable. In viewing the documentary however I've taken to liking every Go-Between member tremendously and with that, I'm taking a newly-found interest in their earlier material.

Before the weekend there was only one song off 16 Lovers Lane that I've encountered, the scintillating opening track 'Love Goes On'. It's a song that I've performed & played with someone, at their recommendation. This friend also burnt me a CD of 16 Lovers Lane which of course, I hadn't listened to. Now, I can't get it off my playlist, and soon I plan to buy the proper copy of the disc, with all those inclusive bonus tracks and videos etal.

I was feeling quite emotional watching this documentary. Firstly I was swooning over multi-instrumentalist Amanda Brown, I mean, she's so pretty and she had this light of sensitivity shining through her soft, moist eyes, and still does. Her clothes and hairstyle of the Go-Betweens period were very of their time and this got me feeling sentimental. She plays many instruments, and I found her tremendously appealing.

And I loved the songs. Most of all I loved the video footage taken complimenting the album, most of which was shot around Woolloomooloo, Sydney Harbour, and Bondi & Tamarama Beach. It all took me back. As the band members had discussed, they'd been living in London for the past few years and 16 Lovers Lane represented their return to Sydney. There are many facets to the album's production that were indicative of the era, the echoey drums, the brightness, the washy-reverb running through the mix. Bright sounding Ovation acoustic guitars. Shiny great song followed by another, and yet another. 16 Lovers Lane is an album that captures a place and time in one of it's high, glistening moments. I recall how Sydney throughout 1988/89 was a booming, happy town. You could feel it in the air. And it's captured in the Go-Betweens 16 Lovers Lane. And Catfish's Unlimited Address, even Crowded House's Temple of Low Men.

The band broke up at the end of a world tour, December 1989. 1990 was when recession hit and somehow everything seemed darker, at least that's how I remember it. Interestingly I felt Robert Forster made a insightful remark by saying that "Sydney lost the vibe of 16 Lovers Lane..." in discussing the reasons for the band's break-up.

I almost felt anguished watching this documentary. I wanted to crank that time-dial counter-clockwise and turn the clock back to 1988. Wrench it so we could enjoy and delight in this era again, forget and discard the toils and burdens of the present age. But, Ross, this is pure fantasy, and a constant and obsessional one at that. Those days have irretrievably passed us by, with one member, the great Grant McLennan passing away in 2006. I suppose what we're left with is remastered sonic memories of time and places passed and gone, never to return to us in any way, shape or form.

The bright side of things is that I've made a new friend, the Go-Betweens album 16 Lovers Lane! :)

As a footnote, the TV program leading into the documentary was 'Rockwiz' featuring celebrity guests Sophie Koh & Steve Kilbey. The performed a beguiling and heartfelt rendition of 'Streets of your town', one of the standout tracks from 16 Lovers Lane.

"...and as I gazed out on the water like a mouth, a bed, a sister, I thought how, my God, I love this city, horrible though it may be, and never want to leave it, come what it may send me. Because it seems so untidy, and so casual, and so keep-your-distance-from-me, if you can get to know this city well enough to twist it round your finger, and if you're its son, it's always on your side, supporting you.."

- Colin Macinnes, from the novel Absolute Beginners.


Lian said...

Thanks for a marvelous reading, Ross. Would like to read more about music.

I'm very fond of 'thought that I was over you'. I remember last year(maybe on September I listened to it and watched the video again and again, amazed by the feeling it had brought to me.) Then I searched for go-between's other songs but didnt find other special one(exactly the same feeling as yours, a bit twee I felt), until one day suddenly 'street of your town' opened my ears. Beautiful song it is! And I also like the famale singer's voice, lazy, very sensational in a pleasant way.

ross b said...

Yes I'm finding with 16 Lovers Lane that it is one super-enchanting song after another, it's all bright and sparkly and is growing on me rapidly. 'Love goes on' is a wonderful song too. That female singer is Amanda Brown, yeah her singing makes me swoon too! :)

I'm going to examine the Go-Betweens more closely; they're a genuinely nice, noble band that deserve retrospective recognition.

I just feel sad that they are of a time and place that can never repeat itself. :( I've no need to feel sad about that really, but I do.

Lian said...

I was smiling until I read the last line... yes, it is a great loss, especially to SK. If we are So sad about it, then how sad Steve would be at that time when he lost Grant? Just cant imagine it.

The loss reminds me of Marriott, the front man of the small faces. When I first read that he was gone because of fire, I felt I was badly stung by a bee or something like that. I love their songs, "tin soilder"(you know it^^, thanks for your introducing about Paul), and "autumn stone". I saw a video long time ago but cant find it now. The young boys were singing on the street in chilly cold, but they sang so~~~ so happily, my god, you can feel life and youth can be That Good! The funny thing is, you can see some people were looking at them with Very puzzled expression. (were they thinking the small faces boys were mad?)

I got to know the small faces by reading SK's blog. Hope he has had a great time tonight.

... right, I didnt know her name is Amanda Brown, now I know, thanks~

swoon? that's exactly The word! like it! :)

Lian said...

Ross, thank you... truly, for everything. You are the kindest man I've met in this world: I can read it from both you and your mum's face.

Again, I want to tell you, you are worth everything good. May the angel inside you always with you, and bless you.

Rock on and blog on.

much love,

ross b said...

Thank you Lian, *shucks*!

Your comment has cheered me up ~ I needed to hear it, thank you again.

The Small Faces were great, what happened to Steve Marriot & Ronnie Lane was tragic, Steve the fire and Ronnie died from multiple sclerosis. They were very good, blending Brit-pop/Mod-rock with classic American soul.

Steve's gig last night with Painkiller was awesome, I'll post a blog on it soon.

Sweet dreams & kind regards, Ross


enjoying a bevvy Awakening to the ‘good’ in our lives and to the fulfilling sense of gratitude which follows often comes to us via ...