Brinsley Schwarz “Silver Pistol”

Silver Pistol

This was the Brinsley’s first acknowledged classic, Silver Pistol, released in 1972. To me, Brinsley Schwarz is the best rock music Nick Lowe has ever made though I know many new wave fans will disagree with this statement, favoring his 78-79 solo material.

The Brinsley’s began making records in 1970 with more of a rambling late period psychedelic jam band approach. Silver Pistol is when the band really came into their own with some outstanding original material from Nick Lowe that recalled the intimacy of the Band. Though unlike the Band, many of these songs have more of a reckless punch and new guitarist/songwriter Iam Gomm contributes four great, driving country-rockers to this impressive set.

While 72’s Nervous On The Road is usually cited as their finest work, I think Silver Pistol is just as good with creative songwriting and wonderful songs. Tracks like Merry Go Round have a warm downhome feel with jangly McGuinn style rickenbacker guitar chords and prominent Garth Hudson influenced organ playing. Egypt even seems like it could have been a lost outtake from the first couple of Band albums, it’s that stellar and full of cerebral organ work. In Dry Land the band really nails down the American country-rock sound while sounding individual and completely original. Another song, Nightingale is a very beautiful, personal statement that features accordian and beats most U.S. bands in the Americana sweepstakes.

Following the Silver Pistol lp, Brinsley Schwarz made three other great albums and eventually broke up around 1974-1975. They, along with Eggs Over Easy, are considered the founding fathers of England’s early 70’s pub rock movement. These groups played an English version of U.S. country-rock throughout England’s numerous, local pubs. I think pub rock can be a little more aggressive at times then U.S. country-rock and most of these groups found their main inspiration from the Band. It’s also important to note that on Silver Pistol the Brinsley’s cover two Jim Ford tunes. Jim Ford released one very good solo album in the early 70’s and during the Silver Pistol sessions was a key influence to Nick Lowe and Brinsley Schwarz.

In 2004, BGO (Beat Goes On) reissued the excellent Silver Pistol along with Please Don’t Ever Change (another good one). These albums are essential to fans of roots music and country-rock and have a ragged charm that’s all their own.

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  • dave tack

    anyone know what brinsley’s up to these days. I’m an old friend, haven’t seen him in years. living in UK i’m sure.

  • Len Liechti

    While I have a great regard for Brinsley Schwarz’s (the group’s) place in rock history, and particularly for the songwriting of Nick Lowe and Ian Gomm, the problem with this and with their other studio recordings is that while they’re musically fine their production is just too damned lo-fi: something that’s OK with genuinely lo-fi music but which doesn’t do justice to what is basically a high-energy product. The no-frills approach worked in live performance where their unprocessed sound could find a resonance off the walls of the venue and off the tightly-packed, responsive audience, but their refusal to espouse at least some modest studio enhancement – eg. a hint of reverb, a trace of compression, a smidge of presence – means that these albums sounded flat, as if they were recorded in a cardboard box. Will Birch, former drummer with the Kursaal Flyers, in his highly enjoyable book No Sleep Till Canvey Island: The Great Pub Rock Revolution, says that this was true of most of the pub rock outfits, whose urgent live sound never got translated successfully to vinyl partly because of their laid-back attitude to the studio and partly because they insisted on doing their own production whilst perpetually stoned! Anyway, the book is worth a read (if you can find it now, being out of print) as it covers, inter alia, the whole Brinsleys story from Kippington Lodge to the Rumour via the eponymous band, with a fine account of the disastrous PR launch at Fillmore East. As for production values, once Nick Lowe became a professional producer in his Stiff/Radar days there were few to match him. Shame he didn’t get to grips with the desk a few years earlier. Perhaps one day he’ll get his mitts on the original Brinsleys tapes and produce the sort of remixes the music deserves.

  • Len Liechti

    Further to the above, I’ve just scored a couple of CDs of Brinsley Schwarz tracks recorded for radio broadcasts by the BBC during 1971-76. These include a number of the songs from the studio albums plus a clutch of covers that they didn’t commit to vinyl but which formed staples of their live set. The recordings were made “live in the studio” and exhibit rather more pizazz that the genuine studio waxings, giving a better idea of their low-volume but high-excitement live pub rock sound. They veer off country-rock into Memphis soul, Motown and even reggae, getting very funky on occasion – surely the nearest thing the UK produced to the Band. The CD titles are What IS So Funny About Peace, Love And Understanding? and Cruel To Be Kind, both on Hux Records and both still in print – recommended.

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