Curiosity Killed the Cat (B Birtles) – Little River Band 1975


After the breakup of Axiom in the early seventies, Glenn Shorrock remained in London, his prospects were bleak, but he started to write and record songs for MAM although none were hits. David Mackay, the former Twilights record producer hooked Glenn up to an experimental orchestral rock group known as Esperanto Rock Orchestra, which included a string quartet and seven other singers and musicians, including Australian singer Janice Slater (above extreme left with a bearded Glenn).


The group recorded two albums and toured Europe and the UK, the in-performance clip features the band in concert at the  Bataclan Theatre, Paris, singing two of their original songs, On Down The Road and Never Again, with Glenn on lead vocals, they sounded like ELO meets Santana, but not so catchy, by 1974 Esperanto had collapsed.

Around the same time former Adelaide band Mississippi had decided to break up whilst in London, Glenn Wheatley who was working with David Joseph’s artist management company at the time and recommended that ex-Mississippi alumni Graeham Goble, Beeb Birtles and Derek Pellici should meet Shorrock to see if they could harmonise together. They met and agreed that they would get together back in Australia early in 1975 to further advance the idea of forming a band, with the express intention of cracking not the UK but the US market. Mississippi lineup in 1973 Derek Pellicci, Beeb Birtles, Graeham Goble, Charlie Tumahai, and Harvey James.LRB20The original LRB lineup would become Glenn Shorrock (vocals), Graeham Goble (guitar), Beeb Birtles (guitar), Derek Pellici (drums), Graham Davidge (guitar), Roger McLachlan (bass), and the experienced Glenn Wheatley would bring management skills to what was an already potent mix of musical talent. Peter Doyle of the New Seekers had turned down an offer from Wheatley to join the band and original guitarist Graham Davidge headed home to Adelaide the night before their first show, overwhelmed by the challenge of taking on the world, and peeved about Graeham Goble’s somewhat pedantic approach to rehearsing and checking equipment, to be replaced by Rick Formosa.Below left to right Shorrock, Birtles, Pellicci, Formosa, McLachlan, and Goble.LRB21The group famously adopted the band’s name, at Glenn Shorrock’s suggestion, from a small town signposted off  the Princes Highway on the road to Geelong (Vic.) on their way to a gig, after originally and only briefly, calling themselves Mississippi. Fortunately, they waited until they saw the Little River signpost, before deciding on the band’s name, as the town immediately before it is called Lollypop Creek!

The band debuted at Martini’s (Melb) on March 20th. 1975 and became regulars at the Station Hotel (Prahran), they would also support Leo Sayer in Melbourne that year and were quickly signed to EMI Records. Glenn Shorrock had stockpiled quite a few songs from his songwriting stint with MAM Music in England and Graeham Goble and Beeb Birtles had also accumulated material when they were members of Mississippi and the short-lived duo Frieze. The choice of songs for inclusion on LRB albums and ultimate release as singles was a keenly-contested and rather brutal democratic process, the band’s eponymous debut album featured many likely hits including It’s A Long Way There, Curiosity Killed the Cat and Emma   LRB25Beeb Birtles Curiosity Killed the Cat was an early self-penned hit for LRB after the original choice for their debut release, a remake of the Everly Brothers hit When Will I Be Loved, was pre-empted by the release of a great version of the same song by Linda Ronstadt (#2 US in March 1975).LRB27Curiosity featured the resonant three- part harmonies of Shorrock, Goble and Birtles, a strong bassline, wistful clavinet flourishes by Geoff Skewes and additional percussion from Gary Hyde, it was an impressive, funky debut single which peaked at #15 nationally. The promo clip was directed by Paul Drane and shot in his Collingwood Studio , Paul made all the clips for the ABC’s Countdown, including the classic Jailbreak clip for AC/DC. The album was basically recorded live at AAV studios (Melb) and Shorrock, Birtles and Goble produced it with Wheatley getting a production credit as well, the album charted respectably at #17 nationally and the debut of LRB was both assured and professional.

Glenn Wheatley (below) recalled how he promoted this song when it was released in Christie Eliezer’s book High Voltage Rock ’N’ Roll, “…he loaded up his Morris 1100 car with cat food and put a copy of the record with each of the boxes. He then drove up the Hume Highway to Sydney, stopping at every radio station on the way to personally hand over a copy.” And no doubt waited for the local DJ to spin the record before departing. LRB would ultimately conquer the US market and remarkably achieve a top 20 hit in the USA in every year from 1977 – 82 including no less than six consecutive top ten hit records from 1978- 81.LRB26The band’s chart success in Australia during the same period was more muted, in 1977-82 the band scored with only two top ten hits – Help Is on Its Way (their only #1 hit locally in “77) and Down on The Border (#7 in “82) when Johnny Farnham was lead singer. They were artful appropriators of the US West Coast sound, and never traded on an overt Australianess as Graeham Goble confirmed in David Nichols “Dig- Australian Rock and Pop Music 1960-1985 “from the very beginning we wanted to be more than just a local band, … we’ve been labelled American because our harmony style could have come out of the West Coast quite easily… I don’t think our music is uniquely Australian.”


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