Help Is on Its Way (G Shorrock) and Witchery (B Birtles) and Home on A Monday (G Shorrock/B Birtles) – Little River Band 1977

LRB31LRB 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, the Bee Gees, and more recently Gotye, Sia, Iggy Azalea, and 5 Seconds of Summer 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! To maintain an effective presence in the cutthroat US market meant extensive promotion and a grueling touring schedule of American venues for over a decade for LRB. Above shot of the band performing at the 75,000 seat capacity Cottonbowl, Dallas (Texas) in 1978).lrb5The 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 backdrop developed for their stage presentations, 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.

But the band was not an homogenous group of people, Graeham Goble was a pedantic perfectionist, obsessed with numerology, Beeb Birtles and George McArdle, were more spiritually inclined, and played it pretty straight, while Derek Pellicci was a hypochondriac, whereas Shorrock was a mouthy, cheeky, pint-sized, party animal, who aligned himself with Briggs, and McLachlan, there were smokers and non-smokers, the single tour bus became two buses – God’s Bus and Pete’s Disco.  Manager 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.lrb6The 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.LRB34The 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.

Help is on its Way was a punchy, up tempo Glenn Shorrock song with resonant bass guitar riffs by George McArdle, rock steady lead guitar by David Briggs and solid support from Derek Pellicci on drums. Producer John Boylan had showed the band how to achieve “Nashville tuning” of their guitars as described by Beeb Birtles “… by taking the higher set of strings on a twelve-string guitar and then stringing them separately on a small body acoustic but retaining the high tuning the same.” Because of the key changes in the song it was quite complex and from a vocal harmony perspective it was pitched high throughout, again making it challenging to reproduce live. The song had its genesis one day when Glenn started to play a little upright piano in the corner of a room backstage in the US and bassist George McArdle joined in with what became the distinctive bass line, the other band members knew it would be a hit.

The song is positive and uplifting, reminding us that despite life’s knocks and disappointments that help is at hand, the lyrics neatly identify the need for harmony and rhythm in human relationships, it was popular on both sides of the Pacific, becoming LRB’s first #1 in Australia and charting #14 in the US, the album Diamantina Cocktail sold over half a million copies in the US.

In 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.LRB15The band members were all experiencing loneliness, missing their families and being homesick, the songwriters within the group started to focus on these issues so much in tracks such as Home on a Monday, Days on the Road, The Drifter, Take Me Home and even Cool Change, that their record company had rejected an album because it was too depressing.

The Shorrock/Birtles-composed Home on a Monday released in 1977 reflected the loneliness of the long distances that band members traveled between gigs, and the travails of being separated from their loved ones, the original lyrics by Shorrock were written on Las Vegas Hilton Hotel letterhead. Musically Peter Sullivan’s piano and a Rick Formosa string arrangement deliver a beguiling sound palette, the lyrics also capture Glenn Shorrock’s sentimental stopover at the Las Vegas Hilton (below) where Elvis had reigned supreme in the Hilton’s International Showroom. Although the King had departed in 1977, Glenn fondly recalled the “man from Memphis” who had inspired him to sing rock and roll, and become a road-weary troubadour, promising his loved one he will “be home on a Monday/ somewhere around noon”.    LRB33

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