Gary James' Interview With Beeb Birtles Of
The Little River Band
On August 11th, 1978, promoter Ted Boylan presented The Little River Band at the Landmark Theatre in downtown Syracuse N.Y. Tickets were $6.00. After the show, I interviewed Beeb Birtles (of The Little River Band group.) I'd like to paint a picture for you, to tell what that experience was like. The group went back to their hotel, the downtown Holiday Inn. The Holiday Inn had a lounge on the top floor. Performing that night was the show band Command Performance. I was seated along with the group at this large, round table. Besides the group, their sound / lighting guy was there and Ted Boylan, the promoter. Also in attendance was a "groupie." She was being passed around the table, from lead singer Glen Shorrock, who she was smooching and necking with, on to the sound and lighting guy, who she was smooching and necking with. At one point, this girl stopped long enough to draw a breath of air. She looked at me and said, "You're really a writer?" I'm really a writer. And after all these years, I'm still writing. I don't know what happened to that girl.
Here then, is my interview with Beeb Birtles of Little River Band.
Q - How long have you been touring the U.S.?
A - We're here for four weeks. We'll be home on September 7th. Home is Adelaide, Australia. We won't be surprised if our new single "Reminiscing" is in the Top 10 before we leave. It looks to be our biggest single so far. It's number 28 on the Billboard charts this week and the album is number 44.
Q - Is it hard to write a "hit" song, or don't you give it a second thought?
A - We write from the heart. We don't write to a formula. If it's a hit, great.
Q - Are you Australia's most famous group?
A - We're the most well-known band as far as being associated with Australia. The Bee Gees are probably the most famous.
Q - What is the Australian music scene like?
A - You get the best music from Europe and the U.S. There's no one particular thing happening in Australia right now. It's about the same as the U.S. really. John Paul Young's "Love Is In The Air" is very popular there now.
Q - How was The Little River Band discovered?
A - We went to England as Mississippi before The Little River Band, and the group broke up in six weeks. So, three of us stuck together, Graham, Derek and myself. We all sat down and talked about what was missing in our group. We agreed we needed a good lead singer and good management.
Q - Have you known tough times?
A - Listen, Glenn's been in a dozen bands in nine years. I was in a teeny-bopper band with Rick Springfield back in Australia. Just recently we're getting somewhere.
Q - Glenn Shorrock was quoted as saying he thought America was the "greatest place." Has America lived up to your expectations?
A - No. Not anymore. That whole thing changed when The Beatles came over and into the early '70s.
Q - Where do you get the ideas for your songs?
A - You'd get a different answer from everybody in the band. I play guitar a little each day. If an idea is meant to come, it will automatically. I was given a talent and I use that talent to write. Songs are messages.
Q - Do you write on the road?
A - Oh, yeah. All the time. Graham and I write on the road. Glenn Shorrock, our lead singer, writes at home.
Q - What countries have you toured in?
A - Germany, England, Holland, Japan, United States, Canada, Australia. On this tour we're going to New Zealand.
Q - What's your reaction to other people performing your songs?
A - It's weird. We've seen hotel bands doing "Happy Anniversary" and it's pleasant and interesting to see how they'll end the song.
Q - What do audiences today demand more of, a good show or good music?
A - We were talking about this today and we have a theory that the big summer festivals are coming to an end. People are becoming more selective. We've been headlining in 2,000 to 7,000 seat halls and we want to perfect to such a level that audiences will see an excellent show, sound and production.
Q - Does the Little River Band compare themselves to any other group?
A - Not really. People say we're like the Eagles and Crosby, Stills And Nash. I think our sound is different from bands like the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac.
Q - Would you add other musicians to the group?
A - Oh, yeah. Piano. Percussion players. Reed players. In fact, we're going to add those players for our Australian tour. We've been invited to play with the Adelaide Symphony for three shows. They're even writing out a string section on charts for our song "Help Is On The Way".
Q - What do you do to relax?
A - I listen to records, anything connected with music in some way. I'm not a TV freak.
Q - Do you like Disco music?
A - Some of it. I like Peter Brown's new single. I like the group A Taste Of Honey and I like the song "Shame".
Q - When the group started, were there any kind of problems?
A - With any beginning group, the problem is you're so keen to do what you want to do in the space of the band, it's an ego thing. We tend to be more democratic about the whole thing, to bend more now.
Q - Is success everything you expected it to be?
A - Success means being able to do all the things we weren't able to do before. On our first trip across, we opened for The Average White Band, playing 10,000 seat halls one night and a small club the next night. On our first two tours we lost money, but we're making money on this tour.
Q - Is it lonely at the top?
A - Funny you should say that. I walked into my hotel room today and I felt that loneliness.