Recollections of The Left Banke

by recording engineer/producer Les Fradkin
I've known the boys since the 60s (I'm now 48 years old). We met at Sound 
Exchange studios in NYC. They were coming in to record "Two By Two" and 
"Love Songs In The Night," which was subsequently released on Buddah Records 
under Steve Martin's name. But George, Mike, Steve & I appear on it, along 
with NY session guys like Hugh McCracken, who played one of the guitar
parts. I became close friends with Steve and George who began appearing on
many of my record projects  -  some saw release while
others still languish in the vaults.  We did a lot of hanging out and I
think my general motive was that I loved their singing and it didn't hurt that
they had a bit of industry fame. But we all got along great and I
discovered that Steve was quite a good electric guitar player. This may not
generally be known by fans of the group. I was recording a girl singer
named Diane Ellis at the time for MGM Records (1972) and Steve wanted me to
meet Tommy Finn. Which I did. It was decided that the 3 of them would sing
backups on "I Could Make It Last Forever"
and "Goodbye" 2 songs I was demoing with her. I've still got these
recordings. The sessions were at A-1 Sound on Broadway and 74th
Street in NYC. At one of these sessions, I met and befriended Paul
Thornton of the Godz (whose group I later joined). The guys loved
to drink and party and being young kids, we caused quite a lot of commotion
in those days. Steve and George both sported full beards
at that time which kinda made them look like the "Smith Brothers"
cough-drop box picture. We used to rehearse up at my father's office.

My recollection was that they drank my father's liquor cabinet out
of house and home. 

In 1973, I took a job producing for Laurie Records and began using
Steve and George on all my record dates. George usually played
drums although he could also play fairly good guitar ( at that time, he
owned a cherry red Guild Starfire 12-string electric guitar). Steve would
sit in on guitar (I think he had a sunburst Fender Stratocaster), sometimes
bass and both would contribute to backup
vocals. A complete discography follows at the end of this piece.

As was the custom for guys hanging out who played music, we bagan writing
together a little bit. Sometimes, I heard stuff in it's early stages like
"You Say" which was really much better that it's subsequent recording for
Camerica. Sounded like something off "Rubber Soul".

I decided to try, due to my industry contacts, to revive the Left Banke
and get them a deal with Bell Records who were interested. The major
stumbling block was always Mike who I've always had a strange relationship
with. My take on Michael was that he was a very brilliant
but nervous guy. Real smart-especially at sussing out people who were in
awe of his talent. And make no mistake about it. He was and is a genius.
His knowledge of classical music was very deep and his piano technique was
phenomenal! He used to demonstrate his new compositions by plaing piano and
singing in that froggy voice of his
(he sings "What Do You Know?" on the first album). But he had great
difficulty getting along with other people (least of all me). I think he
was quite the "control freak" and disliked anyone stepping on his toes.
Plus I think I reminded him of himself. We resembled one another in a
general way and were both "child prodigys". Still he loved my bass guitar
style and often called me into any session where he and Steve and George
were involved. But nothing ever seemed to come of our efforts. We'd get
close, then Michael would "flip out" and split for days at a time- to God
knows where. So the Bell deal fell through. We also tried to record for
Charlie Fasch at Mercury Records and I recall doing

a session at Mercury studios which was then owned by Chuck Irwin.

The session for "Hello People" was one of the interesting highlights
of our relationship. I still have this recording and it's probably quite
historic because I've always regarded it as the birth of Stories.
Present that day at A-1 Sound  was George on drums, Steve Martin
on background vocals , Mike Brown on piano, Paul Thornton on acoustic
guitar, Ian Lloyd on bass and 2nd vocal and myself on lead guitar and
vocal. I still have this recording and will make it available for those who
might be interested. We were doing OK but Mike wasn't getting things quite
the way he wanted. In those days, he always
walked around with a mysterious brown paper bag filled with who
knows what. I made the mistake of asking him what he was having for lunch.
He ran out of the studio screaming. Two days later, I was over at
Ian's house and Mike appeared at the door claiming that the "Mongolians had
kidnapped him and put a transistor in his head."
We could never get him to reval the motive for this problem but I 
decided to join the Godz and he and Ian moved on with Stories.

At that point my relationship with Mike started to dwindle a bit since he
was pretty busy at Buddah with Dominic Scilila and Ian Lloyd.
But even then, he invited me down to Baggies Rehersal studio to
possibly play bass for Stories so that Ian could sing without having
to play. BUT- the old cross competitive vibe was still there so I passed
after attending one rehersal.

By this time, Steve and George (who guested on many Godz sessions
for ESP-Disk) were starting to fall on hard times. I know that George took
a job as a movie usher for awhile at the Baronet Coronet theater

on 59thSt. and 3rd Ave. but as to what Steve did to survive----??????

My next encounter with Mike was over the Beckies situation. As usual,
Mike didn't want to tour. For him, the Beckies were a vehicle for his
composing and producing talents. But he didn't really wanna be on the road.
So, one day, he drops over to my apartment unannounced
(he often did that) and says-"Do you wanna play keyboards for the 
Beckies on tour?" I considered this but Beatlemania was offering me the
Original Cast position right at that same moment so I politely
declined Mike's offer.

But was the Left Banke out of my life?? NOOOOOO! One day after
a particularly grueling show with Beatlemania, (sunner 1978) I stepped out
of the stage door to find Steve and George and Mike all gathered in front
of me.
They were gonna reunite and wanted me to help tham over at Camerica. I did
agree to their plan but of course the usual Michael Brown crazed interlude
occurred. He started yelling at me saying things like
"phony Beatle George!". We retired to Howard Johnson's Restaurant
to formulate plans and it was obvious to me that Mike wasn't "all
there". But the guys assured me that things would work out alright.
And to some extent, they did. I helped on some of the Camerica stuff
("And One Day", You Say", "Lorraine") and as I recall, Mike drifted
out of the picture at that point. Tommy Finn took over as master of
ceremonies. They did a fine album but it didn't get released right away
and they broke up again.

I haven't seen them since. I miss them.  Steve and George were real
good friends. I hope they're well. As for Mr. Brown, I hope he's OK too
and finding piece with his demons. He's never had his fair share of
acclaim.

BTW- here's a real piece of trivia. George at the time was married to a
nice girl named Linda. She was the woman's voice on Left Banke Too.

Les Fradkin/Left Banke Discography:

TWO BY TWO / LOVE SONGS IN THE NIGHT
Steve Martin Buddah Single BDA 219 (1970)
(also on the Hot Parts Soundtrack Album on Kama Sutra)

I COULD MAKE IT LAST FOREVER / GOODBYE / LORI'S SONG
Diane Ellis/Les Fradkin/The Left Banke (Unreleased) (1972-1973)
Diane Ellis-Vocals, George Cameron-drums,vocals,
Steve Martin-vocals, Tom Finn-vocals, bass
Les Fradkin-Keyboards,guitars,vocals
Charlie Cazalet-guitar
Harry Lookofsky-Violins

SEE YOU IN SEPTEMBER / IVY IVY
California Laurie Single LR 3612 (1973)
Collector's Records of the 50's & 60's Vol. 14 (1982)
George Cameron-drums, Steve Martin-guitar vocals
Mike Brown-Piano, Harpsichord, Les Fradkin- 6-string Bass, vocals,
12-string guitar

GIVE A DAMN (LP Cut) on Godzundheit album
The Godz-ESP Disk 2017 (1973)
Paul Thornton-Ld Vocal, Ac Gtr, George Cameron-drums, bvox,
Les Fradkin- lead and bass guitar, 12st. guitar, vocals

HELLO PEOPLE (Unreleased)
Stories (1st Session) (1973)
Mike Brown-Piano, Ian Lloyd-Vocals, Les Fradkin-Ld Gtr, Vocals,
George Cameron-drums, vocals, Steve Martin- Gtr, Vocals,
Paul Thornton-acgtr, Vocals

ABRAHAM, MARTIN & JOHN
California (Laurie single LR-3639) Recorded 1973 Released 1976
Mike Brown-Piano, Ian Lloyd-Vocals, Les Fradkin-Ld Gtr, Vocals,
George Cameron-drums, vocals, Steve Martin- Gtr, Vocals,
Paul Thornton-acgtr, Vocals

JIM McCARTHY Album-ALIEN ESP-Disk (1973)
Jim McCarthy-Vocals,Guitar
George and Steve sing background vocals.
Les Fradkin-bass

ONLY MY OPINION / YOU SAY / LORRAINE / RIGHT BY MY SIDE
The Left Banke (Unreleased)
1st session A1 Sound 1973
2nd session Mercury Studios
Mike Brown-Piano, Mellotron, Steve Martin-guitar, vocals,
Tom Finn- Guitar, Vocals, George Cameron-drums, vocals,
Les Fradkin-bass, vocals

AND ONE DAY / LORRAINE / ONLY MY OPINION / YOU SAY
The Left Banke (Recorded 1978)
Mike Brown-Piano, Mellotron, Steve Martin-guitar, vocals,
Tom Finn- Guitar, Vocals, George Cameron-drums, vocals,
Les Fradkin-bass,mellotron,slide guitar, vocals

IT'S GONNA BE HARD / NEVER BEEN A MAN
Les Fradkin/Ian Lloyd Project Unreleased (1975)
Les Fradkin-Bass Guitar, Bass Pedals, Mellotron, Orchestron, Vocals
Ian Lloyd-Piano, Mellotron, Vocals
Greg Diamond-Drums, Vocals
Steve Love-Guitar

Thanks, Les, for this contribution!