Many pub-rock bands of the early ’70s served as launching pads for English musicians whose fame and fortune increased enormously with the advent of new wave. Along with Ducks Deluxe, Brinsley Schwarz easily takes the cake as a hotbed of talents just waiting for the right moment to burst forth. Although largely unheralded (and commercially ignored) at the time, its five members — Nick Lowe, Ian Gomm, Brinsley Schwarz, Bob Andrews and Billy Rankin — have surely proven their skill and importance many times over since the band dissolved in 1975.
Lowe’s solo career and membership in Rockpile, not to mention his voluminous production credits, have made him a constant presence, a revered elder in the Church of Cool. Gomm’s solo albums are more in keeping with the Brinsleys’ laid-back, easy-listening countryfied pop. Confirmed sidemen Schwarz and Andrews both served in the Rumour (with and without Graham Parker) and have each produced and played alongside many other spotlight stars as well. Rankin played in a band called Tiger and has drummed on loads of records by likeminded rockers. (He and Schwarz also joined future Rumour member Martin Belmont in the last incarnation of Ducks Deluxe.)
The music on Brinsley Schwarz’s albums seems at once totally removed and perfectly in keeping with the individuals’ later escapades; little hints of the future keep cropping up amid the genial, American-flavored rock and mild pop. Dave Edmunds later recorded “Ju Ju Man” (a cover included on Silver Pistol) on Get It, backed by Lowe, Rankin and Andrews. The first appearance of Lowe’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” is on New Favourites; it’s since become a classic item in Elvis Costello’s repertoire. Lowe’s brush with American chart success, “Cruel to Be Kind,” was co-written with Gomm and doesn’t sound very different from some of the Brinsleys’ richer pop numbers. Much of the Rumour’s crisp Van Morrison swing is present in tracks like “Surrender to the Rhythm” (Nervous on the Road). You get the point.
In a nutshell, while some of the music on these albums is either dull or wimpy beyond belief — and check those embarrassing hippie pictures! — they contain enough wonderful stuff to make Brinsley Schwarz’s records well worth discovering. Of discographical interest: the first two LPs are also available as an American twin set (Brinsley Schwarz) released in 1978. Original Golden Greats and Fifteen Thoughts (kudos to the latter’s Maoist art direction) are compilations of tracks from the band’s entire career; there’s some duplication, but both have gems not otherwise found on any album. Brinsley Schwarz also contributed five cuts to the 1972 live compilation, Greasy Truckers Party.