Walk Away Renée
|"Walk Away Renée"|
|Single by The Left Banke|
|from the album Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina|
|B-side||I Haven't Got the Nerve|
|Genre||Pop rock, Baroque pop|
|Writer(s)||Michael Brown, Bob Calilli, Tony Sansone|
|The Left Banke singles chronology|
"Walk Away Renée" is a song recorded by the band The Left Banke in 1966 (single release: July 1966, Smash Records, title printed as "Walk Away Renee"), sung by the group's then 16-year-old keyboard player Michael Brown (real name Michael Lookofsky) and Tony Sansone and Bob Calilli. The song was also a chart hit for the Motown group the Four Tops in 1968.
The song features a flute solo played during the instrumental bridge of the middle portion of the song. Michael Brown got the idea for the flute solo from The Mamas & the Papas song "California Dreamin'" which had been recorded in November 1965 but wasn't a hit and in heavy rotation until early 1966. The arrangement also includes a lush string orchestration, a memorable harpsichord part, and a descending chromatic bass melody which led critics to refer to the group's sound as Baroque pop, "Bach-Rock" or Baroque n Roll.
Rolling Stone placed the song at number 220 in the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. After its initial release, it spent 13 weeks on the charts with a top spot at #5. It has been widely recorded by singers in a wide range of genres and styles, often with great success. For example, Linda Ronstadt and Ann Savoy recently recorded the song on their album Adieu False Heart. The New York Times' reviewer Jon Pareles stated of their version that:
- “ Their spare reading of the Left Banke's 1965 hit "Walk Away Renee" brings the lyric's ache into full relief, and allows Ronstadt a brief return to the pop-rock milieu from which she emerged ”
The real Renée
There is some confusion over the original author of "Walk Away Renée." One source says that the lyrics to "Walk Away Renée" were originally written by Richard Swank, then of Lufkin, Texas.19 Swank co-founded a small, unsuccessful band with his surfing buddy, Jerry, in the 1960s. Together, they played occasional gigs at pool halls near the Lufkin, Texas area (then part of a dry county, causing its inhabitants to visit neighboring counties for adult beverage and entertainment). While playing pool one Friday night, Jerry invited his friend, John Frank Wilson, also a Lufkin native and lead vocalist of The Cavaliers, whose first hit was "Last Kiss." Wilson had attended a prior gig and overheard Swank singing a song about Renee, his former girlfriend who had severed relations shortly before. Swank and Wilson struck up a conversation over drinks, and Wilson asked about the lyrics, saying he knew someone who could make the songs hits. Swank and Wilson subsequently met at the River Pool Club, where Swank wrote down the lyrics and gave them to Wilson. It was through Wilson that The Left Banke obtained Swank's lyrics to the song, "Walk Away Renée." After separating with Swank, Renée went on as a music major at Temple University, spent a couple years traveling in Europe, married another singer, and now resides near Los Angeles, California, where she works as a paralegal at a law firm and doubles as the occasional opera singer.
Another source says the song is one of a number Brown wrote about Renée Fladen-Kamm, then-girlfriend of The Left Banke's bassist Tom Finn and object of Brown's affection. She was associated with the band for a few weeks, and described as a free-spirited and tall blonde. The song was written one month after Brown met her. "Walk Away Renee" was one of a series of love songs the infatuated Brown wrote after meeting his newfound muse. Other songs written about her include the band's second hit "Pretty Ballerina" and "She May Call You Up Tonight". After decades of obscurity, she was identified in 2001 as a noted singer, vocal teacher and artist on the West Coast.
Brown says of his unrequited love for Renée:
- "I was just sort of mythologically in love, if you know what I mean, without having evidence in fact or in deed...But I was as close as anybody could be to the real thing"
Fladen-Kamm was looking on during the recording of the song, and her presence nearly prevented its completion. In an interview, Brown stated:
- "My hands were shaking when I tried to play, because she was right there in the control room," he says. "There was no way I could do it with her around, so I came back and did it later."
However, co-author Tony Sansone has given a different version of the origin of the song. Sansone has stated in interviews that he wrote the lyrics for the song, and that he randomly chose the name Renee because the Beatles used the name Michelle in their hit song of the same name, and so he did likewise, choosing the French name Renee as the female object for the song. 
- Drums: Al Rogers
- Bass: John Abbott
- Guitar: George (Fluffer) Hirsh
- Harpsichord: Mike Brown
- Strings: Harry Lookofsky & Friends
- Flute: unknown session musician
- Arranger: John Abbott
- Lead Vocal: Steve Martin Caro
- Backing Vocals: George Cameron & Tom Finn
- Engineer: Steve Jerome
- Studio: World United NYC
- Date: early (1966)
- Produced By Harry Lookofsky, Steve Jerome, Bill Jerome
The Four Tops' recording of the song was featured on their 1967 album Reach Out and is arguably the most famous cover version of the song, having reached #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #3 on the UK Singles Chart in 1968.
- Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 37 – The Rubberization of Soul: The great pop music renaissance. [Part 3] : UNT Digital Library" (audio). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu. Retrieved 2011-04-29.
- "Four Tops charts". officialcharts.com. Retrieved 2014-03-16.
- "California Dreamin', Present at the Creation". NPR. Retrieved 2011-04-29.
- Roger Bourland (July 15, 2006). The Left Banke: Walk Away Renee. rogerbourland.com
- I'VE GOT SOMETHING ON MY MIND: LEFT BANKE. urbanhonking.com (June 6, 2004). Accessed may 6, 2008
- The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time : Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 2013-01-16.
- Walk Away Renee. Rolling Stone (December 9, 2004)
- NEW YORK TIMES Review by Jon Pareles posted on Ann Savoy's Official Website
- Walk Away Renee from leftbanke.nu
- Dave Simons Studio Stories: How The Great New York Records Were Made : From Miles To Madonna, Sinatra To The Ramones Page 168 Backbeat Books, 2004 ISBN 0-87930-817-6
- Renee’s Still Walking Away, 40 Years On by John Stodder Sunday, July 30, 2006 from the Blog From the Desert to the Sea… Accessed August 28, 2008
- Mary Devlin Medieval Music, Magical Minds 2001 Page 21 "Renée Fladen-Kamm, my longtime vocal coach and vocal director of the Sherwood Consort, is a highly trained and skilled light lyric soprano, who has performed not only early music but opera as well—most often Mozart, who was partial to the ..."
- The Left Banke from ClassicBands.Com Biographies of your favourite classic rock bands. Accessed May 6, 2008
- Tony Sansone from Youtube interview Published on September 23, 2012
- Session Notes For Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina LP From Leftbanke.nu
- Studwell, William E.; Lonergan, David (1999). The Classic Rock and Roll Reader: Rock Music from Its Beginnings to the Mid-1970s. Routledge. p. 148. ISBN 0-7890-0151-9.
- Whitburn, Joel. (2008). Top Pop Singles 1955–2006. Record Research Inc. p. 317. ISBN 0-89820-172-1.
- Brown, Tony.; Warwick, Neil (2004). The Complete Book of the British Charts. Omnibus Press. p. 426. ISBN 1-84449-058-0.
19. Swank, Richard F. (2014, March 25). Personal interview.
- Walk Away Renee – Left Banke Machinima Video
- Information on Billy Bragg's cover version (Includes possible picture of Renee Fladen?)
- Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics