Chuck Miller Creative Writing Service - Music

Little River Band
Born in the Sign of Water
Originally published in Goldmine, issue 640
Hits include: "It's A Long Way There" It's a Long Way There
"Help Is On Its Way" Help Is On Its Way
"Reminiscing" Reminiscing
"Cool Change" Cool Change
"The Night Owls" The Night Owls
"Happy Anniversary" Happy Anniversary
Albums include: Little River Band
After Hours
Diamantina Cocktail
Sleeper Catcher
First Under the Wire
Time Exposure
The Net
One Night in Mississippi
Test of Time
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written by Chuck Miller

October 17, 2004. After 30 years and a legendary career, with songs like Reminiscing, Lonesome Loser, It's A Long Way There and The Night Owls in their catalog, they took their place on the stage for a one-night-only reunion. The group performed one of their signature tracks, Help Is On Its Way, to thunderous applause and critical acclaim from their peers and fans. After the show, the group - lead singer Glenn Shorrock, guitarists and harmony vocalists Beeb Birtles and Graeham Goble, lead guitarist David Briggs, bassist George McArdle, and drummer Derek Pellicci - were honored by the Australian Recording Industry Association with induction into that organization's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, honored as the Classic Lineup of Little River Band.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, the Little River Band - bassist / lead vocalist Wayne Nelson, lead guitarist Stephen Housden, keyboardist / saxman Glenn Reither, guitarist Greg Hind and drummer Kevin Murphy - were on tour in the United States, having played in Fargo, North Dakota in support of their new CD, Test of Time. Housden, a 24-year veteran of the group, owns the trademarked name "Little River Band," and has fought to protect that trademark - even if it means lawsuits against the men whose voices are heard on the band's classic hits.

But what has been lost amidst the lawsuits and the breakups and reunions is this undeniable fact - Little River Band paved the way for three decades of Australian singers and bands to achieve worldwide success. Other Australian bands might have suffered the fate of Sherbet and Skyhooks and Copperwine and Mondo Rock, had not Little River Band proved an Australian band could achieve American success. Little River Band also helped launch the career of John Farnham, the best-selling Australian singer of modern times, and David Hirschfelder, whose music scores are among Hollywood's most honored films. Even the song Reminiscing, with over four million radio airplays to date, was reported to be John Lennon's personal audiophonic aphrodisiac.

"There's been six bands from Australia that have made a major impact in America," said Graeham Goble, a founding member of Little River Band and currently working with original members Beeb Birtles and Glenn Shorrock in a new vocal trio, BSG (Birtles Shorrock Goble). "How incredible was our destiny to be one of the very few out of all these incredible bands that never got a shot, and then there's Little River Band, AC/DC, Air Supply, INXS, Crowded House and Men At Work. Think about the thousands of acts that tried - it's an extraordinary achievement."

Not that Australia didn't foster its own rock music culture. In the 1960's, bands from Melbourne and Sydney took the influence of American guitar bands and British Merseybeat acts, eventually churning out several homegrown superstars of their own - The Easybeats, Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs, The Black Diamonds, Normie Rowe and the Playboys. A group could foster a string of Top 40 or #1 hits, tour the major Australian cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Darwin, Hobart, Canberra - and then would sail to England, performing on the cruise ship until it docked in Southampton, in the hopes that their success in the Land Down Under would replicate throughout the British Empire.

But while that plan worked for Helen Reddy, the Bee Gees, and the Seekers (and their spinoff group the New Seekers), those successes were the exception rather than the rule. Australian expatriates shivered in cold London flats, recording songs that received little promotion - if they were released at all. And when they returned to Australia, even their most ardent fans forgot their songs, having moved on to a new crop of talent. By the 1970's, the boating excursions were replaced with flights from Sydney to London - kamikaze flights to England, they were called - flights where Australia's popular artists disappear.

Back in Australia, Glenn Shorrock fronted several hit bands, including the Twilights (with a chart-topping cover of the Velvelettes' song Needle in a Haystack) and Axiom (A Little Ray of Sunshine). But in England, the only work he could find was as a background vocalist on some Cliff Richard singles. "In Australia, it was mainly American music we heard," said Shorrock. "I always was a fan of it, and I remember my first electric guitar, like seeing the wheel for the first time. I just grew up with my mates and we became musicians out of friendship. We left here in a flurry of anticipation, kamikaze raids as they were, and dashed ourselves to pieces on the shores of England. It really grounded us, but it was all a good experience for young men with stars in their eyes."

Also in England at the time was an Australian band called Mississippi, featuring guitarist/vocalist Graeham Goble, drummer Derek Pellicci and rhythm guitarist/vocalist Beeb Birtles (Birtles previously played bass in a popular Australian teen-rock band called the Zoot, whose lineup included a pre-"Jessie's Girl" Rick Springfield). "When our band Mississippi traveled to London," said Birtles, "we lived there for nine months in 1974. Within two months, the band broke up and we ran out of money. It was one of those ill-fated journeys to England, where bands break up and find their way back to Australia with their tails between their legs."

But in England, Shorrock, Birtles, Pellicci and Goble met up with another expatriate Australian, bassist Glenn Wheatley. As a bassist for the Australian rock band Masters' Apprentices, Wheatley had also journeyed to England in the hopes of reaching a worldwide audience. "Most of us were casualties over in England," said Wheatley. "We would work our way over by playing on the ship, arrive at Southampton and say what the hell do we do now?"

Eventually the remnants of Mississippi, along with Shorrock and Wheatley, returned home, and banded together under a new name. They chose "Little River Band," naming themselves after a road sign in a small Victoria town partway between Melbourne and Geelong. With Wheatley as their manager, and with bassist Roger McLachlan and guitarist Ric Formosa to round out the group, Little River Band signed with EMI Australia, and recorded their self-titled debut album.

"We were listening to Crosby Stills and Nash at the time," said Glenn Shorrock of Little River Band's distinctive three-part harmonies. "Graeham, Beeb and I were natural harmony singers, and still are. We were influenced a lot by the southern California sound, and we just like to sing together. Somebody just gave me a comp of Stephen Stills' old stuff, a smattering of recordings he did post-CSN, and I'm really enjoying it. I realized how much an influence he was on me when I listened to those records again."

In Australia, Little River Band achieved early success. Songs like Curiosity (Killed the Cat), Emma and It's a Long Way There became major hits Down Under, and Little River Band's follow-up album, After Hours, also did well in their homeland, spawning the Australian hits Every Day Of My Life and Broke Again.

Meanwhile, Wheatley set out to break the band internationally. Rather than send Little River Band back on a kamikaze flight to London, he thought about cracking the American market. Besides the Bee Gees and the Seekers, the few Australians capable of American radio success were either novelty artists like Rolf Harris or Sister Janet Mead, or "pretend" Australian groups like the Strangeloves (three songwriters who claimed Australian citizenry through their New York accents). Even the Easybeats, one of the most popular Australian groups of the 1960's, were considered a "one-hit wonder" in the States.

Wheatley, however, had a plan. After the breakup of Masters' Apprentices, he toured with the New Seekers, who had made some inroads into the American music scene with hits like I'd Like to Teach The World To Sing (In Perfect Harmony). It gave him some contacts with American record companies, which he exploited when Little River Band signed with Capitol Records' subsidiary label Harvest. "None of us really quite knew how to take on the American market," said Wheatley, "but it was through perseverance that we dug in. At the time, we only had three dates booked, and we were an opening act for the Average White Band. I told the band, 'I don't know when we're coming home, but we're going to stay there for as long as it's going to take to crack the market.'"

"Glenn had all these contacts in Los Angeles," said Beeb Birtles, "but when he went back to Australia, he called on all of those people after we recorded our first album. That's the reason why we didn't go to England. Our sound was more suited to the American market. He called on all his contacts in Los Angeles with the album under his arm. And that's how we signed with Capitol."

While Little River Band performed their first three American concerts, a disc jockey in Jacksonville, Bill Barnett, took a special interest in one of the tracks from the band's Australian debut album, an eight-minute track called It's A Long Way There. The song, written by Graeham Goble in 1972 during his stint in the band Mississippi, was later released in America as a heavily edited 4-minute track. While many American listeners considered the track a commentary on Nixonian America, mired in the Energy Crisis and inflation (Glenn Shorrock explored a similar theme in his 1972 solo record Statue of Liberty), Goble saw It's A Long Way There as a personal and spiritual journey. "I wrote that song about how I moved to another state and I missed Adelaide a lot," said Goble. "I used to drive home 8-10 hours each month to visit my family. That's where the title came from. And then as we used to play 7 nights a week, we were battling for material, we'd go for very long jams on that song, sometimes 20 minutes at a time. And during the long outros, I would hear and come up with different passages, so I would often jot them down and rehearse them and add or take out a bit here and there. Today, I believe that the lyric is about a personal journey, a journey through lifetimes to your soul evolution."

Eventually three American concerts turned into six concerts, then twelve, and the band crisscrossed America for five months. And at the end of their journey, Little River Band had broken through Top 40 radio, and Casey Kasem introduced their hits on his nationwide countdown show. "We worked for months on end," said Shorrock, "because we couldn't go home, so we stayed on the road. Lo and behold, we found ourselves with a growing audience. We gained in confidence and we got the respect of other musicians we performed with. The Doobie Brothers were very helpful to us in our touring life. We just ground our way along and started having hits. It was a wonderful experience."

The band also experienced their first lineup changes, as before their first American tour commenced, David Briggs replaced Ric Formosa on lead guitar, and George McArdle supplanted Roger McLachlan on bass. This lineup would later record the hit album Diamantina Cocktail with producer John Boylan (a Diamantina cocktail, by the way, is a mixture of condensed milk, rum and an emu egg, a thirst quencher from the shores of Queensland's Diamantina River). Songs like Help Is On Its Way and Happy Anniversary became hits in both North America and Australia, and showed Little River Band's strengths as songwriters and performers, honed from their years in other bands. The American version of Diamantina Cocktail differs from the Australian pressing, as the US version contained several tracks from Australian-only release After Hours. And after all the band's hard work, Diamantina Cocktail was certified gold, the first record by any Australian rock band to receive such a certification.

"When I first met with the guys in London back in 1974," said Shorrock, "the quality of material we each brought to the table were terrific songs. That was one of the catalysts that propelled Little River Band's career- we had an arsenal of 100 songs between us. Our first 3-4 albums were high-quality albums, because the material was so strong."

While Shorrock could pen Help Is On Its Way, Goble came up with Take It Easy On Me. Goble provided Lady for Little River Band; Shorrock gave the band Cool Change; between them four Little River Band classics. Beeb Birtles also scripted several hits for the group, including Happy Anniversary and the collaboration with Glenn Shorrock, Home on Monday.

"There was a lot of lobbying during our recordings," said Shorrock. "We did bring a lot of songs to the sessions, and some had to be left off the albums. John Boylan, our producer at the time, was one of my allies in getting Cool Change on the record; the other guys thought it was a little too personal. But it made the album, and thank God it did."

"I was lucky with Happy Anniversary," said Birtles, "but for some reason, my songs became the album tracks, but I never complained about that. As long as you had hit singles on an album, then everybody made money, because the albums were selling. There was tension between all three of us, both in songwriting and touring, we had pretty strong personalities. At the same time, I really think that tension creates the brilliance that we have between us."

"We had to bring in an outside producer on Diamantina Cocktail," said Graeham Goble, "and the way it used to work was John Boylan would simply select the songs based upon the songs submitted by the songwriters. That was the only way it could happen. The songs that got recorded would be selected by the producer, and then after they were recorded, Capitol would select which one would be singles. That process became very destructive, because everybody knew that a song on the record was worth a lot of money, and if a song was a single, it was worth a lot of money. Some people earning more than others became an issue, and the reality of the fact that the hit records were going to take the band to a point where we could all earn a lot of money was completely overlooked."

By the time the sessions for the Sleeper Catcher album began, Graeham Goble had a track that he thought would be a major hit, a simple reflective ballad called Reminiscing. That song would evolve into one of Little River Band's greatest hits, receiving over four million radio plays, as many as Under the Boardwalk, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face and Penny Lane. John Lennon and May Pang considered Reminiscing "their song" during Lennon's 18-month "lost weekend." Reminiscing also became Little River Band's first US Top 10 hit, peaking at #3 on the Billboard charts.

"I loved watching old black and white movies," said Goble, "and I always also loved the music of Glenn Miller and Cole Porter, that whole era of writing, and it was my attempt to write a song to depict the romantic era. It came out very quickly, I wrote it in about half an hour. Even though a lot of people think it sounds complicated, on the guitar it's very simple to play. It nearly never got recorded - when the time came to record it, the keyboard player I wanted to use, Peter Jones, was out of town, so we cut the band track with a different keyboard player. It didn't work. A few days later when we tried it again with a different keyboard player, again it didn't work, and the band was losing interest in the song. Just before the album was finished, Peter Jones came back into town, the band and I had an argument because I wanted to give Reminiscing a third chance. Peter played on it, we cut it, and finished it, and sent the album to Capitol. Capitol said that they couldn't hear any singles on the album, and didn't know what to release. Five weeks later, someone at Capitol's New York office said 'You're all crazy, Reminiscing is a smash.' Capitol put it out, and it just immediately caught on fire, and became our highest chart hit - and it was followed by Lady, our biggest selling single - two songs that Capitol almost passed on as singles."

The Sleeper Catcher album was also the last to feature bassist George McArdle, who left Little River Band and sold all his musical equipment, giving the proceeds to the church. "George had a very strong spiritual experience," said Goble, "and he's a good friend, but he could never handle the touring. Even today he still has his ministry, and he paints houses in Brisbane. He still plays from time to time, he played on some of my solo recordings, but his calling to his ministry is stronger than his great love of music. He's ethically so strong in what he believes - to him, what he can do for people on a personal basis as a minister is far more important than his music."

By the time Little River Band began work on their 1981 album Time Exposure, Wheatley thought a change of atmosphere would invigorate his group. He arranged recording time in Monserrat, and to have George Martin produce the album. "The George Martin sessions in Monserrat were frought with emotional dynamics," said Shorrock. "Notwithstanding that, it was a wonderful experience for me to work with George. I still count myself as carrying on a wonderful relationship with him. It was like working for the Duke of Edinburgh at the time."

"I really enjoyed working with George Martin," said Birtles. "Unfortunately, what happened when George came on board to produce that album is the band at that stage was pretty burned out, and I know for a fact that Glenn Shorrock had suggested that we all take a year off and come back together and see what we wanted to do. Graeham and I wanted to continue on - but in hindsight, that would have been the best thing we could have done. Monserrat was a magic place to record. I think it was wise that we decided on a different recording venue for a change, as we had recorded most of our albums previously in Melbourne."

At the time, Graeham Goble tried an experiment. Instead of having Shorrock record the vocals for his upcoming track, The Night Owls, Goble tested the song with LRB's new bassist, Wayne Nelson, on vocals. "Glenn and I had a lot of sparks at the time," said Goble. "Glenn is a wonderful singer, but he can't sing everything. I felt a lot of my songs were being passed over because Glenn was not appropriate to deliver the vocals on the songs. When Wayne Nelson joined the band, I wrote The Night Owls for his higher voice range."

For Nelson, who as a member of the Jim Messina Band had previously opened for Little River Band, the opportunity to sing lead vocal with an international group was a dream come true. "Glenn Shorrock lived in Sydney," said Nelson, "and didn't make it to all of the grunt work rehearsals that the band was doing in Melbourne. At the time, The Night Owls was in the room and needed to be sung, and they just kind of fell to me to sing a couple of things while he wasn't there. When we went to the studio, it was the first time I had ever sung lead on anything in a studio, it was all coming fast and furious. Then Capitol picked The Night Owls as the first single. It was a thrill to work with George Martin, and helping to contribute to the arrangements, it was a very cool time for me."

Nelson also recorded the lead vocals on Time Exposure's second single, Take It Easy On Me, although the version released featured Glenn Shorrock on lead vocals, with Nelson on the middle bridge. "The straw that broke the camel's back was when George Martin picked my vocal for Take It Easy On Me," said Nelson. "Capitol chose that as the second single. Glenn, before letting the masters go, said 'Wait a second, if Wayne's going to sing the first two singles on the album, what am I doing here?' That's how Take It Easy On Me ended up with a split vocal. Glenn sings the verse and I sing the middle eight."

The third single from Time Exposure, a track called Man On Your Mind that Glenn Shorrock co-wrote with Kerryn Tolhurst, a member of the Australian rock band The Dingoes, almost got left off the album entirely. "When all of the songs were presented to George Martin," said Goble, "George didn't pick any of Glenn Shorrock's songs, and Glenn felt - and rightly so - his songs were being overlooked, and he asked for reconsideration. One of those songs was Man On Your Mind. On a second draft, George included Man On Your Mind and two other songs of his."

After the success of Time Exposure, another change was made within the lineup - Glenn Shorrock left Little River Band for a solo career. He had several Australian Top 10 hits, as well as a successful collaboration with Australian chanteuse Renee Geyer on the song Going Back. "I should have taken a year off from all that pressure," said Shorrock, "but no, I had something to prove. I went into the studio with John Boylan, and recorded the album Villain of the Peace, it was a great album to do, I got to work with some of my real influences (including the Eagles' Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmidt), but commercially the album toileted."

Shorrock's replacement in LRB was John Farnham, whose previous Australian chart success included a 1960's novelty song, Sadie the Cleaning Lady. Despite that, there was something about Farnham's vocals that impressed Graeham Goble, and the band's new vocalist made his Little River Band debut on two songs originally recorded for LRB's 1982 album The Net, The Other Guy and Down on the Border, songs that Capitol added to a Little River Band Greatest Hits package.

As the band recorded their new album, The Net, their lineup now included lead guitarist Stephen Housden, who once opened for Little River Band as a member of the Australian rock band The Imports. "The Imports were a 3-piece band, a Police-like trio," said Housden. "Our manager was the tour manager for LRB, and he helped us get the gig opening for the Police in Australia, and got us on LRB's Summer Jam tour in 1980. A few months down the line, I got a phone call saying things might come to an end with David Briggs, and would I be interested in joining LRB."

The Net was a transition album for Little River Band. While it was the group's first full-length album with John Farnham and Stephen Housden, it was also their first album without Glenn Shorrock on vocals. American radio stations were also in transition, as Little River Band's music could not survive against a tsunami of New Wave and alternative pop bands. Little River Band were even superseded by their fellow Australian bands, as Men At Work, Real Life and Midnight Oil became popular American radio fare. And although the two singles released from The Net did receive Top 40 airplay, neither We Two nor You're Driving Me Out Of My Mind had the same staying power as the group's previous hits.

The Net eventually became Beeb Birtles' last album with Little River Band. "Between the time Glenn Shorrock left the band and John Farnham became the lead singer," said Birtles, "I decided at that time I would hang in and see what happened. I didn't think the album worked, I thought that without Glenn on the lead vocal it wasn't the same Little River Band any more. Graeham's writing was changing, he was trying to push the band into a more hard rock place, and I could see that we had peaked and we were starting to go downhill. After the tour, I didn't want to continue with the band - I thought it was heading in the wrong area musically. I was pushing for all these changes in the group, but it was quite apparent that I was hitting my head against a brick wall. There was only one thing I could do, that was leave, which is what I did."

Little River Band continued onward, recording two more albums for Capitol, 1984's Playing to Win and 1986's No Reins. As original members left, Little River Band added other musicians from various popular Australian combos to the lineup, including keyboardist David Hirschfelder, formerly of the jazz combo Pyramid; and Steve Prestwich, the drummer from the Australian classic rock band Cold Chisel. "In 1984, Derek decided he didn't like the direction the band was going with John Farnham," said Stephen Housden. "We auditioned drummers and we got Steve Prestwich. Graeham may not say it now, but I've got a quote from him that says the lineup at that time (Goble, Nelson, Housden, Prestwich, Hirschfelder and Farnham) was his favorite lineup. It was a monster lineup, a lot of talent. So many ideas flying around, you wouldn't believe it. David had a Fairlight synthesizer, it was new music technology. I had a mandolin, and once David sampled my mandolin into his Fairlight, we had hundreds of mandolins."

"That lineup was the most talented LRB lineup that I had ever played in," said Goble. "But I now have to look back in retrospect and say that yes, it was an extraordinary band, and the Playing to Win album was a fantastic album to record, but it wasn't successful."

By 1986, John Farnham left Little River Band, and Glenn Wheatley - the manager who helped introduce LRB to the world - went with him. "I didn't support the move to add John Farnham to the lineup," said Wheatley. "The chemistry in my view had changed without Glenn Shorrock, and by the time that John was ready to move on and do his own thing, I had to make a choice - go with John or go back with the restructured LRB. By then the band was a little fractured, and I decided I would take a leave of absence and manage John full-time."

Today, John Farnham is one of Australia's most successful solo recording artists. His albums Whispering Jack and Age of Reason have outsold any other artist in his native land, and the song You're The Voice is one of Australia's most popular songs. Also finding success after his time with Little River Band was keyboardist David Hirschfelder, who became one of Australia's most prolific motion picture composers, having scored the films Strictly Ballroom and Shine.

Still, there was another issue brewing within the band. Because of a clause in the band's recording contract, the time Little River Band spent in the recording studio was actually paid by Capitol recouping all costs from sales of the band's catalog releases like Diamantina Cocktail, Sleeper Catcher and Time Exposure. The successful classic albums were, in essence, funding unsuccessful new albums.

In 1987, with the possibility of a new recording contract with MCA on the horizon, and the return of original members Glenn Shorrock and Derek Pellicci to the roster, Little River Band underwent a corporate reorganization. A new company was formed - We Two Pty. Ltd. - with Glenn Shorrock, Graeham Goble, Wayne Nelson, Derek Pellicci and Stephen Housden as equal shareholders.

LRB's next two albums, 1988's Monsoon and 1990's Get Lucky had some U.S. and Australian success, and the songs Love Is A Bridge and If I Get Lucky returned the band to American radio, at least on formatted "adult contemporary" and "easy listening" stations, which had always embraced the vast Little River Band catalog. But trouble once again brewed in the band, and this time it was Graeham Goble, who devoted nearly two decades of his life to Little River Band, to leave for a solo career.

Wayne Nelson was the next to leave; in 1992 his daughter died in a car accident. "At that point," said Nelson, "the road was no place for me, being at home with my wife and son was more important. I returned for the 20th anniversary tour in 1995, then went back home."

Little River Band continued to record and tour, and in 1994 their cover of the Christmas classic Mary's Boy Child landed on a compilation CD, The Stars Come Out For Christmas. But by 1995, any holiday spirit the band might have had disappeared, when Glenn Shorrock and the rest of the band had a dispute about the touring schedule (Shorrock wanted to tour for eight weeks, as he had other commitments; Little River Band wanted a five-month American tour). Shorrock eventually left Little River Band for the second time, selling his share of We Two Pty. Ltd. back to the shareholders for $83,500 (Australian). Two years later, Derek Pellicci also left Little River Band, also selling his interest back to the shareholders.

"My fellow directors of Little River Band at the time, Derek Pellicci and Stephen Housden, wanted to do a 5 month tour," said Shorrock. "I felt that a 3 month commitment was sufficient. They had another agenda and I was informed by fax that they would be employing a substitute vocalist in my place. I attempted to stop them, I sought advise, stepped down and accepted a financial settlement in lieu of earnings."

"The LRB name was never 'for sale,'" said Goble. "It was lost to Stephen Housden because of a legal document that transferred the name to We Two Pty. Ltd. The name should have been licensed, not transferred. We were ill advised and totally unaware of what we were leaving behind."

Meanwhile, original member Beeb Birtles had moved to Nashville, writing songs and enjoying Tennessee Titans football games. Then came a telephone call from Graeham Goble, a call he thought he would never hear. "Graeham told me we had these opportunities to get back together and perform again, and I felt enough water had gone under the bridge that I was willing to attempt it again. To be quite honest, I wanted to hear our voices together again. If you could hear us just singing in a room together, it's a magic blend between our voices."

Meanwhile, Housden continued operating Little River Band, and Wayne Nelson rejoined him in 1998. "There was another guy singing in the band," said Nelson, "but that person decided to leave - again, the revolving door of the band - and I stepped up and did what I already knew what to do, and it's been a good fit ever since. The stars aligned at that point, it was a good choice."

Back in Australia, the Birtles Shorrock Goble trio discovered that although they could play Little River Band music, they couldn't tour as Little River Band. As the members who were in the corporation We Two Pty. Ltd. sold their shares of the company back to the shareholders, eventually Stephen Housden ended up with all the shares - including the right to the name "Little River Band," as well as the trademarks inherent thereto (Beeb Birtles left Little River Band before the We Two Pty. Ltd. reorganization). Attempts by Shorrock, Goble and Birtles to tour as "The Original Little River Band" were met with legal action, and later an out-of-court agreement, as Housden and his attorneys vigorously fought to defend their trademark ownership.

Tensions got higher in 2000, when Capitol Records release a 17-track CD version of Little River Band's greatest hits, with three alternate takes of hits from Time Exposure - a version of Man on Your Mind to which George Martin had added horns; a guitar-heavy mix of The Night Owls; and an alternate take of Take It Easy On Me with Wayne Nelson, not Glenn Shorrock, on lead vocals. "Capitol broke the original contract," said Nelson. "No alternate versions or outtakes could be used on Greatest Hits packages. Capitol pulled all the rest of them back that they could, put the correct mixes on those three songs, and then they put the record back out. There are maybe 10,000 copies of the first version floating around out there - if anybody's got one it's a real rarity."

In June 2002, the parties reached a deed of settlement. Currently Beeb Birtles, Glenn Shorrock and Graeham Goble can perform as "Birtles Shorrock Goble" or "BSG," and although they can say in promotional and advertising material that they were original or former members of Little River Band, they cannot claim they are "Little River Band," or use LRB's distinctive swimming platypus logo. All other rights belonged to Stephen Housden and We Two Pty. Ltd.

After a series of reunion concerts to test the waters, Glenn Shorrock, Beeb Birtles and Graeham Goble played two sold-out shows at Melbourne's Forum in July 2003. The concert was released on compact disc and DVD as Full Circle, and featured the trio performing the classic Little River Band catalog under the BSG aegis. "I was happy with the results of the DVD," said Shorrock. "We have five or six relatively young hotshot virtuoso musicians playing alongside us, who grew up with LRB music."

Then came October 17th, 2004. One of the highlights of the ARIA Music Awards, presented to the best in Australian music, is enshrinement into that organization's Hall of Fame. Little River Band members past and present had received enshrinement in previous years (Glenn Shorrock in 1991, Glenn Wheatley's old band Masters' Apprentices in 1998, John Farnham in 2003), Little River Band would be honored with inclusion into the hall in 2004.

For the original bandmembers, it was a time of rejoicing - but would they be allowed to perform under their original name? "I didn't personally want an award to put on the fireplace at home," said Housden. "But I felt the award should go to 'Little River Band' - and ARIA agreed with me. I was happy for the classic lineup to pick up the award, and to be recognized for their achievement in breaking the U.S. market, but I thought it would be an insult if they ignored the rest of the members over the years. A band is a band - the first lineup included Roger McLachlan and Ric Formosa. That lineup had three hits in Australia, and that first song, It's A Long Way There, broke through to America. And to disrespect them is really rude. I asked the producer of ARIA if he had asked the classic lineup if they were happy about the award going to Little River Band as a band, and he said to me, 'It's ARIA's decision, it's not up to them.' The next thing I know, someone from BSG management has called Derek Pellicci and David Briggs, and told them that the whole thing could be off, because of my demands."

"When the nominations for the Hall of Fame started to surface," said Goble, "there was only ever interest from ARIA in inducting the classic lineup. So ARIA went ahead, and as soon as Housden got word of this, his legal people contacted ARIA and threw the whole thing into turmoil, saying that he would allow the induction but he wanted to be inducted as well. Four days before the awards, it was off because we weren't going to be inducted if it means to induct him as well. So he camouflaged his demands by saying that all the members who were in LRB should be in as well. With negotiations, he eventually backed up and they issued a license for the LRB name for one night. We were introduced as Little River Band, we played Help Is On Its Way, we hadn't played together in 26 years, and we had a nice time for a couple of days in Sydney. It was a lovely thing to do."

"One of the reasons I gave the license to ARIA," said Housden, "was so that Derek Pellicci, David Briggs and George McArdle could get recognition for their part in creating the LRB sound. BSG have had so much publicity in Australia that I wonder if the public realize the contributions made by those other members. I guess the proof is in the pudding, I just gave them the license. I can only imagine that they decided not to play if I was in any way involved in the award, because when the presentation was shown, Wayne Nelson and myself were mysteriously missing from the history of the band."

Little River Band continues to tour the United States, playing their classic songs as well as new tracks from their upcoming CD Test of Time. And although some Internet LRB fans have derisively referred to the current incarnation of the band as "LHB" (Little Housden's Band), Stephen Housden takes the rib in stride. "The funny thing is, one of those guys used to come to our concerts all the time, and beg for signed stuff, and we looked after him and got him good seats. I forget what happened, there was a fallout - something happened. Suddenly this fan is totally against us and writes the most vicious things."

As for BSG, they are back in the studio preparing a CD with a mixture of new songs and classic tracks from other bands, classic songs that BSG felt deserved a worldwide audience. There are also plans for BSG to tour the United States in 2005, in support of the American release of their Full Circle DVD.

"We're trying to look at this as a positive point of view," said Birtles. "Little River Band, that's history, that's something we've been a part of, but we are 29 years later and the three of us are getting back together, and it's not for a shortage of material that we can put out. We're viewing BSG under a new name, it will give us a brand new start."

"We have great respect for BSG as songwriters and musicians," said Housden. "But it's very difficult to respect the attitude of Glenn Shorrock, their mouthpiece. He is constantly in the media, bemoaning the fact that BSG can't use the name Little River Band. Why can't he just face the consequences of his actions from February 1997? He signed an agreement that for his receiving $83,500 (Australian), We Two Pty. Ltd. is the sole and absolute owner of the name Little River Band. I should also note that Derek sold his share in 1999, and we've remained very close friends."

"It's our music," said Shorrock, "we're the ones that wrote it and sang it, and Stephen Housden's the one that's performing it. It keeps the music alive, but one should not deny the originators the right to do that as well. Unfortunately legally we have to desist from saying we're the Little River Band. In the few concerts that we've done with our new band, BSG, singing the old classics, I've said, 'We're not the Little River Band but we bloody well sound like it.'"


The following article was compiled based on telephone interviews with Beeb Birtles, Stephen Housden, Graeham Goble, Wayne Nelson, Glenn Shorrock, Glenn Wheatley, and attorney Tom Stevens, as well as information provided by Australian music historians Glenn A. Baker, Ed Nimmervoll and Christie Eliezer. Their help, as well as that of the management of both Little River Band and BSG, is greatly appreciated.

Websites of interest:

Official Little River Band homepage
Official Birtles Shorrock Goble homepage
Beeb Birtles' website
Little River Band fan page
Glenn Shorrock's homepage
Stephen Housden's homepage
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