Monday, March 23, 2015

And More On The Left Banke



In the wake of the Left Banke leader Michael Brown's passing, I have of course, been listening to the Left Banke. Though as I said in the earlier post, I have always been listening to the Left Banke.

That debut record is barely a half hour long and their follow-up, "The Left Banke Too," has very little to do with Michael Brown. There are two very good records by the Stories, but the band's only hit, "Brother Louie," was not written by Michael Brown. Another Brown project was "Montage." Good record, but...so what? The Beckies? Anyone?

So how does someone get labelled "genius" based on 28 minutes of music? And in reality, it's more like 10 minutes of "hit" music? More of a conundrum is, I'm not disputing it.

Even if the Left Banke's debut is not your cup of tea and you are not quite on board with Michael Brown's "genius," I still pose the following question-

How many other debut records, by a single artist or band, have had such a powerful and lasting impact, without a follow-up and without getting tossed into a forgettable pile of one-hit wonders?




28 comments:

buzzbabyjesus said...

I've never heard it, and "Walk Away Renee" has yet to grab me.

William Repsher said...

Obviously, The Sex Pistols. Even if they hadn't split up, a second album, without Glen Matlock writing the melodies, would have been pretty rough (to judge by all the covers and so-so tracks that emerged after he left).

Iron Butterfly? People tend to forget how influential and popular "In A Gadda Da Vida" was. That's one track I put on now and think, man, these guys were on to something. But that band doesn't seem to get any credit in the 60's rock pantheon. Unlike The Left Banke!

Anonymous said...

The Modern Lovers?

for a younger generation, Jeff Buckley probably qualifies. Probably not a genre definer, but the devotion he's inspired is impressive, and it's intriguing what else he would have done.

I caught Iron Butterfly a few years ago at an outdoor SF-themed concert (versions of Moby Grape and the Airplane were also on the bill). It was weird how their music had become a biker/Sabbath-on-bad-acid mixture.

A walk in the woods said...

Here's a few:

- Television (they had one more record at the time, but that debut was enough)

- The La's (they only had that one record with "There She Goes Again," right?)

- Stone Roses would make the list, right? (I don't know if they have other records, I only know of their debut)

- Nirvana almost makes the list, but not quite.

- And my favorite example of all: this record is literally probably my favorite album of all time. It's the only album by The New Radicals, from 1998. (Yes, the band with "You Get What You Give.") Trust me, those who don't know it - listen to it and you'll be smitten.

Shriner said...

Hah -- before I even read the comments I thought of the Sex Pistols and Modern Lovers, too...

I would almost have said "Big Star with Chris Bell", though apparently the follow-up album has his uncredited input on it.

Sal Nunziato said...

I don't think Nirvana counts because "Nevermind" put them on the map for good and that wasn't their debut.

As for New Radicals, I absolutely LOVE that record, but I'm sorry to say, no one thinks of it, not in the same light as some of what was mentioned and sadly probably not at all.

A walk in the woods said...

True - and too bad, Sal. Gregg Alexander isn't into marketing his legacy - he's just a songwriter these days, with no intention of putting out more of his own music. Too bad; that New Radicals record should be in every music lover's stocking.

Anonymous said...

A third cheer for New Radicals!

Not any kind of a game changer, but Amy Winehouse's rep is based on that one album, essentially her debut.

Bruce H

buzzbabyjesus said...

Sorry I didn't read the whole thing. Sex Pistols
Jeff Buckley
Johnny Thunder's Heartbreakers.
The Libertines?
Syd's Pink Floyd

Sal Nunziato said...

I'll try to keep the posts to less than 8 words, BBJ, so I don't lose ya midway.

Anonymous said...

Sal,
Any chance you might consider posting a mono version of Walk Away Renee or Pretty Ballerina sometime in one of your upcoming mixes?

Sal Nunziato said...

If I can get the mono album digitized, I'd post it all. So many copies of the album say "mono" on the cover and label, but actually play in stereo. Very few actual mono copies exist. I even asked Sundazed when they were remastering the two records, if they'd be the mono versions and they said the tapes were lost. I easily bought 5 copies before I got a real mono, only to find out later how to tell.

fairfaxhs said...

My understanding is there is no true stereo version of the first Left Banke album. They used reprocessing of the mono for release. Similarly, there is no true stereo version of "Desiree," the great epic Michael Brown track from the 2nd album.

fairfaxhs said...

First Left Banke album was only mono. Stereo is reprocesssed.

Anonymous said...

The Beckies? River Bayou is a great song. The whole album is Michael Brown does Power Pop. I vote "overlooked". The album has never been on CD

Sal Nunziato said...

@fairfaxhs

So are the Sundazed stereo reissues also reprocessed? Seems like a lot of bells and whistles for something that isn't true, no?

fairfaxhs said...

I'll admit, this is stereo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HM5c9QqWwGE. But I had the stereo first album and remembered it being reprocessed. Perhaps Sundazed found the master tapes? More research needed....

fairfaxhs said...

From a Steve Hoffman forum posting: "Most mono-labelled copies of the Left Banke's Smash LP Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina are actually stereo (and the few that are actually mono are reportedly fold-downs)." http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/tracks-albums-labelled-as-fake-stereo-or-mono-that-are-not.241099/


buzzbabyjesus said...

I listened to "Walk Away Renee" and "Pretty Ballerina" a few times yesterday, and found plenty to admire. In a way it reminds me of another classic album I don't love, "Odyssey and Oracle" by the Zombies.
And for some reason I can't explain made me think of another candidate for this post: The Raspberries.

Dave said...

BBJ,

After hearing about Brown's death, I posted a link to a YouTube video of the entire album, and then mentioned that the only other one-off like this that I can think of is "Odessey & the Oracle" and included a link to the full album. There is one difference, though, and that is the Zombies had already released their fine first album.

I think what makes the Left Banke stands out so much is that it sounds fully formed. This doesn't happen often to me -- some examples that come to mind are "Procul Harum," "Bee Gees 1st" (unfair, since some of these songs were written long before its release), and "Marshall Crenshaw." The first albums by the Beach Boys, Beatles, Stones, and Dylan were striking but all were far surpassed later -- so maybe the "fully formed debut" is a sign of limitations as well as talent.

Dave F.

rick said...

I’ve finally extricated myself from the “Walk Away, Renee” rabbit hole (or worm hole) I went down on youtube, where I found covers by the Linda Ronstadt, Rickie Lee Jones, The Cowsills, David Cassidy, Vonda Shepard, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Herman’s Hermits, Cyndi Lauper and Peter Kingbery, Jimmy Lafave, Rick Price, Badly Drawn Boy, Billy Bragg, Bahama Kin, The Blades of Grass, Sunshine on Mars, Eric Carmen, Marshall Crenshaw, Lotion, Gabor Szabo, Terry Reid, Bon Jovi, The Association, Arrows, Orpheus, Rayonics, Tori Amos, and the list just kept going on and on, so I finally stopped. But I listened to every fucking one of the ones listed above, waiting for someone to do something worthy, something original, something along the lines of what Sonic Youth did with “Superstar” by The Carpenters (only A Band Called Mithras make a feeble attempt in this direction). But most everyone went for an overly earnest, excessively heartfelt version. Using Wayne and Garth’s rating system most of them ranged from ‘Sucked’ to ‘Sucked Donkeys’. The covers by Lotion and by Rayonics are maybe my favorite but only because they seem so true to the original. Not sure which ones I hated the most because there are SO many crappy ones to choose from, with the Southside Johnny and the Herman’s Hermits versions right down there near the bottom, but the Terry Reid cover is simply dreadful...and all these lousy covers just show how pure and beautiful the original is...

Anything Should Happen said...

I love the Left Banke debut, I love the Stories albums. Always have, always will.

New Radicals, great album, but Gregg Alexander's solo albums led the way to it, so I've never thought of it as a debut album.

Although, I don't consider them A List, Big Country's The Crossing was never bettered and harnessed the band and Stuart Adamson's reputation. The Skids, his previous band, got better as they went on.

Although, more known with Mott The Hoople, Ian Hunter's first solo album was never bettered and as the time went on he was looked at more in his own right than the ex lead singer of blah blah.

Dave said...

Rick,

I feel you. I've never heard a cover of "Walk Away Renee" that I've liked much. You didn't include the biggest hit cover, the Four Tops version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xu5ynjOlnOg

It even defeated Levi Stubbs, although the background vocals, as always, are impeccable: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xu5ynjOlnOg

rick said...

Dave, of course you're right, I should've mentioned the most famous cover of them all by The Four Tops. It seemingly got more air time on the radio than the original. By the way, a few of those covers I listened to had the audacity to change some of the lyrics. . .as if they could improve on them?!?

rick said...

correction: I earlier referred to "Superstar" as a Carpenters song, forgetting that that too was a cover of Delaney and Bonnie's song (with Leon Russell getting some songwriting credit as well).

Anonymous said...

we're forgetting the greatest band debut of all time, Klaatu.

(hey the Carpenters covered them)

Anonymous said...

Sal:

Ditto on the La's and Big Country references. I still listen to that record regularly (good album for a long walk somewhere). I think Rockpile's only record is worthy though a s a supergroup album it might not fit Sal's criteria.

Certain bands/artists come to mind that never really went past their first or second record for me:

Uncle Green, Grapes of Wrath, the Plimsouls, EIEIO, Robert Hazard and the Heroes, the Hooters, Ben Vaughn Combo, John Eddie, Steel Breeze, the Monroes, Tommy TuTone, Richard Eberhard Young, Kris McKay(solo), the Wildseeds, Steve Pryor Band, to name a few.

Michael D.

mbwalker said...

Most original cover of Walk Away Renee is by Billy Bragg, guitar by Johnny Marr of the Smiths. Instrumental, with a spoken dialogue over the music. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Am9s85pfH8I