New York Press Review

July 4, 2007

from New York Press Review:

Brute Force is Back
A rock legend (that never quite made it) returns

When one thinks of rock ’n’ roll legends, Stephen Friedland isn’t a name that comes to mind. But under the pseudonym of Brute Force, he’s been an underground musical icon since the late 1960s. A singer and songwriter, his biggest claim to fame was having his 1969 song, “King of Fuh,” released by the Beatles’ record company, Apple—only later to be censored. Frustrated with the industry and the lack of success, Friedland dropped out of the music scene for almost two decades.

But the 66-year-old Friedland is now on the comeback trail. With a band of younger players, he’s performing his music once again to live audiences. The group, also named Brute Force, consists of Friedland, his daughter (and backing vocalist) Lilah Friedland, drummer Christy Edwards, guitarist Peter Pierce and bassist Steve DeSeve.

“It’s fun to play with a band,” says Friedland, “and to play my music, and for people to know about my musical track record and what I’ve done.”

Brute Force’s story is as eccentric as some of his songs. It began in Jersey City where Friedland learned to play piano at age six. Influenced by the Danish pianist Victor Borge, Friedland wrote melodic and humorous songs that carry a deeper, satirical meaning, hence the term “heavy funny.” “I guess I saw absurdity in life,” he explains. “I was very interested in the juxtaposition of things, why things happened.”

In 1964, while in NYC as a young adult, he met the producers Hugo and Luigi, who co-wrote the Elvis Presley hit “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” They introduced Friedland to The Tokens, known for their hit, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” Not only was Friedland hired as a songwriter for The Tokens’ music publishing company, he also became the group’s keyboardist.

In 1967, Friedland recorded as Brute Force with the album, I, Brute Force, Confections of Love, which was produced by John Simon, later renowned for his work with The Band. In late 1968, Brute Force recorded his song, “King of Fuh,” which is about a furry king in a magical land. The music and lyrics begin innocuously until they get to these lines: “I said the Fuh King—he went to wherever he wanted to go/Mighty mighty Fuh King/All hail the Fuh King.”

After the song was recorded, a musical friend of Friedland, Tommy Dawes of The Cyrkle, forwarded it to his manager, Nat Weiss, who knew Beatles manager Brian Epstein. According to Friedland, George Harrison was very receptive to the song and said so in a phone call. But according to Friedland, Capitol/EMI, which was Apple’s distributor, refused to release “King of Fuh.” Eventually, Apple privately issued the single for U.K. release. “They decided it was just too much for their small minds,” Friedland says of Capitol/EMI. “They had no compassion for a young 28-year-old artist. I was on the brink of international recognition. They decided that it would not happen.”

Friedland and his wife, Cynthia, then moved to California in the early 1970s to further his music career. He founded his own record company whose first project was releasing “King of Fuh” domestically. As he drove to radio stations in California to convince programmers to play the single, Friedland was met with rejections.

Brute Force’s career went downhill throughout the ’70s and so did his personal life—his marriage broke up soon after returning to the East Coast. Trying to make a living, Friedland worked as a paralegal at his father’s law firm in Edison, NJ. He also sought counseling. “I became very confused,” he said. “I needed help from people who could hear me speak, describe my thinking and give me some suggestions.”

After straightening himself out and wanting to get back into showbiz, Friedland performed under his real name on the comedy club circuit during the ’80s and ’90s. He had also done background work in movies such as Ghostbusters. By that time, he had already moved to NYC where he currently resides.

Around 2001, Friedland received an email from Gareth Jones, the leader of the U.K.-based rock band Misty’s Big Adventure. Jones came across the old Brute Force song “Tapeworm of Love” online and got hooked. “I was surprised to learn that he’d never had a band to play his songs,” Jones said. “And we had started covering “Tapeworm of Love” in the Misty’s live set. I guess we figured how hard would it be to just have Brute singing it instead of me!” Upon Jones’ invitation, Brute Force emerged out of retirement and joined Misty’s on stage in England. “It just put another spark of vitality that I really needed to get my music going again for sure,” he says. “Those people over there were like a godsend. A whole group of people all of a sudden playing my music, and me singing it.”

Now with his own band, Friedland is once again playing Brute Force’s songs at rock clubs. On the Web, Friedland promotes Brute Force by selling CDs and other items. “What I am looking forward to in music and song” he says, “is to communicate ideas, to transmit ideas of a valuable nature, so people will come away refreshed and more aware of their world.”



SXSW Review!

March 18, 2007

Review of Brute Force and Daughter of Force performance at SXSW by the San Antonio Express News.

Hector Saldaña: I, Brute Force is the real weirdness at SXSW 2007

031807bruteforce

So the Stooges brought “The Weirdness” to Stubb’s on Saturday. That wasn’t where the real weirdness was at on this last full night at South By Southwest Music & Media Conference 2007.

Or should I say the loveable-ness, too.

The Creekside EMC at Hilton Garden Inn was that place, with the truly entertaining, if eccentric and delightfully bizarre father-daughter act, Brute Force & Daughter of Force.

Why was I there? Equal parts Beatles conspiracy theory and just dumb luck.

I ran into Daughter of Force — a very lovely and talented woman I would come to learn, whose name is Lilah (she refused to divulge any further information of that variety) — while in line for the Rickie Lee Jones concert at the Parrish II on Friday.

In fact, she was stylishly dressed more like Jones than Jones, in what I would describe as that old Annie Hall look. She invited me to see her dad at their official SXSW 2007 showcase.

Her soft-sell pitch was strong: she was cute and her dad might be legendary.

You see, um, her 66-year-old dad claims to have made the most collectible and rarest Apple Record single, “King of Fuh.”

If the legend is true, it goes like this: Back in the late ’60s, Brute Force managed to get a demo recording of his naughty track about the land of Fuh (whose lyrics plead “all hail the Fuh King, the mighty Fuh King”) to the Beatles’ George Harrison.

Harrison is said to have dug it enough to have slapped some London Philharmonic strings on the master tape and re-mixed it.

When EMI and Capitol refused to release it, Apple pressed a small run of 45 rpm vinyl records because Harrison and John Lennon liked the subversive joke, which today on the collector’s market goes for $900 to $1,200. The B-side was the girl group the Chiffon’s song, “Nobody Knows What’s Goin’ On (In My Mind But Me).”

In his erratic career, Brute Force also toured with the Tokens, recorded the album, “I, Brute Force — Confections of Love” on Columbia Records and worked as prop comic under his given name, Stephen Friedland.

Fast forward from 1968 to SXSW 2007, and there is the dapper Brute Force in a suit and tie walking up to the lone upright piano onstage, followed by Daughter of Force, who has transformed into a vision of loveliness in a sweet dress.

Only the barely visible tattoos on her elbows of the words “thunder” (on her left) and “lightning” (on the other), and the feeling that Brute Force might have walked out of “The Shining” for real, offers any hint that this might be strange — and fun.

No one was disappointed.

The duo, which plays onstage like the Smothers Brothers of old with Daughter of Force playing the straight man to her quirky father working his out-of-control James Mason eyebrows to full comedic effect, opened with the simple, welcoming song, “Hello.”

Anyone within earshot couldn’t help but smile during “Let’s Put Them All Together,” a song whose twisted hook is a catchy, irreverent litany of the major religious prophets.

The patter between father and daughter was cute: pop comes across as a wild man and Lilah, an installation artist in New York, looks sort of protective and befuddled. Make that fuddled, because she’s a character, too.

She throws in ironic lines like, “On a lighter note,” before presenting the song, “We’re On a Collision Course with Doom.” The song offers a stuttering “My Generation” moment when the word “collision” is transformed into “cocoa, cocoa, cocoa-collision.”

Maybe their act is a cosmic joke, an act of sugary defiance and confrontation the way that Frank Zappa and Andy Kaufman once worked. But Brute Force & Daughter of Force was hardly testing the limits of their audience.

Rather, they arrested and engaged them — a rarity at SXSW 2007.

“Love Saves” veered toward traditional blues and was perhaps the closest thing to pop in their repertoire. “Space Mission” fractured that assessment with its silly falsetto vocal, as did “To Sit On a Sandwich,” which reminds that there’s nothing better than sitting on a sandwich or skipping through the coleslaw.

But it should be noted that the lovable duo, who have been performing together for 10 years, do harmonize and sing unison beautifully. He is a talented pianist.

Between numbers, Brute Force would stand up and bow oddly and drawl like John Wayne whenever he said, “Thank you.”

And just when I thought this night would pass into history without a unicorn reference, I learned it was probably inevitable when the pair sang “Golden Unicorn.” “The unicorn lives, even though he loses his horn,” Brute Force said, explaining the lyrics. “It’s like deers and antlers.”

Before closing with the requisite “King of Fuh,” the two did deliver an absolutely amazing gem, a song that Brute Force wrote back in the ’60s called “Stones.” With its “roll them stones” double entendre lyrics, this one was a genuine, timeless R&B tune. It should have been a hit.

After the gig, his first ever at SXSW, Brute Force talked about his odd career.

“I always played on the black keys,” said Brute Force, recalling how he first learned on the family piano as a child and make up melodies. He took lessons, but the basement was where he learned to create.

The New York native said that he quit college in his 20s, but that luckily “my family was able to tolerate me.”

He can’t remember if he was stoned when he wrote “King of Fuh.” He might have been high, he admitted, because he recalled it was inspired by a story or poem about a furry king. He heard it wrong, he said.

He kicks himself for not hanging on to more copies of his rare Apple Records record. He only has one copy. “It’s the rarest 45 ever,” he likes to say.

“I was a censored artist,” he added. “I dug down deeply into language taboo.”

About the possibility of fame and fortune in the 1960s because of the Beatles connection: “It was all ripped away from me at the age of 28, can you imagine?”

But Brute Force is happy and resigned to his cult status. He’s survived with a bigger-than-life personality and a sense of humor, albeit strange, weird and sweet. This ’60s casualty is articulate and sly — and has a growing legion of fans thanks to the Internet and MySpace.com.

Brute Force & Daughter of Force definitely passed the Sandy’s ice cream cone test (they’re every bit as pleasurable) and it’ll be worth seeking them out next time in New York. They’ve got a good thing going at the Player’s Club on East 20th Street.

Does he have big plans? There’s an off-Broadway musical, a one-man show and comedy act.

Oh yeah, and he’s trying to change the pledge of allegiance. His goes like this: “I pledge allegiance to my planet and to the universe all around and within me, one spirit indivisible with eternity for all.”



King Of Fuh, The Musical, Progress Report

July 7, 2006

OK. How did the show go? Well, since I wrote it it’s kind of awkward to say anything about it, but I can tell you that we packed The Players Theatre, 6-20-06, with 200
people. There was a copius amount of laughing, and applause. Overall the audience was very entertained, as was evidenced by the many generous appreciations from
people after the show. The show brought the BF heavy/funny genre to 200 people for a 90 minute trip into the beautiful Land of Fuh.

kingoffu

It was cool…as people came in a ” passport clerk” handed out “visas” to the Land of Fuh.

The stage was covered in astroturf and the back wall covered with a backdrop depicting the Land of Fuh.

Our Director, David Copeland took the book and gave it life, made the people and Land of Fuh a living reality. The roughly two 1/2 months of auditions and rehearsals, under his guidance was for me a fantastic experience.

Our cast Lilah Freedland (Daughter of Force), Alex Perez, Erin Evers, Melissa Schoenberg, Mai Sakamoto, Erikka Walsh, Lesley Middlebrook, John Nasta, McGregor
Wright, Melissa Meli, David Doumeng, Sandra Laredo, and Brute, were super excited going into the evening and more so after. All made the fantasy live. A fantasy land where Love overcomes Hate and War.

Again, I can’t be a critic here. What we did is to workshop the script, successfully present the musical, and start the buzz, a continuation of the buzz started way back in 1969 when Beatles Harrison and Lennon created Apple 08.

In coming months I shall be raising money for a run off-b’way and if any of you want to invest in King of Fuh, The Musical, or know people who invest in live stage, please let me know at brutesforce@aol.com. This show has, as they say, “legs”.

I am depending upon you, O Mighty Brute’s Force, to do your best, to let your family and friends know that they’ll want to take a trip to the Land of Fuh, when the show runs again.



King Of Fuh Photos!

June 20, 2006

King of Fuh The Musical

01smLilah, Daughter of Force, played a Spirit who brought healing Love.

02smErin Evers and Alex Perez played characters who embodied sexual creation.

03smMelissa Schoenberg and Mei Sakamoto played the King’s kids.

04smAll Hail the mighty Fuh King.

05smLilah, Kathleen Schlemmer (with flute), Erin, Melissa, Mei, Alex.

07smTownspeople, David Doumeng and Kathleen get together and Sandra Loredo shows her moves…

06smLesley Middlebrook played a mean General with her 2 soldiers Macgregor Wright (left) and John Nasta (right).

08smMei spilts on the green, green grass of the land of Fuh.

09smKing and General eventually fall in love. Love overcomes Hate.

10sm
Alex Perez, Erin Evers, David Copeland(Director), Joe Franklin, share the smiles after the show.

11smBrute Force, Joe Franklin, David Copeland.

12smMelissa Meli, Sandra Loredo.

13smMei Sakamoto, BF, David Doumeng.

14sm

15smKing of Fuh removes his crown for the audience, for they are real royalty.

Photographs by Frederic Foto, FredericFoto1@cs.com



Beefstock

March 25, 2006

Brute at Full Moon Beefstock Music Festival, March 25, 2006

Beefstock Music Festival

with Peter Pierce (guitar), Steve DeSeve (drums),
Andrew Mattina (bass), Brute Force (keys)



Spring Update

April 14, 2005

OH MIGHTY BRUTE’S FORCE
KEEP CENTERED
IN THE MIDST OF ALL THE CONDITIONS…
THE JOB, THE FAMILY, THE FRIENDS,
THE COMPETITION,
YOUR BODY, YOUR MIND,
YOUR BOSS….
NEVER FEAR,
DRAW CLOSE
TO THE BEACHFIRE OF YOUR BEING OBSERVE
YOUR HEART FLAMES
YOUR EYES AGLOW
HEAR THE ENDLESS WAVES
OF TIME SOOTHING YOU

TAKE CARE
THESE ARE TRICKY TIIMES

STAY THE COURSE
Your Servant
Brute Force

line

Spring Day at the Beach.

Spring has arrived on time this year. But it has taken a while to feel like Spring in NYC. The cold just kept hanging on. In 90 minutes I was on the beach in New Jersey I walked the length of the beach and found an unattended log fire. It drew me close. I knelt to feel its warmth. I dipped my hand in the red and brown ash, and touched my finger to the middlle of my forehead. A poem play I have witten, starts out with just such an experience. I put sand on the embers as there was a stiff breeze and the fire would probably grow. I wanted to prevent a glowing ember from being carried in the wind. You know what Smokey the Bear says…don’t you?

This April Spring day I dipped in the Atlantic. The sun was warm, although the breeze off the ocean necessitated me building a wooden wind shield, about a foot high. Lying close to the barrier I caught about 2 hours of the sun, and an occasional whiff of tar emanating from the wood.

It was very fine, being away from NYC, very close to the Big Water. And the ocean was cold, yes, but a bit more tolerable than the previous 3 months. I found a few shark’s teeth while walking and spoke briefly with a few acquaintences. A woman approached me, said she’s writing a book, and asked if I had known of any ghosts or legends in the town., a town I’ve been returning to for some 55 years.”I’ve never seen a ghost here,” said I. I guess I could have said that perhaps I’m a bit of a legend by now…But that’s not for me to say.

I took some pics of cherry blossom, or dogwood trees, I don’t know which, anyway they were pink and beautiful.

Pink and beautiful..

On the way back to NYC I had a great hot dog with the hot red relish, sweet red relish, green relish, mustard and sourkraut, and a small root beer. Later I consumed an ice cream sundae… Medium size cup, coffee ice cream, chocolate syrup, toasted coconut sprinkles and whipped cream. The young girl asked me if I wanted a cherry… I said, “No.”

She reminded me of the cherry blossoms.



Ten That You May Have Missed in 2004

January 1, 2005

from top 10 article by Gary Pig Gold

Brute Force Tour de Brute Force
After recently reading all about how Jan and Dean met Batman at the gala Gotham release party for Routledge’s Lost In The Grooves book (Get Your Copy Today!), I was followed on stage – well, onto the floor near the Housing Works store’s rear windows, I should clarify – by the one and only, authentically legendary, all-singing all-playing Stephen Friedland. Now, you should all know this anti-icon much better by his nom-de-disque Brute Force or, to any Apple Record completist out there, the King of Fuh (the shoulda-been-hit side of one of Beatle George’s – and my – fab fave 45’s ever ). Well for those unfortunate out there who may have completely missed out on this all, the Man the Myth Himself has conveniently compiled this copious, 30-track 74-minute compendium of mock-operatic odes to livestock, lunar modules, hair/hare and soldiers both toy and otherwise, which includes not only his entire unreleased (Tokens-produced!) 1969 Extemporaneous long-player, but two – Count ’em! – versions of “The King of Fuh.” In a word, or two then? Required Listening. And yes… May, um, the Brute be with you.
– by Gary Pig Gold



BBC Oxford Music Review

May 1, 2004

BBC Oxford MusicReview of May 4, 2004 show with Misty’s Big Adventure.

Brute Force/Misty’s Big Adventure @ The Cellar
by Jon Surtees

A 60’s legend combined with the stars of the future, that’ll be a Trailerpark night then…

Misty’s Big Adventure are a top ten band waiting to happen. They have tunes, vibes, lyrics and quality to rival anyone currently residing there.

Fronted by Grandmaster Gareth and featuring an array of musicians Jools Holland would be proud of, Misty’s at times make an almost perfect noise.

It is impossible to tie this down to any one element of their multi-faceted sound. The combination of sax, trumpet and scratch DJ gives them uniqueness, whilst the more conventional instruments of guitars, drums and keyboards are utilised brilliantly.

Drawing influences from bands as diverse as The Beatles, The Specials and Captain Beefheart, Grandmaster Gareth and his merry mob are constantly exploding their happy bombs in the minds of any onlookers. Failing to smile during a Misty’s Big Adventure set is now considered a medical definition of Riga Mortis. Their single ‘I Am Cool With A Capital C’ is a stand out tonight, as is Gareth’s tribute to compilation tapes, ‘Home Taping’s Killing Music’. Tonight, as always, Misty’s were simply brilliant.

The crowds disappointment at Misty’s curtailed set was soon allayed when Brute Force took the stage, backed by the entire Misty’s band. Bedecked in a dapper suit and mesmerising eyebrows, Brute carried on exactly where Misty’s left off. His opening song, ‘Hello’ was the perfect example of how to use measured tweeness to get an audience onside without ever going over the edge into self indulgence.

His set continued in the same vein, including a rather bizarre duet where his daughter played the role of his wife and his last two songs, ‘The King of Fuh’ and ‘Tapeworm of Love’ which were genius slices of 60’s melodies brought bang up to date by a intricate musical mind and a mad 9 piece ensemble.

Once again TrailerPark succeeds with the business of bringing unabashed quality to Oxford.

TrailerPark returns at The Cellar on Tuesday May 18th with Tiger Club, Zea and Persil and hits The Zodiac vs Jet White on Wednesday May 19th with Crack: We Are Rock, The $hit and Piney Gir.



The King of Times Square

January 1, 2003

King of Times Square



Scramarama!

December 1, 2002

Reviews of Brute Force performance at Scramarama, the two day rock and roll and film festival at the Palace Theatre in downtown Los Angeles, Saturday, November 3rd, 2002.

line

“Brute Force (celebrated in Scram #3 and again in this issue) was the most unlikely Scramarama performer, more so than even the Music Machine. Who would believe it would be possible to lure this mysterious sixties auteur out to California, or that when we did he would deliver a performance powerful enough to captivate every soul in attendance? I tracked down Stephen Friedland early in the planning stages of the fest, meeting with him and daughter Lilah in a NYC jazz bar. My pal Keith Bearden came along for moral support, because I was frankly intimidated and somewhat starstruck by Brute! He quickly put us at ease with his charming conversation, and demonstrated his people skills when a drunken East Indian joined our party and shared a lifetime of pain and resentment. Brute patiently drew this troubled person out, calmed his outbursts, and sent him on his way. A couple days later I met again with Brute and journalist Dawn Eden, and tentatively asked if he’d be interested in playing Scramarama. To my delight, he immediately agreed. While financial concerns and the events of September 11 inserted some snags in the works, this was one artist that I didn’t want to let get away. Special thanks go out to Andy Zax, for all his encouragement when it seemed least likely to fly. I knew it was all worth it from the moment Brute sat down at the electric piano and started playing those weird and wonderful songs. His performance, encompassing music, prop comedy and audience participation, was incredibly moving and hilarious. We didn’t want him to leave, and now we all want him to come back.
– by Kim Cooper, Scram Magazine

line

“But Scramarama was great for so many other reasons, like my first experience with Stephen Friedland, who performs solo under the name Brute Force. He was once on Apple Records, and had his Apple single, “King of Fuh” (reverse the words), banned. He played in and to the vacant spaces of the giant theater. I sat in the first balcony, by myself, spying on him. He played a small electric piano, these really lovely melodies with absurd lyrics, like “To Sit on a Sandwich,” which has this timeless, intense urgency and yet it really is literally about sitting on sandwiches. And the one about the world being full of so much bullshit, a song about cows, had this really appealing tumbling piano riff. Brute Force did comedy too, like inventing a new pep-rally cheer for downcast Hollywood . . . acting out sounds of various letters of the alphabet and props he played with . . . and then finally the simply beautiful, dainty ballad about the fuh king, such a pretty and emotional (and yes, silly) song no matter which level you take it on. Mr. Force was a wondrous revelation to me, and I was inspired and charmed by his multi-leveled, intelligent and loving approach to his performance. Plus he was hilarious. Plus his songs were glorious.”
– by Falling James, Entertainment writer, LA Times