By Hans Ebert
Like “Tell Her No” by the Zombies, “Reminiscing” by the Little River Band (LRB) remains one of the best pop songs ever written and recorded- but both tremendously underrated and with probably hundreds of stories behind them.
It’s quite baffling just how many musicians outside of Australia have never heard of “Reminiscing” or Little River Band, further proof that if you don’t voluntarily become a student of music, you become lost in the business of this art form, and falsely believe you’re owed all kinds of entitlement- monies from recording rights, monies from publishing, monies from streaming and from sales- plus continuing to be average musicians with no knowledge of everything that’s come before and which often results in recycling songs which leads nowhere except to the open arms of litigation. Children, children, grow up. Old Mother Hubbard’s musical cupboard is bare whereas who owns what and how much is owed can get tied up for decades in litigation. And then there are the grey online laws to contend with where no one is ever quite sure what has been signed away for free. Led Zeppelin were extremely fortunate that the recent infringement of copyright against them regarding the originality of “Stairway To Heaven” was thrown out so quickly.
As for “Reminiscing”, written by Graeham Goble and released in 1978, it is the only song by LRB that ever really got to me, and was their biggest hit- wonderfully melodic, with clever and extremely romantic lyrics and a great arrangement plus a brilliantly understated vocal by Glenn Shorrock. If one were to nitpick as to what could have made the recording better, it’s probably in the fade out that seems a tad lazy compared to everything that had come before. Still, “Reminiscing” is a song that’s lived with many for decades, and like some tracks by the Zombies, should be more than what it is in the global pop lexicon.
What was interesting to hear the other day from a musician in Melbourne is that “Reminiscing” was the one song John Lennon had on Repeat during his Lost Weekend period with erstwhile lover May Pang. True? No idea, but perhaps the link below might shed some light on this rumour. Another fan of the song is said to have been Frank Sinatra who had apparently described the song as “the best song from the Seventies”. It was. And is still one of the best songs ever written.
What’s not a rumour, but a question is why this wonderful song- not track, but a brilliant piece of songwriting by Goble- never took the band any further. When at EMI Music, co-Chairman David Munns, who worked closely on a management level with Bon Jovi, went to bat for LRB, and one of their new albums at the time. But despite the heat turned on us to market the hell of the record, it did nothing in the region. It was basic Country Rock. Forgettable stuff. There was no “Reminiscing”.
Today, one hears there are different “versions” of LRB touring with no one the wiser as to which is the original band and brand, but with some serious acrimony on all sides of the fences. It shows how a band can implode into different factions and confuse the hell outta fans not wishing to read about their fractured internal politics.
Again, we come back to being students of music. The innocence of music has gone. Those days of picking up guitars and forming bands and writing together are gone forever. Protecting one’s Rights come into play and need to be signed off before any work begins. It avoids all the politics that might rear its head later even when talking about percentages of nothing. It’s like a music company offering 28 or even 30 percent of royalties on sales. What the hell does this mean when they have no idea how well a record will do? But like so many things in life, once there’s a formulaic way of doing something, it’s repeated with very few asking the hard questions.
Hell, even the Beatles were screwed over by manager Allen Klein while the Lennon-McCartney catalogue was hijacked by a very shrewd Michael Jackson working in cahoots with Sony Music Publishing. Ever hear any tributes from Macca when Jackson passed away? Not a word. He was shafted by someone with an agenda, and who he thought to be a friend even while making some bloody awful music together.
How someone can own your art, and where, if you want it, you need to buy it back has happened to some of the most famous musicians in the world. It was before realising one has to also be a businessman, accountant and lawyer. Ask Dave A Stewart and all the great music he and Annie Lennox wrote for the Eurythmics- and which he managed to buy back.
Who owns the Publishing Rights for “Reminiscing” and Rights for the name and logo of Little River Band? One would assume that Graeham Goble owns the Rights to “Reminiscing” and the other songs he wrote for the band. Who owns everything else to do with the band? No idea. The more one reads about the current state of the band, its various incarnations etc, the messier it becomes.
As music fans, we’re fortunate to enjoy a song as timeless as “Reminiscing”. As a student of music, while studying the song’s chord structure and the romanticism of its lyrics, one can’t help wondering what the songwriter and band have actually made from the recording, admiring their thirty year legacy and thinking if the acrimony will ever cease. Then again, that’s for these elder statesmen of music to figure out. We have access to their music. Anytime we wish to reminisce about a much more simple time and dancing while Glenn Miller’s Band started to play, we can. The band who made this possible? They come across as very angry old men. Pity.