Buses and Trains (J Roche) – Bachelor Girl 1998
The duo known as Bachelor Girl formed in Melbourne in 1992 when musician/producer James Roche heard Tania Doko sing with a pub band and felt her vocals were perfect for songs he was developing.
At the time Roche had been writing songs for the Australian girl group Girlfriend, who had enjoyed chart success in the early 90’s with Take It from Me and Without You, but when Girlfriend’s lead singer Robyn Loau departed Roche recruited Doko and they began writing songs and recording demos as Bachelor Girl.
Doko was 18 years old at the time and still studying Jurisprudence and Psychology at Melbourne University, Roche was ten years older, recently-divorced, and had already worked on records with John Farnham, Tommy Emmanuel, and Jack Jones (Southern Sons), they took their demos to various record companies and after being rejected by Sony, were signed by Gotham Records in 1997 following a showcase performance at the Continental Café (St. Kilda) where they debuted Buses and Trains in front of producer Ross Fraser (John Farnham, Merril Bainbridge)
James Roche recalled the creative process behind the song “…we needed more material for the Showcase, and there was an urgency to write more songs, I was in the shower as I heard it in my head, like it was playing on the radio, the line “I walked under a bus/ I got hit by a train” later that day the next bit came “Keep falling in love, which is kind of the same”, and I had the song, I knew I had it, it was an analogy of life’s crises. That is life, it’s the passionate bits we remember, all the boring bits are wasting our time while we get to the intensity.”
Ross Fraser liked the melody but suggested changes to the verses and the chord structure to lighten the mood of the song, to which Roche agreed, Bachelor Girl self-produced their debut album Waiting for The Day in James Roche’s living room, and Buses and Trains became their debut hit single.
Roche and Doko brought their own life’s experiences to bear on the creative process, Roche was older, still nursing the heartbreak of a broken marriage and cautious about future relationships, whilst a 22-year-old Doko was a young woman anticipating the drama and excitement in her future life.
Although Tania Doko is the “girl” in Bachelor Girl, and she is talking to her mother throughout the record, and clearly she would have shared her thoughts and feelings on such personal matters with James Roche as his muse, she did not get a writing credit, and yet to this day she is still known as “that buses and trains girl.”
Buses and Trains revolves around a girl bemoaning the fact that her mother didn’t give her more pre-emptive advice about men and the rollercoaster nature of relationships with them, about how painful it can be to fall in and out of love and how to avoid the obvious pitfalls “Hey mum! Why didn’t you tell me/ Why didn’t you teach me a thing or two/ Did you just let me go out, into the world/ You never thought to share what you knew.”
The lyrics are cleverly structured around personal disasters being metaphors for falling in love, and the bittersweet cocktail of human emotions involved,” So I walked under a bus, I got hit by a train/ Keep falling in love, which is kinda the same/ I’ve sunk out at sea, crashed my car, gone insane/ And it felt so good, I want to do it again.” There was some criticism of the lyric “A man can kill and still be the sweetest thing…” which Roche has defended on the grounds of time constraints and the need for economy of words, but 20 years later it may attract even more criticism.
The song is essentially jangly guitar pop with Doko delivering it with conviction and in the promo video, shot in an apartment in St. Kilda (Melb), with considerable energy, as she directly addresses her mother via a DVD recording she is making about her emotional state, whilst entwining herself around a series of different men who join her on the couch whilst she sings the song.
Doko recalls the shoot less affectionately “ I remember it was our first big video and it was a 42 degree day, I had a massive cold sore on my lip which kept bleeding, it was cheap, I think it cost $10,000, which was the catering budget for most videos those days.”
Buses and Trains charted #3 locally, #6 in NZ, #29 in Sweden and #65 in the UK and won the APRA Award for Song of the Year in 1999, follow up singles Treat Me Good and Lucky Me both charted #31 locally, but further hits proved to be elusive, and Bachelor Girl disbanded in 2004. Tania Doko relocated to Sweden in 2011 where she has been a successful songwriter and session singer, she recently competed to become Australia’s representative at the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest but lost out to the eventual nominee Kate Miller-Heidke.