Brinsley Schwarz were a 1970s English pub rock band, named after their guitarist Brinsley Schwarz. With Nick Lowe on bass and vocals, keyboardist Bob Andrews and drummer Billy Rankin, the band evolved from the 1960s pop band Kippington Lodge. They were later augmented by Ian Gomm on guitar and vocals.
Nick Lowe (bass, guitars, vocals) and Brinsley Schwarz (guitar, piano, vocals) originally met at Woodbridge School where they played in school bands with Barry Landerman (keyboards, vocals) and Phil Hall (guitar). In 1964, whilst still at school, they toured RAF bases in Germany as "Sounds 4+1". On leaving school, Schwarz formed "Three's A Crowd" with Pete Whale (drums) and Dave Cottam (bass). Landerman joined in 1967 and they renamed themselves "Kippington Lodge". Their first two singles, produced by Mark Wirtz, in a close-harmony pop style, both flopped. Cottam left, and Schwarz invited Lowe to join. Landerman then left to join Vanity Fare, Bob Andrews joined on keyboards, and finally, Whale was replaced by Billy Rankin on drums. Although the next three singles also failed, they had a residency as support band at The Marquee. The band's style was changing from pop into "a folk-rock band with psychedelic pretentions". In 1969 they renamed the band after their guitarist, and performed their new music under this name, whilst continuing to play pop as Kippington Lodge. One of the band's first managers, John Schofield, was at the time the lover of Hattie Jacques (who would occasionally make bacon sandwiches for the band members when they visited Schofield's home). In the early part of their career the band shared a communal home in a large old house in Beaconsfield and these premises were used as a rehearsal space by The Band, who came to the UK as part of the Warner Brothers tour. The Band borrowed Brinsley Schwarz's instruments to rehearse.
Brinsley Schwarz signed a contract with manager Dave Robinson, of Famepushers, who devised a plan to earn the band extensive publicity. They were to open for Van Morrison and Quicksilver Messenger Service at the Fillmore East in New York City, on 3 and 4 April 1970. Robinson would fly a plane full of British journalists to the show, so they could review it, along with the winners of a Melody Maker competition, arranged in order to get pre-publicity. Though the band had planned on leaving a few days early, so they could rehearse, visa problems prevented this, so they went to Canada and entered the US in a light aircraft. They arrived in New York shortly before they were due on stage, and had to use hired equipment with which they were unfamiliar. The journalists were due the following day, but their plane was delayed for four hours, so they had free use of the bar, and eventually arrived at the show either drunk or hung over. The show did not go over well, and the band received a flood of negative reviews over the following weeks, including bad reviews of their eponymous first album, Brinsley Schwarz which was released shortly after their return to the United Kingdom. This incident became known as the Brinsley Schwarz Hype.
Casey Kasem's version of this story, in a September 1979 episode of American Top Forty, implied that the presence of the critics was a surprise to the band.
Later in 1970, Brinsley Schwarz released their second album, Despite It All, which had a definite country sound to it. They were heavily influenced by Eggs over Easy, who they first saw perform at 'The Tally Ho' in Kentish Town, and admired their laid-back style and extensive repertoire. In 1971, guitarist Ian Gomm joined the band, and they recorded their third album Silver Pistol. In response to "the hype", they became anti-commercial and spent much of 1971 rehearsing, although they toured on the Downhome Rhythm Kings package with Help Yourself & Ernie Graham (ex Eire Apparent), who were all managed by Dave Robinson. This led to them backing Ernie Graham on his eponymous solo album.
Brinsley Schwarz played at the second Glastonbury Festival (1971), and one track, "Love Song", appeared on the subsequent Glastonbury Fayre album. Their solid live performances soon garnered the band a large fanbase in London, and, along with bands like Eggs over Easy, Brinsley Schwarz were soon dubbed "pub rock" by rock journalists. They sounded rather like The Band, with Schwarz's guitar work influenced greatly by Robbie Robertson's. In February 1972 they supported Hawkwind and Man at the Greasy Truckers Party, which was issued as a double album, and brought critical acclaim. Unfortunately, for a band known for its live performances, this was their only live album.
1972's ironic take on country-rock, Nervous on the Road, also received excellent reviews. It did not reach the charts, but earned them a UK tour, opening for Paul McCartney's Wings. The same year, they also acted as Frankie Miller's band for his debut album Once in a Blue Moon. Their fifth studio album Please Don't Ever Change, issued in 1973, was less well received by the critics, and achieved poor sales. However during this time they made successful appearances on The Old Grey Whistle Test with Lowe on guitar and vocals, Gomm on bass and Schwarz on piano alongside Andrews on keyboard and recorded sessions for John Peel's BBC Radio 1 show. In 1974 they arranged for Dave Edmunds to produce their sixth album The New Favourites of... Brinsley Schwarz which was more polished, and again received good reviews. This association also led to their touring as Dave Edmunds' backing band, appearing on the live tracks of his Subtle as a Flying Mallet album. In addition to the albums, Brinsley Schwarz also issued a series of singles under their own name, and various pseudonyms, such as "The Hitters", "The Knees", "Limelight" and "The Brinsleys" but these all failed. They finally disbanded in 1975.
Schwarz and Andrews joined Graham Parker & the Rumour; later Andrews moved to New Orleans. He now plays in Dos Jefe's Uptown Cigar Bar and has a web page: www.neworleanspiano.com.
Rankin joined Terraplane and then Big Jim Sullivan's Tiger.
Nick Lowe, along with Dave Edmunds, recorded four albums as Rockpile, though only one (Seconds of Pleasure) was released under the Rockpile banner. Two other albums (Tracks on Wax 4 and Repeat When Necessary) were released as Dave Edmunds solo albums, and one more (Labour of Lust) was released as a Nick Lowe solo album.
Lowe and Gomm both began solo careers, achieving moderate mainstream success. Lowe's 1978 album Jesus of Cool received considerable critical acclaim and reached number 22 in the UK albums chart. It included the track "I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass", which reached number 7 in the UK singles chart. The album also included Bob Andrews on keyboard and Dave Edmunds on guitar. He also co-wrote Dr. Feelgood's top ten hit "Milk and Alcohol", which reached number 9 in 1979. Lowe's (1980) single and biggest worldwide hit "Cruel to Be Kind" was co-written with Gomm and originally recorded by Brinsley Schwarz for their unreleased final album. This version was included on the 2008 30th anniversary edition of the Jesus of Cool album. In 1979 Gomm had a hit with "Hold On", which reached number 18 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The original version of "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding", which written by Lowe and later would become a hit for Elvis Costello, was released by the band in 1974 on their album The New Favourites of... Brinsley Schwarz. Another rendition was featured on the multi-million-selling film soundtrack The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album, as performed by Curtis Stigers.