Witchery (B Birtles) – Little River Band 1977

LRB would be the first Australian band to break out in the US while doggedly remaining resident here in Australia, other Aussie acts had or would completely relocate to the States, and sometimes take out US citizenship, and enjoy success there – Helen Reddy, Olivia Newton-John, Diana Trask, Peter Allen, Rick Springfield, and of course the Bee Gees, all relocated, and novelty acts like Rolf Harris or a one hit wonder such as Sister Janet Mead, enjoyed only sporadic success when they released records there. More bizarrely, an American session group called the Strangeloves who had several mid-sixties hits, hyped themselves as Australians, in a completely misguided attempt to appear to be more exotic!lrb5To maintain an effective presence in the cutthroat US market meant extensive promotion and a gruelling touring schedule of American venues for over a decade for LRB.lrb7The band’s second album After Hours reflected a shift towards country-rock, Seine City, Sweet Old-Fashioned Man and Country Girls all fell into that category, Birtles, Goble, Shorrock and Briggs were all presenting competing claims for their songs to be included on the album, there were disagreements about arrangements for certain songs and who should sing lead vocals. Every Day of My Life by Birtles was the only single released from the album, neither this song nor the album, were released internationally; in some ways this song reflected the frustrations being experienced inside the band. Beeb Birtles had written the song in protest at the way fellow band members and Glenn Wheatley had continually ignored his suggestions for the band to have a professional multi-media backdrop developed for their stage presentations, as their competition had already done just that. The band survived this minor crisis early in their career and went out to tour nationally and promote the album, Every Day of My Life charted #29 and the album became their first top 5 hit and occupied the charts for 23 weeks.lrb8But the band was not a homogenous group of people, Graeham Goble, Beeb Birtles and George McArdle, were more spiritually inclined, and played it pretty straight, whereas others like Shorrock, and McLachlan, enjoyed the party lifestyle, there were smokers and non-smokers, the single tour bus became three tour buses, Wheatley was constantly resolving disputes and stroking inflated egos, there were signs that the camaraderie within the group was beginning to fray. There were also artistic disagreements about whose songs merited release as singles or inclusion on albums, with four songwriters competing, these sessions could be quite brutal and ultimately caused Goble and Birtles to issue solo singles and an album in the future.   LRB4The third LRB album was the exotically – titled Diamantina Cocktail, inspired by an actual drink, the ingredients supposedly including rum, condensed milk, and an Emu egg! Released in 1977 in the US it was a compilation of songs from After Hours and new tracks on the Diamantina Cocktail album, American producer John Boylan (below) commenced his creative partnership with the group at this time, having previously worked with the Eagles, Boston, Linda Ronstadt, the Charlie Daniels Band and Mickey Gilley.john boylanThe standout songs on the album were Help Is on Its Way, Home on A Monday, Witchery, and Happy Anniversary Baby, a Beeb Birtles/David Briggs composition which climbed into the top twenty in the USA but did not chart locally.witchery storeIn 1977 the advertising agency handling the Australian clothing chain Witchery approached Wheatley about LRB writing a song for them, something more than a jingle, which could be played almost constantly in store. Beeb Birtles was up for the challenge, he dashed off the song in about 10 minutes despite having a heavy cold at the time, the lyrics played up the witchcraft theme not the stores merchandise, “ There’s a smile on your face/ but I’m curious just in case you’re a devil / … you’ve cast a spell on me and it’s plain to see/ it’s witchery… it’s got to me.” Birtles provided lead vocals not Glenn Shorrock on the record, so toning down the LRB ambience, although Shorrock sings lead on the in-concert  promo video clip, in which he appears wearing what looks like regulation Guantanemo Bay prisoner fatigues, the song charted #33 locally for one of the group’s minor hits

Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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