Monday, January 26, 2015

Smash Records: Walk Away Renée

The Left Banke’s lush instrumentation was a nice change of pace in the midst of guitar based recordings of the mid 1960s. Their first hit on Smash Records, “Walk Away Renée,” was written by keyboardist, Michael Brown along with help from Tony Sansone and Bob Calilli. Brown stated that the song was inspired by bassist Tom Finn’s girlfriend Renée Fladen, with whom Brown had admired from afar.

“Walk Away Renée” was recorded at Brown’s (real name Lookofsky) father’s studio in New York City. Harry Lookofsky, who was a classically trained violinist, took an immediate interest in his son’s band, and emerged as their producer, manager, and music publisher.

Of all of the members of the band, Loofosky’s son Michael Brown was the only member who played on “Walk Away Renée,” as he supplied the harpsichord parts that are just barely audible in the song’s left channel.

The three others members of the band only sang on the cut. Steve Martin Caro, who used Steve Martin as a stage name, sang lead. Outside of Brown, the entire instrumentation was provided by session musicians. This was often the practice in the 1960s with up-and-coming acts and still occurs today in Nashville with new country artists.

Brown suggested the alto flute lead which was provided by an unnamed session musician. He was inspired by a similar solo on The Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreamin’,” which at the time was an album cut and had not been released yet as a single. Like its inspiration, the lower voiced alto flute adds a nice touch.

At the time of the recording in 1965, The Left Banke was not under contract with any label and Harry Lookofsky shopped the record to potential labels. Mercury Records bought the masters and released it on their Smash subsidiary. The song charted at #5 in 1966. Two years later, “Walk Away Renée” was covered by Motown’s The Four Tops and did fairly well at #14.

The Left Banke’s follow-up “Pretty Ballerina,” also inspired by Renée Fladen and written by Michael Brown, was their only other hit. It peaked at #15 in 1967. A third song inspired by Fladen, “She May Call You Up,” was released as a single in mid 1967; however, it had a poor showing at #120.

Getting back to the song at hand, check out the decay at the ending of “Walk Away Renée.” There is an “A” bass note decay that is out of this world. It sounds like a piano; however, the session notes do not list a piano for this recording. It follows the bass line and it may be a combination of the bass and harpsichord as they are both in the left channel. If you have an idea, let me know. By the way, the session arranger, John Abbott, played the bass.


  1. I've always been a big fan of this song. Thanks.

    1. It is one of those bright and shining moments from the mid 60s.