Meet Jersey’s Own Looking Glass [PHOTOS/VIDEOS]
“Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)” is one of Jersey’s Favorite Hits…in fact, one of the biggest faves! From time to time, we mention that the band formed at Rutgers University. And practiced in Glen Gardner.
But, there’s more to their story, on a “Proud To Be New Jersey Weekend!”
The band formed in New Brunswick in 1969, while the band members were college students. It originally consisted of Elliot Lurie (lead guitar and lead vocals), Jeff Grob (drums), Larry Gonsky (piano), and Pieter Sweval (bass).
After graduation, a lack of work caused the band to split into two parts: Lurie and Gonsky joined the group “Fake Fun,” and Sweval and Grob formed the group “Tracks.” After a few months of faring no better (read: no gigs), the original foursome got back together. Two years later, they were still playing bars in New Jersey and New York, hoping for their big break!
That big break came in the person of (legendary) CBS Records President Clive Davis, who liked the band’s performance of “Brandy,” and signed the band to Epic Records.
Multiple mix downs of “Brandy” (7 different recordings) were produced, as “Looking Glass” and Epic producers tried to find the right “sound.” One unreleased version of the song includes ship bells, another includes bongos!
Some research sites show that “Brandy” was initially the “B” side to the single “Don’t It Make You Feel Good.” Side A “flopped”..but fate stepped in when that 45 was “flipped” over!
In any event, Washington D.C. disc jockey Harv Moore, liked that “B” side song and “spiked it” (a radio term). He started playing “Brandy” on his show…and the listener lines lit up! The record label noticed, and the rest is rock history!
“Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)” was released as a single on May 18, 1972.
As you know, “Brandy” tells the story of a man torn between his love of the sea…and his love for a barmaid. But, did you know that the name Brandy is based on the name of Elliot Lurie’s high school sweetheart, Randy? Lurie wrote the song…
“Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)” went on to be a million seller (certified Aug. 9, 1972). It spent one week at #1( August 26, 1972), and 16 weeks on the Hot 100 charts! It was also a #7 hit on “Top Easy Listening Chart” (called “Adult Contemporary” today).
Then, Looking Glass waited another year for a hit…any kind of hit!
Follow-up record releases “Golden Rainbow” and “Rainbow Man” went unnoticed. They sounded so different from “Brandy” that no one knew that the songs were from Looking Glass, and neither song appeared on the Top-100 charts!
In 1973, Joe Dube replaced Jeff Grob on drums.
Finally, “Jimmy Loves Mary-Anne,” (with Lurie on vocals like “Brandy”), looked like the song that would return “Looking Glass” to the top of the charts! “Jimmy” went no higher than #33, in September 1973. It stayed on the Hot 100 charts for 15 weeks, however.
Personally, I think that “Jimmy Loves Mary-Anne” is a “fine” record!
The follow-up single, a bluesy-sounding “City Lady” bombed completely!
What happened next? Lurie went solo in 1973, and while “Your Love Song” sounded like Looking Glass, no one cared. The song did not chart.
The remainder of the band released the Gonsky-penned single “Highway To Hollywood” under the condensed name “Lookinglass.” It was totally ignored…meaning the end of the original band under any name.
What have the years since “Brandy” brought the members of Looking Glass? I have Rutgers alumni friends who recall seeing the band (and/or parts of it) play around the campus area through the 1980’s.
Looking Glass reunited in 1995, to play “Brandy” and “Jimmy Loves Mary-Anne” at a Madison Square Garden concert. In 2000, “Brandy” was included in the “Charlie’s Angels” movie…netting each guy a royalty check for $30,000.
Each Looking Glass member gets a (modest) royalty check for $4,000 a year, for general use of “Brandy” (some of you will say that a lot of that $$ comes from spins when “on weekends, the music comes out to play”).
As of the last few years:
Keyboardist Larry Gonsky teaches music in the Morristown school district.
Original drummer Jeff Grob played with the hard rock band “Starz.” Then, he went back to school and earned a landscape architecture degree. Working for a Jersey company, he contributed to a redesign of Route 18. Jeff still plays locally with “Richie Ranno’s All Stars.”
Lead Guitarist and Vocalist Elliot Lurie manages actors and recording artists in Los Angeles. He was an independent music film supervisor, and executive vice president of music at 20th Century Fox.
Bassist Pieter (Pete) Sweval helped to form the band “Starz” along with Looking Glass drummer Joe Dube. Plus, he joined the disco band “Skatt Brothers.” Sweval died of AIDS in 1992.
Both “Brandy” and “Jimmy Loves Mary-Anne” can be found on several 1970’s music compilation discs, if you want to add these songs to your personal music library!
In the words of my NJ101.5 boss, and longtime friend, Eric Johnson: “People tease about how often we play Brandy, yet it remains one of our most popular songs.”
Check out Looking Glass live in 2009…the audio is a little “rough.”
Yes, “Brandy” lives on…one of “Jersey’s Favorite Hits”…by a homegrown band…on New Jersey 101.5!