Welcome to my blog. I’m a DJ in Second Life and I find myself discussing the music I’m playing with many of those in attendance at my shows. Unfortunately, when I am busy DJing, I can’t participate and discuss the music as fully as I would like. I’m hoping this blog can help change that. Look here before my set to see if I might be playing something interesting today or maybe after to see if discussion on a topic might continue. You are invited to join in the conversation and leave comments.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
The Left Banke
The Left Banke undoubtedly wrote some of the most melodic and calming music to come out of the 60s. In a time of peace and love, it is almost disturbing to learn that writers and performers of such tunes were so totally engulfed in strife and conflict.
They were formed in New York in 1965 by Tom Finn, George Cameron and Michael Brown. Finn & Cameron (bass and drums respectively) were already friends. Finn got to know Brown (a keyboardist), whose father owned a recording studio. Steve Martin, a vocalist, had just moved to New York and got to know Cameron. Since one of their dads had a recording studio, and all four were musicians, it was a natural thing for these four teens (yes, TEENS!) to play around and make some recordings. Brown’s father was so impressed by what he heard that he offered to become their manager and the Left Banke was born.
Their first hit, Walk Away Renee, was written by Michael Brown who was just 17 at the time. The song is supposedly written about Renee Fladen who was Finn’s girlfriend at the time and Brown had an intense infatuation for. She was present for the recording and Brown was so nervous that he couldn’t get the harpsichord parts right. He had to come back later and record them when he was alone. The song was released in February 1966 and rose to #5 on the charts. Their unique sound with the harpsichord and classical arrangements required the industry to concoct a new term just for their music, “Baroque Rock.”
Supposedly, Pretty Ballerina and She May Call You Up Tonight were also inspired by Brown’s infatuation with Fladen. Pretty Ballerina would reach #15 on the charts in 1967. Brown eventually decided he didn’t want to tour and would rather just record in the studio, while the course to rock stardom that the other three members wanted to follow required touring to promote their newly recorded album. This led to two factions forming with Brown and his father claiming rights to the band name and replacing Finn, Cameron and Martin.
When the single, Ivy Ivy, hit the market in 1967, the other three used their influence with the Fan Club to get the record boycotted. This move was successful and the record flopped. Interestingly, among the session musicians used for this song were Bert Sommers, who would later play Woodstock as a solo musician, and Michael McKean who would later be a part of Spinal Tap (after also playing Lenny, of Lenny & Squiggy, on Laverne & Shirly). Attorneys were hired and things would never be the same. They did manage to reunite later in 1967 and recorded some more songs, including Desiree which was their third and final song to chart. The damage had been done and they never really attained the success they could have. Their records received little airplay as stations were reluctant to promote them due to all of the controversy. However, during this period it is worth mentioning that a rather young singer did backing vocals for them by the name of Steve Tyler. Tyler would later become the front man for Aerosmith. This last material was gathered, along with a couple of songs by Brown & his session musicians, and released as a second album, the Left Banke Too. They played live performances for a while longer but soon disbanded.
I plan a mini set today during my show of the Left Banke. I hope to cover a bit of what I have talked about above and it will consist of…
Pretty Ballerina, 1967
Claudia, never released
Nice to See You, 1968 (Steve Tyler of Aerosmith on backing vocals)
Walk Away Renee, 1966