Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express

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Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express
Studio album by The Go-Betweens
Released March 1986
Recorded Berry Street Studio, London WC1, England
Genre Rock, alternative rock, indie rock
Length 36:53
Label Beggars Banquet Records
Producer Richard Preston
The Go-Betweens chronology
Spring Hill Fair
Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express
Singles from Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express
  1. "Spring Rain"
    Released: February 1986
  2. "Head Full of Steam"
    Released: May 1986
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[1]
Robert Christgau A–[2]

Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express, the fourth album by The Go-Betweens, was released in March 1986 in the UK on Beggars Banquet Records, the record label that would release the remainder of the original group's LPs through their break-up in 1989. The album was recorded at Berry Street Studios in London, England. The original release consisted of ten songs. The UK CD release in 1986 (BEGA 72) had the original ten tracks, plus two bonus tracks: "The Life At Hand" and "Little Joe". In 2004, LO-MAX Records released an expanded CD which included a second disc of eleven bonus tracks and music videos for the songs, "Spring Rain" and "Head Full of Steam" (Single Version).[3]


The band had signed a deal with an English branch of the label Elektra, which closed two weeks into the album's recording. Forster said, "Elektra pays for the record and doesn't even know it. We've got an album that's ours, we can sell it to anyone. Free album."[4] Soon after, they signed with Beggar's Banquet.

Drummer Morrison later said, "This is my favourite album. This is a really, really fabulous album. We produced this ourselves and it's got the best songs, and I think every single song is a classic. And if we had produced those songs the way radio demands – like, if we'd used drum machines and just had synthesisers do must the stuff – I think we could have got a hit."[5]

The band entered the studio determined to create they album the envisioned. Forster later wrote, "If this was to be our last shot, it had to be on our terms. There's be no drum machines, no piecemeal recording, no acquiescence to higher authority. Our intention was to expand on the crisp, woody sound of Before Hollywood, to include a grander, more exotic range of instrumentation."[6]

Both McLennan and Forster praised the contributions on Dean B Speedwell. McLennan said, "We used another person on that record, like we had on Before Hollywood, a kind of keyboard-y dude called Dean B. Speedwell, and he was such a musician that we could say 'Well, we want vibes like Lionel Hampton' and he could do it, or we wanted a bassoon part and he could play it."[7]

Later McLennan said, "There was quite a fundamental musical change in the band towards simplification. Something we've been accused of in the past, of being almost a pop band, almost an art band, you know, now we're simplifying. Thinking more of 4/4." Similarly. Forster claimed to have had a revelation in the wake of Spring Hill Fair. He said, "I'm writing a lot less complicated music, and it's giving me space to put myself in it."[8]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by G. McLennan, R. Forster.

No. Title Length
1. "Spring Rain" 3:10
2. "The Ghost and the Black Hat" 2:36
3. "The Wrong Road" 4:57
4. "To Reach Me" 3:37
5. "Twin Layers of Lightning" 4:25
6. "In the Core of the Flame" 2:57
7. "Head Full of Steam" 3:36
8. "Bow Down" 3:47
9. "Palm Sunday (On Board the SS Within)" 3:19
10. "Apology Accepted" 4:25
11. "Spring Rain" (video on 2004 expanded CD)  
12. "Head Full of Steam" (single version - video on 2004 expanded CD)  
Total length: 36:53

All tracks written by G. McLennan, R. Forster, except where noted.

Release history[edit]

Year Country Label Format Catalogue No.
1986 UK Beggars Banquet LP BEGA 72
Cassette BEGC 72
AUS True Tone LP 826 714-1
Cassette 826 714-4
US Big Time LP 10030-1
GER Rebel Rec. RE 0024
CA Vertigo VOG-1-3369
JP Japan 25JAL-3059
1988 UK Beggars Banquet BBL 72
1996 CD BBL 2004 CD
AUS Silk Sheen SILK 005
AUS EMI Australia 3696022
US Jetset TWA70CD


The Go-Betweens
Additional musicians
  • Dean B. Speedwell — organ, piano, accordion, vibes, bassoon
  • Audrey Riley — cello, string arrangements
  • Chris Tomlin — 1st violin
  • Sally Herbert — 2nd violin
  • Sue Dench — viola
  • Tracey Thorn — backing vocals ("Head Full of Steam", "Apology Accepted")
  • Richard Preston — loops, treatments ("Reunion Dinner")


  1. ^ Allmusic review
  2. ^ Christgau, Robert (31 March 1987). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved 28 April 2013. 
  3. ^ Mueller, Andrew, from the liner notes for the 2004 LO-MAX Compact Disc reissue of Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express. All track listing/production history/song writing credit information in this article is taken from these liner notes.
  4. ^ David Nichols (2005). The Go-Betweens. Verse Chorus Verse. p. 165. ISBN 9781891241161. 
  5. ^ Tracee Hutchison (1992). Your Name's on the Door. Sydney: ABC Enterprises. p. 125. ISBN 0-7333-0115-0. 
  6. ^ Robert Forster (2016). Grant & I. Penguin. pp. 157–158. ISBN 978-0-6700782-2-6. 
  7. ^ Gavin Sawford (12 April 1996). "Gazing On A Sunny Afternoon". Rave. Stones Corner, QLD: Rave Magazine Pty Ltd: 7–8. 
  8. ^ Clinton Walker (1996). Stranded: The Secret History of Australian Independent Music 1977–1991. Pan MacMillan. p. 177. ISBN 0-7329-0883-3.