Sunday, November 7, 2010

Beau Brummels got the last laugh

By Wayne Shelor

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The Beau Brummelstones were a big hit in Bedrock.
If you wanted to make a record, say, in late 1964, that was an absolute sonic knockoff of the Beatles -- a song compleat with the British Merseybeat Sound -- what might be the ingredients? How about this:

Take a black California radio disc jockey who had tried in vain to work with Grace Slick and the Great Society ... mix in a former Philadelphia DJ who is part-owner of a little-bitty record label in San Francisco ... get a young band whose lead singer, two years earlier, recorded a song called "I Wanna Twist" ... and mix them all up in a recording studio.

Don’t laugh - that's the way it happened. And it worked.

Sylvester Stewart, later known as Sly Stone -- a Bay area radio personality who had given up trying to work with the loopy Grace Slick (you'll remember her from Jefferson Airplane) - hooked up with Tom Donahue of tiny Autumn Records to produce the record "Laugh, Laugh" for an American group with an intentionally deceptive British-sounding name: The Beau Brummels.

Sly - yes, he of the Family Stone - took the boys into the studio and, working with a song the band had written, crafted a jangling guitars-and-three-part harmony pop piece that shot right to the Top 20 in 1964.

"Laugh Laugh" sounds as if John Lennon himself is playing the harmonica, and the lyrics are pure Paul.

I discovered “Laugh, Laugh,” curiously enough, on the CD version of 1972's Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965–1968, a now-historic compilation of garage band classics that is credited by some with inspiring punk.

"Laugh Laugh" provided the Beau Brummels their day in the California sun. Most of the band's members went on to smaller and lesser things ... except that the Beau Brummels were featured -- as themselves -- in an episode of the popular Sunday night cartoon series of the early 1960s, The Flintstones.

And that was years before the Beatles appeared in Yellow Submarine.

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