Birtles Shorrock Goble
Feature Act available for hire, based in Victoria
There is much to-ing and fro-ing as to who actually “opened the door” for Australian rock music internationally; the door that gave access to the likes of Men At Work, Icehouse, INXS, Midnight Oil, The Church, Silverchair and so many other entities. Notwithstanding the noble efforts of those who pushed it ajar a little, the accolades must be laid at the feet of the first outfit to successfully service major foreign markets from an Australian base – the tenacious and consummately professional Little River Band.
The legendary Little River Band has sold well over twenty million records and stand as one of the five most successful rock acts this country has ever produced. Early in 1982, when REO Speedwagon and the J. Geils Band were finally claiming significant chart breakthroughs after more than ten albums each, Billboard magazine was bestowing upon LRB the honour of being the only act to have scored a top ten American single every year from 1978 to 1982.
From a late 1976 top thirty placing It’s A Long Way There, Little River Band made the U.S. top twenty (and usually top ten) their home. The hits flowed thick and faithful – 16 of them by 1985. Album performance was just as impressive, commencing with an American gold award for their third LP, Diamantina Cocktail in January 1978, the first ever US gold LP earned by an Australian-based entity. This landmark was consolidated with a rush of gold and platinum plaques (both Sleeper Catcher and First Under The Wire were certified platinum). In Canada it was just as intense, with the group managing the extraordinary achievement of three simultaneous top ten albums in 1979.
Behind those disc achievements was a solid commitment to their audience: one which took
them out on the American and International concert trail at least twice a year during the late 70s and early 80s. Polished, full-bodied, sincere performances from Seattle to Stockholm to Sydney generated an enormously loyal following. Though North America and Australasia were the band’s primary markets they toured South Korea (a pioneering exercise), Japan and the Philippines and enjoyed popularity and hits in such territories as Chile and Germany. In the early 90s, the song Forever Blue, from the band’s 1986 No Reins album, became a number one single in Holland after a group of DJs played it repeatedly.
The genesis of the band can be traced to London in late 1974,Named after a signpost on the road from Melbourne to Geelong, Little River Band’s aim, as an assembly of highly competent adult rock musicians, was to create a textured, harmony-dominant mass appeal sound, Within an eight month period they had 3 top twenty singles, 2 top ten albums and a collective eye set firmly on the lucrative American market. Their vast experience during the early ‘lemmings rush’ forays of Oz Rock to the top half of the world (such acts as The Twilights, Axiom, masters Apprentices, Mississippi, gave them and their determined manager Glenn Wheatley an incomparable ability to sidestep pitfalls along the way.
The band’s vocal strength was matched by a great songwriting depth, with at least four significant song sources within the band at any one time. The main writers – Graeham Goble , Glenn Shorrock and Beeb Birtles – were masters of song craft. Glenn’s works, such as Home On Monday (the perfect lonely road saga), Help Is On Its Way, Man On Your Mind and Cool Change were intimate and personal, while Graeham mastered an almost traditional twentieth century professional writing approach. Beeb ranged across quite diverse terrain, and was responsible for a number of timeless songs which commanded an almost instant appeal – Curiosity Killed The Cat, Everyday Of My Life, Happy Anniversary, Witchery and Light Of Day among them.
In 1993 the very first BMI Million-Air ever presented to an Australian writer was received by Graeham for Reminiscing, which John Lennon once hailed as one of his favourite radio songs and Frank Sinatra declared to be “the best 70s song in the world”. By 2001 that award had expanded to the extraordinarily rare Four Million-Air citation, acknowledging four million plays on American radio alone – the highest achievement for any Australian popular song ever. Of 300,000 global BMI songwriters and composers, the organisation has pointed out, “few have reached this performance plateau.” Graeham, whose inspiration for the song was “the romantic Hollywood cinema of the 30s and 40s”, believes that “a lot of musicians love Reminiscing [recently covered by Madison Avenue] because of the chords, the way they work.” Close behind this success, but often overlooked, is that of Graeham’s Lady, which is nearing recognition for three million U.S. broadcasts.
In 1988, having pursued a wide diverse array of activities, including an excellent solo album and highly acclaimed ‘rock theatre’ seasons, Glenn Shorrock returned to LRB’s ranks. He effortlessly picked up where he had left off, recording two fine albums (the first yielding the top ten hit Love Is A Bridge) and enabling the band to reaffirm their success in Europe and America. “The best singing band in the world” was how Eagle Glenn Frey described them at this time.
After the departure of the final founders, Goble and Shorrock, ‘new’ members Stephen Housden and Wayne continued globally touring a version of the band. Graeham, Glenn and Beeb (who had departed in 1983) reunited for Australian performances in 2002, their startling harmonic blend as arresting and seductive as ever.