(Australian 1975 - Present)
LRB with John Farnham
Guitarist Beeb Birtles didn't want John Farnham to replace Glenn Shorrock as lead singer of Little River Band initially. 'We were already under fire for being a middle of the road band, and the last thing we needed was someone who would bring an even more middle of the road type presentation as lead singer. I think the band was doomed from the time John joined because Capitol Records in the US didn't like
The band's manager, Glenn Wheatley, fought very hard for Glenn Shorrock to stay, recalls LRB's father-figure Graham Goble. 'Wheatley believed that if Shorrock left LRB, it would be the end. But I knew if there wasn't a change, there wouldn't have been any more LRB anyway. It was a choice between changing lead singers or breaking up completely. Given that choice -why not change to the most gifted singer in the business?'
But why was Down Under's most successful band changing course after going further than any other Australian act in that toughest music market of all - America? What the fans hadn't realised was that by 1981, the facade of success was beginning to slip from LRB. Record sales were stalled, the tours were high-tech and ferociously expensive and still the band hadn't cracked that elusive US No. 1 single and the public seemed to be tiring of smooth Eagle-style harmonies and were looking for a sharper edge to their music. And there was tension on the road and in the studio between brilliant, driven musicians like Birtles and Goble and the laid-back, tomorrow's-another-day Shorrock. Beeb claims the band's irritation with Shorrock peaked while they were recording the 'Time Exposure' album in Monserrat. 'Shorrock had reached the stage in his career where he didn't want to try any more ... perhaps it was a form of midlife crisis. I'd had enough of people complaining to me about Glenn, but no one saying anything at band meetings. I think to this day Shorrock still holds me responsible for being the instigator, the first to say, "Look, mate I can't work with you any more". For the sake of the band, something had to be done. It was either that or other people might have left. Once I'd said it, other voices started piping up and supporting what I said.'
Graham Goble was also looking for a 'new shot of energy'. 'Creatively [with Shorrock] we felt in a bind ... we wanted to grow in all sorts of areas that the public wouldn't let us do under the guise of LRB.' Beeb, having led the charge to rid the band of its lead singer, saw no need to rush into a decision on a new singer and was surprised when the others began discussing John Farnham as the man most likely to succeed. But Graham and drummer Derek Pellicci, who had also worked on 'Uncovered', were keen on John Farnham. Graham admits to having always been a fan of John's, 'there is no singer in the world who could do more with their voice from a technical point of view... and he is also one of the best harmony singers on the planet. When we were looking at LRB, the question was, could he sing the harmonies? Not only could he sing them, but also he could sing them incredibly well. The vocals we sang on 'Playing to Win', 'The Net' and the 'No Reins' albums [the three LRB albums with John Farnham's name on the credits] are the most exciting I've ever been involved with because they were done so quickly, but with so much energy.'
In February 1981, John was holidaying at Sorrento, south of Melbourne, with Jillian and Robbie when Glenn Wheatley phoned and put the offer to him to join the band at 10.30 p.m. John went back to the kitchen, opened a bottle of wine, and sat down with Jillian; they talked about the move until 4 a.m. or so. He returned to Melbourne that morning, attended a band meeting at 11 a.m. and was in the studio at noon.
Why did John Farnham choose LRB, just when his career was coming off hold, after a moderately successful album, 'Uncovered', a popular single in 'Help', and a rousing pub tour with his first band? To an extent, it was security; his first child had recently been born and what appeared to offer a regular and possibly handsome income was attractive to someone recently burdened by a couple of heavy financial blows; LRB seemed to offer a secure fast-track into the mainstream world of rock and roll; John's first exposure to the stadium crowds that LRB commonly played to would be great experience and, besides, he had seen them perform and he believed it to be one of the best live bands in the world. 'It was a hot band. Hot, hot, hot.' Then there was the credibility factor: John simply did not feel credible on the wilder side of popular music. Fame had come so quickly, so easily and with a song that was a joke among his peers. How many other singers could say they'd left their job two days before a single came out and three weeks before it was a national hit? In short, John felt he'd never had to work for fame. 'I spent years buzzing around and seeing all these poor buggers living in one house with one pair of shoes between them and I always felt fairly guilty that I hadn't had to pay any dues.' LRB might just be the first step in settling the account.
Graham Goble told John that as Glenn Shorrock was going out the door after that last fateful band meeting, he turned to the room and said, "I think you should get Farnham". 'If that's true, it's nice,' said John. 'Glenn and I are good mates, though we don't see each other that much. There was no animosity there.' And he's keen to debunk the theory current at the time that Glenn Wheatley had taken him on to be groomed as a replacement for Shorrock. 'That wasn't the case in my mind. There had been a lot of in-fighting for a number of years and I understand that it got to the stage where they made the albums with one member at a time in the studio because no one would talk to anyone else. But that's the case with a lot of bands and some are very successful.'
The songs for 'The Net' were already chosen. John's only input was to harmonise and take care of some of the lead vocals. 'I had no input because the songs were already in place. But I thought, "What the hell, let's see what happens".' It was one of the last times in his professional life that John Farnham was to adopt such an easy-going attitude to his career. His years with LRB, which were to prove the coalface of rock 'n' roll, would make him tough, wary and, for the first time, his own man. [Extract from 'Whispering Jack: The John Farnham Story' by Clark Forbes, Hutchinson Australia 1989. p89-90]
This post consists of MP3 (320kps) ripped from my vinyl copy that is in pristine condition, and features 2 bonus tracks - the first being the Vanda/Young classic "St.Louis" (released only as a single just before the release of The Net) and the second a session track simply called "D", left off the Net album but later released on the compilation 'Too Late Too Load'. In addition to the original LP artwork, CD artwork is also included, modified to incorporate the 2 bonus tracks. Note that the CD release of this album is no longer available.
01 - You're Driving Me Out Of My Mind
02 - We Two
03 - No More Tears
04 - Mr Socialite
05 - Down On The Border
06 - The Danger Sign
07 - Falling
08 - Sleepless Nights
09 - Easy Money
10 - The Net
11 - St.Louis (Bonus Single)
12 - 'D' (Bonus Session Track)
John Farnham - Lead Vocals
Stephen Housden - Lead Guitar, Vocals
Wayne Nelson - Bass Guitar and Vocals
Graham Goble - Electric/Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
Beeb Birtles - Electric/Acoustic Guitar, Vocals
Derek Pellicci - Drums and Percussion
The Net Link (130Mb).