Emma – (G Shorrock) and It’s A Long Way There (G Goble) – Little River Band 1976
In 1975 LRB’s manager Glenn Wheatley had knocked on doors in the US pursuing a record deal for the band, he was convinced that his tapes of their harmony-laden soft pop songs were perfect for FM radio, and would have US record labels tripping over themselves to sign them up, the reality was that he had already been rejected by ten record companies. But Wheatley, the boy from Brisbane’s working- class suburb of Stafford, was no quitter, and two days later the band was picked up by Capitol Records, and LRB would become one of Australia’s most famous bands and sell thirty million records in the next decade.
Prior to their assault on the American market the band released their second local single, Emma was written by Glen Shorrock and continued the run of successful singles for the group locally as they refined what would become their US radio–friendly sound. Emma was an effervescent and instantly likeable song which included an acoustic piano accompaniment by Ian Mason, and a hook-laden refrain that pushed it to #20 locally.The first song lifted from the group’s debut eponymous album and released in the US was to be Graeham Goble’s It’s A Long Way There, written in 1972 and inspired by the ten hour drive that Goble regularly made back home from Melbourne to Adelaide to see his parents and get his laundry done! Americans interpreted the song differently, they were enduring the painful journey back to spiritual redemption after the crises of the Nixon-era presidency and interpreted the song that way, and neither Goble nor his band mates did anything to shatter their illusion about the real inspiration for the song.
The record features lush strings, rich three- part vocal harmonies, a sustained guitar solo by Rick Formosa and artistic blending of acoustic guitars. The original album version of the song was nearly nine minutes long and problematic given that four minutes was the preferred duration for pop songs on radio formats. The re-recorded version of the song clocked in at 4 minutes and ten seconds but was shown as 3.50 on the label, and no one picked it up.Musically the band were showing the depth of their songwriting talent, Goble, Birtles, and Shorrock, were talented composers, their willingness to explore different sounds and arrangements would ensure their longevity in the highly competitive US market. There is a certain CSNY ambience to It’s a Long Way There, and at #28 it became their first US top 40 hit, it also charted #35 locally and surprisingly top ten in Holland. It remains one of Graeham Goble’s favorite songs and he attributes the timeless quality of It’s a Long Way There to “the magic in the way LRB used to record… it was like the collective energy in the room was the seventh player. You can definitely hear that on the record.” (Every Day of My Life – Beeb Birtles)At this time original bassist Roger McLachlan, was replaced by George McArdle, after Goble and Pellicci complained about the quality of his playing. Shorrock and Rick Formosa fell out over how the band presented itself, Glenn favoring a more relaxed cabaret style and Ric preferring a more business-like approach, with a greater emphasis on session work rather than touring. Ultimately Formosa would depart to be replaced by David Briggs, but he would continue to work on the production and arranging side of things for the band into the future.After these changes the lineup was as below left to right – David Briggs (back), Beeb Birtles, Glenn Shorrock, George McArdle (back), Derek Pellicci, and Graeham Goble.