"The Beatles opened the door and the Beau Brummels sailed through it and for a while really rode the crest. That they have turned out, in the light of history, to be better than they seemed at the time, shows how advanced they were and how the taste buds have altered."
As self-appointed "grand-old-man" of the 1960s San Francisco rock scene, Rolling Stone founder Ralph Gleason might be forgiven for the slightly patronising tone of such patter. But his words reflect some of the snobbery inherent in the then-developing Bay Area rock community; a scene that was to disavow the Beau Brummels membership in its upper echelons, when by rights they should have been at the very top.
The Brummels' breakthrough in early 1965 established them as the first major rock group to emerge from the area, and they blazed the trail that many were later to follow. Under the helm of guitarist Ron Elliott, perhaps the pre-eminent songwriter of his generation, the group distilled rock, folk and country influences into a captivating and instantly recognisable style, that earned them two widely-admired national hits in 'Laugh Laugh' and 'Just A Little'. Elliott's accomplished guitar work, drummer John Petersen's trademark rimshot fills, even bassist Ron Meagher's nasal harmonies, all added up to a remarkably ditinctive sound. And the expressive vocals of Sal Valentino, rightly lauded as some of the best in rock, were the ace in the Brummels' pack.
The bands history is well-known, but worth reprising briefly. Elliott and Valentino (real name Sal Spampinato) first sang together in school in the late 50s. Whilst Elliott studied musical composition at San Francisco State College,Valentino sang locally in North Beach, and even had a solo release ('I Wanna Twist') on the Falco label in 1962. With the Spring 1964 addition of Meagher, Petersen and Irish transplant Declan Mulligan, the Beau Brummels were formed. The combo's name cleverly hinted at their British-tinged material, but right from the start the group began performing Elliott's strong, quirky originals. According to the guitarist, "one of the reasons, for getting the band together, was so that I could hear some of my songs played."
After catching the combo at the Morocco Room in San Mateo on the San Francisco peninsula, popular local deejays Tom Donahue and Bob Mitchell signed the Brummels to their Autumn label. Autumn got the outfit out of sleazy North Beach bars and into the top ten with the brilliant, Sly Stone-produced 'Laugh, Laugh'. The classic follow-up 'Just A Little' went top five, and the group were thrown into an ensuing whirlwind of touring and TV and film work. Mulligan left just prior to the release of the group's second album in late 1965, and when Autumn folded due to finance problems in April the following year, the bands contract was sold off: "We got off the road and found we belonged to Warner Brothers."
The immediate success of the Brummels had taken its toll on Ron Elliott, a diagnosed diabetic; "I'd never been comfortable on stage anyway, but the road devastated me health-wise. Sometimes the only memory I have from a tour is waking up in hospital after an insulin reaction." Although Elliott's place was taken by Don Irving for touring purposes in late 1965, by the end of the following year the Beau Brummels had effectively become a recording-only act. Valentino and Elliott remained the constants, and the resulting albums "Triangle" and "Bradleys Barn", while commercially unsuccessful, are widely acknowledged as masterpieces of late 1960s pop. Fittingly, both records expound upon styles and influences that were present in the group from the very beginning.
Although the Beau Brummels taped a fair amount of material for Autumn, there are remarkably few finished masters that were not released while the group was with the label. Most are demos, although the group themselves considered many tracks that were released at the time - ie on their two Autumn albums - as unfinished. But, as the recently released "San Fran Sessions" box set attests, most of the unreleased material is as good as anything that was officially issued. Some may have been slated as singles, such as the infectious 'Fine With Me', which was mixed down as a tentative release in September 1965.
The band did eventually re-record the tune, in a slightly different arrangement, for a Warner Brothers single the following year. 'Woman', one of the group's best rockers, appears on the "Sessions" compilation with Dec Mulligan's original vocal, as per the Brummels appearance in teen flick Village Of The Giants. When the song eventually surfaced (on the album "Volume Two"), Dec's vocal had been replaced by an acoustic 12-string, as the guitarist was no longer with the combo (and would soon be in litigation with its remaining members). The group also taped a similar instrumental arrangement of their other tune featured in the movie, 'When It Comes To Your Love'
Despite having a quite remarkable lead vocalist in Valentino, the Beau Brummels democratically allowed each member to sing at least a couple of songs during the Autumn period. Drummer John Petersen takes the lead on 'That's All That Matters', which dates from December 1964. The raucous vocal and Kinks-like structure make it considerably different to anything else the group attempted.
by Alec Palao
1. She Sends Me - 2:04
2. Tomorrow Is Another Day - 2:45
3. She Loves Me (Mulligan) - 3:08
4. Woman (Durand, Elliott) - 2:41
5. Dream On (Durand, Elliott) - 2:23
6. Cry Some - 2:36
7. I Grow Old (Durand, Elliott) - 1:57
8. No Lonelier Man - 1:43
9. This Is Love - 2:12
10.She's My Girl (Mulligan) - 2:27
11.I'll Tell You - 2:45
12.Let Me In - 2:18
13.Love Is Just a Game - 2:32
14.Till the Day - 1:56
15.I Will Go - 2:38
16.Stay With Me Awhile (Valentino) - 3:25
17.I'm Alone Again - 1:28
18.Down on Me - 2:31
19.Can't Be So - 2:16
20.Fine with Me (Durand, Elliott) - 2:27
21.Coming Home - 2:11
22.That's All That Matters - 2:39
23.Laugh, Laugh - 3:22
24.Still in Love with You Baby - 2:27
25.Just a Little (Durand, Elliott) - 2:29
26.When It Comes to Your Love - 2:05
All songs by Ron Elliot except where stated.
*Ron Elliott - Guitar
*Ron Meagher - Bass
*John Petersen - Drums
*Sal Valentino - Vocals
1965 Introducing The Beau Brummels (Sundazed edition)
1966 Beau Brummels' 66 (Japan edition)
1975 Beau Brummels
1970 Ron Elliott - The Candlestickmaker