The Beau Brummels: Beau Brummels 66

Two new releases -- a reissue of the Beau Brummels' third LP and a compilation of Nina Simone's pop flirtations -- spotlight great performers turning in sub-par covers of '60s pop.

The Beau Brummels

Beau Brummels '66

Label: Collector's Choice
First date: 1966-07-01
US Release Date: 2007-07-17
UK Release Date: Available as import

Nina Simone

Just Like a Woman

Subtitle: Nina Simone Sings Classic Songs of the '60s
Label: Legacy
US Release Date: 2007-05-22
UK Release Date: Available as import

The Beau Brummels' third album, Beau Brummels '66, was a fairly innocuous collection of contemporary folk-rock covers when it was first released a little over 40 years ago, and time hasn't revised that assessment. If anything, the record is even more of an unnecessary specimen now than ever before, because in 2007 there's hardly a need for by-the-book carbon copies of familiar pop hits of decades past, not to mention from a perspective that lacks the benefit of hindsight.

At the time, the Brummels, an up-and-coming San Francisco band with a few hits under their belt ("Laugh, Laugh" and "Just a Little", both of them produced by a fellow Bay Area musician, Sly Stone), had recently seen their contract with Autumn Records, a financially-troubled independent, bought out by Warner Bros. Eager to get a major-label debut on the street, Warner Bros. pushed for the all-covers concept, especially since some of the songs included had already been recorded. The song choice was a fairly routine overview of modern British and American fare: the Beatles ("You've Got to Hide Your Love Away", "Yesterday"), Bob Dylan ("Mr. Tambourine Man"), the Rolling Stones ("Play with Fire"), some garage-rock hootenannies ("Louie, Louie", "Hang on Sloopy") and other random picks from the mid-'60s ether (Herman's Hermits' "Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter", Simon & Garfunkel's "Homeward Bound", Lee Hazlewood's "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'").

A few songs work surprisingly well, given the circumstances: Sonny Bono's "Bang Bang" is rendered wiry and nervous, and "Play with Fire" is perhaps even eerier than the Stones' original. For the most part, Beau Brummels '66 pointlessly spins the talents of the band -- notably guitarist/songwriter Ron Elliott and singer Sal Valentino -- like wheels in mud. It stinks of a quick fix, and furthermore, may have been somewhat to blame for the stall in the Brummels' once-promising career, which fizzled out a few years later -- what could be a more inappropriate release at a moment of commercial truth than this?

Nina Simone, on the other hand, was no stranger to cover songs, and she exhibited a masterful interpretative streak in the halls of jazz, pop, and soul alike. A new compilation of '60s pop covers by Simone, Just Like a Woman: Nina Simone Sings Classic Songs of the '60s, finds her covering ground similar to that of Beau Brummels '66: Dylan is well represented ("I Shall Be Released", "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues", the title track) and the Beatles get a nod with "Here Comes the Sun". But Simone favored the poetic, so garage rock and one-off pop fascinations are replaced by songs like Randy Newman's biting "I Think It's Going to Rain Today" and Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne".

Different people gravitate to different periods of Simone's eclectic career, from her years at Bethlehem and Candix to Philips and RCA, but not many choose her dissection of '60s pop as her best. For one thing, there's a pretty significant gap between Simone's nuanced sensibility and the varying cultural significances of the material, and her performances do little to bridge that gap. Her delivery on "I Think It's Going to Rain Today" is a little too theatrical, her arrangement of "Here Comes the Sun" a bit too soft-lensed, and though she brings dancing melody to "Suzanne", the buoyancy fights against the torrent of lyrics. She does, however, nail "House of the Rising Sun", a traditional made famous by the Animals, by hotwiring it as a gospelized blues tune; and she approaches "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" with a surprising tenderness that even Dylan himself could not find.

Simone reserved her greatest respect for Dylan, and it shows in the diversity of his material that she covered (she sang more of his songs than what's here, including "The Ballad of Hollis Brown" and "The Times They Are A-Changing'"). She wasn't always on target with her picks -- "Just Like a Woman" is all fluff and no bite, and "I Shall Be Released" comes off as a sub-par Band imitation -- but she sang for love of the song, not to simply assimilate with a younger crowd that she didn't otherwise understand. Still, Just Like a Woman is far from Simone's finest hour of interpretation. Makes you wonder if maybe she and the Beau Brummels were both taking advice from the same misinformed seer.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.