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Friday, 25 September 2015


Brinsley Schwarz were always a band out of time, an antithesis to the early 70s British musical landscape mainly occupied by Art School Glam, Prog Rock, earnest Singer/Songwriters and lumpen heavy Blues Rock bands and although the individual members went on to forge careers with varying degrees of success after the band split, they never really received the acclaim they deserved for their part in paving the way for the back to basics Punk Rock/New Wave and Garage Rock explosion later in that decade. They had an enviable reputation as one of the best live bands in the country………but they sold no records. Evolving from “a Folk Rock band with psychedelic pretentions", they were a gritty but tasteful Country Rock band in the mould of late period Byrds/Flying Burrito Brothers and The Band, but could also mix it up with funkier bands like Little Feat and the Meters having a depth of soul, R&B and Rock and Roll influences; Old Grey Whistle Test viewers and pre-punk Peely loved ‘em…………but they sold no records. And there was that little incident at the Fillmore East in 1970 that overshadowed the rest of the bands career……….there really is not the space to go into great detail here but Google “Brinsley Schwarz hype” for the story of the mother of all failed publicity stunts which was thunk up by Dave Robinson (later the boss of Stiff Records). It’s amazing what mad ideas you come up with stoned (and in the early 70s it also seemed that money was no object either)……before the first Brinsley Schwarz album was released, the plan was to fly the band to New York to support Van Morrison/Quicksilver Messenger Service at the Fillmore and to also fly out the cream of the music press writers to review the show. Due to a Spinal Tap style chaotic mix of visa problems, engine trouble, drugs and free booze and faulty hired gear the band turned up under-rehearsed and the jurnos turned up pissed out of their minds…….needless to say the show got panned. When the album landed after such a disastrous publicity blitz, it got absolutely monstered by the press…………..and they sold no records.
Stumbling from the wreckage of the Fillmore fiasco, the Brinsley Schwarz retreated to the pubs of London where they built their reputation as one of the finest unpretentious party bands of the era……effortlessly mixing Country Rock, Soul and Rock and Roll in a storming live show which they never really translated successfully to four solid but mainly uninspiring records. There were contributions to the Glastonbury Fayre album (1 track) and they appear on the Greasy Trucker’s Party record, which unfortunately, for a band known for its live performances, this was their only live album…………..until now. Mega Dodo are releasing Live Favourites, a recording of a performance from the Top Rank, Cardiff in June 1974 where Brinsley Schwarz where both the support and backing band for Dave Edmunds. The album surfaced originally around five years ago on CD as a privately pressed, semi-official release but Mega Dodo are now giving this record a full, vinyl only release…… to 250 copies with the first 100 including a set of postcards, stickers and a reproduction BBC audition sheet.
Live Favourites was recorded just after the release of what turned out to be the bands swansong recording, The New Favourites Of Brinsley Schwarz, and the line-up of the band at this time was Nick Lowe (bass and vocals), Brinsley Schwarz (guitar, sax and vocals), drummer Billy Rankin (although it appears that session drummer and original member of Dire Straits, Pick Withers was behind the kit for this recording), Bob Andrews (piano, organ, sax and vocals) and Ian Gomm (guitar and vocals). Brinsley Schwarz shift seamlessly from Byrdsian Country rockers like ‘Country Girl’ and ‘Honky Tonk’ to covers of classic Soul/R&B Revue tunes such as ‘Hip City’, ‘Ju Ju Man’ and William Bell’s ‘Private Number’ via Rock and Roll covers (Eugene Williams  ‘Trying to Live My Life Without You‘ ) and their own songs mainly penned by Nick Lowe. ‘Small Town Big City’ is classic Rock and Roll, ‘Happy Doing What We're Doing’ has a great funky New Orleans Dr John/Lee Dorsey vibe and you can hear the inspiration for Graham Parker’s best songs on ‘Surrender To The Rhythm’. How ‘(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding’ never became a massive hit needs to have a Police investigation opened to determine why. These tunes never really worked on record, but live they are transformed and drip with the intensity of being played by a band that really know how to tear the roof off the joint. You can imagine in a sweaty pub back room swilling with beer you would have the best time of your life at a Brinsley Schwarz gig. Live Favourites release has been well overdue (by about 40 years) and is a lasting document that shows that when they were cooking live there were very few early 70s acts that could touch this band. The sound quality of this record is excellent; it’s not some crappy bootleg recorded on a cheap cassette recorder at the back of the hall and it is a surprise it has not seen the light of day until now (then again Brinsley Schwarz never sold any records). Go buck the trend and buy this record.
Live Favourites will be released mid-October on Mega Dodo records……’s a little off-piste compared to their usual output but it is great that they are putting this out. Now available to pre-order now from their Bandcamp site at and possibly from your local vinyl emporium if you ask nicely.

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