The Beau Brummels: Lonely, oh so lonely

Posted: February 11, 2019 in music, Record reviews
Tags: , , ,

Introducing the Beau Brummels cropped

Bottom line:
Five guys from the folk-rock scene in San Francisco who developed a taste for country. Three Top 40 hits, including one in the Top 10 (“Just a Little”), and two more that broke the Top 100. How can a band that placed five songs in the Top 100 be forgotten? The answer is, they’re not forgotten, they’ve been immobilized in our minds, encased in one song: “Laugh, Laugh.”

Vital personnel:
Sid Valentino, lead vocals; Ron Elliott, guitar and main songwriter.

Moment of glory:
Thirty years before Smashing Pumpkins guest-starred on The Simpsons, The Beau Brummels guest-starred on The Flintstones.

 

Beau Brummelstones

About that name:
Why would five young Americans name themselves after an English fop who loved to play dress-up? The Brummels claimed they liked it, the way Ringo liked it when they painted him red again in Help. Cynics assumed that the boys chose the name to confuse shoppers with the English association and because record shops would file them immediately after The Beatles. All I know is, there’s no point in reopening an old family argument unless you’re one of my relatives.

Their story:
When Introducing the Beau Brumels debuted in April 1965, this band was the hottest band in the United States that was from the United States. For two months they stood alone against a horde of Beatles, Stones, Animals, Hermits, Hollies, Clarks, Playboys, and Zombies. The album was inconsistent, but with moments of excellence and an air of maturity not often found in records of that era.

Introducing the Beau Brummels (produced by Sylvester Stewart, who became Sly Stone the following year) gave us two hits: “Laugh, Laugh,” their ticket to Golden Oldies immortality, and the somber “Just a Little.” The guitar riff in “Just a Little” was ripped off from Link Wray’s “Rumble”; it serves well in this new setting.

The majority of the Brummels’ work is somber, even “Laugh, Laugh,” which is about being dumped. The critic Justin Farrar wrote of them, “The one quality that stands out when digging this stuff is just how sad and weathered the Brummels sounded for such a young band.”

The Brummels’ luck ran out in June 1965 when they collided with the debut from another folk-rock quintet, The Byrds’ Mr. Tambourine Man. It’s difficult to compete with a record that will – even cynics agree – live forever. Each band released another album before the year finished, but by then it was obvious that the Brummels were finished as well. They wrote more original material than The Byrds, but The Byrds played better, sang better, and had a flood of catchy ideas in their interpretations. Also, Roger McGuin, David Crosby, and Gene Clark (I’ll return to him) were soon writing better, too.

The rest of their story sounds like a fairy tale without the witch or the wolf.

The five little Brummels were no longer a force in pop music. Ron Elliott suffered complications from diabetes; he could record but he could no longer tour. One of the Brummels left the band, to play somewhere else or possibly from despair. For their third outing, in 1966, the four little Brummels landed at a much better record company, which was good, but the new company made them do covers like The Byrds, which turned out to be bad.

Then in 1967 the government drafted one of the four little Brummels for the army. The three little Brummels tried their luck with Triangle, an album of psychedelia, which was of the approximate quality as The Zombies’ attempt at psychedelia, Odyssey & Oracle, by which I mean it substantially sucked.

Then in 1968 the government drafted one of the three little Brummels for the army. Why did Lyndon Johnson hate our freedoms? The two little Brummels regrouped in Nashville, where they recorded a country-rock album in a barn owned by a man named Bradley. They called this album Bradley’s Barn. It was only the second country-rock album ever recorded (this time The Byrds beat them by two months, with Sweetheart of the Rodeo). I like this record despite the fact that “country” is one of the words in “country-rock.” Sadly, nobody at the time noticed it.

There are more ignored albums in their catalog, but enough is enough.

The one album to own:
The Beau Brummels, Vol. 2. It doesn’t have “Laugh, Laugh” and “Just a Little,” but it’s the strongest overall and it includes “Don’t Talk to Strangers” (their attempt at beating The Byrds at their own game), “Can It Be” (the best Everly Brothers song not penned and performed by an Everly), and the endearingly somber “You Tell Me Why” and “Sad Little Girl.”

Though The Beau Brummels, Vol. 2 proves that they were not one of the best bands of the 1960s, it does prove they were the best forgotten band of the 1960s.

Comments
  1. mikener says:

    You had me at Sly Stone, the person with perhaps the highest batting average for hits in the era.

    Guesting on The Flintstones must have been pretty sweet.

  2. Number 9 says:

    The BBs sang out of tune, in dramatic contrast to the Beatles. And they pretended to be British – hah, couldn’t fool me.

  3. Wm Seabrook says:

    If The Beau Brummels chose their name so that their records would be found BEHIND The Beatles in record stores, presumably The Beastie Boys went one better!

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