Little River Band

The Little River Band was an Australian harmony rock band that released nine albums between 1975 and 1986 on Harvest and Capitol. They formed as super-group of players from popular Aussie acts (The Twilights, Zoot, Axiom, Mississippi).

LRB was one of the first Aussie acts to conquer the Northern Hemisphere. They peaked in popularity with the 1978–79 albums Sleeper Catcher and First Under the Wire. Their hits include “Help Is On Its Way,” “Reminiscing,” “Lady,” “Lonesome Loser,” and “Night Owl.”

Members: Graeham Goble (guitar, vocals, 1975-92), Derek Pellicci (drums, percussion, 1975-84, 1987-98), Beeb Birtles (guitar, vocals, 1975-83), Glenn Shorrock (lead vocals, keyboards, 1975-82, 1987-96), Dave Orams (bass, 1975), Graham Davidge (guitar, 1975), Roger McLachlan (bass, vocals, 1975-76, 1998-99), Rick Formosa (guitar, vocals, 1975-76), David Briggs (guitar, vocals, 1976-81), George McArdle (bass, vocals, 1976-79), Barry Sullivan (bass, vocals, 1979-80), Wayne Nelson (bass, lead vocals, 1980-96, 1999-present), Stephen Housden (guitar, vocals, 1981-2006), John Farnham (lead vocals, 1982-86), David Hirschfelder (keyboards, programming, vocals, 1983-87), Steve Prestwich (drums, percussion, 1984-87), Tony Sciuto (keyboards, guitar, vocals, 1990-92, 1994-97), Peter Beckett (guitar, vocals, 1992-97)


Background

The Little River Band formed in early 1975 when alumni of several popular Australian rock bands converged in Melbourne.

Vocalist Glenn Shorrock hailed from Sixties beatsters The Twilights, which also featured guitarist and songwriter Terry Britten. At the turn of the Seventies, Shorrock fronted rustic-rockers Axiom with singer–songwriter Brian Cadd. That band broke up after relocating to England, where Shorrock was recruited for the multi-national super-project Esperanto. He sang lead on their 1973 debut album and did backing vocals on their sophomore release, Danse Macabre.

Guitarist–singer Beeb Birtles started in late-Sixties garage-rockers Zoot, which he co-fronted with a young Rick Springfield. In late 1972, Birtles joined guitarist–singer Graeham Goble in the rustic-rock combo Mississippi, which released a self-titled album earlier that year. Drummer Derek Pellicci (ex-Blackfeather) joined in time for their post-album singles. Their revolving bass slot was briefly filled by ex-Healing Force singer Charlie Tumahai, a subsequent member of Be-Bop Deluxe.


Formation

In 1974, Mississippi launched an abortive tour of the UK, where Birtles, Goble, and Pellicci met Shorrock, who became their new vocalist. They also met ex-Masters Apprentices bassist Glenn Wheatley, who agreed to manage the band in Australia. Wheatley’s familiarity with the lopsided deals allotted to Sixties Aussie acts, combined with his experience in US and UK music management, gave him insights on how to market an Australian band in the Northern Hemisphere.

The new Mississippi convened in Melbourne in February 1975 with ex-Quincy Conserve bassist Dave Orams and future-Goanna guitarist Graham Davidge. Their name-change came about as they carpooled to a gig and passed the Little River exit. Shorrock suggested “Little River” as a possible song title. Seconds later, he suggested Little River Band as a group name. The other members immediately agreed with his suggestion.

For their first single, the Little River Band recorded a cover of the Everly Brothers’ “When Will I Be Loved” but were beaten to the market by Linda Ronstadt, who scored a No. 2 Billboard hit with her March 1975 version. (The following year, Scottish posters Slik recorded the song for their album.) LRB’s version remained vaulted until the 1988 rarities compilation Too Late to Load.

Davidge and Oram were replaced, respectively, by Italian-Canadian guitarist Ric Formosa and Kiwi bassist Roger McLachlan. The Little River Band signed to EMI Records in May 1975 and entered Armstrong’s Studios in Melbourne to record their first album.


Little River Band

The Little River Band released their self-titled debut album in October 1975 on EMI.

Little River Band features three songs by Graeham Goble: “I Know It,” “My Lady and Me,” and “It’s a Long Way There,” the album’s Mississippi-like opening epic.

Glenn Shorrock wrote “Meanwhile …” and the core of side two: “The Man in Black,” “Emma,” and “Statue of Liberty,” which he first recorded with Esperanto.

Beeb Birtles submitted “Curiosity (Killed the Cat)” and “I’ll Always Call Your Name,” both lifted as singles.

Goble arranged the vocal harmonies. He and Birtles split guitar textures (electric, acoustic) and share lead and backing vocals with principle singer Shorrock, who plays harmonica and sundry percussion. Ric Formosa plays the electric lead and slide parts.

A1. “It’s a Long Way There” (8:39)
A2. “Curiosity (Killed the Cat)” (3:40)
A3. “Meanwhile …” (3:35)
A4. “My Lady and Me” (5:45)

B1. “I’ll Always Call Your Name” (4:48)
B2. “Emma” (3:35)
B3. “The Man in Black” (5:06)
B4. “Statue of Liberty” (3:28)
B5. “I Know It” (3:21)

Sessions took place at Armstrong, where Birtles, Goble, and Shorrock co-produced the album with Glenn Wheatley. Soundman Ross Cockle engineered Little River Band in sequence with 1974–75 titles by Bluestone, Cadd, Kush, Marcia Hines, and ex-Masters Apprentices singer Jim Keays.

Musical guests on Little River Band include Ayers Rock saxophonist Col Loughnan (“Statue of Liberty”) and percussionist Gary Hyde, a prolific sessionist (Brian Cadd, Moir Sisters). Arena pianist Peter Jones (ex-MacKenzie Theory) plays an auxiliary role throughout apart from “Emma,” which features Aussie sessionist Ian Mason (Skyhooks, Linda George). Multi-instrumentalist Stephen Cooney (a sideman of Cadd, Mandu, and Phil Manning) appears on clavinet (“Curiosity”) and mandolin (“I Know It”).

Little River Band first appeared in Oceania with a gatefold illustration that shows the band (caricatured) in a carpool along the Little River exit with Melbourne in the distant background. The inner-gates have lyrics and candid live pics of each member.

“Curiosity (Killed the Cat)” preceded the album in late August as their first single, backed with “I Just Don’t Get The Feeling Anymore,” a non-album Goble number. “Curiosity (Killed the Cat)” reached No. 15 on Australia’s official national chart, the Kent Music Report.

B. “I Just Don’t Get The Feeling Anymore” (4:52)

In December, EMI lifted “Emma” as the second single, backed with “Love Is a Feeling,” an exclusive Birtles original. “Emma” reached No. 20 on Kent.

B. “Love Is a Feeling” (4:50)

In September 1976, EMI’s Harvest division issued Little River Band in the US with a new dockside cover photo.

To mark the relaunch, “It’s a Long Way There” became their fourth Australian single and first overseas, where it reached No. 14 in the Netherlands and No. 28 on the US Billboard Hot 100. The Australian b-side, “Time to Fly,” is a Birtles exclusive.

B. “Time to Fly” (2:57)

In January 1977, Harvest lifted “I’ll Always Call Your Name” as their second US single (b/w “The Man in Black”).

Little River Band reached No. 12 on the Kent Music Report and certified double-Gold. In 1996, US archivists One Way reissued the album on CD with a bonus tenth track, “Please Don’t Ask Me,” a Goble rarity (3:18).


After Hours

The Little River Band released their second album, After Hours, in April 1976 on EMI.

After Hours features two songs each from Glenn Shorrock (“Seine City,” “Sweet Old Fashioned Man”), Graeham Goble (“Days on the Road,” “Country Girls”), and Beeb Birtles (“Everyday of My Life,” “Take Me Home”).

Goble co-wrote “Broke Again” with Birtles, who co-wrote “Another Runway” with Ric Formosa, who sings lead on his own contribution, “Bourbon Street.”

After Hours is their second of two albums with the original six-piece lineup of Birtles, Goble, Shorrock, Formosa, drummer Derek Pellicci, and bassist Roger McLachlan.

A1. “Days on the Road” (5:20)
A2. “Everyday of My Life” (3:45)
A3. “Broke Again” (3:25)
A4. “Seine City” (3:43)
A5. “Another Runway” (6:28)

B1. “Bourbon Street” (4:22)
B2. “Sweet Old Fashioned Man” (4:34)
B3. “Take Me Home” (5:09)
B4. “Country Girls” (7:11)

Sessions occurred at AAV (Armstrong Audio–Video), where the Little River Band self-produced After Hours in the presence of returning engineer Ross Cockle, who also worked on 1976 titles by Avalanche, Redhouse, and Marjorie Spicer.

Guest musicians include Crossfire saxophonist Tony Buchanan, Dingoes mandolinist Kerryn Tolhurst, session steel guitarist Mike Burke, accordionist Aurora Moratti, woodwind player Eddy Denton (cor anglais), returning keyboardist Ian Mason, and a four-piece horn section of the ABC Showband: reedist Graeme Lyall, trombonist Don Lock, and trumpeters Bobby Vinier and Peter Salt.

EMI lifted “Everyday of My Life” as the Little River Band’s second single in New Zealand and third in Australia, where it reached the Kent Top 30 (b/w “Days on the Road”).

After Hours reached No. 5 on the Kent Music Report. EMI released the album in Oceania, Japan, and the Netherlands but withheld it from other markets due to the time-lapse of Little River Band, which first appeared in North America five months later.

Before sessions commenced on their next album, Ric Formosa and Roger McLachlan cleared for guitarist David Briggs and roughneck bassist George McArdle. McLachlan joined Adelaide country-rockers Stars and played on their 1977 debut album Paradise.


Diamantina Cocktail

The Little River Band released their third album, Diamantina Cocktail, in May 1977 on EMI. It features the timely hit “Happy Anniversary” and the evergreens “Home on Monday” and “Help Is on Its Way.”

Beeb Birtles wrote “Raelene, Raelene” and co co-wrote “Witchery” with Graeham Goble, who wrote “The Drifter,” “The Inner Light,” and “Changed and Different.”

David Briggs co-wrote songs with Birtles (“Happy Anniversary”) and Glenn Shorrock (“L.A. in the Sunshine”).

Shorrock contributed the two biggest hits: “Home on Monday” (a Birtles co-write) and “Help Is on Its Way,” their breakthrough US single.

Diamantina Cocktail is the first of two albums with the second LRB lineup of Shorrock, Goble, Birtles, Derek Pellicci, and new arrivals Briggs and George McArdle. The album’s title refers to a rum concoction native to the Diamantina River in Queensland.

A1. “Help Is on Its Way” (4:06)
A2. “The Drifter” (3:53)
A3. “L.A. in the Sunshine” (3:07)
A4. “The Inner Light” (3:31)

B1. “Witchery” (2:48)
B2. “Home on Monday” (3:53)
B3. “Happy Anniversary” (4:04)
B4. “Raelene, Raelene” (4:27)
B5. “Changed and Different” (4:02)

Sessions took place at Armstrong, where the Little River Band co-produced the album with American John Boylan (ex-Appletree Theatre), an in-demand soundman who flew down to work with LRB after finishing work on the multi-Platinum debut album by Boston. Ross Cockle engineered Diamantina Cocktail ahead of Stuffed, the first album by Kiwi art-rockers Mother Goose.

Diamantina Cocktail features auxiliary musicianship from returning After Hours guests Denton, Mason, Buchanan, Lyall, and (from the first album) pianist Peter Sullivan. Two tracks (“The Inner Light,” “Raelene, Raelene”) feature prior bassist Roger McLachlan.

Melbourne graphic artist Ian McCausland designed the Diamantina Cocktail cover, which presents the band in Edwardian formal attire. McCausland’s prior credits include titles on Mushroom and Infinity by the Aztecs, Chain, Skyhooks, and Ayers Rock (Beyond). UK copies have a simple illustration of a wine glass / soda can hybrid.

“Help Is on Its Way” appeared weeks earlier as the first single (b/w “Changed and Different”). On the week of June 26, 1977, “Help Is on Its Way” reached No. 1 on the Kent Music Report, where it ended the seven-week reign of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” the ballad from the Tim Rice / Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Evita, sung by Rock Follies performer Julie Covington.

In Oceania, “Witchery” (b/w “L.A. in the Sunshine”) became the second single, followed by the Dutch hit “Home on Monday” (b/w “Raelene, Raelene”).

Diamantina Cocktail reached No. 2 on the Kent album chart and No. 5 in the Netherlands. Meanwhile, Harvest issued the album as their second North American release in altered form. This version gathers four songs from the Australian album (“Help Is on Its Way,” “Home on Monday,” “Happy Anniversary,” “The Inner Light”) and five from After Hours (“Days on the Road,” “Everyday of My Life,” “Another Runway,” “Broke Again,” “Take Me Home”). In 1980, Capitol Records gathered the missing tracks from both albums on the US version of After Hours, released as their fifth stateside album.

“Help Is on Its Way” and the fourth single, “Happy Anniversary,” reached respective peaks of No. 14 and 16 on the Billboard Hot 100.


Sleeper Catcher

The Little River Band released their fourth album, Sleeper Catcher, in April 1978 on EMI and Harvest. It features two of their most beloved songs: “Lady” and “Reminiscing,” both ballads composed by Graeham Goble.

Glenn Shorrock wrote the upbeat “Shut Down Turn Off” and co-wrote songs with associate Charles Dawes (“Sanity’s Side”) and ex-Mixtures frontman Idris Jones (“So Many Paths”).

Beeb Birtles wrote the lengthy “Light of Day” and teamed with Goble on two intense tracks: “Fall from Paradise” and “One for the Road,” a lament on road life. He co-wrote the album’s most aggressive number, “Red-Headed Wild Flower,” with Aussie journalist Ed Nimmervoll.

A1. “Fall from Paradise” (3:59)
A2. “Lady” (4:50)
A3. “Red-Headed Wild Flower” (4:35)
A4. “Light of Day” (8:03)

B1. “So Many Paths” (4:24)
B2. “Reminiscing” (4:13)
B3. “Sanity’s Side” (4:14)
B4. “Shut Down Turn Off” (3:51)
B5. “One for the Road” (4:01)

Sessions occurred at Armstrong with John Boylan, who also produced 1978 titles by Dane Donohue, REO Speedwagon, and the second Boston album Don’t Look Back. Ross Cockle co-engineered Sleeper Catcher in sequence with Paradise by Stars, the current band of ex-LRB bassist Roger McLachlan.

Former LRB guitarist Ric Formosa handles orchestral arrangements on Sleeper Catcher, which features current guitarist David Briggs on the Roland Gs-500 Synth Guitar.

Musical guests include flutist Vernon Hill, harpist Pam Raines, ABC Showband trumpeter Bob Venier (on flugelhorn), and returning auxiliary pianists Peter Jones and Peter Sullivan. Veteran Aussie rock keyboardist Mal Logan (Bakery, Carson, Healing Force, Renee Geyer) plays Hammond organ. 

For the cover, photographer Derek Hughes captured the band playing Two-up, an illegal Australian gambling game played with pennies. In Two-up, the “sleeper catcher” is the player who retrieves bets neglected by tardy participants. Hughes also took the blue viking picture of Jim Keays on the singer’s 1974 album The Boy From the Stars.

“Shut Down Turn Off” appeared weeks before Sleeper Catcher as an advance single backed with the After Hours cut “Days On the Road.” It reached No. 16 on the Kent Music Report.

In June 1978, “Reminiscing” became the second single in Oceania and Europe, backed with the After Hours cut “Take Me Home.” The Little River Band filmed the “Reminiscing” video at Melbourne’s Windsor Hotel inside the Persian-carpeted penthouse apartment of motor racer Peter Janson, where they mime, cavort, and play pool in leisure attire.

In July, Harvest lifted “Reminiscing” as the first Sleeper Catcher single (b/w “So Many Paths”) in North America, where it reached No. 7 on Canada’s Top Singles chart and No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In September, “Lady” became the third Oceanic single (b/w “Happy Anniversary”) and the second North American single (b/w “Take Me Home”). It reached No. 4 on Canada’s Adult Contemporary Chart, No. 10 on the US Billboard and Cashbox charts, and No. 17 in New Zealand.

Sleeper Catcher reached No. 4 in Australia, No. 12 in New Zealand, and No. 16 on the US Billboard 200.

In January 1979, George McArdle left the music world to enter bible studies and become a Christian minister.


First Under the Wire

The Little River Band released their fifth album, First Under the Wire, on July 9, 1979, on Capitol. It features the ballad “Cool Change” and the harmony-rock anthem “Lonesome Loser.” 

Graeham Goble wrote three songs (“It’s Not a Wonder,” “Hard Life,” “Mistress of Mine”) and co-wrote three (“Middle Man,” “By My Side,” “Man on the Run”) with Beeb Birtles, who singles lead on the last two.

Glenn Shorrock submitted “Cool Change” and “The Rumour,” an urgent number with a sunny intro.

David Briggs emerged with the prelude to Goble’s “Hard Life” and the opening salvo “Lonesome Loser,” an enduring FM staple. 

A1. “Lonesome Loser” (3:58)
A2. “The Rumour” (4:18)
A3. “By My Side” (4:25)
A4. “Cool Change” (5:14)
A5. “It’s Not a Wonder” (3:56)

B1. “Hard Life” (Prelude) (2:42)
B2. “Hard Life” (4:46)
B3. “Middle Man” (4:24)
B4. “Man on the Run” (4:16)
B5. “Mistress of Mine” (5:32) features David Briggs on the Coral Electric Sitar.

First Under the Wire is their third and final album with producer John Boylan, who also worked on 1979 country titles by Michael Martin Murphey and the Charlie Daniels Band. Sessions commenced soon after George McArdle’s departure, before the Little River Band found a new bassist. Therefore, FUtW bass credits divide evenly between Clive Harrison (ex-Avalanche, Bootleg Family Band) and sessionist Mike Clarke, a former member of the mid-Seventies jazz-funk bands Skylight and Stylus.

Ex-Kush saxophonist Bill Harrower plays on “Cool Change” and “Middle Man.” Boylan plays acoustic guitar on “The Rumour.” Returning keyboardists Peter Sullivan and Peter Jones (the orchestrator) play on four and six tracks, respectively.

“Lonesome Loser” became the first single in Oceania (b/w “Another Runaway”) and North America (b/w “Shut Down Turn Off”). It reached No. 3 in Canada, No. 6 on Billboard, and No. 19 in Australia.

In August, Capitol lifted “Cool Change” as the second single in North America (b/w “Middle Man”). It reached No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 (No. 8 AC).

First Under the Wire reached No. 19 in New Zealand, No. 10 on the US Billboard 200, and No. 2 on the Australian Kent Music Report.


Time Exposure

The Little River Band released their sixth album, Time Exposure, in September 1981 on Capitol.

Beeb Birtles wrote “Guiding Light” and co-wrote songs with Graeham Goble (“Ballerina”) and screenwiter Frank Howson (“Suicide Boulevard”).

Goble submitted four songs: “Take It Easy on Me,” “Just Say That You Love Me,” “Full Circle,” and “The Night Owls,” a striking rocker with vocals by new bassist Wayne Nelson.

Glenn Shorrock co-wrote songs with Dingoes guitarist Kerryn Tolhurst (“Man on Your Mind”) and associate Terry Bradford (“Orbit Zero”).

David Briggs contributed “Don’t Let the Needle Win” and collaborated on “Love Will Survive” with veteran songwriter Garry Paige.

A1. “The Night Owls” (5:16)
A2. “Man on Your Mind” (4:14)
A3. “Take It Easy on Me” (3:45)
A4. “Ballerina” (4:02)
A5. “Love Will Survive” (4:38)

B1. “Full Circle” (1:54)
B2. “Just Say That You Love Me” (3:59)
B3. “Suicide Boulevard” (3:23)
B4. “Orbit Zero” (4:27)
B5. “Don’t Let the Needle Win” (3:57)
B6. “Guiding Light” (3:36)

Producer: George Martin
Recorded at Air Studios (Montserrat), West Indies
Engineered by Geoff Emerick and Ernie Rose

Glenn Shorrock – lead vocals
Beeb Birtles – acoustic guitar, electric guitar, vocals, lead vocals on “Ballerina” and “Guiding Light”
Graeham Goble – acoustic guitar, electric guitar, vocals
Wayne Nelson – bass guitar, vocals, lead vocals on “The Night Owls”
Derek Pellicci – drums, percussion
David Briggs – acoustic guitar, lead guitar
Bill Cuomo – Prophet 5 synthesizer , clavinet, Hammond organ
Peter Jones – acoustic piano, electric piano, Hammond organ

Paige wrote the 1975 Johnny Rocco Band number “Heading in the Right Direction,” a much-covered song that became Renée Geyer’s first hit.

“The Night Owls”
Released: September 1981
No. 6 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

“Man on Your Mind”
Released: December 1981
No. 14 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

“Ballerina”
Released: January 1982 (Europe only)
“Take It Easy on Me”
Released: March 1982


Discography:

  • Little River Band (1975)
  • After Hours (1976)
  • Diamantina Cocktail (1977)
  • Sleeper Catcher (1978)
  • First Under the Wire (1979)
  • Time Exposure (1981)
  • The Net (1983)
  • Playing to Win (1985)
  • No Reins (1986)
  • Too Late to Load [archival] (1988)
  • Monsoon (1988)
  • Get Lucky (1990)

Sources:

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