Graham Goble knows it’s a long way there, so Little River Band recruits John Farnham for the trip

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, OCT. 14, 1983

By Steve Newton

When, after releasing six albums, a group loses both its original lead singer and lead guitarist, there’s a good chance a large number of longtime fans will be next to go. But that shouldn’t be the case with the Little River Band, for as Vancouver audiences witnessed this week at the Orpheum Theatre, the group’s recent personnel changes have only helped strengthen them.

When guitarist David Briggs and vocalist Glenn Shorrock left LRB, the band was faced with quite a challenge. But they rose to the occasion by recruiting talented Aussie axeman Stephen Housden and dynamic singer John Farnham–the result being that the group’s lovely harmonies and meticulous arrangements have never sounded better.

The group’s seventh LP, The Net, on which Farnham and Housden make their vinyl debut, has already produced one hit with the soulful power-pop tune “We Two”. And the sextet have just released the funky “You’re Driving Me Out of My Mind” as the second single.

Before their Vancouver appearance I spoke to guitarist/vocalist Graham Goble–the writer of such hits as “It’s a Long Way There”, “Reminiscing”, and “The Night Owls”–over the phone from Grand Forks, North Dakota. I asked him about the recently separated band members, the new ones, and The Net.

Why did Glenn Shorrock leave the Little River Band after the recording of the Time Exposure album?

Well, we just got to the point in our career where we didn’t want to work together anymore. We’d been together six, seven years, and it was just time for him to go his own way. We also had personality problems and musical differences.

Were you sad to see him go?

Naw. I mean, I like Glenn very much as a person, but it just wasn’t working out creatively. So it was best for everybody that he left.

What’s he doing now?

He’s got a solo album out, just released on Capitol.

Have you heard it?

Yeah, it’s good.

How did you happen to find John Farnham, your current lead vocalist?

Well, I produced an album for John in 1981, and working with him then was a great experience. John has been very big star in Australia for many, many years, so he’s well known to everyone.

How do Glenn and John differ as singers?

Glenn’s more of a straight rock singer and pop vocalist, whereas John’s a much more versatile singer. He’s got a lot more capability and facility in his voice. And overall he’s just a more dynamic performer, I believe.

Glenn Shorrock composed some of Little River Band’s most popular songs–“Help Is On Its Way” and “Cool Change”. Do you expect John Farnham will become an active member of the group’s songwriting team?

Well, no–John’s not the writer that Glenn was. But he has written a couple of songs that are very good. So it’s not beyond possibility that John could write a hit for us.

I wanted to ask you about the little track of your new album. What exactly is “the net”?

The net’s the computer age. And it’s not so much a negative thing; it’s more of a warning, I guess. Actually, it’s a statement of fact–that the computer age is fast removing jobs and taking over the control of our existence. It’s just a statement of what’s happened to society today.

I really like the new album. It’s got a funky feel to it that I don’t think the previous albums really had.

No, well we’ve gone deliberately for that. And with the new lead guitarist as well, it’s a natural thing that we should have a change in sound.

Speaking of your new guitarist, Stephen Housden, who did you find him?

Well Stephen was playing in his own band, and they did a backup for us on an Australian tour. We just got to know him and were very impressed with his playing.

Australia has really come into its own as a sort of spawning ground for world-class groups. Do you have any theories as to why it happened so fast down there?

Well, I think it’s timing. I think that it’s the situation where for many years we’ve had a lot of great acts down in Australia that just–for whatever reasons–have not had the avenue to get them to the international market. It’s just finally happened that acts from Australia are getting a good listen to now. We’ve had a couple of real good acts that have put it all together with some good songs and got out.

Which bands or artists do you enjoy listening to in your spare time?

Well, I don’t listen a lot in my spare time, but of the recent people I like the Eurythmics. And I like Michael Jackson. But I spend most of my time listening to older product. I don’t like a lot of the new records that are out.

Which older stuff do you mean?

Oh, everything from Frank Sinatra, Abba… And just great songs from the past, not any particular act. Going right back, I have a very wide taste in music.

Who were your biggest musical influences when you were starting out?

Well, I think that all of us were of the age where the Beatles were a big influence on all of us. A lot of the English acts were, and in the seventies we got on to more of the American acts.

When you mentioned Michael Jackson and the Eurythmics it reminded me of videos. Does the Little River Band have any videos out?

No, we don’t have anything on the same level as that. On our very next album we will be doing videos. The video thing has really exploded very quickly, and on the last album we didn’t really have the time to organize our videos. So we didn’t have any.

The Little River Band seems to me to be a band without an image–like there’s no gimmicks and things. Do you think video can bring a band’s message across without sensationalizing it?

I think it’s a very very important part of the industry today. I mean, what it’s done for Men at Work and Michael Jackson is very obvious. It’s something that virtually goes hand in hand with the release of new products now. It’s got to that point where you virtually have to have a video.

The Little River Band’s first big hit, a song you wrote, was called “It’s a Long Way There”. Has it been?

Well life is, isn’t it. Yeah, I mean this is our twelfth Americans tour, and the career is still sort of on the upward swing. You see, the industry has changed a great deal since 1976, when we started. And we have had to reassess ourselves and relook at our approach to music. And because of this, the change in the band’s sound that was evident on The Net is going to be even more so. We have added a permanent keyboard player to the band now, David Hirschfelder, and we are going to be a lot more keyboard-oriented on the next album–as is most of the new music.

 

To hear the full audio of my 1983 interview with Graham Goble subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can eavesdrop on over 275 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:

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…with hundreds more to come

 

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