18 August 2011

Beau Brummell Esquire (and his Noble Men) - I Know, Know Know


Label: Columbia
Year of Release: 1965


In the same way that the ghost of psychedelia still haunted record stores in the early seventies (just ask anyone who bought a Hawkwind single) and leftover punks made their presence felt in the early eighties, Elvis Presley's particular brand of rock and roll could still be observed in the clubs and dancehalls long after Merseybeat changed the mainstream settings of the pop scene.

Beau Brummell Esquire's vocalisings on this record are, to all intents and purposes, rather akin to the kinds of professional sneering Elvis-isms we can all hear these days from performers in certain restaurants up and down the land where birthday parties and stag dos are welcomed. "I Know, Know, Know" isn't necessarily a retread of the old fifties discs and has enough sixties swing to have made it sound reasonably contemporary - but still, the swaggering confidence behind the main performance belongs sounds as if it belongs underneath a major quiff, and the record even comes complete with an Elvis cover version on the B-side. Despite the similarities to the King of Rock and Roll, though, this record doesn't half pack an energetic and addictive punch, and Brummell should be applauded for the self-penned top side.

Beau (if I may call him that, although his real name is Mike Bush) was a South African who was attempting to launch his career in Britain in the early sixties. Backed by the Noble Men, a band previously known as The Detours, his live performances were apparently the subject of much discussion throughout their career, being invariably described as charismatic and energetic. With that force of personality apparently also came a major flaw, according to many internet rumours. Stories abound to the effect that whilst the club venue PAs of the day could cover up his shortcomings with their distorted and indistinct sound, his lack of vocal prowess was more noticeable in the studio. One estimate suggests that "I Know, Know, Know" took a hundred takes as a result of his flat delivery, which sounds like an exaggeration, and you certainly can't hear that struggle in the grooves. The final product sounds as if it could have been a hit, and surely would have been had it been released a few years earlier.

Success did not come Mr Brummell's way with this single or any others, and in the end he returned to South Africa to set up a naturist valley in the Northern Transvaal, whereas The Noble Men became The Penny Peeps who have been featured on this blog before. You can see an unbelievably detailed timeline of the group's history over on the impeccable "Garage Hangover" site, which provides biogs of sixties bands the official rock biographers never really cared about.


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