Little River Band Reclaim Their Legacy

Founding member Graeham Goble sets the record straight

Graeham Goble of Little River Band (Image: Reybee)

During the 1970s, Little River Band were the first Australian group to become famous on a widespread international scale.

Particularly in the United States, where they made it into the Top 40 singles chart a dozen times with songs such as “Reminiscing,” “Lady,” “Lonesome Loser,” and “Cool Change.” The band’s lengthy string of hits – and breadth of songwriting capabilities – are on full display with two newly-released compilations, Ultimate Hits and Masterpieces, totaling more than fifty tracks.

On a video call from his home in Melbourne, Australia, founding member and guitarist/vocalist Graeham Goble explains what prompted him and his fellow original band members to create these compilations.

“This journey to what we’ve got now with the new Ultimate Hits and Masterpieces, that started about five years ago because of a few reasons,” he says. “Number one is that there’ve been a lot of compilations and different releases through the record company over the years that we haven’t agreed with, and so I thought that we needed to put the record straight.”

While he’s pleased to present all the familiar singles with Ultimate Hits, Goble admits that he’s even more pleased with Masterpieces, which gathers many lesser-known tracks that he believes are worth bringing to listeners’ attention.

“I would confidently say Masterpieces is my favorite Little River Band album ever,” he says. “Some of my very favorite songs in the whole catalog have not been the singles. Little River Band is sort of like The Beatles in many ways, in that we’ve got a lot of album tracks and ‘deep cuts’ that are really great, great songs, and they were never picked as singles. But they’ve become some of my favorite songs.”

Goble says another motivation for releasing these albums is so that he and his fellow original band members Glenn Shorrock (vocals) and Beeb Birtles (guitar/vocals) can reclaim their status with the band. After they departed the group in the 1980s and 1990s, lengthy and complicated legal battles ensued over who could use the “Little River Band” name, with the courts deeming that the replacement band members hold that right. This means that the current Little River Band lineup is entirely different than it was when the group first began making hits in the 1970s. It is a situation that still angers Goble.

1980 Little River Band L-R Graeham Goble; Beeb Birtles (Image: Days On The Road)

“Throughout the years, our faces were not featured on the records, and consequently, this U.S.-based band uses our recordings to promote their concerts,” Goble says. “And even though there are no original members and they don’t play on any of the records, they even still sign our old Greatest Hits [album] because our photos are not on them.”

But with Ultimate Hits and Masterpieces, “We’re going to take our legacy back,” Goble says. “We’re putting our faces all across these two new albums. These are the people that have recorded and wrote and sang the songs. We feel that, interview by interview, person by person, we’re going to get the word out that the band that’s still doing concerts in America are not the band that recorded any of the records. We’re the original band, and we’ve not been able to perform for 25-plus years because of legal action from this band that owns the trademark. So that’s the motivation for the whole thing. This is the definitive LRB collection now.”

To further make their point about their standing in the Little River Band realm, Goble, Shorrock and Birtles are also remastering the band’s first ten studio albums, which they plan to release next year. Revisiting those albums has been an enjoyable process for Goble: “I’m pretty blown away with how these records have just improved even more now,” he says. “The sound quality is amazing and the performances of the band really are stunning. We could rock, but we could also play a tender song like ‘Reminiscing’ or ‘Cool Change.’ So we weren’t like a one-trick pony. We could play many things in terms of our style, because we had wonderful musicians and we had a lot of great singers in the band. Our harmonies are arguably as good as anyone that’s ever sang.”

Those harmonies were at the heart of what made Little River Band stand out right from the start. “I was the vocal arranger and I sang the high harmony parts,” Goble says, “and I formed the band around the idea of, the harmonies were the key thing. Because I was very aware from a young age that all of the great bands in the world that I enjoyed, like The Beatles, The Hollies and Mamas & the Papas, are so distinctive because of the sound of their harmonies.” He and his bandmates took that element and put their own spin on it. Now, Goble says, “It’s our trademark sound.”

 

 

Though the rock music scene was well-established in Australia by the 1970s, it was rather insular, with no bands outside of AC/DC really making it big beyond their homeland – but Goble and his bandmates were determined to change that. “We formed Little River Band with the absolute intention to do whatever it took to break America. The six of us were committed to non-stop touring and recording, so there wasn’t a day off anywhere. You were away for months and months and months. If there would have been a gig on the moon, I think we would have done it!”

All that hard work paid off, and for several years Little River Band frequently made the charts around the world, starting with their 1975 self-titled debut album. They went on to release several gold and platinum-selling albums, and their singles remain in heavy rotation on classic rock radio around the world to this day. Goble believes their music resonates with listeners so strongly because it’s relatable.

“Our music, it reminds people of a time in their life when there were important things: they got married, they had a child. A lot of our music gets played at funerals. It’s a companion to a person’s life,” Goble says. “I think all music is, to a point. But we’ve had so many songs that people keep going back to all the time because it makes them feel comforted. It feels like there’s an old friend there, that as soon as they put that on, life doesn’t feel as hard anymore.”

He sees no reason why this would change anytime soon. “Some of our songs will be around for a long, long time,” he says. “It wouldn’t be too hard to imagine a song like ‘Reminiscing’ still being played in a couple hundred years, because it’s just a unique and classic song. When I wrote it, I thought it was comparable to the quality of ‘Night and Day’ by Cole Porter.”

1975 Little River Band L-R: Glenn Shorrock, Graeham Goble, Derek Pellicci, George McCardle, Beeb Birtles (back), David Briggs (Image: Days On The Road)

Goble says that he no longer writes because the songs simply stopped coming to him. “I just didn’t feel the need to write anymore. I no longer need the songwriting experience to help me process my inner feelings. Songwriting has taught me a lot about myself and about life, and along with my many years of spiritual studies, I can now say that I feel at peace in my life.”

And, as he looks back, he’s also pleased with what he has accomplished, even if everything with Little River Band hasn’t turned out as he’d hoped.

“My music comes out of a longing and a yearning for something different than I’ve had,” he says. “Now I recognize that disappointment can bring a lot of wonderful art into the world. Yearning is a very, very big thing, and I think most people experience that. Life is weird and life is hard, and there’s always something that you maybe wish was different. But not being given things is teaching us a lot.”

 

 

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Katherine Yeske Taylor

Katherine Yeske Taylor began her rock critic career in Atlanta in the late '80s, when she interviewed Georgia musical royalty such as the Indigo Girls, R.E.M. and the Black Crowes while she was still a teenager. Since then, she has done hundreds of interviews with a wide range of artists. She has written for dozens of magazines, including The Big Takeover, Aquarian Weekly, Stomp & Stammer, Creative Loafing, Jam Magazine, Color Red, Boston Rock, and many others. She contributed to two books (several entries for The Trouser Press Guide to the '90s, and a chapter for Rolling Stone's Alt-Rock-A-Rama). Additionally, she has written liner notes and artist bios for several major acts. She currently lives in New York City.  

4 thoughts on “Little River Band Reclaim Their Legacy

  • December 14, 2022 at 1:00 pm
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    They will always be in the Top 5 of vocal harmonies in a band.

    The current band is at best, a tribute band.

    Reply
  • December 15, 2022 at 12:17 am
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    No-one doubts that Goble and his original band-mates wrote and performed some great songs, but his constant, nay, increasing, carping about “reclaiming their legacy” does him no credit at all.
    You would think he was blameless in what he considers to be their “stolen history”, but it was he who was the prime mover in removing Shorrock from the band the first time around, in firing Briggs, in agitating for the removal of Farnham no more than a few months after bringing him in to replace Shorrock, in not bringing back Birtles for the Monsoon-era reunion, and was as complicit as anyone in taking his eye off the legal ball and the process that saw the band lose their rights to the name etc.
    To now present himself as “hard done-by” is disingenuous at best.
    Yes, these are nice recordings, but by omitting images and mention of Housden and Nelson from the artwork when they are fully involved with so many of the tracks, especially on “Masterpieces” is surely hypocritical given the sentiments he expresses.

    Reply
    • December 21, 2022 at 3:38 am
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      I believe many renowned bands and musicians from previous eras experience the “resurgence”, if you will, to reappear in one form or another, especially as they near their twilight years. Don’t harp too much on one’s need to grasp what once was and what may never be again. I believe we all get to a point in our lives when we have a strong feeling of regret, forgiveness, acceptance. Perhaps that’s the case with Mr. Goble. It may be that there’s bitterness there, but it may be also his attempt to simply regain what he and others have created, and then to present it to the world in its final form, and then be at peace with it all.

      We should not begrudge one’s mistakes along the way. Heck, it may not even be considered “mistakes” but rather creative differences. Are we to condemn Paul McCartney just the same?
      Roger Fisher/Ann Wilson? It’s simply people converge, and then they don’t. It’s natural, it’s nature, and it’s ok.

      I guess I’m just sympathetic to those that have a reckoning with themselves, or just relive their glory years and give something back to those that remember and those that have yet to discover.

      Reply
  • December 17, 2022 at 1:05 pm
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    right on Mr Starkie

    Reply

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