How the love was lost from a rock odyssey
Great Australian Albums The Go- Betweens: 16 Lovers Lane 10pm, SBS
EVERY great Australian album in history has a story attached to it.
So, even if you don’t agree with its lofty ranking, chances are there will be something to be enjoyed in its dissection.
This well- constructed documentary series begins its second round with the tale of 16 Lovers Lane , the GoBetweens’ sixth album, one that rivals Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours for the personal and professional dramas among its protagonists, if not for its commercial success.
When Brisbane’s pop- rock exponents recorded 16 Lovers Lane in Sydney in 1988 they had just spent seven years based in London being acclaimed by critics and touring heavily but enjoying little financial reward for their efforts.
Songwriter Robert Forster had recently separated from drummer Lindy Morrison, while violinist- oboist Amanda Brown had become an item with the other songwriter, Grant McLennan. Both of these developments are touched on in the lyrical content of the album and in the film.
Add to that new bass player John Willsteed who, like the album’s English producer Mark Wallis, had little professional respect for Morrison and you have a recipe for fraught recording sessions but which in the retelling makes essential viewing.
Morrison is the most vocal here, being endearingly honest about her percussive limitations and about the relationships, failed or otherwise, within the unit. Brown confesses that she and Morrison never forgave the two blokes when they broke up the band soon after the album flopped.
All the band members speak candidly about the events surrounding the recording and about the songs. McLennan, who died in 2006, is seen recalling the period in interviews culled from a variety of sources.
The songs that made up the album — Streets of Your Town, Quiet Heart , Dive for Your Memory, Clouds and six others — encapsulate ‘‘ all the stages of love’’, Brown says.
Streets of Your Town became one of the band’s best known songs but, Morrison reveals, caused resentment from Forster since it was added at the last minute from McLennan’s batch.
If there was bitterness and backbiting at the time there was joy also, as can be seen on the limited footage of them from the time. There’s joy too, mostly, in the reflections of each of the participants as they look back on what was undoubtedly a landmark in the band’s career.
Sydney songwriter Ben Lee adds his contribution, citing the GoBetweens as one of the strongest influences on his career.
Others to come in this series of four are Powderfinger’s Odyssey Number Five , Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Murder Ballads , and Hunters and Collectors’ Human Frailty .
All of them are compelling. Given there are plenty of great Australian albums still out there, this series should be followed by many more.
Troubled: Robert Forster reflects on the Go- Betweens’ difficult times