When Farnham sang for Little River Band
Written by Ryan Stevenson on 9 June 2020
John ‘Johnny’ Farnham was one of Australia’s most popular singers from the late 1960’s until the mid 1970’s before he made a massive comeback and has been popular ever since.
He was TV Week’s King of Pop from 1969 until he won his last one in 1973 but from 1975 to 1980 he released no new albums though he had jobs on TV as well as performing in cabaret and stage musicals.
Johnny became John Farnham in 1979 and in 1980 he was back making music when he recorded the album ‘Uncovered’.
Uncovered was a Top 20 album on the Kent Music Report and it had four charting singles including Help! which made the Top 10.
Meanwhile Little River band were in the midst of their massive run of success as Glenn Shorrock sang songs that had international success with songs like ‘Lady’, ‘Help Is On It’s Way’, ‘Lonesome Loser’, and ‘Reminiscing’.
The worlds of John Farnham and Little River Band started to collide in 1980 as several then current and former members of Little River Band participated in the recording of ‘Uncovered’ and they were Ric Formosa, David Briggs, Wayne Nelson, Derek Pellicci and Graeham Goble.
1981 was a good year for John Farnham as two additional singles charted that year and he was back in the thoughts of music lovers.
Glenn Shorrock left Little River Band after the hit album ‘Time Exposure’ in 1982 as the band started to fracture from tensions that were turning members on each other and the search was on for a new lead singer.
Graeham Goble chose John Farnham to be the new lead singer and it was a gamble considering that his style was different to Glenn’s and also that Glenn was very popular with music lovers in the United States as he sang all but one of the band’s hits whilst John was virtually a nobody outside Australia.
John’s reign as the lead singer of Little River Band got off to a good start, he had just missed out on the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart after ‘The Other Guy’ peaked at No. 11 in `1983 but it did peak at No. 6 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
There was more success in 1983 as ‘We Two’ peaked at No. 22 on the Hot 100 and it had also peaked at No. 17 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
But the hits that used to come frequently for the band were starting to dry up as “You’re Driving Me Out of My Mind” did not chart in Australia but it peaked at No. 35 on the Hot 100.
1985 saw ‘Playing to Win’ peaking at No. 60 in both America and Australia but ‘Blind Eyes’ failed to chart that year.
1986 saw ‘Face in the Crowd’ peaking at No. 60 on the Hot 100 chart but it did not chart in Australia and the following single ‘When the War Is Over’ did not chart anywhere but ‘No Reins on Me’ made it to No. 73 in Australia before ‘Paper Paradise’ missed the charts.
On the album side of things, ‘The Net’ (1983) and ‘Playing to Win’ (1985) both charted in Australia and the United States but ‘No Reins’ only charted in Australia and it had peaked at No. 85.
John Farnham’s time in the band came to an end after ‘No Reins’ as he went back to resume his solo career.
His time in Little River Band was not a failure, it was tough to match the success and popularity of Glenn Shorrock and the band also had a lot of changes as the likes of Beeb Birtles and Derek Pellicci left the band but he charted in both Australia and the United States over a couple of years and that is not easy to do.
Everything worked out in the end, John Farnham released ‘Whispering Jack’ in 1986 and his career took off again in Australia, among those who worked with John on the album were former Little River Band members David Hirschfelder and Roger McLachlan.
Little River Band got Glenn Shorrock and Derek Pellicci back in the band in 1988 and they released a Top 20 album called ‘Monsoon’ which featured the Australian hit single ‘Love is a Bridge’ and the band made the album Get Lucky in 1990 before Glenn Shorrock left the band again in 1996.
That is the story of how John Farnham and the Little River Band came together for their three album and many singles collaboration.