Brinsley Schwarz – (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding ….Power Pop Friday

I think it’s fair to say most will know this song by Elvis Costello but the band Brinsley Schwarz did the 1974 original version which I like a lot…in fact, I favor this version. I’m a huge Nick Lowe fan so that helps. The song was written by Nick Lowe and originally recorded by his band Brinsley Schwarz in 1974. The band was named after their guitar player.

The song has a little of The Who mixed with Beach Boys-flavored harmonies. A wonderful mix of power pop. Many artists have covered this like Bruce Springsteen, Susannah Hoffs and Matthew Sweet, Chris Cornell, Midnight Oil, and many more.

Brinsley Schwarz never had a big hit but they did influence artists like Elvis Costello and The Clash. They were known as a pub rock band and were active between 1969 through 1975. The band released 6 albums in that time. Their members included Nick Lowe, Bob Andrews, Brinsley Schwarz, and Billy Rankin…they were later augmented by Ian Gomm on guitar and vocals.

One thing that did not help their cause was an incident in the US. They had an ambitious management company named Famepushers who hit on the idea of booking the band to play a high-profile gig in New York in April 1970. They were going to be the opening band for Van Morrison at the Fillmore East. The band had planned to arrive in the US a few days before the gig to rehearse for the show. Visa delays prevented this and they entered the US via Canada, arriving a few hours before their performance and having to perform with borrowed equipment they were not familiar with. The journalists were loaded onto a plane but were also delayed. They had used the downtime to take full advantage of the free bar laid on for them and, therefore, arrived drunk or hung over.

Famepushers also sent 22 limos to the Fillmore to make Brinsley Schwarz look important…they thought people would see this and ask…who is this? The limos didn’t get there until after dark so they were never seen by many.

The bad press kept rolling following the disastrous concert. The band received a flood of negative reviews for their first album, Brinsley Schwarz, which was released shortly after their return to the United Kingdom. The incident became known as the Brinsley Schwarz Hype

Dave Robinson was one of the founders of Famepushers. Robinson was the man who would go on to form Stiff Records with Jake Riviera, who would, in time, become Nick Lowe’s manager.

It’s a crying shame they weren’t heard more…they had some really good music.

Nick Lowe: “I wrote the song in 1973, and the hippie thing was going out, and everyone was starting to take harder drugs and rediscover drink. Alcohol was coming back, and everyone sort of slipped out of the hippie dream and into a more cynical and more unpleasant frame of mind. And this song was supposed to be an old hippie, laughed at by the new thinking, saying to these new smarty-pants types, ‘Look, you think you got it all going on. You can laugh at me, but all I’m saying is, ‘What’s so funny about peace, love, and understanding?’ And that was the idea of the song. But I think as I started writing it, something told me it was too good idea to make it into a joke. It was originally supposed to be a joke song, but something told me there was a little grain of wisdom in this thing, and not to mess it up.”

(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding

As I walk
This wicked world
Searchin’ for light in the darkness of insanity
Oh yeah
I ask myself:
Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain, hatred and misery?
Oh yeah

And each time I feel like this inside
There’s one thing I wanna know:
Oh, what’s so funny ’bout peace, love and understanding?
Oh, what’s so funny ’bout peace, love and understanding?

And as I walk on
Through troubled times
My spirit gets so downhearted
Sometimes, sometimes
So where are the strong?
Who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony?
Sweet harmony

‘Cause each time I feel it slippin’ away
It just makes me wanna cry
So, what’s so funny ’bout peace, love and understanding?
Oh, what’s so funny ’bout peace and love?
Yeah yeah yeah yeah

“We must have peace
More peace and love
It’s just for the children
Of a new generation”

So where are the strong?
And who are the trusted?
And where is the harmony?
Sweet harmony

‘Cause each time I feel it slippin’ away
It just makes me wanna cry
So, what’s so funny ’bout peace, love and understanding?
Oh, what’s so funny ’bout peace, love and understanding?
Oh, what’s so funny ’bout a little peace and love?
Yeah yeah yeah yeah

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

25 thoughts on “Brinsley Schwarz – (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding ….Power Pop Friday”

  1. That US debut sounds like an all-around disaster. I never knew that story. I too prefer Lowe’s voice and the Brinsley Swartz sound on this song. His inspiration for writing it is significant, imo. The mid-70s were indeed a mess of drugs and excess, with not much substance. I was just a kid with a transistor radio, and I was already missing the 60s.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yea the hype was too obvious and it made them look fake in some ways before they even played. I love the sound they had on this recording. If he would have written this later when he was known…I imagine it would have been a hit for him.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. One of my fave songs of all time and I love those old Brisnleys records. My pal Will Birch would love to write the screenplay for the Filmore fiasco – I sure hope he gets around to iy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The more I hear them the more I like…it’s a shame they were not well known.
      I do hope he gets that acomplished….I’ll watch!

      Like

  3. Quite good. I’d never heard their version before though I knew it wasn’t a Costello original. Not sure which one I like better but both are good. This one really reminds me of Dave Edmunds, who was not in on it (unlike so many things with Nick). Oh, and thanks for the link!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No problem Dave! I should have included that Gomm claimed that he wrote some of it also. The music and those background voices really ring on this one. I do like Elvis’s also of course.

      Like

  4. I was into a lot of Pub-Rock as a kid – (i may do a post on our blog about it if I can find time) and Brinsley Schwartz were one of my favourites. 50 years on, and I bought a 5xCD box set of theirs.
    Brinsley went on to join The Rumour who backed Graham Parker for a while, before releasing the album ‘max’ under their own name … that’s one worth checking out too.:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been checking out some of their songs…a good vareity of styles they had… this one is really good and so are many of the others…I’ll be posting more of them also.

      Like

  5. Great sentiments for the day. On a personal note, a good friends older brother and musical mentor passed on yesterday, off down that old well worn dark road, wherever it leads; and this is song would serve as a fitting obituary for him.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I only had known the Elvis Costello version and have to agree Brinsley Schwarz’s original sounds better – in fact, I really love it and now I’m kind of curious to check out more of their music.

    Interesting they named themselves after their guitarist. As for that U.S. debut, it sounds like right out of a bad movie – probably not much more that could have gone wrong!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are “Pub Rock” and do different things. We both posted two around the same era today!

      I really like them Christian. This is awesome power pop but they have some rock tunes also.

      The name is like J Geils

      Liked by 1 person

      1. BTW, I’ve started listening to Brinsley Schwarz and really like what I’ve heard thus far. Unfortunately, Apple Music only has what looks like compilations, not the original albums, but I guess it’s still a good start.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I want to look for what an UK person said it was a 5CD box of theirs…..they played some straight out rock

        Liked by 1 person

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