The Left Banke
|The Left Banke|
Tom Finn (left) and George Cameron (far right) posing with fans (center) during their 2012 reunion tour.
|Origin||New York City, New York, US|
|Years active||1965–1969, 1971, 1978, 2011–2012|
|Associated acts||Christopher & The Chaps
The Magic Plants, Montage
|Past members||Tom Finn
Steve Martin Caro
The Left Banke is an American baroque pop band that formed in New York City in 1965, disbanded in 1969, and reformed in 2011. They are best remembered for their two US hit singles, "Walk Away Renée" and "Pretty Ballerina". The band often utilized what the music press referred to as "baroque" string arrangements, which led to their music being variously termed as "Bach-rock", "baroque rock", or "baroque 'n' roll". The band's vocal harmonies borrowed from contemporaries such as The Beatles, The Zombies, and other British Invasion groups.
The Left Banke was formed in 1965 and consisted of keyboard player/songwriter Michael Brown, guitarist George Cameron, bass guitarist Tom Finn, drummer Warren David-Schierhorst, and singer Steve Martin (who also used the name Steve Martin Caro). Brown's father, Harry Lookofsky, a well-known session violinist, ran a studio in New York and took an interest in the band's music, acting as producer, manager and publisher. After some initial recording sessions, David-Schierhorst was ousted, with Cameron switching to drums and Jeff Winfield on guitar. Brown's song, "Walk Away Renee", was sold to Smash Records, a subsidiary of Mercury Records, and became a huge hit in late 1966. The band's second single, "Pretty Ballerina", also written by Brown, charted in early 1967, and The Left Banke released an album entitled Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina, by which time, Rick Brand had replaced Winfield on guitar.
Tension between Brown and the rest of the band began to surface, as Brown recorded a single, "Ivy, Ivy" b/w "And Suddenly" as The Left Banke, using session musicians, including (future member of Spinal Tap) Michael McKean and Bert Sommer on lead vocals. The remaining members of the band hired attorneys to issue a cease and desist order and urged their fan club to boycott the record, which led to confusion among radio stations over which "The Left Banke" to support. Radio and Smash Records ultimately removed their support from the single, which subsequently failed to make the Billboard Hot 100. "And Suddenly" was eventually recorded by a group called The Cherry People and became a minor hit.
In late 1967, the group reunited and recorded more material, including the single "Desiree", which peaked at #98 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, many radio stations were still reluctant to plug The Left Banke after the controversy surrounding their previous single. Brown left the group permanently shortly thereafter and was replaced for touring purposes by Emmett Lake. Cameron, Finn and Martin continued to record and tour, with Tom Feher replacing Lake on keyboards and writing half of the band's new material. The songs recorded by various incarnations of the group in 1967 and 1968 were assembled into a second LP, The Left Banke Too, which was released in November 1968. This album featured backing vocals by a young Steven Tyler (who later became the lead singer of Aerosmith) on "Nice To See You", "My Friend Today" and "Dark Is The Bark". The band continued playing live in 1969, without Martin, but soon disbanded due to lack of success and financial problems. Later that same year, Brown and Martin reunited in the studio to record another single as The Left Banke; "Myrah" b/w "Pedestal", was their final single for Smash Records.
In 1971, Brown, Cameron, Finn and Martin reunited briefly to record two songs for the movie Hot Parts. The songs, "Love Songs in the Night" and "Two by Two", were released as a Steve Martin solo single on Buddah Records, despite featuring contributions from four founding members of The Left Banke. In 1972, producer Les Fradkin offered to produce the group for a project on Bell Records. Although these sessions were not released at the time, one of the songs, "I Could Make It Last Forever", composed by Fradkin and Diane Ellis, was released on Fradkin's Goin' Back solo CD in 2006. It was a rare recording since it featured Caro, Finn, Cameron and Brown, along with Brown's father, violinist Harry Lookofsky. Fradkin sang and played 12-string guitar on the sessions. In 1978, Martin, Cameron and Finn reunited as The Left Banke to record an album's worth of material which unfortunately was not released at the time. However, a single from these 1978 sessions, "Queen of Paradise" (b/w "And One Day"), was released in late 1978 with modest success. The album was eventually issued by Relix Records in 1986 under the title Strangers on a Train (Voices Calling in Europe). However, the album did little to restore the popularity of the group.
After leaving The Left Banke in 1967, Michael Brown helped form the band, Montage. Although Brown was never an official member of Montage, his presence is unmistakable in its music. The band released one self-titled album in 1969, which included a re-recording of The Left Banke song "Desiree", before Brown left. Brown's next project was the band Stories, featuring singer Ian Lloyd. The band had a hit in 1973 with "Brother Louie", which reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. However, Brown had left the group before the success of "Brother Louie". Brown's next project was with The Beckies, although the band achieved only modest success and Brown soon left.
In 1992, Mercury Records released a Left Banke compilation titled There's Gonna Be a Storm: The Complete Recordings 1966–1969. It was intended to bring together the band's entire recorded output from the years 1966 to 1969, although a 1969 outtake titled "Foggy Waterfall", which had previously appeared on two earlier compilations, was not included. The album was deleted soon after its initial release and now commands high prices on used CD websites like Musicstack and eBay.
In 1994, Michael Brown and his wife Yvonne Vitale produced and released an album titled On This Moment. Between 2001 and 2006, Brown hosted a series of recording sessions at his home studio with Ian Lloyd (vocals), Tom Finn (bass guitar/vocals), Jim McAllister (guitar), and Jon Ihle (drums).
In 2005, Alice Cooper included a cover version of "Pretty Ballerina" on his album Dirty Diamonds. In 2006, ex-member of The Bangles Susanna Hoffs and Matthew Sweet, as Sid 'n' Susie, covered "She May Call You Up Tonight" for their first album Under the Covers, Vol. 1. In addition, Stuart Murdoch of the band Belle & Sebastian has cited The Left Banke as one of the early influences on the sound of the band.
Former guitarist Jeff Winfield died of complications from pneumonia on June 13, 2009, at age 60.
Original members Tom Finn and George Cameron reformed The Left Banke in March 2011, tapping New York City's Mike Fornatale (already a veteran of numerous other 60s band reunions, including The Monks and Moby Grape) to sing lead vocals in Steve Martin Caro's stead. The reunited group also featured new players: Paul Alves (lead guitar, backing vocals), Charly Cazalet (bass), Mickey Finn (keyboards), Rick Reil (drums, percussion, backing vocals) and second keyboardist/synth player Joe McGinty (replaced by John Spurney in 2012). They appeared live at Joe's Pub in New York City on March 5, 2011, and March 6, 2011, to sold-out audiences. In April 2011, Tom Finn revealed in a Facebook posting that he had reformed the group, with two shows planned for July in New York City.
In early 2011, Sundazed announced that they had arranged to reissue the two Smash vinyl albums on CD. Apparently, there will not be any of the singles-only tracks included.
In February 2012 Tom Finn notified the YouTube community that the Left Banke were in the process of creating a new record featuring contributions from co-founder Michael Brown.
On April 29, 2012, Brown joined the reunited Left Banke on stage at B.B. King's in New York City for a version of his "Pretty Ballerina." His performance was greeted with a standing ovation. Rick Brand, guitarist with the band in 1966-67 was also in attendance. Tom Finn sang a newly written song called "City Life" which showed a heavier rock version of the Left Banke with baroque string section intact.
On most of their reunion dates, the group was joined onstage by a two or three-piece string section and even a guest oboe player for one or two shows.
- Tom Finn — bass, guitar, backing vocals; lead vocals (1965–1969; 1971; 1978; 2011)
- George Cameron — drums, percussion, backing vocals; lead vocals, guitar (1965–1969; 1971; 1978; 2011)
- Steve Martin Caro — lead vocals; drums (on "Goodbye Holly"), tambourine (on "Nice To See You"), bass (on "Bryant Hotel"), guitar (1965–1969; 1971; 1978)
- Michael Brown — piano, harpsichord, Clavinet, organ; lead vocals (on "What Do You Know") (1965–1967; 1969, 1971, 1978)
- Warren David-Schierhorst — drums (1965–1966)
- Jeff Winfield — guitar (1966)
- Rick Brand — guitar, banjo (1966-1967)
- Bert Sommer — lead vocals, guitar (on "Ivy, Ivy", "And Suddenly" & "Men Are Building Sand") (1967)
- Michael McKean — guitar (on "Ivy, Ivy", "And Suddenly" & "Men Are Building Sand") (1967)
- Tom Feher — piano; guitar (on "Sing Little Bird" & "Bryant Hotel") (1968-1969)
- Mike Fornatale — lead vocals (2011-present)
- Paul Alves — guitar (2011-present)
- Charly Cazalet — bass (2011-present)
- Mickey Finn — keyboards (2011-present)
- Rick Reil — drums, percussion, backing vocals (2011-present)
- Joe McGinty - keyboards, synthesizers (2011)
- John Spurney - keyboards, synthesizers (2012)
- Touring musicians
- Emmett Lake — keyboards (1967)
- Tim Hayden — guitar (1968-1969)
|U.S. 200||Cash Box|
|February 1967||Walk Away Renée/Pretty Ballerina||67||59|
|November 1968||The Left Banke Too||—||—|
|March 1986||Strangers on a Train (aka Voices Calling)||—||—|
|"—" denotes release did not chart or become certified.|
- 1982 - And Suddenly It's...The Left Banke (Bam-Caruso KIRI 021)
- 1985 - History of The Left Banke (Rhino RNLP 123)
- 1986 - Walk Away Renée [mini-album] (Bam-Caruso PABL036)
- 1988 - And Finally It's...The Left Banke (Bam-Caruso KIRI 021 CD) — Features a different track listing to the 1982 compilation.
- 1992 - There's Gonna Be a Storm: The Complete Recordings 1966–1969 (Mercury 848095)
- 1983 - Walk Away Renee (Bam-Caruso NRIC022)
|Billboard||Cash Box||RPM Magazine|
|July 1966||"Walk Away Renée" b/w "I Haven't Got the Nerve" (Smash 2041)||5||2||3|
|December 1966||"Pretty Ballerina" b/w "Lazy Day" (Smash 2074)||15||12||4|
|March 1967||"Ivy Ivy" b/w "And Suddenly" (Smash 2089)||119||—|
|May 1967||"She May Call You Up Tonight" b/w "Barterers and Their Wives" (Smash 2097)||120||—|
|June 1967||"Desiree" b/w "I've Got Something on My Mind" (Smash 2119)||98||—|
|June 1968||"Dark is the Bark" b/w "My Friend Today" (Smash 2165)||—||—|
|November 1968||"Goodbye Holly" b/w "Sing Little Bird Sing" (Smash 2198)||—||—|
|February 1969||"Bryant Hotel" b/w "Give the Man a Hand" (Smash 2209)||—||—|
|May 1969||"Nice to See You" b/w "There's Gonna Be a Storm" (Smash 2226)||—||—|
|November 1969||"Myrah" b/w "Pedestal" (Smash 2243)||—||—|
|1970||"Walk Away Renée" b/w "Pretty Ballerina" (Smash S 1416)||—||—|
|March 1971||"Love Songs in the Night" b/w "Two By Two" (Buddah 219) †||—||—|
|1978||"Queen of Paradise" b/w "And One Day" (Camerica CS 0005)||—||—|
|"—" denotes release did not chart or become certified.|
|"†" denotes release is credited to Steve Martin.|
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