Aside from their debut, each of The Go-Betweens’ studio albums follows a set formula – exactly ten songs with five written by Robert Forster and five by Grant McLennan. The pair anchored the Australian indie guitar band over two stints – their initial run from 1978 to 1990, and their 21st century reunion.
Because of this rigid album formula, strong songs missed the cut and wound up as b-sides. The band’s b-sides have been well documented – the career retrospective 1978-1990 featured a disc of b-sides alongside their singles, while their 1980s album reissues featured bonus discs of non-album material.
Given the way the group always gave equal billing to each writer’s songs, it makes sense to feature a pair of b-sides. These two songs are drawn from opposite ends of their 1980s tenure. McLennan’s ‘This Girl, Black Girl’ follows on the heels of 1983 breakthrough Before Hollywood, the b-side to ‘Man O’Sand to Girl O’Sea’ while Forster’s ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Friend’ is from the sessions for 1988’s 16 Lovers Lane.
On Before Hollywood, The Go-Betweens were a nervy three piece, while on 16 Lovers Lane they were augmented by the professional musicianship of Amanda Brown and John Willsteed. It’s a great microcosm of the group – whether you prefer the romantic McLennan or the acerbic Forster, the early rawness or the later lushness.
This Girl, Black Girl
There is an annual event in north Queensland country life called the Oak Park Races. People come together to race their horses and to congratulate each other on a good year or to console each other if it has been a poor one. I had just returned from a trip which included a recording session in Scotland, a close shave in Egypt and a six week hangover in New York. I found myself in a tent three hundred miles from the nearest bookshop. My relatives asked me to play guitar for them but I knew it was impossible to dance the gypsy tap to ‘I need two heads’ so I wrote this song.Grant McLennan
Rock ‘n’ Roll Friend
Self-pity is a beautiful well to repeatedly dip in and find more reasons not to live, more reasons not to cheer. And the well is an illusion until the well runs dry and then you’re ready for another song.Robert Forster
*Liner notes taken from the 1978-1990 compilation, on which both of these songs are featured.