Brute Force documentary screening at SxSW

By on February 13, 2012

This year’s SxSW Festival will see the World Premiere of part of director
Ben Steinbauer’s documentary on singer/songwriter Brute Force.

In 1967, Brute Force had just released his first album on Columbia Records
and was on the brink of becoming a star. The Beatles championed his next
single, “King of Fuh,” to be released on Apple Records. But dreams of fame
and fortune quickly turned into nightmares when the record was censored
and permanently shelved. In 2010, Sony and Apple reissued Brute Force’s
controversial music from the sixties, giving him another chance to
re-capture his dreams of rock stardom.

One of the strangest and strongest albums of 1967, Brute Force’s debut,
“I, Brute Force – Confections of Love,” thrust the enigmatic artist into
the center of the musical conversation, where he shared studios with
Columbia Records label mates Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, and garnered the
praise of George Harrison and John Lennon. For the first time, I, Brute
Force – Confections of Love is available on CD, along with bonus tracks
that include Brute’s banned Apple Records single, “King of Fuh.”

I, Brute Force – Confections of Love is quite possibly the greatest album
you’ve never heard. It’s a kaleidoscope for the sonically adventurous, a
reprieve from the maddening sameness of everyday life, and, as explained
in the liner notes, an invitation to meet the memorable characters
inhabiting Brutopia, an alternative America in which satire doesn’t bite
but merely nips, inhibitions get nudged and collapse all akimbo, and love,
however weird, conquers all.

Stephen Friedland, born in 1940, is the man behind the pseudonym Brute
Force. As a young man in New York City, Friedland was introduced to The
Tokens, an all-male doo-wop vocal group known for their hit, “The Lion
Sleeps Tonight.” The Tokens hired Friedland to work as a songwriter for
their music publishing company, Bright Tones Productions, and he
eventually became the group’s keyboardist. While working for Bright Tones
Productions, he wrote The Chiffons’ 1965 hit “Nobody Knows What’s Goin’ On
(In My Mind But Me),” of which his version appears as a bonus track on
this album.
In 1967, with famed producer John Simon on board, Friedland went into the
studio to record his debut, I, Brute Force – Confections of Love. With
this record, he embarked on a journey to depart from the conventions of
the current pop music. Sprinkled with surprisingly conspicuous lyrics and
diverse instrumentation, his debut certainly stretched the envelope. His
characters, weirder than most, are still your basic star-crossed lovers,
just ones who march to a slightly quirkier drum. The music sounds familiar
and the challenges are the same, but it’s all happening in an alternate

Brute Force’s mixed bag of songs is predictable only in its strange
catchiness and the accompanying urge to sing along. For example, while
listening to “In Jim’s Garage,” you may find yourself transported to the
same repair shop where the loving, though considerably greasy, Jim holds
his lover in his arms. Similarly, it’s difficult to avoid humming along to
the nonsensical warbling of Brute’s song “Sitting on a Sandwich,” which,
comically, is literally about sitting on a variety of sandwiches. The
verdict is still out on whether there is a deeper meaning in said
sandwich-sitting, but either way, Brute’s hyper-catchy songs are
consistently great, and it’s guaranteed that you’ll be immediately drawn
into their universe, strange as it may be.

Polished by George Harrison, championed by John Lennon, and released by
Apple Records, “King of Fuh,” which appears as a bonus track on this
release, is a timeless anthem, a song rightfully deserving of the Beatles’
seal of approval. The song, which at first seems to resemble a
straight-forward piano ballad, complete with a saccharine string section
and simple drumbeat, reveals Brute’s droll sense of humor as he reaches
the chorus and the king’s more common moniker is revealed: “I said the Fuh
King – he went to wherever he wanted to go/Mighty, mighty Fuh King/All
hail the Fuh King.”

But not even the Beatles’ praise would be able to secure airtime for a
song with such a controversial, albeit clever, chorus. Friedland’s record
label, Capitol/EMI, expressed its disapproval of “King of Fuh” by refusing
to release it, and the song was banned from the radio. This is not to say
that Friedland or Apple Records gave up. Apple Records privately pressed
2,000 copies of the single, along with its b-side, “Nobody Knows,” his
version of the Chiffons’ 1965 hit. Soon after, Friedland drove from New
York to Los Angeles, pushing his single along the way. To his
disappointment, this proved to be a fruitless journey, and, a few years
later, plagued by rejection and disillusionment, he left the music
While working for his father as a paralegal in Edison, New Jersey, he
continued songwriting. Eventually regaining his confidence in the ‘80s and
‘90s, Friedland performed as a musical stand-up comic under his given
name. In 2001, Gareth Jones, bandleader of Misty’s Big Adventure, an
eight-piece band from Birmingham, England, sent him an email. Jones had
read about Brute in Irwin Chusid’s “Music in the Key of Z,” and found
“Tapeworm of Love,” a song of Brute’s that appears on this album, on the
Internet. He began covering the song with his band, and hoped that Brute
would come to England to tour with them. Brute accepted his offer, and
since then has toured with Misty’s Big Adventure, as well as with his own
band, which features his daughter, Lilah, performing as Daughter of Force.

Bar-None Records is honored to release this classic album. After forty-six
years of near obscurity, its time has finally come. I, Brute Force –
Confections of Love is an album for the ages, an under-appreciated love
letter to the world, and, most importantly, a desperately needed escape
from reality.


Author: DaveHHM

Dave Luttrull: Owner/Editor in Chief of Hellhound Music. Star Wars nerd, Gamer, Destiny homer, blogger, writer and lover of all things music.