Unless you've been living on another planet, you've caught some of the buzz…
- Posted on Oct 26th 2010 2:00PM by David Chiu
His 1969 single for the label, 'King of Fuh,' which had the endorsement of George Harrison and John Lennon, was supposed to have been his breakthrough, but Capitol/EMI, Apple's distributor, refused to release it, perhaps due to its controversial lyrics. (If you delete "of" in the song title, and reverse the remaining words, you'll get the idea). Subsequently Force's pop career plummeted and his life unraveled.
Now Brute Force may finally get his due. On Oct. 26, Capitol/EMI is releasing 'Come and Get It: The Best of Apple Records,' a compilation of music recorded by Apple artists such as James Taylor, Billy Preston, Badfinger and Mary Hopkin. Also on the collection is 'King of Fuh,' marking the first time it will get an official major label release.
"Millions of people have not heard this," Friedland tells Spinner. "That's great. These kids are gonna love it. Parents, watch out for the King of Fuh."
The song's origins goes back to the late '60s when Friedland wrote about a furry king in a magical land. He wanted to get the song, which he and the Tokens ('The Lion Sleeps Tonight') recorded in New York, to the Beatles. His friend Tommy Dawes was in a group called the Cyrkle; their manager was Nat Weiss, who also knew Beatles manager Brian Epstein.
"Nat one day plays it for George Harrison," Friedland recalls. "[George] said he loved it and wanted to do it. We sent him the tapes and he put strings from the London Philharmonic on it. When he played the song back for the violin players, they were laughing. They didn't hear the lyrics while they were playing. They were just overdubbing."
"It is a great record," says Andrew Davis, project coordinator for the new Apple compilation. "A melodically appealing piano ballad with cleverly subversive lyrics which, despite the implicit profanity, is a hymn to the concept of beauty -- perfectly in keeping with the spirit of the late 1960s."
But back then, Capitol/EM didn't release the single. In his book, 'The White Book: The Beatles, the Bands and the Biz,' Ken Mansfield, then US manager of Apple, recalled the matter and wrote that Capitol would have been "crazy" to put out the song, despite protests from John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
Instead, Apple privately released the single. Radio stations didn't touch 'King of Fuh' and it tanked. In retrospect, Friedland blames himself for not getting a manager. "I was on the brink of international stardom. I was young, male, good-looking guy, 28, and I'm being crushed."
After the song's failure, Friedland went through a difficult period. His marriage to his wife Cynthia broke up. In the '70s, he had substance abuse problems and went to a clinic. He worked as a plastic bags salesman and at his father's law firm. In the '80s, he became a musical comedian.
In the early 2000s, Friedland performed music as Brute Force. Since then he has played his songs, including 'King of Fuh,' to audiences in New York and Britain. There has been renewed interest in Friedland's life and music: His 'I Brute Force' album from 1967 was reissued this month on Bar/None Records and he is the subject of an upcoming documentary directed by Ben Steinbauer ('Winnebago Man').
For the inclusion of 'King of Fuh' on the new Apple collection, Davis says there was no resistance from EMI. Recalling a phone conversation he had with Friedland, he says: "[Brute] sounded to me as if he felt that his position as part of the history of Apple Records had at last, after all these years, been vindicated and validated."
Friedland says that he wants to get on the late night TV talk shows and perform 'King of Fuh' to a large audience. "This is it," he says. "I'm not going to wait another 40 years. There are a lot of people who have never heard this and when they hear it, they will crack up. Performance is what I love. If I could go performing from now until the day I drop dead, I'll be happy."