Little River Band: Cool Changes

Formed in 1974 in Melbourne Australia, Little River Bandworked through many obstacles, and numerous band member changes, to finally achieve the success they craved, only to lose it due to personality conflicts.

In late 1974, using the band name Mississippi, Beeb Birtles, Graeham Goble, Derek Pellicci and Glenn Shorrock met with newly hired talent manager Glenn Wheatley. They had initially tried to break in through the UK market, but that idea was quickly scratched. After much discussion, and also due to the indifferent reception they had each received in the UK, they ultimately decided their new band would need to establish itself in the United States.

As for the name change, Birtles later stated in his autobiography, “Shorrock and I were sitting in the back seat of a car driving down Princes Highway to play a gig at The Golf View Hotel in Geelong. As we passed the Little River exit sign, Shorrock said ‘Little River, that’d be a good song title.’ Within a split second he said, ‘Hey, what about Little River Band?’ We all agreed it was the perfect name for us.”

Wheatley travelled to Los Angeles in December 1975 and touted the group to various record companies until Rupert Perry of Capitol Records signed them on Christmas Eve. Their first and second albums had been released by EMI in Australia and did fairly well there. Their third album, Diamantina Cocktail, released in the US in 1977, and featured the hits Help Is On It’s Way and Happy Anniversary. This was the one that catapulted them into the mainstream market, eventually hitting the #2 spot on the US Billboard charts.

But the magic didn’t happen immediately. Several personnel changes occurred after the band was formed, with the 1976 classic line-up of Birtles, David Briggs, Goble, Shorrock, George McArdle and Pellicci listed as “the band of record.” This was the group of men who were later inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) in 2004.

Their 4th album, Sleeper Catcher, received somewhat mediocre reviews, but had some commercial success. The album produced two of the band’s hits, Reminiscing and Lady, and was still certified Platinum. 

First Under the Wire was issued as LRB’s fifth studio album in July 1979, and was their second highest charting album, peaking at #10, and producing the singles Lonesome Loser and Cool Change

But inner tensions between band members had started to simmer way back,  during the recording of their third album. In fact, Birtles, Goble and Shorrock recorded as much of their parts individually as was feasible due to the constant discord. Journalist, Ed Nimmervoll, observed that by February 1978, “frictions inside the band continued to brew, relieved a little by side projects.” As the friction spilled over in the early 80s, band members started to leave in search of a more harmonious working environment.

Most of the group’s 1970s and early 1980s material was written by Goble and/or Shorrock, Birtles and Briggs. The group had undergone numerous personnel changes, with over 30 members since their formation, including John Farnham as lead singer after Shorrock departed, or was asked to leave  in 1982. Depending on who you ask, the story vastly differs. Shorrock insists he left on his own terms; however, other band members have openly stated he was summarily fired after a tremendous blowup at their manager’s house.

The addition of Farnham eased tensions somewhat, but the band never again achieved the popularity of their earlier albums. The band had started taking on a harder, more progressive sound, which failed to engage their earlier fans, and left them disenchanted. Even Shorrock’s return after Farnham left failed to reignite the magic. Band members continued to leave, and be replaced, but the early success was never again achieved. The band continues to record and tour, to this day, however none of the original founding members remain.

In my opinion, this band always felt like they should have been bigger. Their hits were classic and are still played with pronounced frequency to this day in soft rock formats. But their unfortunate inability to work together ruined what could have made them greater. They will always feel like “what might have been” in my mind.

Tami Danielson is the main in-house blogger and Director of Operations for Pop-Daze. She was raised in California and Florida and currently resides in Oregon. Tami has written for a variety of periodicals and has provided digital marketing services for a number of artists. She can be reached at [email protected]