Brinsley Schwarz iTunes Tracks

Brinsley Schwarz

The burgeoning but initially low-key English pub-rock scene, by and large, began with 70s act, BRINSLEY SCHWARZ. Named after their guitarist, nominee Brinsley Schwarz, the band spread their word under the ever-widening umbrella of country-rock, before moving with the tide into the new wave movement when Messrs NICK LOWE, IAN GOMM, Billy Rankin (to DUCKS DELUXE), Bob Andrews (to The RUMOUR) and Brinsley himself (to both latter parties), reluctantly hooked up. Whatever the tag; whatever the spin, there were at least three semi-classics that somehow mutated past punk’s sell-by-date, and these were `(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love And Understanding’, `Surrender To The Rhythm’ and `Country Girl’.
Formed in and around the Greater London area during a transitional period in autumn ’69, out of Tunbridge Wells-based, beat-pop nearly-men KIPPINGTON LODGE (who’d amassed several singles between ’67-’69; including `Shy Boy’), BRINSLEY SCHWARZ were still under the wing of Dave Robinson; the former fledgling tour manager of JIMI HENDRIX now headed the Famepushers Agency.
On 3rd April 1970, he chartered a plane to fly a hundred music journalists over to New York in support of VAN MORRISON at Fillmore East. This proved to be a six-figure sum disaster, due to an admittedly dodgy and unrehearsed performance when visas were delayed for Nick Lowe (vocals/bass), Bob Andrews (organ/vocals), Billy Rankin (drums) and, of course, Brinsley Schwarz (guitar). Predictably, the press ignored their eponymous BRINSLEY SCHWARZ (1970) {*6} debut album for United Artists Records; and not surprisingly it bombed. As it turned out, pseudo-Californian country music, fancy folk-rock, and a hippy hue that recalled CROSBY, STILLS, NASH and/or The BAND, didn’t quite entice fans from both sides of the big pond to shell out big bucks for the prog-length/YES-lite `Lady Constant’ and `Ballad Of A Has Been Beauty Queen’.
Unbowed, BS went off to take stock and write new material; resurfacing late in the year with follow-up, DESPITE IT ALL (1970) {*6}. The preceding single, `Country Girl’, recalled a “Sweetheart Of The Rodeo”-era BYRDS, and indeed the set was as fine an example of country-rock as anything coming out of the States at the time. In hindsight, maybe all the earlier kerfuffle had alienated tracks, `The Slow One’, `Funk Angel’, and an almost obligatory long-winded folk-rock finale in `Old Jarrow’.
Running up to the release of 1972’s much-improved/much-defined SILVER PISTOL {*7}, BRINSLEY SCHWARZ had become a quintet with the addition of supplementary vocalist/guitarist/composer Ian Gomm. His songs; including `Dry Land’ and `One More Day’, were even more in-tune with country-rock counterparts over the pond. Pioneers of renegade country on their own home turf, the group began to experiment with many other areas within the context of American roots music; roping in unlikely source material (such as `Niki Hoeke Speedway’ and `Ju Ju Man’) from the underrated JIM FORD.
Only a mere seven months down the line, NERVOUS ON THE ROAD (1972) {*8} was another easy-on-the-ear C&W-meets-rock’n’roll precursor to “down home” pub rock. On this venture, they’d widened their scope to allow a few covers versions in by way of ALLEN TOUSSAINT’s `I Like It Like That’ and Ronnie Self’s `Home In My Hand’; though class prevailed with nostalgic feel-good tracks headed by `Surrender To The Rhythm’ and `Nervous On The Road (But Can’t Stay At Home)’.
The group’s sound had deepened somewhat upon witnessing American bar band, EGGS OVER EASY, playing at the Tally Ho club in London; a venue that had become synonymous with the effervescent pub rock scene, of which The Brinsleys would be an integral part. As well as digging the band’s R&B boogie, the outfit was heavily influenced by the aforesaid EOE’s freewheeling attitude which didn’t give a fig (or a foggy mountain dew) for the banks of Marshall Stacks and sprawling concept albums which were de rigueur in these times.
The same back-to-basics principle that inspired the group to scale down the length of their songs and cut their hair, laid the foundations for the all-encompassing new wave/punk explosion later in the decade, as well as breaking such important figures as ELVIS COSTELLO and JOE STRUMMER (then of The 101’ERS).
For the moment though, the group had found a comfortable niche on the back of two other pinnacle albums. Named after a CRICKETS track penned by Goffin-King, PLEASE DON’T EVER CHANGE (1973) {*6} seemed to confirm their new-found accord. And while the Brinsleys seemed short on songs when suffixing the set with added covers of Esther Navarro’s `Speedo’ and BOB MARLEY’s `The Version (Hypocrite)’, they still oozed a certain je ne sais quoi for Gomm’s `Hooked On Love’ and/or Lowe’s RnR piece, `Play That Fast Thing (One More Time)’.
Stuck in a time-warp of their own making, though trying individually to break free from the shackles of band life, once again the infectious dexterity of BRINSLEY SCHWARZ shined through for, what was to become, their swan song set, THE NEW FAVOURITES OF… (1974) {*7}. Showcasing Lowe’s comprehensive songwriting talent on such classy tracks as `(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love And Understanding’ and `Ugly Things’; whilst he and Gomm combined for once on `I Like You’ I Don’t Love You’ and `I Got The Real Thing’, the band were bowing out on another critical high; despite ill-advised covers of The HOLLIES’ `Now’s The Time’ and Eugene Williams’ `Trying To Live My Life Without You’.
Ironically, no commercial breakthrough came their way, and by 1975, the band had split amicably, with all who sailed within Brinsley’s boat finding solace elsewhere.
© MC Strong/1994-2000/BG // rev-up MCS Aug2019

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