By Mike Sembos
10:20 AM EDT, May 21, 2013
Malcolm Tent and Brute Force
w/ Michelle Riganese. Thursday, May 23, 9 p.m. Two Boots of Bridgeport, 281 Fairfield Ave., Bridgeport. (203) 331-1377. Free. twobootsbridgeport.com
Malcolm Tent's beloved Danbury shop Trash American Style has been closed for six years now, but Tent's presence in the community is still just as strong as ever. He carts around a mobile version of the store to record fairs, festivals and events. He hosts a radio show, Mr. Tent's Wild Ride on 88.7 FM WNHU, out of the University of New Haven, every Tuesday afternoon from 2 to 4 p.m. (Ex-Trash customers would often discover new music because Tent would be spinning tunes while they shopped — the radio show fills the void left by the store's closing nicely.) But he also plays his music live, both solo and with his group Ultrabunny. And occasionally, he books shows for acts he likes. This Thursday, Tent set one such show up for Brute Force at Two Boots, and Tent himself will be opening. Never heard of Brute Force? Let's let Malcolm explain:
"The first thing I knew about Brute Force was that he had an album out on Columbia Records called Confections of Love and it's just like one of the wackiest, left-of-center, singer songwriter albums I've ever heard," he says. "He's got songs in there like 'Tapeworm of Love,' 'To Sit on a Sandwich' and 'What a Wonderful Party.' It's really goofy, really intelligent and completely from left field. I fell in love with that album and realized that he's got a lot of stuff. He's got a couple other albums and a whole bunch of singles and they're all just completely wacky and totally wonderful."
Brute Force is a pseudonym for a guy named Stephen Friedland, and the 1967 release Confections of Love earned fans in high places. Fans like George Harrison and John Lennon. In 1969, Harrison had strings overdubbed onto a Brute Force demo for the song "The King of Fuh" and released it on the Beatles-owned Apple Records (Apple #8). Only 2,000 copies were printed by Apple, since label partner EMI wanted nothing to do with the song, which repeatedly references the "fuh king," a clever ploy to mess with the censors. As expected, it got no airplay whatsoever.
"The fact that they even released it is amazing, but I'm glad they did," says Tent.
Friedland also wrote songs for Del Shannon and the Tokens in the mid-'60s, the latter of which he played keyboards with for a time. In the '70s, he and his wife moved to California in an attempt to make it in the music business, but a steady stream of rejection letters got the best of him. His personal life slid downhill too. He largely abandoned his music for a couple of decades.
By the '80s, he'd gotten his shit back together again and toured the comedy club circuit. He can be seen in Ghostbusters, a film he helped work on in some unspecified capacity, as a hare krishna extra. It wasn't until 2001 when a British band called Misty's Big Adventure discovered "Tapeworm of Love" and coerced Friedland to come sing it with them that he fully came out of musical retirement.
Now, Brute Force lives in New York City, and when people like Malcolm Tent give him a call, he'll show up and play some songs.
"I've got this habit of reaching out to artists I really, really like and respect and try to get shows for them," says Tent.
As for Tent's own set, he'll be making enough noise to compensate for his lack of a band. He'll also be debuting his new red, white and blue guitar.
"The tongue is firmly in-cheek," he says. "I've got all kinds of stuff cooked up. You'll have to come on out to the show and see."
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