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The Left Banke: Wikis


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The Left Banke
Genres Baroque Pop; Pop rock
Years active 1965-1970; 1972; 1978
Labels Smash Records
Mercury Records
Former members
Michael Brown
Steve Martin Caro
Tom Finn
George Cameron
Jeff Winfield (Deceased)
Rick Brand

The Left Banke was a 1960s American pop-music group best remembered for its two hit singles, "Walk Away Renée" and "Pretty Ballerina". The band often utilized what was referred to as "baroque" string arrangements, which led its music to be termed "Bach-rock". The band's use of harmonies saw it compared to contemporaries such as The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Zombies, and other British Invasion groups.[1] In 2004, Rolling Stone placed "Walk Away Renée" at number 220 in the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[2]



The group was formed in 1965 and consisted of keyboardist/songwriter Michael Brown, guitarist George Cameron, bassist Tom Finn, drummer Warren David and singer Steve Martin (aka 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, and acted as producer, manager, and publisher.[3] After some initial sessions, David was ousted, with Cameron switching to drums and Jeff Winfield eventually being brought in on guitar. Meanwhile, Brown's song, "Walk Away Renee," was sold to Smash Records, a subsidiary of Mercury Records, and became a hit in late 1966. "Pretty Ballerina," also written by Brown, charted in early 1967, and the Left Banke released an LP entitled, Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina, by which time, Rick Brand had replaced Winfield on guitar.

At this point, tension between Brown and the rest of the group began to surface, as Brown recorded a single, "Ivy, Ivy"/"And Suddenly" under the Left Banke name, using session musicians (including future member of Spinal Tap Michael McKean) and Bert Sommer on lead vocals. The remaining Left Banke members used their fan club to boycott the record, which led to confusion among radio stations over which "Left Banke" to support. Radio and Smash Records ultimately pulled their support from the single, which subsequently failed to even crack the Hot 100. ("And Suddenly" was eventually recorded by a group called the Cherry People and was a minor hit.)[4]

In late 1967, the group reunited and recorded more material, including the single "Desiree," which just slipped into the Hot 100. However, radio was still reluctant to plug the Left Banke after the controversy surrounding the previous single. Brown left the group for good soon afterwards, replaced for touring purposes by Emmett Lake. Cameron, Finn and Martin continued to record and tour, with Tom Feher replacing Lake on keyboard and writing half the band's new material. The songs cut by the various incarnations of the group in 1967-68 were assembled into a second LP, The Left Banke Too, which appeared in November 1968. The band tottered on as a live entity into 1969 (apparently now without Martin), but soon fell apart due to lack of success and money frustrations. Later that year, Brown and Martin reunited in the studio to cut yet another flop single as The Left Banke, Myrah b/w Pedestal, which would be their final single on Smash.

In the early 1970s, the group (Brown/Cameron/Finn/Martin) reunited briefly to record two songs for the movie, Hot Parts. The songs, "Love Songs in the Night" and "Two by Two," were credited to Steve Martin and released as a single on the Buddah Records label. In 1972, Producer Les Fradkin offered to produce the group for a project for Bell Records. Although these sessions went unreleased at the time, one of the songs, "I Could Make It Last Forever," composed by Fradkin and Diane Ellis, has recently been released on Fradkin's Goin' Back solo CD in 2006. It was a rare recording since it featured all the members of The Left Banke (Steve Martin Caro, Tom Finn, George Cameron and Michael Brown) along with violinist Harry Lookofsky. Fradkin sang and played 12-string guitar on the sessions. In the late 1970s, Martin reunited with George Cameron and Tom Finn to release the album Strangers on a Train (Released as Voices Calling in Europe). The album did little to restore the popularity of the group, despite the modest success of the single, "Queen Of Paradise".

After leaving the Left Banke in 1967, Mike Brown helped form the band, Montage. While Brown was not an official member of the group, his presence is unmistakable.[5] They released one self-titled album featuring a re-make of "Desiree," before Brown left. Brown's next project was the band, Stories, featuring singer Ian Lloyd. The band had a hit with 1973s "Brother Louie", which made #1 in the Billboard top 100 charts[6]. However, Brown had left the group prior to the success of "Brother Louie." Brown's next, and last band was The Beckies. Only modest success was achieved and Brown soon left.

In 1992, Mercury Records released a compilation CD of The Left Banke's complete recorded output, titled There's Gonna Be A Storm: The Complete Recordings 1966-1969, which was deleted and now commands high prices on Amazon (secondary sellers) and eBay. In 2001-2006, Brown did a series of recording sessions in his home studio with Ian Lloyd-(vocals) Tom Finn-(Bass/vocals) Jim McAllister-(guitar) and Jon Ihle-(Drums)

In 2005 Alice Cooper put a cover of Pretty Ballerina on his album Dirty Diamonds.

Original guitarist Jeff Winfield died of complications from pneumonia on June 11, 2009 at age 60.

Discography w/Billboard (BB) and Cashbox (CB) chart peak positions



  • 1966 - Walk Away Renee (BB #5, CB #2) / I Haven't Got The Nerve—Smash 2041
  • 1967 - Pretty Ballerina (BB #15, CB #12) / Lazy Day—Smash 2074
  • 1967 - Ivy, Ivy (BB #119) / And Suddenly—Smash 2089
  • 1967 - She May Call You Up Tonight (BB #120) / Barterers and Their Wives—Smash 2097
  • 1967 - Desiree (BB #98) / I've Got Something On My Mind—Smash 2119
  • 1968 - Dark Is The Bark / My Friend Today—Smash 2165
  • 1968 - Goodbye Holly / Sing, Little Bird, Sing—Smash 2198
  • 1969 - Bryant Hotel / Give The Man A Hand—Smash 2209
  • 1969 - Myrah / Pedestal—Smash 2243
  • 1978 - Queen Of Paradise / And One Day—Camerica 005


Recorded in 1978, but unreleased until eight years later
  • 1985 - History of The Left Banke — Rhino RNLP 123
  • 1992 - There's Gonna Be A Storm (CD compilation) — Mercury 848095

External links


  1. ^ allmusic ((( The Left Banke > Biography )))
  2. ^ The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time : Rolling Stone
  3. ^ allmusic ((( Stories > Overview )))
  4. ^ allmusic
  5. ^ allmusic ((( Montage > Overview )))
  6. ^ allmusic ((( Stories > Overview )))


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