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The Left Banke 'Strangers on a Train': New reissue reveals hidden Baroque Pop gems

Bassist Charly Cazalet and producer Daniel Coston reveal there’s much more to the band than two hit songs. Plus, a brief rundown on the 50th anniversary of Stories, keyboardist Michael Brown’s post-Left Banke band.

By Steven Casto

The Left Banke mid-1960s promotional photo, L to R: Michael Brown, Rick Brand, Tom Finn, Steve Martin Caro, and George Cameron seated in front

The Left Banke mid-1960s promotional photo, L to R: Michael Brown, Rick Brand, Tom Finn, Steve Martin Caro, and George Cameron seated in front

The Left Banke recorded one of the all-time classic baroque-pop songs, “Walk Away Renee” in 1966, beautifully sung by Steve Martin Caro, and it reached No. 5 in September of that year. 

“Pretty Ballerina” followed in January 1967, charting at No. 15.

After one more single, “Desiree,” The Left Banke’s Top 100 chart run ended. All three songs had been written or co-written by the band’s keyboardist Michael Brown. The band recorded two albums and then broke up… for the first time. Over the next several decades the members came together in various configurations and held several recording sessions. Some of these sessions were released in limited runs and may never have been heard by their fans. That has changed thanks to Strangers on a Train a new archival release on Omnivore Recordings. 

Left Strangers

PART ONE – CO-PRODUCER DANIEL COSTON

GOLDMINE: How did this expanded version of Strangers on a Train originate and how did you come to be involved?

DANIEL COSTON: Besides being a longtime fan of the band, I first got in contact with much of the band in 2001 and 2002, working on an article on The Left Banke. I then did many of the photos for the 2011 to 2013 version of the band, which was led by Tom Finn and George Cameron, with occasional appearances by Michael Brown. Along the way, I collected various recordings of the band throughout the years, through the band members themselves, or friends of the band. I wanted to use many of these recordings on this project, but licensing issues kept Omnivore from using them. So, this essentially is a collection of previously released songs that came between 1978 and 2001-2002 and most have not appeared on CD. 

GM: What brought Omnivore on board with the project?

DC: After Tom Finn passed away in June of 2020, Cheryl Pawelski of Omnivore Recordings suggested putting this collection together. Cheryl, Scott Schinder, who wrote the liner notes for this release and The Left Banke reissues on Sundazed in 2011, and I led this project, with the support of the band members’ estates.

GM: What can fans expect to hear on this set?

DC: The collection features the Strangers on a Train LP, which the band recorded without Brown in 1978. The CD ends with the final recordings that Martin Caro and Brown made in 2001 and 2002. Again, this is the first official release on CD for these songs, and despite the lengthy time span, it really does hold up as a cohesive Left Banke album.

GM: Members were in and out over The Left Banke’s career. What lineups appear on this release?

DC: The 1978 band consisted of Steve, Tom, and George. Charly Cazalet and Jimmy McAllister were part of the band for the majority of those sessions, while Michael Kamen led the studio musicians backing up the trio on three songs. For the 2001 and 2002 sessions, it’s largely Steve and Michael (Brown). However, on one song, “Buddy Steve”, they are joined by Tom and Jimmy McAllister. Every song in this collection has at least two members of the core four on them. There is no Left Banke without those guys.

GM: Listening to these sessions, what was the biggest surprise or discovery you made?

DC: That despite the passage of time on some of these songs, their sound was still intact and how remarkable their voices sounded. You hear the song “Airborne,” and you think, “That’s The Left Banke!” That special something was still there. 

GM: Given the number of sessions the band recorded, why do you think so many were never released or never earned a major label contract for the band?

DC: The band members were very volatile with each other. They never worked together for very long, especially from the 1970s on. They were either not together long enough to secure a deal, or their personal problems scuttled a deal. Tom Finn spoke vividly about Steve squashing a deal after they recorded the original version of “You Say” in 1972.

GM: I’m unfamiliar with this version of “You Say.” What can you tell me about it?

DC: In 1972, Tom, George, and Steve teamed with a young Michael Kamen, who would go on to write film and television scores which earned him two Academy Award nominations and three Grammy Awards, and recorded a new song called “You Say.” The song was written by Steve, Tom, and George. My understanding is that Steve had the initial idea for the song. The trio recorded the song with Kamen on keyboards while he was still a member of The New York Rock and Roll Ensemble. Tom had the song mixed and a label was interested in buying the song for release, but according to Tom, Steve came with him to the meeting with the label, and Steve’s behavior caused the label’s representatives to change their minds about releasing the song. The trio of Tom, Steve and George would not record again until 1978. The version of “You Say” that appears on the new CD comes from the 1978 sessions. 

The Left Banke late 1960s promotional photo. Back row: George Cameron, Tom Finn. Seated: Steve Martin Caro

The Left Banke late 1960s promotional photo. Back row: George Cameron, Tom Finn. Seated: Steve Martin Caro

GM: Although Michael Brown would be considered an important member of The Left Banke along with Steve Martin Caro, George Cameron, and Tom Finn, he drifted in and out of the band. How often did he record with them after 1969?

DC: The “Love Songs in The Night”/ “Two by Two” songs that were recorded under Steve Martin’s name in 1971 featured all four, and I recently confirmed that all four rehearsed and recorded together in July of 2001. The Mike and Steve recordings, that became the Airborne release, grew out of these sessions. I’m now working to see if I can find those July 2001 recordings which were done in Michael’s basement studio and included former Beckies guitarist Jimmy McAllister. The four also recorded two songs for a demo in 1969, and I’m still hoping to find those. By the way, there are all four members on the demo commercial recordings for Coca-Cola, Toni, and Hertz, that the band did in 1969. Sadly, there is no way to afford license agreements with any of those companies, even though the songs were never used. But that is Steve, Tom, George, and Michael on those commercials.

GM: Except for Brown, the other members were still learning their instruments when the first album was recorded and, therefore, the band only played on two songs. That improved with the second album. Did they continue to play on the various sessions after 1969?

DC: Yes. It was a big point of pride with the band to play on their recordings after that first album. That’s them on “Love Songs,” and “Two by Two,” and the entire third album. They also played on the 2001 and 2002 sessions. The 2011 Left Banke, led by Tom and George, was the only time in their history that they went out with additional musicians. That lineup never recorded sadly, but we have located a couple of radio sessions that, unfortunately, we weren’t able to use for the new collection.

GM: worked with you on this project, and you mentioned Scott wrote liner notes for the reissues on Sundazed. What else can you tell us about their involvement and connections to The Left Banke?

DC: Yes, Scott wrote the liner notes on the Sundazed reissues, and knew the band members, as did I. Cheryl is a lifelong Left Banke fan and had an interest in releasing Airborne when it was released as a promo in 2001 but was overruled by the label she worked with at the time. When Cheryl and I first met in 2002, our first conversation was about The Left Banke and Airborne.

GM: Where did the title Strangers on a Train originate, and why was it chosen for this particular release? Why not Voices Calling which was the title of the U.K. release?

DC: The title comes from the opening track of the 1978 recordings. In negotiating with BMG to license this album, it became clear that they would be happier if we used that title for this release. Our working title for this release was Everything Returns Again, which is the first line of “Desiree.” I do plan on using this title for a future release, down the road. It says it all, really. About the band, about life. Great work returns again, given time.

GM: Researching for this Strangers on a Train release and a possible future collection, did you locate any sessions that included other former band members like Rick Brand, Jeff Winfield, Tom Feher, Bert Sommer, etc.?

DC: Yes. Tom Feher, Tom Finn and Steve Martin Caro recorded three songs for a proposed film soundtrack in 1969. They even recorded string overdubs with Harry Lookofsky, Michael Brown’s father, at World United Studios, where the first album was recorded. I have not heard from Rick Brand if he has anything. I’ve not found any sessions with Jeff Winfield. There is also a recording that purports to be done by Steve at World United Studios in 1966, but more information about this is sadly lacking. I am still searching for something with Bert Sommer. Ian Lloyd and Stories backed up Michael on his 1972 solo release, “Circles.” Ian Lloyd does pop up in later recordings with Brown, as well.

GM: Are most of the songs in this new collection written mostly by band members?

DC: Yes. Only one song on this collection was written by someone that wasn’t part of the band. It is amazing that throughout their career, the band was not only singing and playing, but also writing these beautiful songs. Part of my enjoyment with this collection is that people will get to finally hear these songs that they worked so hard on.

GM: This reissue of the Strangers on a Train album uses the U.K. track listing from Voices Calling rather than the one used in America when it was originally released. Why?

DC: The U.K. track listing flows better and feels like a more coherent collection of songs. It puts the one song that the band didn’t write, “Queen of Paradise” at the end. It essentially allows the song, which the band didn’t like, to be a bonus track. Which in some ways, it always was.

GM: The Airborne project is included in this release. Tell me more about it.

DC: The original Airborne, a U.K. only promo CD, was actually credited to The Left Banke and consisted of five songs that Mike and Steve recorded in Florida in 2001. There were further sessions in 2002, with Mike, Steve, Tom Finn, and George Cameron. Tom and George also recorded more background vocals to those songs in 2002. The collection includes songs from both sessions.

GM: While compiling this set, were you able to search the Smash Records vault and, if so, did you discover any unreleased Left Banke songs?

DC: We haven’t been able to go through the Smash vaults, but I did find another song from that era. Through another source, I recently found Steve singing a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Salt of the Earth” from the “Myrah”/Tom Kaye 1969 sessions. I nearly fell off my chair when I first heard it. It really does exist!

GM: Can you tell us more about these 1969 sessions?

DC: In the summer of 1969, producer Thomas Jefferson Kaye signed a deal with Smash to record a new Left Banke single. Steve and Michael brought in “Myrah,” which Michael played on and three other songs that only featured Steve with session musicians brought in by Kaye. Those other three songs from the session were “Pedestal,” which was the flip side of the “Myrah” single in 1969, “Foggy Waterfall,” which was finally released on a 1985 Rhino Records compilation, and the still unreleased “Salt of the Earth.” Steve and George were huge Rolling Stones fans, and the band often covered the Stones in Left Banke shows. 

The band's second album The Left Banke Too is in the Goldmine store!

The band's second album The Left Banke Too is in the Goldmine store!

GM: Due to unexpected issues this projected two-CD set was reduced to one disc. What caused the change and could some of the deleted songs be released in the future?

DC: We originally had a much more comprehensive set planned for this release. However, once we began working out the licensing, we realized that due to the web of licensing, everything we wanted to use was just not possible. We weren’t able to license “Foggy Waterfall” and “Salt of the Earth” for example. It was a difficult decision to make, but a necessary one. Yes, I do hope to have those additional songs released someday. I also believe that there is more material that we have not found, that would make a future release even better. The archivist in me wants to release it all, but you must work out the licensing for many of these songs, otherwise the real fans won’t be able to afford the collection. That is one balance of putting together a collection like this. And this music should belong to everyone. This music deserves to be heard. 

  

PART TWO – BASSIST CHARLY CAZALET

Charly Cazalet was the bassist for The Left Banke during the short-lived reunion between 2010 and 2013. However, his association with the band began during sessions for their first album when he taught members how to play their instruments while jamming with them in the studio. Had he accepted their offer, he would have been the band’s original guitarist. Over the decades, Charly did several recording sessions with the band or with various members and he recounts those times in the following interview.

GOLDMINE: You've had quite a long history with the band going back to your first association with them in 1966. Could you discuss that early history?

CHARLY CAZALET: It was early May 1966 when I received a call from a friend, Nona Eagan, who said she knew a band that was looking for a guitar player. I had just got back from touring in Quebec for four long months, backing up a popular French-Canadian singer, Tony Roman. I was eighteen years old, and I had been performing in bands for almost two years. So, I met Nona and she took me to World United Studio where I met Mike Lookofsky (Brown), Steve Martin Caro, Tom Finn, and George Cameron. Mike Brown's father owned the recording studio, and he was also a musician. They played me two songs that were recorded, “Walk Away Renee,” the A-side and its flip side “I Haven't Got the Nerve.” I thought the songs really were good and well recorded. So, I said let's jam and we got on the instruments and started making some sounds when I realized that George wasn't really a drummer and Tom wasn't a bass player. The only one that could play was Mike Brown, who was the only one in the band that played on “Walk Away Renee.” Mike was classically trained and couldn't improvise to rock and roll. We became friends and I would go to their studio almost every day and teach them rock and roll songs for that whole summer. They asked me to join The Left Banke but I said I couldn't because they were not ready to play live. By the end of that summer, they had improved somewhat, and it looked like their songs were dead in the water, when all of a sudden “Walk Away Renee” started to chart in Cash Box with a bullet. But I still couldn't bring myself to join the band because they were not ready to go out and play. They did and the first tour was a disaster. It took them about six months to sound decent. We were always hanging out and still jamming, going to clubs when The Left Banke and I weren't working. One night in the summer of 1967, I was with Steve, Tom, and George in a club called The Salvation and we were introduced to Donovan. He said that he was at George Harrison’s house a week earlier and that George played him The Left Banke’s album, and they were now his favorite American band. Later, I made some demos with Mike Brown and one of them was “Desiree.” He only had part of the song chords and he asked me to help him finish the song, so I did put some melodic parts to the song, and he said he would put my name on it as a co-writer. That was short lived when his father Harry said, “No.” I didn’t get my name on “Desiree.” Mike and I stopped seeing each other after that but I was still best friends with Steve, Tom, and George. When Mike tried to fire the band and hired a new line-up, I introduced them to my lawyer Johann “Joe” Vigoda who got them out of their contract, and they were able to keep the band's name without Mike. 

GM: In 1978, you were involved in the recording sessions for what became the original version of Strangers on a Train in America and Voices Calling in Europe. Were you there as a session musician or as a band member?

CC: We were supposed to be a band but that didn't work out because they had a publishing deal, and the publisher didn't want more than the three members on the payroll. In 1975, I was going to go to Colorado when I got a call from Tom, Steve, and George and they wanted to put the band back together and they wanted me to play guitar. I thought, “Here we go again. This will end up nowhere.” I had plans for Colorado, so I said, “No.” When I moved back to New York in 1976, a friend told me that Steve and the boys had a publishing deal, a house in upstate New York, and were going to do an album. I went to see them, and they had this nice house and Steve and George asked me to play bass. Tom didn’t want me, but Steve and George voted me in as the bass player. I wasn’t that friendly with Tom at that point anyway. Jimmy McAllister, who played with Mike Brown in The Beckies, was going to be the guitarist. I thought this might be the last thing they’d ever do and maybe it would work this time. They had a publisher, Victor Benedetto, and he liked The Left Banke and he was giving the guys fifty dollars a week and the house and that was it. He only wanted to pay three guys, so Jimmy and I weren’t getting paid, but I said we’d do the recordings and that will be something that’s real. Tom had some songs, and Steve and George had some songs, so we started rehearsing them, along with some of the older songs like “Walk Away Renee.” I wanted to go out and play some small venues to tighten up the band, but they weren’t interested in doing that. I spent a year rehearsing those songs with them. 

GM: What do you recall about those 1978 sessions? Were they completed recordings or demos? Were there any recordings from those sessions not released?

CC: Those sessions started originally with the publisher who liked a song Tom wrote called “Lorraine.” He thought that was a great song, so Tom got a publishing deal with Camerica and Tom decided he wanted to put The Left Banke back together and he called Mike Brown. Steve was living in Spain, so he came back, and I was invited to join the band. Mike didn’t last too long because he didn’t want to give up his publishing and Victor Benedetto wanted the publishing because that was his business. There was another piano player, Bob Blaine, involved later, but one day he just stopped showing up. We recorded those songs at Kingdom Sound Studios. Steve sang, Tom played piano mostly, George played drums, Jimmy McAllister played guitar and I played bass guitar. I played on seven of the songs released on the album. We didn't know if they were demos, someone said they were, but we never would find out because no record company wanted to get involved at the time. I don't remember any songs we recorded that weren't released. I recorded some of my own songs outside of The Left Banke at the time with Steve and George that I released in 2005. Steve and I also wrote and recorded two songs in 1979, outside of The Left Banke.

GM: Why do you feel the sessions were never given a release by a major label?

CC: Nobody wanted to sign The Left Banke in 1978. At the time the major labels were looking for New Wave bands like The Cars, Talking Heads and New York Dolls. It was also said that the major labels didn't want to deal with that producer. The label felt there were too many ballads on the album. All they wanted were albums and they didn’t want 45s. They wanted the band to have an album already recorded and, as I said earlier, we didn’t know if we were making demos or masters. 

GM: "Queen of Paradise" was released as a single from those sessions. What do you remember about that song?

CC: I didn't play on “Queen of Paradise” and one other song. Tom said I played on “You Say” but I don’t remember playing on that one. “You Say” was originally George’s idea, he told me he started writing it, and he wrote it with Steve, and Tom added a piece to it. Steve was staying with me in my apartment in Poughkeepsie, New York in 1971 and George came to visit, and I remember George going over “You Say” with Steve before Tom got involved with that song. It’s one of my favorite Left Banke songs. Studio musicians played on “Queen of Paradise.” It was all studio musicians on that one and one other. The rest of the songs were Steve, George, Tom, Jimmy, and me. “Queen of Paradise” was like a disco song written by an outside writer and given to them. Steve hated it. They all hated it. The situation was like a 1960s’ type of thing where a guy tells them what to do musically and it ends up being a disaster. The publisher was into publishing movie soundtracks, so “Queen of Paradise” just fizzled. 

GM: Did the band plan to tour in support of this release?

CC: We would talk about touring, but there was no deal to tour. I wanted to go out and play some small venues, but they weren't interested.

GM: You mentioned some recordings you did with Steve and George around the time of the original Strangers on a Train sessions. Please tell us about those sessions.

CC: My friend Reggie Ward had a 4-track recording studio called Junction Sound in upstate New York at a place called Hopewell Junction and it was about a 45-minute drive from the house where The Left Banke was living. Reggie was the lead singer in a band I was in called The Silver Byke. We had a deal with Bang Records, and I had written a song called “I’ve Got Time” that The Left Banke wanted to record in 1967, but I couldn’t give it to them because I needed it for The Silver Byke. In 1978, Reggie and I made a deal to record, and he was keen on having The Left Banke in his studio. Reggie was a great singer, and he played a little piano. He could sing almost as good as Steve. I did three songs, “A Simple Melody,” “Young Girls (Who Grow Up Faster),” and “Picking My Fingers Red.” We recorded those songs around the Strangers on a Train sessions or just before. I went to record “A Simple Melody” and I had the off-Broadway director Vincent Gugliotti on flute and Hugo Pancos on the Paraguayan harp, which is a smaller version of a harp and has no pedals, and I needed a drummer, so I called George. I asked Steve if he wanted to come and maybe he could sing some harmony with me. I wanted him to sing the lead on “A Simple Melody” but he didn’t want to sing it for some reason, and it was made for his voice. Steve wanted to be an R&B singer like The Rolling Stones’ funky songs. He didn’t really like “Walk Away Renee.” Steve respected the song, and he knew it would be a big hit. He sang it and he was proud of that. He wanted to do hard rock in the 1960s, but Mike Brown wasn’t writing that kind of music. Steve liked “Picking My Fingers Red,” and when we were doing the vocals for that song, he started singing the harmony and he got into it. He was singing lead in unison with me and then went to the harmony part. George played drums on the song and he and Jimmy played on “Young Girls (Who Grow Up Faster).” I invited Tom, but he declined to come. He said, “If I go, it’s going to be a Left Banke session.” I said, “Not really. These are my songs, and you can help me like I’ve helped you.” Still, he decided not to come. We recorded into the night, stopped at 4 a.m., slept in the studio, and recorded the vocals the next day. Reggie had the master tapes and all I had was a rough mix on a half-inch tape. Around 2003, George said to me, “Why don’t you put out an album? You’ve got enough songs there.” I liked his idea and I started putting it together. Reggie lost the master tape in a flood, so all I had was the half-inch rough mix tape that we had put together quickly. Those three songs, the two songs I did with Steve in 1979, and three songs I recorded in 2005 were released on my CD rough mix-nyc. 

GM: Please discuss the two songs you wrote and recorded with Steve in 1979.

CC: We wrote “Nothing Ever Lasts Forever” and “I Know Love is Blue” in 1979 when Steve and I were living together, and actually Steve was just there when I came up with the melody and lyrics for “I Know Love is Blue.” Steve’s girlfriend’s cousin was an engineer at Media Sound, a top studio in New York, and we got some time there and I got some good musicians to play on the songs. I played bass and guitar and there were one or two others who played guitar on those songs. The engineer wanted me to play guitar on top of what was already on them, and he really liked what I played, so we kept it. We never really mixed the songs until 2004. There was just a rough mix. Steve had those two songs on a cassette tape with “rough mix” written on it and he went up to Benedetto, the publisher, again, and he asked him to listen to them. Steve was broke at the time and Benedetto gave him $100, published the songs, and kept the tape. I didn’t know about this until George told me about it a year or so later. I stopped working with Steve after I found out what he did. In 2004, Tom went on the internet and saw the copyrights and told me about them. I got a friend of mine who was a copyright attorney and I told him what the situation was, and he went to talk with Benedetto. Benedetto had moved to Germany, but his son was there, and my attorney told him to sign over the two songs or be sued for copyright infringement because I had never signed anything with him to publish and claim those songs. So, now, I own those songs. I still had the 24-track tape in my apartment, and I took the tapes to Skyline Studio and from there they went to Sony Studios where they baked it and opened all the tracks and digitalized them. We mixed the two songs, and they are included on the 2005 release of rough mix-nyc. 

GM: You did another recording with George didn’t you?

CC: Yes, I had a release called The Secret EP with four songs on it and George plays drums on a song called “Elephantitus.” 

GM: You returned with the band in 2010. How did that reunion come about and how did you become involved? Why did it end?

CC: George and I started jamming in 2010 and after a couple of jams he brought Paul Alves to one of them. When Paul found out that George was in The Left Banke he started telling us that there was a market for 1960s bands and that we could get some good gigs from the name. Paul brought in Mickey Finn, the pianist and a drummer that didn't last. Mike Fornatale just showed up to do lead vocals until Steve came up from Florida, but Steve never did. Mike brought in Rick Riel for drums and Tom Finn finally showed up after we had been rehearsing a few times. We played around the Northeast for two and half years. Tom Finn said he couldn't work with George anymore. It was the 1960s all over again. They couldn't get along. So that was it!

GM: Daniel Coston co-produced a new expanded release for The Left Banke’s Strangers on a Train. What would you like to see this release do for The Left Banke's legacy?

CC: That The Left Banke could deliver some timeless music with and without Mike Brown. I hope it helps them get in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. People have been talking about it for years. I think some people petitioned the Hall of Fame, but the Hall never got in touch with them. It’s sad, given their body of work. The Left Banke kind of missed out despite the potential they had. They could have become something like The Bee Gees, a really big band, but they weren’t. There were so many internal problems. In the beginning it was Steve, George, and Tom, against Mike. After they separated from Mike, then Steve and Tom didn’t get along. Steve came over to my apartment and told me how much he hated Tom. Then Steve, Tom, and George were arguing, and I was like negotiating a peace treaty with these guys every day. I was telling them, “You’ve got hit records, you’re making good money. What you need is good management.” They didn’t have anybody to steer them in the right way. They looked up to me because I was a musician before they became musicians, and I was teaching them parts and hanging out with them. So many people wanted a piece of them and were stealing their money. They were kids and didn’t know anything about the business. 

Charly’s work with members of The Left Banke can be heard on the new CD release Strangers on a Train, and on his EPs, rough mix-nyc and The Secret EP.

The Left Banke L to R: Charly Cazalet, Paul Alves, George Cameron, Rick Reil, Tom Finn, Mickey Finn, and Mike Fornatale, photo courtesy of Charly Cazalet, Maryland May 2012, photo by Daniel Coston

The Left Banke L to R: Charly Cazalet, Paul Alves, George Cameron, Rick Reil, Tom Finn, Mickey Finn, and Mike Fornatale, photo courtesy of Charly Cazalet, Maryland May 2012, photo by Daniel Coston

  

PART THREE – 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF STORIES

Left Stories

2022 is the 50th anniversary Stories, Michael Brown’s post-Left Banke band. Following another short-lived reunion of The Left Banke in 1971, that resulted in a non-charting single for Kama Sutra/Buddah, Michael Brown was still signed to the label. He was considering his next move when fate brought him and Ian Lloyd together. Brown and Lloyd’s fathers, both session musicians, were involved in a recording date when Lloyd stopped by. In Larry R. Watts’ liner notes for Stories Untold: The Very Best of Stories, released on the Real Gone label in 2014, Lloyd stated, “I was back from college, and I visited my dad at one of these sessions. I was talking to Michael’s dad, ‘Harry, how ya doin’? It’s great to see ya. How’s Michael?’ He said, ‘Michael’s in New Jersey right now working on an album for Kama Sutra. You should go see him.’ I remember walking into his house, and he was sitting at an upright piano. I walked through the sliding glass doors with a pool behind me and there was Michael, playing piano, banging away on a song idea. He doesn’t sing really well, so I just started singing some melodies, following some of his right hand. We realized immediately that this is what it should be.”

With Brown on keyboards, Lloyd on bass and vocals, the band was completed with guitarist Steve Love and drummer Bryan Madey. Kama Sutra released the band’s debut single which landed on Billboard’s Hot 100 on June 17, 1972. “I’m Coming Home” spent twelve weeks on the charts, just missing the Top 40 when it peaked at No. 42. The self-titled album, produced by the band and featuring ten songs all written by Brown and Lloyd, entered the charts on July 1, 1972. It spent a short nine weeks on the charts stalling at No. 182. 

After recording a second album, 1973’s Stories About Us, Brown left the band and missed out on the success that followed. One year later, to the month, after Stories’ first single debuted, “Brother Louie” was released and became a No. 1 gold single for the band.

Fifty years ago, happenstance brought two outstanding musicians together. Although their collaboration only last slightly over a year, it produced two fine albums. Sadly, it appears that there is no reissue planned for the 50th anniversary of Stories’ debut album, which has been reissued on CD and is long out of print. An Australian import, also now out of print, was released in 2007 on the Raven label. The Real Gone compilation, mentioned above, and which included only two songs from that first album, came out in 2014 and is out of print as is an import compilation. Fans who are missing this album in their collection can hope that, maybe, the reissued and expanded version of The Left Banke’s Strangers on A Train will inspire a label to license Stories and reissue it.

I want to thank Daniel Coston and Charly Cazalet for their time and cooperation with these interviews. Thanks also to Warren Kurtz who provided invaluable assistance from the beginning. 

Related Links:

Goldmine 2022 Strangers on a Train review

omnivorerecordings.com

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