Tuesday, May 30, 2006


(What's so Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding

Answers on a post card to..................... but seriously this has been a song that I have liked ever since I first heard the original by Brinsley Schwartz, and what with having discovered a new cover version this week and with festival season being almost upon us again I thought why not. Brinsley Schwartz purveyors of UK pub rock in the seventies, they were probably one of the bands from this movement that could have made it. The blame is often laid at the feet of the band's manager, Dave Robinson, later to be one of the founders of Stiff Records. Looking for an idea to grab media attention for the band, he arranged to fly a plane load of journalists out to the States to see them opening for Van Morrison at the Fillmore East it was also to be their very first US gig. Just about everything possible went wrong which led to the band playing an underwhelming concert in front of short tempered journalists, the result was swift and without mercy; bad reviews followed by the nightmare of very little media exposure. After this the band were to live a semi-recluse communal existence dedicating their time to playing music and so becoming one of the tightest bands in the country. Having 6 albums to their credit the inevitable happened in spring 1975 and the band split, their final album 'The New Favorites of' contained the song that at the time seemed like a bittersweet elegy to the fading hippie era. Those of you that do not believe how tight the band were should check out 'The Parkerilla' the live album by Graham Parker & the Rumour, his then backing band of which the Brinsleys formed the back bone, one of the live albums that actually lives up to its promise. The song itself had been composed by the pen of Nick Lowe, author to be of one of my all time favorite couplets (I hear they castrated Castro / What a terrible thing to do, from 'Nutted By Reality'), who was to go on to greater things both as a producer and a solo artist.
Nick Lowe was to share in the early success accorded to Elvis Costello being producer of his first albums, and as such it should come as not surprise that EC recorded his own version of '(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding', what was more surprising was the fact that such a vital cover was originally to be hidden on the b side of a Nick Lowe single and credited to Nick Lowe and His Sound. This situation was soon to be remedied with song being included as the closing track on EC's US version of 'Armed Forces', Costellos interpretation shrugged off the songs hippies veneer as he transformed the song into an urgent call for sanity in a world dominated by out of control superpowers.
The third version and indeed the inspiration for today came hidden as one of the filler tracks on the Coal Porters first ever single from 2005, and to boot is a live blue grass interpretation. Now some of you are probably thinking the Coal who and the only thing I can say is shame on you. Formed 16 years ago by Sid Griffin, ex member of the Long Ryders one of the bands credited with laying the ground work for alternative country and respected contributor to Mojo, the early version of the band was electric and carried on in much the same vein as his previous band. As a result of having been involved with Lindisfarne, Griffin embraced acoustic music, bought himself a mandolin and rediscovered his American roots and the Coal Porters became one of the finest blue grass bands to found in the world today. Those of you that have enjoyed the Coal Porters version should check out this page where the is a live 'My Generation' by the Coal Porters and a live 'Teenage Kicks' by the reformed Long Ryders up for grabs.

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