Left Banke, The

Band members               Related acts

- Rick Brand -- guitar, banjo, mandolin (replaced 

  Jeff Winfield) (1967-)
- Mike Brown (aka Mike Lookofsky) -- keyboards (1964-67)
- George Cameron -- vocals, drums, guitar (1964-)
- Warren David -- drums 
- Tom Finn -- bass (+78)
- Bobby Gree -- drums 
- George Hirsch -- guitar
- Steve Martin -- vocals (1964- +78)
- Mike McKeon -- guitar
- Bert Sommer -- vocals (1967)



- The Beckies (Mike Brown)
- Christopher and the Chaps (Mike Brown)
- The Magic Plants (Tom Finn)
- Steve Martin (solo efforts)
- Montage (Mike Brown)

- Bert Sommer (solo efforts)
- The Stories (Mike Brown)






Genre: pop

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina

Company: Smash

Catalog: SRS 67088

Year: 1967

Country/State: New York, New York

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: --

Available: 1

GEMM catalog ID: not yet listed

Price: $25.00

Cost: $1.00


Michael Lookofsky (aka Michael Brown) began his professional musical career working as a keyboard player and assistant at his father's New York based World United studios. The job brought him into contact with engineering assistant Steve Martin, former Morticians drummer George Cameron and former Magic Plants bassist Tim Finn. Discovering a mutual love of popular music and harboring fantasies of becoming the next Beatles; the quartet began hanging around the studio, working on a mix of popular covers and original material. Brown's father producer Harry Lookofsky, took an interest in Martin's voice and the boys' ability to harmonize, eventually deciding to record some of their material. The band's breakthrough came when they recorded the song 'Walk Away Renee'. Written by a lovesick Brown, then lusting over Finn's girlfriend, the song featured an arresting harpsichord solo and Martin's borderline cloying vocals. Originally shopped around to dozens of companies, none expressed an interest in the song. Luckily for the band, having produced the song at his own expense, Lookofsky persisted in his efforts to market the song, eventually convinced Mercury's Smash subsidiary to pick up distribution rights. Released as a single, (b/w 'I Haven't Got the Nerve' Smash catalog number 2041) the track became a sudden and unexpected hit, cresting at # 5, turning the group into overnight stars. 


Braced by their initial success, in early 1967 the group returned to the studio to record the sound-alike follow-up single 'Pretty Ballerina' b/w 'Lazy Day' (Smash catalog number 2074). Like it's predecessor, the single became a top-40 hit. As was then normal marketing practice, hoping to capitalize on their initial successes, the group was rushed into the studio to record a supporting album. Unfortunately, with the exception of Brown, who was a classically trained keyboardist (and who had written most of the band's material), none of the other members had any musical training. As a result, they found themselves with very little to do in the recording process. Relegated to the sidelines, most of 1967's cleverly titled "Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina" was played by studio musicians including guitarist Hugh McCracken and drummer Al Rogers. Adding insult to injury, producer/manager Lookofsky booted guitarist Winfield, replacing him with former Spyders guitarist Rick Brand. Still, in contrast to most quickie albums, the collection proved a sterling debut. While hastily recorded with minimal investment and in the midst of a personnel upheaval which saw guitarist Winfield replaced by Rick Brand; Brown's sweet voice and uncanny commercial instincts (he wrote or co-wrote all but one track) carried the day. Exemplified by material such as 'I've Got Something On My Mind', 'Let Go of You' and 'I Haven't Got the Nerve' the album featured a highly enjoyable blend of top-40 pop and more ornate instrumentation. Labeled 'baroque' by the press (thanks to their use of harpsichords and classical influenced string arrangements), the album made for one of the year's freshest and most enjoyable debuts. Elsewhere, the feedback propelled 'Lazy Day' stood as the collection's oddest offering. Inexplicably, in spite of two top-20 singles, the set could do no better than # 67. Adding to the band's problems, shortly after the album's release a frustrated Brown quit to pursue solo interests (see separate entries). 

"Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Pretty Ballerina   (Michael Brown) - 2:35
2.) She May Call You up Tonight   (Michael Brown - Steve Martin) - 2:16
3.) Barterers and Their Wives   (Michael Brown - Tom Feher) - 3:18
4.) I've Got Something on My Mind   (Michael Brown - George Cameron - Steve Martin) - 2:47
5.) Let Go of You Girl   (Michael Brown - George Cameron - Steve Martin) - 2:51
6.) Evening Gown   (Michael Brown - Tom Feher) - 1:46

(side 2)

1.) Walk Away Renee   (Michael Brown - B. Calilli - T. Sansone) - 2:42
2.) What Do You Know?   (Michael Brown - Tom Feher) - 3:02
3.) Shadows Breaking over My Head   (Michael Brown - Steve Martin) - 2:35
4.) I Haven't Got the Nerve   (George Cameron - Steve Martin) - 2:10
5.) Lazy Day   (Michael Brown - Steve Martin) - 2:23



Genre: pop

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  The Left Banke Too

Company: Smash

Catalog: SRS 67113

Year: 1968

Country/State: New York, NY

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: minor ring wear

Available: 1

GEMM catalog ID: not yet listed

Price: $80.00

Cost: $40.00



With Brown unwilling to tour, the band effectively splintered into two factions. Having had the foresight to retain rights to the 'Left Banke' name, Brown promptly recruited vocalist Bert Sommer, returning to the studio to record new material including the single 'Ivy Ivy' b/w 'And Suddenly' (Smash catalog number 2089). The single was immediately greeted by the other band members with threats of a lawsuit. In the meantime, fearing legal ramifications, radio stations simply refused to play any Left Banke material. With the rest of the band terminating their management arrangement with Lookofsky, a brief reconciliation with Brown resulted in the singles 'She May Call You Up Tonight' b/w 'Barterers and Wives' (Smash catalog number 2097) and 'Desiree' b/w 'I've Got Something On My Mind' (Smash catalog number 2119). 



With the singles bombing, the reconciliation quickly fell apart. 

With Brand and Brown again out of the picture (Brown reappeared at the creative helm of the band Montage (see separate entry), Cameron, Finn and Martin (with uncredited support from keyboard player Emmit Lake and backup singer Steve Talarico (aka Steve Tyler - check out his instantly recognizable shriek on 'Bryant Hotel') returned to the studio releasing 1968's "Left Banke Too". To be honest, the sophomore LP was kind of an orphan, offering up a mixture of previously released singles ('Desiree' and 'Goodbye Holly') and newly recorded material. With Tom Feher and Finn penning most of the new stuff, exemplified by tracks such as 'There's Gonna Be a Storm', 'Dark Is the Bark' and 'In the Morning Light' the sound wasn't a major departure from the debut. A mixture of delicate ballads and pseudo-psych influences, it may not have been as consistent as the debut, but had more than it's share of winning moments. Particularly good was the glistening pop numbers 'Desiree' (their last chart single) and 'Give the Man a Hand'. (Wonder how hard it was to get the trio to wear the period piece costumes shown on the back cover ...)  Smash tapped the album for a couple of instantly obscure singles:


- 1968's 'Goodbye Holly' b/w 'Sing Little Bird Sing' (Smash catalog number 2198)

- 1968's 'Give the Man a Hand' b/w 'Bryant Hotel' (Smash catalog number Smash 2209)

- 1969's 'Nice to See You' b/w 'There's Gonna Be a Storm' (Smash catalog number 2226)


The album failed to sell and within a couple of months the group was dropped from Smash's recording rooster. They struggled on for several months, playing small venues and clubs, before finally calling it quits at the end of the year. 

"Left Banke Too" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Goodbye Holly   (Tom Feher) - 2:42
2.) There's Gonna Be a Storm   (Tom Finn) - 4:03
3.) Sing Little Bird Sing   (Tom Feher) - 3:04
4.) Nice To See You   (Tom Finn) - 2:39
5.) Give the Man a Hand   (Marvin Popocki) - 2:31

(side 2)

1.) Bryant Hotel   (Tom Feher) - 3:22
2.) Desiree   (M. Brown - Tom Feher) - 2:39
3.) Dark Is the Bark   (George Cameron - Tom Finn - Steve Martin) - 3:27
4.) In the Morning Light   (Tom Feher - Mike Brown) - 2:47
6.) My Friend Today   (Tom Finn) - 3:05

Over the next two years the band tried several comebacks. With Brown and Martin reuniting, the 1969 single 'Myrah' b/w 'Pedestal' (Smash catalog number 2243) went nowhere. Similarly, 1971 saw the reunited original lineup release the single 'Love Songs In the Night' (though it was inexplicably credited as a Martin solo effort). Again the results vanished without a trace; Brown then reappearing as a member of Stories and The Beckies (see separate entries).


Genre: pop

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  The History of The Left Banke

Company: Rhino

Catalog: RNLP-123

Year: 1985

Country/State: New York, NY

Grade (cover/record): VG / VG

Comments: included biographical insert

Available: SOLD

GEMM catalog ID: SOLD

Price: SOLD


As far as compilations go 1985's "The History of the Left Banke" wasn't bad, though to be perfectly accurate it wasn't a true Left Banke efforts since it included a couple of post-Left Banke numbers.  The radio hits were here, as were some interesting 'B' sides, odds and ends ('Pedestal'), and the post-Left Banke material, including a pair of excellent Steve Martin solo tracks ('Love Songs In the Night' and ' Two By Two'), and two Stories selections ('I'm Coming Home' and 'Brother Louie').


"The History of the Left Banke" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Walk Away Renee   (Michael Brown - B. Calilli - T. Sansone) - 2:40

2.) Pretty Ballerina   (Michael Brown) - 2:32
3.) She May Call You up Tonight   (Michael Brown - Steve Martin) - 2:18
4.) Ivy, Ivy   (Michaal Brown - Tom Feher) - 2:32

5.) Desiree   (Michael Brown - Tom Feher) - 2:39

6.) Goodbye Holly (Tom Feher) - 2:47

7.) Foggy Waterfall   (Kaye - Koupersmith) - 5:10


(side 2)

1.) Love Songs In the Night   (Michael Brown) - 2:08

2.) Two By Two   (Michael Brown) - 3:02

3.) Myrah   (Michael Brown - Steve Martin) - 3:18

4.) Pedestal   (Kaye - Koupersmith) - 3:44

5.) And Suddenly   (Michael Brown - Bert Sommer) - 2:-07

6.) I'm Coming Home   (Michael Brown - Lloyd) - 2:37

7.) Brother Louie   (E. Brown - Tony White) - 3:55



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