We all know that big-name rock stars can't get along, right?

Witness, for example, Lennon and McCartney, Jagger and Richards, or even Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious.One exception to that rule - and it's an exception that may become more notable with time - is the sing-ing/songwriting team of Saliers and Ray, better known as Indigo Girls, a folk duo made up of grade school chums who seem to have an honest-to-gosh, go-to-the-mat friendship.

"It's a blast," says Indigo Girl Emily Saliers of her collaboration with fellow Georgian Amy Ray. "It's just a lot of fun to play with one of your best friends in the whole world. We're like sisters. And even though we're a lot different personalities, we have basically the same value systems. She's a really great person."

In a recent telephone interview from her home in Atlanta, Saliers professed great admiration and affection for Ray. And she's amazed that so many other musicians manage to share a public life with people they can't stand in private.

"I can't imagine working with someone who I didn't love and appreciate," she said. "It's a very vulnerable thing you're doing, you know. Also, there's ego involved to some extent, and you need to be with someone you trust. And Amy and I don't have problems like that, so it's great."

It's not that they're always of one mind on all of their songs. Saliers recalls that she had mixed feelings about Ray's as-yet unrecorded "Ballad of Squeaky Fromme," a tune about the one-time member of Charles Manson's infamous "family" who was arrested after a failed assassination attempt against President Gerald Ford.

"I didn't feel that that song was my voice," Saliers said. "I wouldn't be saying those things, and I didn't feel the same way she did, so she decided to do that song solo. She was taking a very sympathetic viewpoint. And the way she described it, I could understand her reasoning.

"But that's the only time that's happened. Usually we really like and want to sing what the other one writes."

One reason Saliers and Ray have few creative disputes may be that they rarely collaborate on the actual songwriting. On both their new album, "Nomads*Indians*Saints," and their major label debut album, "Indigo Girls," each song is written by one or the other, although they do get together for the arrangements.

"Personally, I like to be in a quiet place with a cup of tea by myself, and usually I can tell when a song is coming on. Amy likes to write with a lot of environmental stimulants. She'll jot down notes in a noisy bar or on the road. Then we both come together with our already-finished songs and we arrange them together."

Saliers acknowledges that many of her songs are culled from her own experiences, although she also admits that much of the imagery is metaphorical, not based on actual occurrences.

"The songs are autobiographical, because we are talking about things we're going through in life, but sometimes we may choose an image that hasn't actually happened just to enhance the song."

For example, the stodgy, pedantic academician "with a beard down to his knee" on the song "Closer To Fine" was not based on a real person.

"I never had a professor of philosophy with beard down to knee. But I did have experiences where I sensed academia was closed in on itself and not looking outside itself. And I chose to use that image to express that idea."

Saliers and Ray knew each other from their grade-school days, but they didn't begin performing together until 1981 - their senior year in high school. The two later attended Emory University in Atlanta, with Saliers eventually graduating in English. She applied to graduate school but soon realized that her musical career was beginning to take off.

That was also about the time "Saliers and Ray" became Indigo Girls.

"We were just looking for a name to be thought of as a unit and not just a couple people playing guitar and going by their last names," Saliers said. "And Amy was just looking through the dictionary and came across the word "indigo," and it just stuck out to her. So she chose that."

Saliers is happy with their success, although she worries that Indigo Girls could soon become almost too popular.

"If anything, we don't want to play bigger and bigger venues," she said. "We'd rather play a couple of nights in the same town than play a bigger hall.

"We have no desire to become really famous. We want to live normal lives. We feel strongly that you can't lose perspective on normal life. Because that's where the material comes from."