Brute Force is the recording/performance name of Stephen Friedland. Friedland was a member of The Tokens in the mid-1960’s, and composed songs recorded by The Tokens, The Creation, Cyrkle, and The Chiffons. In 1967, his bizarrely brilliant solo album I, Brute Force, Confections of Love was released, including songs such as “To Sit on a Sandwich” and “Tapeworm of Love”. He is best known for the 1969 single “King of Fuh”, which was admired by George Harrison and John Lennon and was released on Apple Records. Unfortunately, Captiol/EMI refused to distribute this single because some of the lyrics sounded like profanity. In October 2010, Confections of Love was re-released on CD, with “King of Fuh” as one of the bonus tracks; also that month, Apple Records released Come and Get It, The Best of Apple Records, a compilation containing “King of Fuh”.
The following interview was conducted by email in January 2011.
Jeff Moehlis: When did you first start writing songs?
Brute Force: I was a lucky young boy to have a Mother who was an artist and played piano, and a Father who bought a piano for our home in Jersey City, NJ. They also cared for me to educate me. That attuned my mind to art, language and music.
At age 6 or 7, after dinner I would sometimes go to the basement and improvise melodies on the piano. I’d play a lot on the black keys. Some melodies I remember had a Native American sound.
These were melodies. I didn’t notate them, didn’t record them, it was just extemporaneous playing. The “song” came later when coupled with poetry I started writing. I was given piano lessons and I learned notation. I remember playing “Some Enchanted Evening”. That song plus listening to classical music, the magnificent sounds of the classic masters Beethoven, Bach, Brahms and doo-wop rock, blues and country in my early teens, just loving to sit at the piano and play my stuff which I’d eventually play after practicing all led to writing songs by 14, 15.
There was a radio in my room. In the darkness I would listen to WWVA coming from Wheeling, WVA. This was a big influence on my love of Country music. The original Kawliga, the timbre of Hank Williams’ voice found an eternal place in my heart and mind.
In high school I would couple these experiences of learning and studying music and become an entertainer by improvising songs at parties, just playing the chords, singing lyrics extemporaneously. This proved instrumental in doing it later in life when I began to entertain professionally, and made up songs for audience members. It also served me, years later, during the recording of the album Extemporaneous.
Songwriting is one of the ways I create material for the entertainment industry.
JM: How did you get hooked up with The Tokens?
BF: I had a girlfriend, Bunny. She was the daughter of Billy Gussak. Billy was a drummer with Bill Haley and The Comets. There was a piano in Billy’s home and when I came over to see Bunny I played some songs on the piano. Billy took a liking to me. We collaborated. He took me into NYC to play one of my tunes, “My Teenage Castle”, for some friends, Hugo and Luigi. They were producers at RCA and they recorded the song with Little Peggy March.
Hugo and Luigi also worked with The Tokens on “Lion Sleeps Tonight”. They told me to go over to the Tokens office, to meet them, ostensibly as a song writer for their publishing co. At the same time, their bass player was leaving the group. I played them a few tunes. They must have been favorably impressed because they invited me to join their group as a keyboard and rhythm guitar player and a songwriter for their co.
JM: You co-wrote the song “For All That I Am”. Is it correct that this was first a song for The Tokens? What do you think of the version by The Creation? Also, several of your songs, including “For All That I Am”, were co-written with Paul Kahan, someone I’m not familiar with. Could you fill me in on him and his songwriting contributions?
BF: I wrote “For All That I Am” with Paul Kahan, He is writer of the lyrics, I think I created the lines, “and I thank you for all that I am.”
I loved writing with Paul. We also wrote “In Jim’s Garage”, and “Doughnut” on the current reissue of I, Brute Force, Confections of Love. We wrote a Tokens’ release “The Greatest Moments In A Girl’s Life”. We’d write songs, record demos at a studio upstairs, and take them to A&R people and producers in the biz, on B’way, the original Tin Pan Alley way in which songs were pitched.
I like The Creation version of the song. The Tokens would often play and do vocals on songs as a quick demo. If it came out so good as a possible Tokens’ release, it was pursued as that. The song was done first by The Tokens. It was just a song we wrote. Very poetic.
BF: Not at all. There is one cut [“Wonderful Things”] which they included, very short: Girl on six, boy on five, been going on four years. Three times he proposed. Two times she said , “No.”. Now they are one.
I didn’t know the album was was “lost. [This is how it has been described by Mitch Margo.]
JM: You wrote a couple of songs for The Chiffons. Were these written specifically for them, or were the songs “shopped around” to find someone interested?
BF: “Nobody Knows” was written at the time there was a search for material for the Chiffons. It was considerably out of their bag, except that it was a love song, but certainly not in the “He’s So Fine” R&B feel… It was psychedelic. And it was a stretch for them. The song went halfway up the charts, a medium-sized hit, yet a hit nonetheless. I recorded it for the B-side of the Apple 08 “King of Fuh” 45. That track is psychedelic. I have wanted to change the lyrics now, singing it now with my default band in the metro area… to include gov’t agencies, instead of “…and I love him” change to “…not the FBI…not the CIA”, which changes the song to a political song. So the lyrics, anyway, even if a love song or a political song or an invitation into Big Brother’s file, is an analysis of the human mind and the relation of one’s thoughts to what other people know about what one is thinking.
Two songs, “The Heavenly Place”, [watch], and “Tonight I’m Gonna Dream Again”, were written with the Chiffons on my mind.
JM: Another person I’ve interviewed, Jeff Barry, wrote a couple of songs for The Chiffons. Did you ever interact with him or his co-writer/wife Ellie Greenwich?
BF: I remember Jeff Barry in this way. He was seated at a piano, in his office, going over and over a few bars… repeating over and over the same few bars which caught my attention. He was obviously perfecting a part of a song. A great lesson for me. Like the meeting with a yogi on the path.
I attended the meeting of all Ellie’s family and friends at her apartment a few days after she had passed away. I dared not speak of our affair. Yet it was there in the disappearing past. There was “interaction”.
She produced “One Face In The Crowd” with Mike Rashkow for Atlantic Records. The group’s name escapes me at the moment. [Boys Next Door?]
BF: A girlfriend, Joanna, in the early 60’s, from my Monmouth University days, eventually met Tommy Dawes of The Cyrkle (Red Rubber Ball) and they married. I kept up a friendship with Joanna and met Tommy, we became friends and collaborated on a few songs, “There’s A Fire In The Fireplace” and “Why Can’t You Give Me What I Want?”, and both were recorded by the Cyrkle. (Title either Red Rubber Ball or Neon.) John Simon was their producer. Tommy arranged a meeting with John. He liked my songs and decided to do an album with me. Tommy was also responsible for getting “King of Fuh” to George Harrison. (fully answered below).
JM: Confections of Love was produced by John Simon. What was it like working with him on this album?
BF: He was a quick moving, fast thinking person who played violin. In addition to Pat Williams, he arranged some songs on Confections. I had had no singing lessons, really, and it seems the first vocal take was it on some of the tracks. In future years I studied voice and feel I could have sung better on Confections. Though the voice had a brutish personality. Kind of rough.
I learned that some of the recording could be done at the board, addition of sfx, vocal effects and words in “Brute’s Party”, for instance.
John was a thoroughly professional producer and very supportive. He made the music come alive.
As for Pat Williams, I just didn’t understand that there would be such big bands and lavish, beautiful arrangements to my songs. I really stepped in it.
JM: I have read that during the recording of this album, there were visits from music luminaries. Any memorable interactions with them?
BF: Bob Dylan: Al Kooper took me to meet Bob Dylan one day while I was recording at Columbia. Al wanted me to sing a song for Bob, “I Find This Annoying”, which is on Brute Force Records Tour De Brute Force. It may also be on The Revola release of Extemporaneous. The song is a send-up of gushy love songs, doo-wop, atonal melody and ends with a semitic violin solo with me whistling and singing “dum dee dum dum oh boy “. Buddy Holly is one of my favs. A super eclectic song. So here’s Bob sitting at the board in one of the studios. He has a guitar with him. He was working on a song. There was a piano and I sat down and played “I Find This Annoying”. After I finished I really didn’t know what to do. Was Al Kooper so far out of his mind that he thought Bob would do the super strange song? Well.. Bob sort of smiled, a recognition I guess that it was a comedic song, and said, softly, “That’s good.” I thanked him for listening and left with Al.
I met Al one evening at the Bright Tunes Music office, 53rd and B’way. He came in with Cynthia… the woman I was to marry, who was the mother of Daughter of Force. My hair was red at the time in that I was self treating my hair with peroxide. I thought I would become blond but red is what I got. Cynthia and I were attracted to each other rather strongly. She had had a relationship at one time with Tim Hardin, and also hung with the Mamas and Papas. She became the business and social ass’t for Lainie Kazan and had a hit late night tv show called Night Flight.
Al and I had a friendship. We even collaborated on a demo production. It was a song called “Garbage”. In time I lost touch with him. He has sent me emails about his appearances in NYC. I remember this tall thin guy with long black curly hair and dark sunglasses. Great keyboard blues player.
Leonard Cohen: Leonard Cohen came to the “Hello Moscow” session. “Hello Moscow” is on the Bar None/Sony reissue of Konfek. It’s partly written in Russian and is a song for Peace and one world consciousness. The song will be sung in Moscow, when I get the opportunity to perform there, and I reckon when some blessed Russian DJ in Moscow or wherever in Russia, hears the song and knows that this is the way. Anyway… I wrote it in the 60s, so what do I know. The expedition in which I swam in the the Bering Strait in July 1968 is a further demonstration of the closeness of land masses, land masses inappropriately named, mistakenly bisected with borderlines, tragically fenced, poisoned, tortured by our human hands to the last small wee thing insecting under the stars. Glory to the unknown, the ever expanding whatever there is, All Hail the Kingdom of the Unknown which surrounds us every nano-second, and to our brave space men and women who are taking us into the unknown, into the dream which has motivated the first cell to see light above the water.
Leonard and I spoke with each other. Can’t say I remember a word. I knew he was a successful and important artist and I felt good that he appeared at the session. The session was catered, and I remember a huge brass coffee container. There was caviar.
My Mom and Dad were there. Since my Dad was from Russia it was especially pleasing for me to have him there at a session in which I’m singing Russian. He came over in 1910 and by the 1930’s he became an attorney and NJ Assemblyman. A super example of human drive and ambition.
Paul Simon: Floated through this session like a rare bird, or it might have been another. It even seems that we may not have even spoke… Paul wrote Red Rubber Ball, the hit for Cyrkle (Tommy Dawes, see above)
JM: What was your vision for this album, and do you feel that you succeeded in fulfilling it?
BF: Really,outside of Love and Peace I had no vision for the album, I had written these songs. I got referred to John Simon. He liked the songs and boom I had an album. Check out the liner notes. The drawing of Cupid on a battleship (named 69) is a rather graphic portrayal of my vision even unto this moment. My musical, King of Fuh, based upon the song, has the vision of bringing love into the military mind. This vision of Peace on Earth is reworked in my Planetwork CD. A visionary piece. One borderline, the edge of Earth. Planetary Nationality. The Fantasy of Nationality. One theme. A vision of everyone on Earth knowing that it is one Nation. “Can’t we meet today to break bread? It’s much better than breaking all those heads” Confections has in its liner notes, “If Love is blind, the Universe is braille.”
I knew about vision. I had already started reading about insight, the open mind, the course of humanity, love, misery and had a small share already of suffering… although my life as a young man was as a prince. I have had what consumers and capitalists strive for: the house by the sea, great cars, education, stresslessness. (Hmmm).
My vision now entails what can generally be termed the Space Mission. The movement of the human being off of this planet and the exploration for other places to live. At that time I was into the Space Mission mainly by my fascination with UFOs.
Additionally I am now interested in the endlessness of the Universe. If there is an endless Universe then how can there be death within an endlessness? And something akin to wonder/fear is in the mind of every thinking and non-thinking person being surrounded by the Unknown, awake and asleep. This reality is a phenomenon which leads to various approaches to fear. Some face it. Face it, consider the options and act accordingly. Like creating, building, loving, turning crying into laughter. Some take drugs to alleviate the tension or to exacerbate the tension.
I definitely feel I accomplished a great work. I don’t know if it succeeded in any visionary sense. As a first album I can say job well done.
BF: To be smart about it, and trust in a life force which can blast forth in every word, we can note that one of the reasons which “King Of Fuh” has not received accolades is its piercing arrow of sound into the foundations of Language Taboo. The word “fuck”, which as we know is not in the song, “King of Fuh”, is one of the most powerful words in the world, as it is spoken millions of times a day…in NYC alone! The word carries with it the creative and destructive, it is a Shiva of Sound, a word which has wormed its way into the executive and governmental administrative mind to blanket certain segments of Media in a cloud of censorship, especially AM Radio, supplanting the spoken word with the sfx of a bleep, the Language Taboo Anthem, another example of turning the human being into a robot.
I can’t deny that “King of Fuh” uses that amazing Shiva power, which resides in the human mind, expressed in the sound, “fuck”, in the song as a communication to crack through Language Taboo However, The King of Fuh is not a character in a porn film, or even a soft porn family comedy. The Fuh King is instead a Monarch notable for his Individuality in thinking, speaking, going and doing what he wants to do. The country in which he reigns, the Land of Fuh, is notable as a land of Beauty. Beauty is extolled in the song, and is presented as a deity which humanity can worship.
JM: …including it being championed by several of The Beatles. How did you get the song into their hands? And what was the extent of your interactions with The Beatles?
BF: While in Monmouth College (University) in 1963 I had a girlfriend, Joanna. Within in the next few years she met and married Tommy Dawes who has since passed away.
I became friends with Tommy. He was in the band, Cyrkle (Red Rubber Ball). Cyrkle was opening for The Beatles.
He was so generous. We collaborated on “Why Can’t You Give Me What?” Cyrkle recorded that song as well as “There’s A Fire In The Fireplace”. Both were placed on Cyrkle albums. John Simon produced them on Columbia. As previously mentioned Tommy introduced me to John.
I had an idea to get “King of Fuh” to The Beatles, either for them to do it or for them to accept Brute Force as an Apple artist. So the same time that Tommy Dawes was working with The Beatles was greatly in my favor. The song was produced by the Tokens and I was a Token at the time. It took a long time for me to convince them to do the song with me. The session was booked at Olmstead Recording Studios in NYC. I played piano and mellotron, Mitch Margo, bass, Phil Margo drums. The track was produced! I brought the demo acetate to Tommy. He brought it to their manager, Nat Weiss. Nat was friends with Brian Epstein, mngr of The Beatles. One day in NYC Nat played the song for George Harrison. And boom! George decided to put it on Apple. The seed was sown. It became a fav of George’s. I have learned that he had it on his jukebox in his residence. A door from Nat’s office with an inscription about the King of Fuh, by George, sold for 42K at auction. John Lennon advocated passionately for the song to be distributed in the USA. I was on my way to being an international celebrity rock star. Except for one thing, EMI and Capitol wouldn’t distribute it.
It has taken a few generations for me to understand this and still “King of Fuh” is censored by AM Radio and nighttime talkshows. Chris Carter, has recently played it on his Sirius Xm Radio show, Breakfast With The Beatles.
I have a campaign on FaceBook for Jimmy Kimmel to book me specifically to sing “King of Fuh”. Please go to www.bruteforce.com and “like” the idea for Jimmy to book me on his show.
JM: “King of Fuh” is also notable for Capitol/EMI’s refusal to distribute it. Were you surprised by this decision?
BF: I was numbed into submission. A lack of proper management at that time insured that I didn’t take advantage of the censorship. Time moved on. I had made it into the minds of The Beatles but not into the minds of the populations of the world, the millions of people who would laugh at the song, buy it, and if I collected the royalties, be assured of a cushy pad, my piano and guitar, pencils and manuscript paper… a proper bank account, a schedule of concerts around the world. The ability to make a comfy home with my new wife, Cynthia Ah well… that was in 1969.
In 2001 a Brit, a musical genius,Gareth Jones, started writing emails to me. He had become a Brute Force fan, had discovered Confections. He had an amazing band Misty’s Big Adventure, 9 piece…He came over with his brother, We decided to collaborate. I’ve gone over to UK 3 times now.
JM: How is the petition to have you sing “King of Fuh” on Jimmy Kimmel Live going?
BF: I have learned that 227 people have clicked “like”. Well you know that’s 227 more than the day that Kim Cooper suggested that I do this. She is a super friend and a Leader in Brute’s Force. It is as if, at this point, there are 227 people chanting ” Book Brute” outside Jimmy’s office.I know the number is growing every day.
With the Apple compilation, The Best of Apple, and the Bar None/Sony reissue of I, Brute Force, an appearance on JK Live would be awesome, plus create an amazing quantum of enjoyment in America.
Let’s look at this this way…Respect for one’s Elders…Jimmy… I was recording at Columbia when you were born in 1967. I was a young man of 27 when baby JK entered this world. So now Jimmy, now I’m 70 and you’re 43. Anyway I hope you get a chance to listen to King of Fuh and decide to book me. I chose you over the others ’cause I like you and think you’re brilliant.
JM: Are you aware of the recent song “If U Seek Amy” by Britney Spears? The title sounds like “F-U-C-K Me”, and the song lyrics include “Love me hate me, say what you want about me / But all of the boys and all of the girls are begging to if u seek Amy”. This seems downright crude compared with “The Fuh King”, and yet the song was played on many radio stations. Do you think that artists nowadays can get away with more than artists in the 1960’s?
BF: I really can’t get into a judgment thing about Brit… If there were a genre “crude” many artists and their songs would fit. KOF elevates the word “fucking” into a realm of beauty, majesty. From the backalleys of Profanity into the Halls of Honor. Maybe when KOF is played on elevators then society will have become liberated.
Artists nowadays can get away with so much more… in that culture and political correctness are now so much part of the presentation of art. Not to censure or eliminate the artist because of their color or creed or sexual orientation rather than a decision based upon the lyrical content of their song. Let them “get away” with it.
I’m ready to sit a a grand piano, in an amber spotlight, before a pluralistic crowd in the Stadium of All Time to sing “King of Fuh”. All too ready to be given, by AM Radio and nightime TV ( Kimmel, Letterman, Fallon, Conan, Leno) the sledgehammer to bust language taboo, to send it shattering to the sea; To crack up the minds of all who will listen.
I fervently pursue singing “King of Fuh” to the worldwide millions who yet have not heard it, as they go about saying the word “fuck” in a myriad of ways, lovingly, hatefully, repetitively as drops of rain falling from the family tree, as DJs laugh hysterically at it, yet will not play it. (Chris Carter, has played it on his Sirius XM Radio Show, Breakfast With The Beatles.)
I ask the inquiring mind to examine the lyrics of “King of Fuh”. Read the appeal to Individuality and Beauty. Avoid the pull of Collectivism upon your weary Soul.
The FCC needs LSD. Save the world from the outrage of militaristic, hypnotic, psychopathic brute force… listen to Brute Force.
JM: What advice would you give to an aspiring songwriter and/or musician?
BF: Listen to music of the world. Here and There. Learn something to know you can make money, because making money in the arts is not that easy as picking up a consistent paycheck. If you have to make a choice between a day job and dying for your art it’s probably a happier choice to keep the day job. Be kind to yourself for you are the greatest ally you have. That means realizing what a powerhouse you are and how your body is very sensitive to substances which enter into your body.
You may wish to do drugs. If you’re a singer you ought to know that smoke dries the throat. Your consciousness is far superior without drugs. It is what you are prior to any drug.
Remember when Dorothy, Toto, and her three friends walked thru a field of poppies? They fell asleep! Well, making it in life is a good deal more successful when you’re awake.
You don’t have to know a lick of formal music training to be a songwriter, yet it couldn’t hurt to learn notation, how to play keyboard, or guitar, or instrument of your choice. Take vocal lessons. Learn networking in the arts. Remember that if you are looking to make it in show business that it is 2 words…”show” and “business”.
[later] I would add, belief in oneself, maintaining health and Spiritual Reality.
JM: I understand that there is a documentary film about you in the works. What is the status of this?
BF: The doc is in production. Who knows when it will end. Andrew Fuller at Razor Films is Producer and Ben Steinbauer (Winnebago Man) is director. One interesting shoot was when we filmed a recording of my Pledge of Allegiance to The Planet, which is the main song of Planetwork. Square yet radical. Radical Nationalism. “For I am born from the fibers of the Universe and the chemicals deep down in the sea., and if you ask what’s my nationality, it’s Planetary. Planetary.”
JM: What are your plans, musical or otherwise, for the near future?
BF: One answer to this question will be acted out when the people of the world gather in city and town squares; when every monitor, TV and Internet in every home and palm device display, and radios broadcast a gathering of singing citizens, musicians, choruses, and symphony orchestras around the world at one time playing and singing the Pledge of Allegiance to The Planet. My musical, King of Fuh, I play the King, is a front burner project, and funds are being sought to do a proper live stage production. I am writing a Sci-Fi book. There is a screenplay which I want to get produced. I would like to do at least a few more albums before the Great One gobbles me up.
[In a later response:] To devote myself to my creative life 100%. To find the adequate funding for King of Fuh, The Musical; to finish a Psychological Sci-Fi novel; to get Adam Sandler as producer for my comedy screenplay ; to produce more music in different genres, country and spiritual; to compose Friedland’s Symphony #1. To be at the window of a log cabin at the top of a hill covered in yellow flowers, with the wind blowing in a window, and no one knows where I am; to wake up on a full moon night in the honeymoon suite of a ski lodge and there, bathed in silver light is Drew Barrymore.
JM: Do you want to set the record straight on anything about your music career or otherwise?
BF: FACING FEAR. I’d like the governments and people all over the world to know that even if someone wins the war, one side or the other, tweedle-dum or tweedle-dee, we must ask what next? Where are we going? Are we satisfied with the current warring, religious anxiety, and consumption of the world? Have we grown tired of the failure to be at peace? Where is the answer to living together? How is it done?
One would have thought that after all the thousands of years of thoughts cast into the cauldron of action that there would have been an answer to living in peace. That after all the flapping jaws of century after century, the cerebrations of aeons of brains by all the different ways and religions, there would have been conceived a way to live together. Yet humanity has had quite the taste for misery, for suffering, and for a slice and dice history.
Think of it… a small, teeny tiny planet whirling thru the Universe is covered with a patina of life. As our life form, speeds thru the Universe there is unceasing dedication to murder, revenge and suffering. Art has become the moment of rest from misery: a play, a movie, a painting, a song…oh how lovely for a moment, A party? Oh how lovely, a party! Then back to the grind on a world wide scene. Developing more and better weapons to kill and kill some more. Then to report it. Then to document it and present it as ” a true story” a “news report” or a fictional account. Always, always to consume, to consume everything. Then lunch.
Please…stop for a moment…whatever you are doing. Just conceive of this absurdity. On this teensy tiny world a humanity slaughtering itself, absolutely capable now of self-annihilation. After all these years, The Nobel Peace Prizes. The Pulitzer Awards. The This Prize. The That Prize. The paradigmatic moments of realization, the prayer wheels spinning in Nepal, stealth jets, the porn world of worlds sexing up the sex of all sex while the periodic table is played like a spreadsheet by the political suits. Carbon is especially popular now. Do you see? Do you wonder about the patina of life being stroked by the sun? Do you remember the sky? Are you now wondering how humanity has gotten itself into the briarpatch? How we are being pierced by the inevitable, the imminent, the encircling Unknown which we as a life form have sadly failed to understand.
Failed to understand the Unknown. Become afraid of the Unknown, The sky surrounding us. as it has since we crawled out of the water. Since we donned the capes of academia. Failed, gotten an F in understanding the Unknown surrounding us and succumbed into a fear, a fear of the Unknown. Do you now see? Can you see the endless Unknown? Is your consciousness piqued by Endlessness?
Will you join together in harmony to conquer the Unknown, as is being attempted by NASA? To stop the mutual wars? To stop the fear of each other and face the fear surrounding us as it has ever since your family of humanity was born in the pools of the endless past?
Are you now ready to step forth from your drug, (Russian for ‘friend”), unconsciousness, and face the First Fear, the Unknown Universe. Can you? Can you recognize the Space Mission to populate the Solar System, now underway by NASA, Can all peoples join together in this race to explore the known Universe?
As a recording artist I have expressed some of this, musically and with spoken word, in my CD, Planetwork. It can be found on my website, www.bruteforce.com/products.
JM: Where are you responding from?
BF: Now I am with a friend down the Jersey Shore. I come here a lot so I commune with nature, Today, for instance the beach was super-pristine. Snow on the beach, The Atlantic calm from the beach to the horizon.
Horizon after horizon, endless, endless. I think this should about do it at this time, it is a summation of my experiences, and yet I feel that there is no meaning, nothing to learn, everything we discover is already there, there is nothing new.
Pls join Brute’s Force by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
press, appearances: HowlingWuelf@aol.com,