Monday, January 13, 2020

"(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding" / Brinsley Schwarz

Shopping in Trader Joe's yesterday, I wasn't paying much attention to the muzak. Why should I? And when this song came on, I immediately assumed it was Elvis Costello's cover of this Nick-Lowe-penned tune on Elvis' 1979 album Armed Forces. After all, that's the version most people know.

But no, as I pushed my cart around, listening intently, it was clearly not Elvis singing. The tempo was a tick slower, the guitars a tad twangier. And listening to the phrasing and intonations, I was more and more certain: This was the Brinsleys' 1974 version.

I'm willing to bet that I was the only person in that crowded Trader Joe's who could tell the difference, or who cared. And, PS, I completely forget to get the avocados I meant to buy, I was so transported.

Quite possibly the muzak provider opted for the Brinsleys' version because it was cheaper. By the time Elvis covered this song, the Brinsleys were on their last legs, and anyway the band had never thought much of this number. (To be honest, Nick Lowe himself thought of it as a throwaway satire on hippie culture.) But EC's resurrection of the song proved prescient, and in the decades since then, the song has shown surprising legs as an anti-war anthem.

And -- in the who-laughs-last category -- Curtis Stigers' 1992 cover of this song for the movie The Bodyguard earned so many $$$ in royalties, Nick Lowe could go ahead and make any number of gorgeous albums he might not otherwise have made.

For this alone I am grateful.

So where are the strong? And who are the trusted? And where is the harmony (sweet harmony)?

Right here, my brothers and sisters...


Tim Bryant said...

Hi Holly -

Man, I had a hard time figuring out how to comment, but here I am. I never heard these fellas do anything before, but their sound must be an acquired taste (I thought they sounded real thin, and if they ever go on the road they need to practice that choreography and the drummer needs to cover his beer belly - wear a dashiki or something. LOL. But the song itself is good - was it the Chambers Bros who did it originally - oh, I see Nick Lowe. It sounds like the Chambers Bros. Oh hey, they did a version too. No wait - that was Love Peace & Happiness, no What's So Funny About? Yeah, it ain't too bad. The lyrics are good too. Holy cow - the thing is 16 minutes long!


Anyway, you have a nice blog - I like it - and it's just like the everyday adventures I have: go to the pool and they have some Led Zeppelin playing and I just sing along with it, even if there are no lyrics and you just go "Blare Blare Blare and Blang!" That's they way ta go. Speaking of that, I went camping near Steamboat Springs in Colorado in the early 70s and my friend Jack and I played all of Tommy on air guitar and singing the Blare Blare Blare Blang parts too. But that is another story.

Perhaps you might like one of my old stories. I really need to clean up my blog in case anybody reads anything. There's some inappropriate stuff on there,but you might like this one:

Keep on blogging! and have a great day always.


Holly A Hughes said...

Thanks, Tim! I'll check out your stuff. Funny you should say that about Brinsley Schwarz going on the road, as they famously had a complete meltdown in New York in 1970, their first attempt at big-scale touring -- their main success was in the North London pub rock scene in the early 70s. That raggedness was part of what was most endearing about them. That Chambers Brothers song is something else, and no surprise it goes on for 16 minutes -- the Chambers Brothers never did anything short and tight, did they?

Luis said...

You where transported, because it is transporting. Probably is my favorite version. Young Nick...Probably never heard a song live so many times, putting together Nicks and Elvis's shows. Every single time they've finished with It.

Luis said...

Searching for light in the darkness of insanity

george herman said...

My favorite version is from Elvis' Spectacle where Pete Thomas' daughter, Tennessee, doubles with Pete on drums mirroring his every beat identically.
It also has Jakob Dylan, Zooey Deschanel and Jenny Lewis joining in, but Tennessee aces this version.

Dave K. said...

Love this song and this version. Way back in the day, I picked up whatever Brinsley Schwarz albums I could find (a total of two-one was Silver Pistol and can't remember the other one) and I thought they were great. But I don't think this song was on either of those albums. I remember reading that Nick intended this song to be a tongue in cheek poke at self-righteous hippies. For as long as I can remember, Nick has been singing a very sincere version without a hint of irony (even when his band is wearing Mexican wrestling masks). I guess it's become his signature song.