16 Lovers Lane was the sixth album by Australian indie rock group The Go-Betweens, released in 1988 by Beggars Banquet Records. Prior to the recording of the album, longtime bassist Robert Vickers left the band when the other group members decided to return to Australia after having spent several years in London, England; he was replaced by John Willsteed. The album was recorded at Studios 301 in Sydney, between Christmas 1987 and Spring 1988.
16 Lovers Lane was the final release from the original version of the band. The Go-Betweens broke up in 1989 and would produce no other material until Grant McLennan and Robert Forster reformed the band, with a completely different line-up of personnel, in 2000.
In late 1987 the band relocated from the UK to Sydney. The relationship between Forster and Morrison had ended whilst McLennan and Brown became more involved. Upon their return to Australia the band added John Willsteed on bass and began preparing their sixth album.
The recording process for 16 Lovers Lane was different to previous releases. Between December 1987 and January 1988 McLennan and Forster began an intense songwriting process. They demoed all the songs in advance and then presented them to the producer and their band mates, leaving less room for improvisation. McLennan stated "We really sat down for the first time in years and wrote together in the sense that anything new we'd come up with the night before we'd go through and rearrange and discard or put it into something else. Our normal method was to write separately and the spend two weeks together, familarising ourselves with each other songs and suggesting things. So this way was a completely different process and it was due to trying to get back to what started the band - closeness."
McLennan said the band was also affected by moving back to Australia. "We'd spent five years in London—blackness, darkness, greyness and poverty—and suddenly for some reason we seemed to have more money in Sydney, and we all had places to live and being in a city where after five years we can go to the beach in ten minutes." Forster agreed saying it brought on "a burst of energy, a burst of songs."
McLennan said, "I had a vision for this record. It was, in some way, just sitting down with acoustic guitars in sunlight, writing songs, and then making a record. It was as simple as that. And I get that vibe from the record, a summer feeling." Forster described the album as, "the perfect combination between London melancholy and Sydney sunshine."
The songwriting duo demoed sixteen tunes acoustically and sent them to English producer, Mark Wallis, prior to his arrival in Australia. The book, 100 Best Australian Albums, describes that Wallis' production maintained the acoustic feel, embellishing them sparingly and "affording them a sparkle and crispness that suggested the summer that was their inspiration." Drummer Lindy Morrison was said to have "hated" Wallis, which may be a reflection of the fact that Wallis replaced Morrison with a drum machine on five of the songs on the album. Both Morrison and Brown were unhappy with the pre-production process, which limited their contribution, but Forster defended it, saying, "The pre-production to every album can't always been the same. You can't keep doing the same things over and over."
Elsewhere, Forster blamed others for the synthetic nature of the recordings. He said, "I wanted to make the kind of record I ended up making on Danger in the Past. I just wanted the band to be playing live, get us into a really big studio. Instead, it was one person in the studio with the rest of them playing pool. Lindy would be talking about drum machines, and her and Amanda were talking about triggering the violin to make synthesizer keyboard sounds. The only two live tracks on that album are both my songs, and I insisted on those." In 2016, Forster wrote, "I had trouble with 16 Lovers Lane for a long time. It wasn't until the late nineties that I recognised it for what it was - a pop record."
The original release of the album contained ten songs, most of Grant's lyrics written about Amanda Brown.
In 2004, LO-MAX Records issued a greatly expanded CD which included a second disc of ten bonus tracks and music videos for the songs "Streets of Your Town" (two versions) and "Was There Anything I Could Do?" which were filmed to promote 16 Lovers Lane at the time of its initial release.
In October 2010, 16 Lovers Lane was listed at No. 12 in the book, 100 Best Australian Albums. The authors describe the album as being "the band's high-water mark and Forster and McLennan knew they'd nailed it" and that the songs were "their most direct, accessible and heartfelt ever", with "Forster, particularly, having learnt a new restraint. Gone was the bravado and archness that had informed much of his earlier work and in its place was an openess and honesty."
Reviewing the album in Spin, Evelyn McDonnell said the Go-Betweens reminded her of, "whooping cranes: great gangling creatures capable of heights of gracefulness when in flight and passionate spasms when in heat. Similarly, the Go-Betweens infuse portentious poetry into giddy pop structures, then throw the uncertain songs in the air, whispering 'Fly or fuck.'" While praising the album, McDonnell blamed most of the album's occasional "putrid moments" on producer Mark Wallis.
The album was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
All tracks written by G. McLennan, R. Forster.
All tracks written by G. McLennan, R. Forster, except where noted.Amanda Brown – violin, oboe, guitar, vocals
Robert Forster – vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonica
Grant McLennan – vocals, lead guitar
Lindy Morrison – drums
John Willsteed – bass guitar, guitar, Hammond organ, piano
Michael Armiger – bass on "Running the Risk of Losing You"