Brute Force, born Stephen Friedland in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1940, was first drawn to the stage at the age of eight after watching his mother act in numerous plays at the Jersey City Jewish Community Center Theatre. Friedland continued to hone his performance skills throughout high school both on stage and off, frequently improvising songs and sketches at parties or at home on the piano. In the early '60s he met Billy Gussak, a studio drummer who had played with Bill Haley & the Comets, and began collaborating with the seasoned musician — and father of his current girlfriend — on songs. One of those tracks, "My Teenage Castle," wound up as the B-side of Peggy March's 1963 "I Wish I Were a Princess" single. His success at RCA eventually led him to the next phase of his career, playing keyboards and guitar for the Tokens. During that time he composed songs for Del Shannon, the Creation, the Cyrkle and the Chiffons — the latter scored a minor hit with "Nobody Knows What's Goin' on in My Mind But Me."
He left the Tokens in 1967 and recorded the heavily arranged and deeply absurd I, Brute Force: Confessions of Love for Columbia Records. Described by Brute as "a paradigm of being far ahead of its time", the record swiftly sank below both the critic's and the public's radar. Instead of wallowing, Brute took to the sea, taking part in an expedition with best friend Ben Schlossberg to swim the entire Bering Strait — the "Cold War" stunt was aimed at drawing attention to "the closeness of the Eastern and Western hemispheres," and was featured in Life magazine. 1969 saw the release of Brute's most memorable single, "The King of Fuh" — the joke being that the protagonist was referred to as "the Fuh King." The track was championed by George Harrison and released as a single on the Beatles' Apple label. That same year he released Extemporaneous. Recorded live in the studio in 1969 with minimal piano accompaniment before a small audience, it was made up largely of comedy songs, political jabs and absurd improvisations, and has since become a sought after slab of vinyl — it was reissued with numerous bonus tracks by Rev-Ola in 2004. Brute Force continued to perform his non-traditional musical/comedy variety act throughout the '80s, '90s, and into the millennium.
Brute Force started (then still as Stephen Friedland) as a song writer in New York, before becoming a member of the Tokens (The Lion Sleeps Tonight). In the second half of the 60’s he went solo and released an album Confections Of Love in 1967. In 1969 he made the single King Of Fuh on the Apple label with the help of George Harrison (1969).
1971 - Brute Force / Extemporaneous
2001 - Brute Force / Tour De Brute Force
(USA) Brute Force Records BFR5
29 tracks / 38:04 / no booklet
1. The World 2:47
2. Hello 3:47
3. KOF Live 3:53
4. Astronauts 3:57
5. Sufferin’ Surfin’ 0:49
6. Commercial 2:42
7. The Gun 4:14
8. The Burp 2:06
9. Five Minutes 1:06
10. Dwayne 5:25
11. Hail The Hare 4:52
12. The Hexagon 2:12
13. Driver’s Education 0:45
14. Uranus 0:55
15. Autopsy 0:24
16. Skepticism 0:45
17. Nutty 2:05
18. Enjoy It 2:55
19. The Reds Are Yellow 1:06
20. Hello Redux 1:00
21. The Tapeworm Of Love 2:22
22. I Find This Annoying 2:18
23. Ray Gun 2:06
24. Toys For Tots 2:21
25. Extremist Polka 2:29
26. Franchise Guy 1:33
27. King Of Fuh 3:06
28. Sad World 3:07
29. Vicky 2:13
Lyrics & Melody (c) 2001 Stephen Friedland
In 1969 Brute Force recorded live, with an audience of around 40 people in the studio, a second album Extemporaneous (released in 1971). It is an extremely rare album, so we can call ourselves lucky that Brute Force himself is making it available now on CD: it forms the main part of the above CD, tracks 2 - 20. Brute Force has added a few bonus tracks, including another rare item, the once 1969 Apple single King Of Fuh (track 27). A tape of this single came to the ears of George Harrison, who heard it in Nat Weiss’ (Brian Epstein’s US partner) apartment in New York. Harrison liked it so much that he wanted to put it out as an Apple single. He added strings by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra along with a bit of percussion by himself and planned to release it on April 8, 1969. However, due to the lyrics, EMI refused to release or distribute it. Which is why Harrison had some 2000 copies pressed (backed with the track Nobody Knows) to distribute it via mail order. It didn’t work out, however, and in 1971 Brute Force released the single on his own label, albeit coupled with a different track, Tapeworm Of Love, from his first solo album (and also a bonus track on this CD, track 21).
Brute Force was very kind to answer a few questions exclusively for Beatles Unlimited (June 2002):
BU: You first enjoyed succes in the Tokens. In the book Beatles Undercover it is said that you first recorded the King Of Fuh song with this group. Has this version of the song also been released on record prior to the Apple release? (or at all)?
Brute Force: I just listened to the Brute Force 45 and it seems to me it’s the same track as the Apple track. I don't think the original track as produced with the Tokens was ever a release. The B side was the original version of "The Tapeworm of Love" which is now on "Tour de Brute Force".
BU: You gave a tape of the song to Tom Dawes and via via it got to George Harrison who heard it and remixed it. Was this your intention?
Brute Force: My intention was to get it to the Beatles. I didn’t pick out which Beatle. That was Fate.
BU: Sometime in the 60's you adopted the name Brute Force. Can you elaborate this; how you got it, why, etc.
Brute Force: In "Cool and Strange Music Magazine", see my web pages at www.interstellarcafe.com/bruteforce, there's a good account of this. During some recording sessions of my music, and of me as artist, produced with the Tokens I was searching for a psuedonym. I had a feeling that Stephen Friedland was not appropriate as the name for a rock singer. I had come up with Krude Brute. Then, at this session we’re all talking about a "name" for "me" . I mentioned Krude Brute and everybody thought for a few seconds and Jay Siegel the lead singer of Tokens blurted out "Brute Force!", and so my pseudonym was born. In retrospect, had I stuck with my given name, I probably would have been taken more seriously, and respected more for being what I was: a young handsome, vibrant Jewish man. Not to say that I’m any less of that description, only not quite so young, and lines have etched my face as time’s graffiti plays its artistry.
BU: Maybe a bit predictable, but the single didn’t receive any airplay. What was your reaction to it?
Brute Force: Well in a couple of years I produced a release of it on Brute Force Records, so I didn’t accept the censorship and language taboo, and sought to open the mass megalithic mind even a millimeter more. Yet the same entrenched fear was inside the mind and hearts of the radio program managers, a fear not of the melody, more with the lyrics (although the lyrics have nothing to do with sex, only with the Beauty of the world, and Individuality), but the awesome fear which grips a human being upon looking at the sky and envisioning one’s place in the universe, and also the fear of leaving ones pigeonhole job (as program manager, perhaps)and standing in the unemployment line.
I recognized the supreme hypocrisy of people who would "love" King of Fuh, laugh at it, yet not play it. The Internet radio show Friendly Persuasion,
(www.antennaradio.com/friendlypersuasion/show.htm) recently played King of Fuh. It marked the first time in 33 years that I had heard KOF played. The Apple release was played once by Johnny Michaels on WOR-FM, back then. Once. The way I heard it, "The board," (the telephone incoming call board)," lit up like a Christmas tree."
BU: Was it difficult to get it back from Apple and release it yourself (on Brute Force Records? Was this perhaps the reason you started the record label.
Brute Force: Not difficult, a bit too casual. Probably BF Records was started to keep The King alive, yes. Also a young man named Jeff Cheen was a partner with me at that time. A very energetic man, who believed in KOF, and helped me get BF Records started.
On the near horizon are updates for the uninitiated, friends, and family on http://www.interstellarcafe.com/bruteforce.
A video by daughter, Lilah Freedland, (spelling correct), of BF singing a heretofore unheard song exploring the realms of reincarnation, oblivion and life forms other than human, will be shown in a British art gallery,Serpentine, within the next 30 days.
Brute’s Force Worldwide
146 East 98th St, #2
NYC, NY 10029
THE PROCLAMATION OF TRUTH IS FEARLESS.
IF LOVE IS BLIND, THE INTERNET IS BRAILLE.
In the contacts that Beatles Unlimited had with Brute Force we thanked him for all he had done ‘up to now’. This prompted Brute Force to write the following poem:
(Usually new friends inspire me with their own words, and so have you with the phrase "...up to now.")
UP TO NOW
Up to now there were flowers
there were rifles and foxholes.
Up to now there was sunshine
in the eyes of the young.
Up to now I concluded
that this may not be forever,
may not last as the empty
sky does, up to now.
Up to now there was lingerie
languid on the rocker.
Only diaries and such
or whispers told the truth.
Up to now there were statues
that never felt a handshake
or the vehemence of action
or the righteousness of proof.
Up to now.
But then how can one decipher
the next moment, anyway?
You say you want me yet
do I know for sure you'll stay.
At least you haven't gone away, up to now.
How can anyone predict
the scheduled joy and pain?
All I do is what I do.
And we meet on common ground.
And I write you once again.
So I'll accept the lilac's petals.
And with reluctance the new war.
Hold out my hands to children,
for afterall: what am I doing?
And what do I live for?
Up to now.
Up to now there was music
that flowed through the human mind
and words uncalculated
that seekers of truth find.
And folks generous and kind...
up to now.
2001 - Apple Compact Disc UK Singles Collection
(UK) CD ASINGLE 11
203 tracks / 715:36 / 64-page booklet + 8-page foldout + 3 12-page foldouts
(bootleg 10-CD set in box)
Disc 9 CDP 12181931-9 / 20 tracks / 66:29
19. Brute Force - King Of Fuh 2:53
20. Brute Force - Nobody Knows 2:54
19, 20 (Stephen Friedland)
19, 20 Produced by The Tokens (and Stephen Friedland), remixed by George Harrison.
Stephen Friedland (vocals, keyboards and mellotron)
Harrison was responsible for the addition of strings by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and a bit of percussion added to "King Of Fuh", while he left "Nobody Knows" unaltered.
King Of Fuh also appeared on this bootleg collection. However, on the Tour De Brute Force CD, the quality is much better by all standards. Apart from the fact that there is much less noise and hiss, the track there has a much clearer, almost 5 seconds longer, fade. The track on this Apple collection also runs 7 seconds faster.
Brute Force: http://www.interstellarcafe.com/bruteforce/. Visit this site if you like to order this CD from the artist himself; tell him, you got it from Beatles Unlimited and he will write you a personal note as well!