Now For Beau Brummels '75 (from
circular vol.7 19,monday,may 19,1975)
The scene: A packed smoky nightclub on San Francisco's gaudy Broadway strip in 1964. The players: five short shaggy haired post-teens in black turtle-necks, guitars in hand, feet onstage, blasting their way through a merciless rendition of "Kansas City." in the midst of the clubful of sweating, frugging Friscans, so one notices two large, bearded men in trenchcoats, Immobile at a small table down front, Nor does anyone pay any attention to the sharp looking Black kid with them, tapping an empty glass and smiling in time.
No ones knows if Tom Donahue or Carl Scott chomped cigars or produced pens and contracts from their trenchcoats that night. And nobody recalls whether Sly Stone (nee Stewart) engaged in much stageside chatter when the music quit, But, by the time the last frugger slipped out into darkness and Broadway, the Beau Brummels had their hands securely wrapped around what's known as a deal. They had themselves a manager (Donahue) , a record label (Donahue's Autumn Records) and a producer (Sly Stone). And they had a running head start on stardom and history.
If the headstart turned into a steeplechase before leveling off to a smooth trot and on anticlimactic finish, the Beau Brummels '75 show no signs of fatigue, physical or musical. Reunited early last year, reputation and original line up intact, Ron Elliott, Sal Valentino, Dec Mulligan and John Peterson are more than anxious to find their way into the mainstream of 70's taste.
Pre-History as it Must Have Been.
The Beau Brummels almost made a career out of notable musical firsts. Generally acknowledged as "the first American group to successfully interpret the English sound," they were also the uncredited First San Francisco Band (predating the Airplane by a full year) of modern times, Stylistically, they also flew the Byrds' folk-rock pattern some time before the Byrds.
Beginning in late '64 with "Laugh,Laugh," the Brummels set exceedingly high musical standards through '66 The English sound mutated into folk-rock (and "babe" replaced "gull" as the dominant form of address to persons female) goodtime music followed protest and the Beau Brummels swung gracefully through it all: "Just a little," "You tell me why." "Don't talk to strangers," "One too many mornings."
It was a good time to be around, especially if you happened to be a rock & roll star, Amid the jelly-beans and cord caps and barricades, the Beau Brummels did all things their kind did-from the Dick Clark caravans to Lloyd Thaxton lip syncs, from the requlslle teen flick cameos (they peformed one song in the long since forgotton Village of the giants) to TV (animated Brummels covorted with stick and stone guitars on several Flintstones episodes) It all got a little insane, like it was supposed to, And nobody would have given it up for the world.
As Years Go By.
This time around, the pace is more relaxed, a congenial affair more result of a congenial desire to work with one another again, to see what can happen. The pressure is off. This time it's Ron and Sal and John and Dec and the music. "It was Elliott's idea to get back together," recalls drummer Peterson, the lanky blond astride low desk in Circ's central office. "None of us had really kept in touch, I've seen Declan about four times in the last six years..."
It was bassist/rhythm guitarist Mulligan who furnished the actual vehicle for several unofficial reunion performances to take place in January of '74.
"I was playing in the Black Velvet Band up in San Francisco," he says in a soft, California-mellowed brogue. "We'd be playing and Sal would wonder into the club and Ron and John and at various times of the night Black Velvet would be sugmented by all of them. We'd play one set of old Beau Brummels songs and then split and nobody in the audience would know what's going on."
"That was really strange," Peterson thinks aloud. "A lot of people had no idea who we were, A couple might recognize some of the songs but nobody recognized us as the guys who made the records. It was amazing. You forget that 10 years have gone by..."
Five, Four Two, One Fifth.
Few ears previously acquainted with them can forget the intensely melodic songs of Ron Elliott or the rather special vocal gifts of Sal Valentino. The two-man team formed the core unit that drove the original five-four-member Beau Brummels (on introducing and Volume II) and powered both the transitional 1966 (Beau Brummels '66) and 1967 (Triangle) versions. Ron and Sal were the entire group on the legendary, Nashville recorded Bradley's Barn album.
The last official Beau Brummels album, Bradley's was unable to duplicate its rave critical reception on the retail level. The album and the "group" sank without a trace. Ron Elliott took off for the mountains, married, released a sadly overlooked solo album (The Candlestick Maker) and last year resurfaced in a short-lived venture christened Pan (one LP on Epic).
Just as he had since the days with Sal Valentino & the Valentines., Sal kept singing, first with the raucous Stoneground ("I don't like to look back on it; that band was out of control from the start") and as recently as last summer with his own group Valentino. Having left the Brummels after their first album, Dec Mulligan returned to Ireland for a spell before taking up with the Black Velvets in San Francisco.
John Peterson left the group in '67 to become one fifth of Harper's Bizarre, softrock pioneers and Van Dyke Parks popularizes remembered for the "59th St. Bridge Songs (feeling groovy)," "Come to the Sunshine" and a host of ambitious studio projects. Within Harper's he was reunited with talented Ted Templeman, now producer of the Doobies and Montrose but once Peterson's partner in a pre-Brummels Bay Area band. All of which ties past threads into a tight little knot, since Templeman who wound up producing the "old" Beau Brummels' new album , The Beau Brummels.
Clues Among the Leakage.
Peterson explained the circumstances surrounding the group's re-involvement with the largest known record company in Burbank, "Once we'd formally decided to get back together, we did a small concert in Sacramento. Ted heard the tapes and was impressed with the songs. So we gave Warners the first shot since we'd all been with them before."
The recording has proceeded, on and off, since last November in Los Angeles, Sal and Ron and John scurry down from Hollywood Hills and Dec shuttles back and forth to San Francisco and somehow it's all coming together, Everybody's happy.
And what will Beau Brummels '75 sound like? Like 1964? "No way," says Elliott. "The only old tune we're redoing is "You tell me why,' but it's in a different groove entirely.
It sounds maybe like Bradley's Barn?
"Nope" explains Peterson, "That was pretty artsy craftsy. This is more straight group rock "n" roll. It's not metallic but it's not. Harper's either, some of it's got a kind of country flavor."
Elliott volunteers to clarify that one, "It started to go south when we started rehearsing, the way the harmonies would come in, the guitar licks. All the songs are moderate length."
"And harmonies for sure" confirms Peterson, suddenly animated. "...It's just difficult to describe the way it sounds. Its very melodic, in the way Ron Elliott writes. He's written for Stoneground and arranged for Harper's and had the thing with Pan-but there's something that happens when he and Sal get together that only seems to happen with the Brummels."
Everyone will get a chance to hear that sound soon enough, with the albums release. And there's the possibility of a genuine Beau Brummels four sometime this year.
"Whether we'll play clubs or concerts second-bitled to another act really really doesn't matter." says Peterson. "We're basically a new band and we've gotta get out there and work."
Scene: an intimate, natural-wood club in Sacramento suburbs, 1974. To thunderous applause the Beau Brummels are welcomed back to performing by a full house of fans, some of who clearly remember "Laugh,Laugh" and some of whom don't. As Valentino steps to the mike, harmonics in hand, a teenage boy wearing a serious look and longer hair than the Brummels ever wore wanders over to Peterson at the drums. "I'm not old enough to remember the Beau Brummels," he tells Peterson. "But I wanted to see what it was all about."
Valentino leans into the microphone and croons over Elliott's silvery folk-rock introduction to "Tell me why," the audience explodes with clapping, nods and smiles and the kid finds out what It's all about. *
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