Little River Band

TrackAlbum
It's A Long Way ThereLittle River Band
Don't Let The Needle WinTime Exposure
ReminiscingLive Classics
Cool ChangeFirst Under The Wire
Down On The BorderThe Net
I Dream AloneGet Lucky
You Dream I'll DriveCuts Like A Diamond
Help Is On Its WayDiamantina Cocktail
One For The RoadSleeper Catcher
The NetThe Net

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Contributor: Ian Ashleigh

There is enough written elsewhere about how Australian the Little River Band are or ever were, who owns the right to use the name and which was the definitive line-up. I will touch on it here and there, but this is about the music itself.

I saw the band at the Hammersmith Odeon (now the Apollo) during the band’s tour to promote the album The Net which would have been in 1983. I do remember John Farnham was with the band at the time and Derek Pellicci’s drum kit was surrounded by Plexiglas to absorb the sound from the huge Marshall speakers behind him. Reminiscing had been a minor hit in the UK and I have fond memories of the show and the album was the first of the band’s that I bought.

I deliberately compiled my ten by listening to my collection in alphabetical order and without reference to the album from which the song came and the line-up of the band which recorded it, although four of the ten had already chosen themselves and three others that I expected to be there missed the cut.

We do, however, start with the first song from the first album. It’s A Long Way There opens the eponymous first album from 1975. It’s such a great song to commence a recording career and has all the trademarks – tight harmonies, intelligent lyric and a great arrangement.

That summary applies to the next selection, which has a serious message. Don’t Let The Needle Win comes from Time Exposure (1981) and as the title suggests is an anti-drugs song without being mawkish or twee. The opening verse and chorus say it all:

You come to me, ask me for that money again,
You say that you need it, to ease that nagging feeling inside your brain,
You know I love you like a brother,
That’s why I’m holding out on you,
I’ll give most anything I can,
To see that you pull through.

You gotta keep fighting for your life,
Don’t you ever give in,
It’s such a senseless suicide,
Letting the needle win.

And so, next we have to have the band’s biggest UK hit single, Reminiscing. Written by Graeham Goble it is taken from Sleeper Catcher (1978). It’s an archetypal guy meets the love of his life song and is up there with the best of them. This is in the classic ‘smile of a song’ genre that I love so much. Equally, I cannot resist including the live recording from 1992’s Live Classics with the extended guitar solos sweeping you round the dance floor with your best girl (or boy) in your arms.

First Under the Wire (1979) includes Cool Change, a Glenn Shorrock composition that was selected by the Australian Performing Right Association as one of the top 30 Australian songs of all time, and you can see why. It is another quintessential Little River Band song, tight vocal harmonies and a fantastic power pop arrangement. What’s not to love.

Down On The Border is one of two entries from The Net. John Farnham takes the lead vocal with harmonies from Graeham Goble (who wrote the song) and Beeb Birtles. I have no idea what the lyric says but the rhythm just drives you along with it. An air bass guitar classic since 1983.

Get Lucky was released in 1990. I Dream Alone is the story of a ‘Ten Pound Pom’. I like the lyrical pictures painted in this song even if the vocal harmonies are not as strong as in earlier incarnations of the band. For those who don’t know, Ten Pound Poms were British subjects who were given as assisted passage to emigrate to Australia just after the 2nd World War under the ‘Populate or Perish’ policy. A summary can be found here amongst other places.

You Dream I’ll Drive is the most recent song in this toppermost, coming as it does from Cuts Like A Diamond (2013). More American AOR than the power pop of the earlier material, and I nearly excluded it for that reason,but I like the song and bounced one from the early ‘classic’ period to include it.

Back to the early days for the next choice though, and my eighth selection comes from the third album. Help Is On Its Way opens Diamantina Cocktail and was a hit single from the album in Australia and the USA. It is another upbeat song in the best Little River Band tradition. For the record, I have it on good authority a ‘diamantina cocktail’ is a drink invented in the area of the Diamantina River in Queensland. It consists of Bundaberg Rum, condensed milk and an emu’s egg. Perhaps one of our Australian correspondents can confirm or deny this!

The band’s next album was Sleeper Catcher from which the hit singles, Reminiscing and Lady came. One For The Road is, quite simply, a quality Little River Band power pop song and summarises all that is good about the band.

We end with the closing song of that first Little River Band album that I bought. The Net is unlike anything else, more of a march, or even a short bolero, rather than the power pop we have come to expect. I’ve always liked the song and it was always going to close the ten once I started putting it together.

I did say I would keep away from the politics that surrounded the band but I found this while trawling YouTube and cannot resist sharing it with you. Here are Beeb Birtles, Glenn Shorrock and Graeham Goble in 2007 having fun on stage and taking a cheeky pop at the then current band. The voices aren’t quite what they were but this is fun to see.

So here you have it friends, a pom’s eye view of one of Australia’s finest. If they are a new name to you, you could do worse that seek out The Definitive Collection from 2005 with its dark green cover adorned by a duck-billed platypus and 19 of the finest examples of power pop you could wish to hear.

 

Little River Band official website

Glenn Shorrock official website

Graeham Goble’s website

Beeb Birtles website

Peter Beckett official website

Chris Marion Music

Little River Band biography (iTunes)

TopperPost #340

6 Comments

  1. Calvin Rydbom
    Aug 28, 2014

    You know, LRB has 6 Top Ten and 13 Top 40s in the states. And I like the fact you only listed 3 of those hits among your Top Ten. But speaking of hits, I got a real hard time not counting Happy Anniversary and (especially) Lady among their top ten. But then I go looking and I see Happy Anniversary didn’t chart in Austraila and reached No 16 in the states. And Lady was a Top 10 here and 46 Down Under. A taste difference between the US and Australia? Who knows, but I found it interesting what were big hits over here for an Australian band didn’t register much more than a blip over there.

  2. Calvin Rydbom
    Aug 29, 2014

    And… not that it matters to you that much Ian, but with this piece you’ve pulled in a solid second place in the “I kind of wish I had gotten to that artist before him” list behind Peter.

  3. David Lewis
    Aug 29, 2014

    Brilliant job. I mean, ok, what no ‘Lonesome Loser’? But I think it great you put in the underrated Farnham years, and ‘Border’ I think is a magnificent song. Nonetheless, I always liked LRB and their tremendous harmonies and professional demeanour always impressed. John Farnham didn’t last long in LRB… While (I believe) they all liked each other personally, they felt they didn’t gel. An industry veteran when he joined LRB, with a dozen hit singles under his belt, Farnham went on to be one of Australia’s biggest solo acts with the release of ‘Whispering Jack’, one of the all time great Australian albums. He remains deeply loved and a live draw.

    • Ian Ashleigh
      Aug 29, 2014

      Calvin, David, between you, you have named the three tracks on my original list that lost out. Bear in mind, here in the UK, LRB were a one hit wonder with Reminiscing. I also wanted but excluded ‘The Other Man’ and ‘Man on Your Mind’, that makes nine and room for only one more. Guys, what would be your ten?

  4. Calvin Rydbom
    Aug 30, 2014

    It’s funny that you refer to them as a One Hit Wonder in the UK, because my list falls under the Oh So Obvious Greatest Hits genre of lists. With US Chart Position… It’s a Long Way There (28), Help Is on the Way (14), Happy Anniversary (16), Reminiscing (3), Lady (10), Lonesome Loser (6), Cool Change (6), Take It Easy on me (10), We To (22) You’re Driving me Out of My Mind (35).

  5. David Lewis
    Sep 1, 2014

    Ok. In no order… Lonesome loser; Help is on the way; Cool change; Happy anniversary; Down on the border; The other guy (another Australian mini genre, parental access – see weddings, parties anything’s ‘fathers’ day’); Reminiscing; Lady; You’re driving me out of my mind; Don’t let the needle win.
    As to UK/US preference, LRB come straight from Southern California, in terms of approach… That may explain the lesser success in Britain, at least partly.

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