How Graeham Goble Hopes to Cement Little River Band’s Legacy
Graeham Goble and his Little River Band compatriots are hoping that two new compilations will provide fresh clarity about the authenticity of the Australian rock group.
Goble executive produced the two-CD/three-LP sets — Ultimate Hits and the deep-tracks collection Masterpieces — which are both out on Dec. 9. In addition to replacing "a lot of compilations out there that the band had not really approved of," Goble tells UCR the newly remastered sets are meant to counter the current version of the Little River Band, which owns the name but includes no original members, and only one — bassist Wayne Nelson — who was part of the "classic" lineups of the '70s and '80s.
"We're the only rock band in history where all of the originals are in one camp and the people that own the name, with no originals, are in the other," says Goble, who co-founded Little River Band in March 1975 in Melbourne, Australia, and remained with them through 1992. During that time, LRB released 11 albums — eight of them Top 20 hits in Australia, seven landing on the Billboard 200 in America — and scored more than a dozen Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including "Reminiscing," "Lady," "Lonesome Loser," "The Night Owls," "Help Is On Its Way" and "Take It Easy on Me." LRB has also been inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association Hall of Fame.
More than three dozen members have cycled through the band's ranks over the years, with guitarist Beeb Birtles and frontman Glenn Shorrock as stalwarts alongside Goble during its most successful period. Through legal machinations during the late '90s, the name came under the ownership of Stephen Housden, a guitarist from 1981-2006, and his company We Two Pty Ltd. A 2002 court challenge by Shorrock affirmed Housden's ownership, and a settlement gave We Two continuing ownership of the name and dictated strict conditions under which Goble, Shorrock and Birtles could use their LRB association when they performed as a trio between 2001-07. The musicians inducted at the ARIA ceremony even had to be billed as the Little River Band Classic Lineup in accordance with the agreement.
Listen to Little River Band's 'Reminiscing'
"We were a faceless band in many ways," Goble laments now. "Nobody knew who we were individually. So that's given rise to this all-American band walking out onstage and touring the States under the name Little River Band with no original members playing our repertoire. And for the most part, people buying tickets are not realizing they're not seeing the original people who wrote and recorded all the songs."
The situation continues to rankle Goble and his mates. They've vented their frustrations in song: Goble's "Someone's Taken Our History" in 2005, Birtles' "Revolving Door" in 2012 and Shorrock's "Hear My Voice" in 2016. Goble says they're especially frustrated with the current LRB's control of their social media and streaming services, particularly Spotify.
"The main thing that pisses us off is that when you go on to Spotify and you click on one of our iconic hits, their photo comes up," Goble says. "We've tried through our record companies, through legal channels, to force Spotify to give us a separate page. They won't do it, and it's so disappointing. We feel like we've got parasites on our back all the time. There's like 25 versions of 'The Night Owls' on Spotify, and 24 of them are by a band using our name that are not original members, and Spotify are being complicit in allowing this deception to occur and they won't do anything about it.
"We don't give up on this," Goble continues. "We're constantly looking at legal angles. All we want is our identity. We know that we haven't got the Little River Band name, but we own the recordings and it's our work. It's our band, and we just want to have a separate page that we can present to the world, so when people go looking for 'Reminiscing,' they'll know it's the original Little River Band, which is what we are. And of course, the owners of the trademark won't allow that, and they've spent obscene amounts of money trying to conceal the fact that the original band is not playing ... onstage."
Listen to Little River Band's 'Lonesome Loser'
Goble says he meticulously oversaw the compilation and production of the 24-track Ultimate Hits and is possibly even more excited about Masterpieces, which contains 26 deep cuts from the LRB catalog and casts the band in a different light than the hits do. "It's like a new release because people are discovering 10, 20 songs they've never heard before, but they're great songs, not just filler songs," Goble says. "Our vocals, I don't think, were topped by anybody ... but there was a lot else going on. We had amazing players in our band — everybody could play great, and a lot of people in the band could sing really great. I'd say with the exception of the Beatles, I don't think there's been another band like that in the world, ever. I mean, I love the Bee Gees and their awesome vocals too, and their writing, but they don't have the musicians and musicality in their playing like the Little River Band had. I think we're really showing that in these [compilations]."
Not owning the band name anymore, as well as age and location — Birtles now resides in Nashville while the other classic-era members are spread around Australia — has precluded any consideration of performing together again. "I think that if we'd had our name, there may have been a farewell tour possible in Australia, but I think that time is well gone now," says Goble, 75. He'll continue to preserve the band's legacy, though, with a focus on a biopic or stage musical he's scripted about his life, "including all the Little River Band Years." Goble is currently looking for financing but has already picked an actor he'd like to portray him: Aneurin Barnard (Dunkirk, Thirteen, The White Queen, Cilla).
"It's ready to go," Goble says. "When you look at what Bohemian Rhapsody has done for Queen, that's what could happen with Little River Band. This is an iconic, I think, story waiting to happen, and if it did, we've got the catalog ready to go. Every song in the show is iconic. There's no filler at all, and that will put a fire under the whole thing. So my focus until the day I depart the planet will be trying to make this happen."