by Kevin Burton
It takes red, yellow and blue to make brown. So you have to do some work to get where we’re going this week on Flying Colors.
“The color brown symbolizes stability, reliability..wise beyond its years…exuding vigor….” says www.color-meanings.com. That’s all news to me kids. But if they say so.
Brown is also a popular surname. On this list we will spend some time at the Browns’ residence, including your bonus track, “Jenny Brown,” by the Smothers Brothers. It’s a little something they wrote to mock songs written for teenagers.
Check out the song and The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour on You Tube. It’s a guaranteed cure for the quarantine blues.
Here we go then, music colored in brown:
8 “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” by Jim Croce. My first lyrics controversy came as a nine-year-old. Was it “baddest man in the whole damn town,” or “whole down town?” Downtown wouldn’t make sense but saying damn on the radio was still semi-scandalous then.
7 “Charlie Brown,” by The Coasters. This son was a number two hit written for the Coasters by the legendary songwriting team of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller. Here’s to getting in trouble in school and playing innocent, asking one of the great musical questions, “why is everybody always picking on me?”
6 “Golden Brown,” by The Stranglers. This is a baroque very pleasing package of sounds. Number two UK in 1982. Time signatures in 6/8 and 7/8. Song co-writer Hugh Cornwell said, “Golden Brown works on two levels. It’s about heroin and also about a girl. Essentially the lyrics describe how both provided me with pleasurable times.”
There is also a good instrumental version by Dave Brubeck that gets you beyond the stupid lyrics.
5 “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter,” by Herman’s Hermits. A little different take on the “she won’t talk to me” song. Cool song written by British actor, screenwriter and songwriter Trevor Peacock. Number one for Herman’s hermits in May, 1965.
Always fun to write something a little different. Makes a bloke feel, so proud.
4 “Brown Sugar,” by The Rolling Stones.
Lead singer Mick Jagger said the song is about drugs and girls, in this case black girls in New Orleans, “just around midnight.” He said the success was due to a “good groove.”
The song was released in 1971 and rose to the top of the US charts, stalling at two in the UK.
3 “Brown-eyed Girl,” by Van Morrison. Once a woman who claimed to be the original brown-eyed girl that Morrison wrote the song about, gave me a ride to the bus station in Columbus. Stupid of me to hop into a stranger’s car like that, but nothing bad happened. Now it’s a little rock and roll-flavored story for me that doesn’t spill into the police blotter.
Now just a couple of notes on other songs I encountered before my top two:
Thumbs up: “Brownsville” by Joy Of Cooking. Heard this song and immediately thought country blues. Wikipedia says the sound is rock, folk, blues and jazz. Good stuff from a band I had never heard of.
The band came out of hippie Berkeley California in the 60s. What do you think Joy Of Cooking means?
Thumb up: “Browneyed Woman,” by Bill Medley. Righteous Brothers singer can’t get the time of day from a black or “browneyed” woman because of that great racial divide.
Bonus track: “Jenny Brown,” by The Smothers Brothers.
Now my top two brown songs.
2 “Sweet Georgia Brown” by just about everybody. Artists who have covered it go from Roberta Flack to Jerry Lee Lewis, to Tony Sheridan and the Beatles, to Carol Burnett. Yes, that Carol Burnett.
It was written in 1925 by Ben Bernie and Maceo Pinkard. Lyrics are by Kenneth Casey but I like it best as an instrumental. I first became aware of this song as the theme for the Harlem Globetrotters.
1 “Bring Back That Leroy Brown,” by Queen. The song left me slack jawed on first hearing. I usually repeat it when I play it. Completely infectious. You know how Queen can rock. This time they used a strategically-placed ukulele, honkytonk piano and killer drumming to drive the point home.
This song is an allusion to the character from the Jim Croce song. Though Leroy gets his comeuppance in the Croce tune, he’s on the loose in this rollicking rocker.
If you have favorite brown tunes that I left out, please note them in comments below.