Yacht Rock Essentials: How Little River Band Struck a New Chord with “Reminiscing”

The finest songs can come from the humblest of sources. In the case of “Reminiscing,” it was a chord newly taught to Little River Band member Graeham Goble that did the trick. That simple springboard led to one of the defining songs of yacht rock.

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What is the song about? What inspired the lyrics? And how did Goble’s persistence help push the song across the finish line? Let’s do some “Reminiscing” of our own and find out all about this classic.

Recalling “Reminiscing”

Little River Band were one of many groups peddling soft-rock grooves and smooth vocal harmonies on American radio in the mid-1970s, although they stood out somewhat in that they hailed from Australia. They made steady progression on the U.S. charts, including a Top-20 hit in 1977 with “Help is on the Way.”

The song that would launch them higher into the stratosphere started off when lead guitarist David Briggs showed Graeham Goble, who was one of the band’s chief songwriters, a C9 chord shape on the guitar. Goble went home and started fooling around with the chord, and in less than an hour, he had composed the words and lyrics to “Reminiscing.”

Goble sprinkles the lyrics with references to a much earlier time in music, putting the date the events of the song take place around 30 years or so before the release of “Reminiscing” on the 1978 Little River Band album Sleeper Catcher. In an interview with Goldmine, he explained why that era appealed to him:

“When I was growing up, the fantasy world I inhabited was the fantasy world of the black-and-white movies from 1940s and 1950s such as the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies and even the earlier movies of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, and of course, all the musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein. And the big-band era, too, like the Glenn Miller Orchestra, and the jazz guys like Count Basie. That was what I loved, and to me, it is still the best music ever written. I just love all of that.”

But “Reminiscing” still had to overcome some obstacles before it would become a massive hit (eventually No. 3). First, Goble had written the song thinking the Hurry, don’t be late section would be the middle eight. The band’s producer, John Boylan, made the key suggestion that that section, which featured the band’s trademark harmonies, should essentially be the chorus.

Another problem was the band couldn’t initially secure the keyboardist they wanted to play on the song. Two attempts at it were made with other players, and the results left the band unimpressed. When Peter Jones, the keyboardist they wanted, finally came available, several band members didn’t think it was worth it to try the song again. But Goble insisted, and Jones’ electric piano part was just what the doctor ordered.

What is the Meaning of “Reminiscing”?

Goble’s lyrics for “Reminiscing,” which get a soulful lead vocal from Glenn Shorrock, name-drop Cole Porter. That’s fitting, because the way the words trip lightly over the melody certainly recalls a Porter classic. It’s also clever how the first two verses make you think the events of the song just happened. It’s only at the end when Goble reveals that we’re dealing with a flashback: Older times we’re missing / Spending the hours reminiscing.

Up to that point, we think the couple in question is just looking ahead to the future: I said to myself when we’re old / We’ll go dancing in the dark / Walking through the park and reminiscing. The memory he’s recalling is the one where they spent a special night walking and dancing, and it cinched the deal they’d always be together: On the way back home / I promised you’d never be alone.

The song gave Little River Band serious momentum, and they’d build upon that to score a series of impressive soft-rock classic in the late ’70s and early ’80s. None of that might have happened if a new chord hadn’t started Graeham Goble down the road to “Reminiscing.”

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Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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