Say It's Your Birthday: Brinsley Schwarz's Billy Rankin

April 25 is the birthday of Billy Rankin of Brinsley Schwarz. One of

England's best and most important band of the early '70s. They began

with a Byrds-fixated sound, which developed into a distinctive

laid-back rock that derived equally from county R&B, and rock. Bassist

and vocalist Nick Lowe became a first rate songwriter during his

tenure in the band, capable of gorgeous ballads, and witty melodic pop

songs. They convinced the owner of a pub called Tally Ho, to let them

play there, and after becoming the house band, they branched out, and

persuaded many other pub owners to open their doors for the band.

Soon, they gained a devoted following. Within a year, they got their

first major exposure opening up for the Wings' first British Tour.

Numerous other bands began playing the same club circuit as the

Brinsleys had, including Dr. Feelgood­­the very same venues where punk

rock was born several years later. Without Brinsley Schwarz, the punk

rock movement would have been very different. At the time when rock

and roll was overwhelmingly pompous, the Brinsleys were modest and

unpretentious. They played relaxed, rootsy music, and they proved to

English pub owners that it was profitable to book left of center acts.

Without this precedent, the punks would have had nowhere to play.

After releasing six albums the band split up in 1975. Guitarist

Brinsley Schwarz and keyboardist Bob Andrews became members of Graham

Parker's backing band, the Rumour. It is also the birthday of Andy

Bell (Erasure), Bjorn Ulvaeus (ABBA), Albert King, and Ella

Fitzgerald.