Wednesday, November 5, 2014

New York Spotlight: The Left Banke - She May Call You Up Tonight and Barterers and Their Wives

We are back after a couple of days off with more garage rock from the Empire State. Today we take a classical turn with The Left Banke. The Left Banke are one of those bands that lived largely in the studio. The band was Michael Brown on keyboards, Tom Finn on bass, Steve Martin on vocals, George Cameron on guitar and Warren David-Schierhorst on drums. Michael Brown's father was an established symphony violinist and he was instrumental in producing and managing his son's band. So it was, the Left Banke went straight from rehearsals to the studio.

Considering the father who was mentoring the band, it is not surprising that the band's first song was a string laden number with violin at the fore. That number, Walk Away Renee, turned into something of a hit for the music collective in the Summer of 1966. The number was co-written by the band's bard, Michael Brown, who also composed the band's wonderful follow-up hit that same year, the symphonically arranged, Pretty Ballerina. Then the management got cocky. Did they really need the band? The third single, released in the Winter of 1967 only featured Michael Brown who co-wrote both numbers with professional songwriters. Steve Martin's delicate, stuffy-nose styled vocal lead would be replaced with a falsetto vocal by Bert Sommer. Occasional On The Flip-Side visitor and comment-maker, Michael McKean (Best In Show, Spinal Tap, Laverne and Shirley) would serve as the guitarist for both tracks. The "Left Banke" sounded nothing like the previous two singles and deservedly flopped. The other four members of The Left Banke went into revolt filing suit against Smash Records, Michael Brown and his father.

Smash Records got jittery and withdrew that ill-fated single and instead released a single taken from the band's album. That fourth single, released in June of 1967, is what we feature today. She May Call You Up Tonight/Barterers And Their Wives. The A-Side was composed by Michael Brown and singer, Steve Martin (left and second from left in the photo below). It follows the time-tested Left Banke theme of a love triangle (Renee, the ballerina was a real person and was dating another member of the band). But the number doesn't have the strings of the previous hits. It was supposed to have them, but time was tight and the number was finished without them.  The Flip-Side, the quizzical, Barters And Their Wives, is composed by Brown and a professional songwriter. It's a beautiful number that plays up the band's baroque style nicely.

We're lifting a cool photo from the cool folk at Nitro-Retro Blog.
Until next time, we'll see you On The Flip-Side!


  1. I bought this single in one of those 10-for-$1 bundles at F.W. Woolworths. I think this was their strongest single to date and still don't understand while it failed to chart. It's also unfortunate that this great band recorded just two albums and that there are so few photographs of the Banke.

    1. I agree with you, Jack. This is my fave of the lot. And I agree, it's a shame they didn't linger longer on the scene. The Brown/Martin combo was solid to the core.