May 26 – Little River Flowed Easily Across Pacific

Southern California easy rock and smooth harmonies with a side of vegemite? That’s perhaps how people view the Little River Band, an Aussie band which perhaps sounded like it originated on the other side of the Pacific. And those of us on this side of the Pacific got to learn a lot more about their sound with the release of their fourth album, Sleeper Catcher, this day in 1978. It continued to build their growing fanbase at home and was their first major foray into the hearts and charts of North American music.

The band had begun in Melbourne just three years earlier, going by the name Mississippi at first. They were formed from a number of musicians who’d done well in the Australian East Coast music scene (among them Beeb Birtles, a guitarist for them who’d played bass in a band called Zoot, which was where Rick Springfield first started into music) but were unknown internationally.

They changed names and signed to Capitol Records internationally, with their records coming out on EMI in their homeland and Harvest Records (the label known for putting out Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon) in the Americas and Europe. The very first song they recorded was a cover of the Everly Brothers “When Will I Be Loved”… a fine showcase for their voices and pop stylings. Unfortunately – or possibly fortunately – for them, Linda Ronstadt also loved the song and put out a version which became a hit just before they were ready to, so the label filed their cover of it away and got them working on their own songs.

Their first trio of albums each did a little better than the previous in Australia and New Zealand but made little dent elsewhere despite having a modest hit in ’77 with the single “Help Is On The Way.” Capitol knew they had talent and made a harder push for Sleeper Catcher, after bringing in John Boylan to produce the record. Boylan had ironically risen to fame working with Linda Ronstadt, and had also co-produced Boston’s huge debut. It didn’t hurt that the group showed up with probably their strongest set of songs to that point.

As per usual, the album contained a mix of songs penned by lead singer Glenn Shorrock, a couple from Birtles and a couple of collaborations, but the album’s two standout tracks – and hits – both came from guitarist/backing vocalist Graham Goble: “Lady” and “Reminiscing.” Shorrock suggested Goble “was the Brian Wilson of the band,” which we assume was meant as a compliment.

Surprisingly, neither of those songs were big at home for them; “Shut Down/Turn Off” was the only top 20 entry from the record in Australia. But over here, they really made themselves known with “Lady” being a top 10 hit and the lovely retro-sounding “Reminiscing” (which even references Glenn Miller’s music in the lyrics) making it to #3 in the U.S. and #7 in Canada. That (as well as opening for a number of Doobie Brothers concerts the year before) helped the album get to #16 in the States, and become their first platinum record. At home, it reached #4, their third-straight top 10 LP. Critics there liked it as well as the public – they took home several Australian Music Awards for it including Best Male Singer (Shorrock), Best Live Band and Most Popular Group.

Little River Band kept the momentum going through the end of the decade with the equally-popular First Under the Wire in ’79 and the singles “Cool Change” and “Lonesome Loser.” However, even though they’re still rolling like a river, by the early-’80s, the popularity of their new releases began to decline and as members came and went there became increasing numbers of conflicts over things like which ones could legally use the “Little River Band” name; the current incarnation contains no members who were part of the band in their ’70s heyday.

14 thoughts on “May 26 – Little River Flowed Easily Across Pacific

  1. Badfinger (Max)

    Cool Change is the song I like by them the best. I still cannot believe they are from Australia… Never would I have guessed that until you mentioned it before.
    I wonder if any of the original members get a cut of the band that is out playing?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. they do sound like they would have come out of the same ‘school’ as Firefall, England Dan & John Ford Coley, Ambrosia…not Men at Work or Mental as Anything. I liked their 70s singles a great deal. I don’t know about the question… they seemed to get wrapped up in a lot of lawsuits about who owned their name. I would hazard a guess the old members don’t get paid unless the new band put out a live record of those older songs, but could be wrong.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Badfinger (Max)

        I was going to say…or AC/DC lol. The reason I asked it Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers….he ended up getting a percentage of the gate when they fired him…but it was a more established band.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. A lot of good musos came out of Aussie from the 60s on, The Easybeats (Friday On My Mind, Sorry,) The Bee Gees came – British born but via Oz, others, LRB, INXS. Before we left for NZ, when I was still a kid we lived in the same low rent cheap housing Quonset hut hell hole as Jimmy Barnes, though I don’t think we ever crossed paths. He was a wild one back then. (Jimmy Barnes is an Aussie legend, not your sophisticated crooner, more a bit of a belter- I guess, speaking from the painful scarring experience of surviving Gepps Cross Camp, it comes in with the territory.) Consider the camp to be the equivalent to a trailer park- which leads us on to Lisas TV post today on another site…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. for the population, Australia’s put out a huge number of great musicians… though it does strike me as odd the bee Gees and ONJ are usually considered Aussie when they were all born in the UK and then relocated to the US basically as soon as they came to notice. “Cross camp”…never heard that, but your description gives me an idea!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, Gepps Cross- Camp- that is a burden all who lived there must carry for the rest of our lives! The stories it could tell… If it’s given you an idea the suffering has not been in vain!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Little River Band had some great songs: “It’s a Long Way There”, “Help Is On It’s Way”, “The Night Owls” and “Lonesome Loser” are some of my favorites. Their harmony singing was great! If you had told me when I first heard of them they’re some U.S. West Coast band, I would have believed it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Same here… I have a greatest hits type compilation that I do like, and will listen to almost start to finish happily. Now one weird thing is I find so so many people somehow lump them in with Air Supply (both Australian, both around the same time) yet to me, one I like a lot, one I like to change the station on a lot when they come on.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. 100% agree on Air Supply, who nowadays make me gasp for oxygen, and Little River Band. That being said, I will admit I used to like Air Supply in the ’80s. I had a phase when I was into “softies” and making love out of nothing at all – yikes! 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I hate to admit it, Air Supply had some catchy tunes. My best friend who I’m happy to still call that to this day had a greatest hits sampler. “Lost in Love”, “Even the Nights Are Better”, “The One That You Love”, “Every Woman in the World”. I knew all these tunes by heart. And now here I am, and these bloody tunes are probably stuck in my brain! 🙂

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s