Brothers (in Arms)

In some arenas, brotherhood works.

In some arenas, brotherhood works.

I find it hard to concentrate these days. I’m unable to finish even the simplest book. And the meaty stuff is stacking up ever higher. All signs of drawing too close to the borders of darkland, which is understandable but undesirable.

So I turn for solace, as ever, to music. And what prompts me to attempt writing today is a post from back in May on Every Record Tells a Story. That piece brought to my attention an incident I didn’t know about: a dust-up between Dave Davies and Mick Avory in the early days of The Kinks

Those loving. lovable Davies brother, founding members of The Kinks: Ray (l) and Dave (r).

Those loving. lovable Davies brother, founding members of The Kinks: Ray (l) and Dave (r).

The Kinks were the British Invasion band that always struck me as the most English of the lot. I don’t want to get sidetracked on that issue since there’s plenty of room for disagreement. It’s just a perception, in the same way that I think The Jam was the most English of the punk era bands in the UK.

What caught my eye, in the amusing telling of this mid-sixties brouhaha, was an aside delivering a different story equally unknown to me: Oasis broke up after a plum was thrown.  And that set me to thinking about brothers in bands since the thrower was one Liam Gallagher and the target, evidently, was his sibling and band mate, Noel.

Musical Bros.

Musical Bros.
Click to expand for better viewing.

Brothers, at least in name, abound in music. Consider a random list drawn from memory that spans  genres and time: The Mills Brothers, The Isley Brothers, The Chambers Brothers, The Allman Brothers Band, The Brothers Johnson, The Chemical BrothersExcept for the one-hit wonder Brothers Johnson, all of those acts have had lengthy careers. With the exception of the last name in the list all of these groups had 2 or more siblings. So brotherhood is a good thing, right?

Well with Bastille Day just past, perhaps now is the right time to (re)consider the impact, and limits, of fraternetié.

Tommy & Jimmy
In the beginning there were two young Irish-Americans intent on making a mark in music. One suspects they’d spent considerable time beating marks into each other because seemingly no sooner than The Dorsey Brothers Orchestra made the great (backward?) leap from studio-only act to real band did they have the ‘great falling out’  with Tommy storming off stage to form his own orchestra. They must have made up because Elvis (yes, that Elvis) made his first TV appearance on The Dorsey Brothers variety show on CBS in 1954.

Pick hit: Annie’s Cousin Fannie (1934)

Phil & Don
Rock & roll was good for siblings, until it wasn’t, a pattern that set in early. One of the first brother acts, The Everly Brothers managed to put a bit more country in their brand of rock ‘n’ roll and were rewarded until drugs and boredom took over, ultimately seeing Phil storm offstage. Still, they had some great moments.

Pick hit: Wake up Little Susie (1957)

Brian, Dennis and Carl
Mix a genius , a hedonist and an under-celebrated innovator (Chuck Berry riffs on flat wound strings if you’re interested), add a cousin and a family friend, season with nutty, driven paterfamilias and you get The Beach Boys, America’s challengers to The Beatles pop legacy. The Wilson brothers et al invented what stands, along with Motown, as the signature American sound of the pre-psychedlic 60s. Unfortunatly success brought on neurosis, alcoholism and enough nonsense to splinter the band beyond recognition. Still, they turned out countless singles that scream endless summer.
Pick hit: California Girls (1965)

Tito, Jackie, Jermaine, Marlon & Michael
Hailing from Gary, Indiana Joe Jackson’s brood stormed the charts. The Jackson 5 was Motown’s last truly great act. Ultimately done in by Michael’s solo success (and seeming mental illness),  the band was a hit-making machine for the first half of an otherwise forgettable decade. There are almost too many great songs to pick one but this revisiting of Bobby Day‘s 1958 hit has always been a favorite.

Pick Hit: Rockin’ Robin (1972)

Mark and David
In my memory, punk, new wave and Dire Straits all arrived simultaneously on WLIRThe last of that lot has had the most lasting impact and I’ve loved Mark Knopfler’s guitar-driven story songs since the first time I heard ‘Sultans of Swing.’  At the offing, they were a brother act, too, with younger sib David on rhythm guitar. He stuck around through the third record on which he’s uncredited. Lots of great songs to pick from so I’ve selected an under-played choice. Keep an eye out for David looking unhappy behind  Mark.

Pick hit: Lady Writer (1979)

Phil & Dave
The oldest operating McDonald’s stands in Downey, California, the town that spawned the hard-driving, should-be-legendary band The BlastersThe guitar playing Alvin brothers drove this unit which played Dave’s songs, sung by Phil. You can see where it’s bound to end up when the songwriting lead guitar player is playing second fiddle to his mathematician, rhythm guitar playing brother (who just happens to have one of music’s great voices) I thought about putting something new on here  but why mess around. I love these sons of a union organizer.

Pick it: Jubilee Train (1985 performance)


All of the above and selections from every other brother act mentioned.


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