Friday, August 26, 2016

Beau Brummels – "Laugh, Laugh" (1964)

Laugh, laugh, I thought I'd die
It seemed so funny to me

Sometimes you say something that seems so funny to you, but that doesn’t seem at all funny to others.

In 1794, George Bryan “Beau” Brummell joined the Tenth Royal Hussars cavalry regiment – which was known as “The Prince of Wales’s Own” – and quickly became a close friend of the then-Prince of Wales (who later was crowned King George IV).

After leaving the regiment to return to civilian life, Brummell quickly established a reputation as the best-dressed and best-groomed man in England.  Every day, a group of prominent men – the group often included the Prince of Wales, plus assorted dukes, earls, and other aristocrats – would come to Brummell’s house to watch him bathe and dress.

Beau Brummell
Brummell took a bath every day, which made him exceptional in Regency-era London.  He spent hours getting dressed, and often donned different  outfits several times a day.

Brummell’s wardrobe was much simpler and more modern than that of the effeminate London fops who were known as “macaronis” because they had travelled to Italy as part of the “Grand Tour” of European countries that wealthy young English gentlemen traditionally took after completing their educations.  

Brummell eschewed the beribboned wigs, spike-heeled shoes, and heavy applications of perfume that the macaronis favored.  He rarely wore an article of clothing that wasn’t either white, black, or buff-colored, but the cut and fit of his garments had to be perfect.  

The "Prince of Whales"
Brummell and the Prince of Wales – who had put on so much weight that he was called the “Prince of Whales” behind his back – eventually had a falling out.  The story goes that when Brummell and his friend Lord Alvanley encountered the Prince at a masquerade ball one evening, the Prince spoke warmly to Lord Alvanley but made a point of ignoring – “cutting” – Brummell.

Brummell responded by putting an ill-advised question to his companion: “Alvanley, who’s your fat friend?”

The Prince was not amused by the bon mot, which seems to be somewhat typical of Brummell’s sense of humor, as these excerpts from the Regency History website demonstrate:

The Duke of Bedford asked Brummell for an opinion on his new coat.  Brummell examined him meticulously from head to toe and then said, in a most earnest and amusing manner, “Bedford, do you call this thing a coat?”

Once when Brummell was dining at a gentleman’s house in Hampshire, the champagne was far from good.  Brummell waited for a pause in the conversation and then raised his glass and said, in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, “John, give me some more of that cider.”

Brummell lived at 4 Chesterfield
Street in London
Brummell eventually had to beat it to France to avoid going to debtor’s prison for his unpaid gambling debts.  His friends eventually managed to get him appointed as the British consul for Caen, a city in Normandy.  The consulate’s job didn’t pay much, and Brummell recommended to the British Foreign Office that the position in Caen be abolished.

Brummell did so hoping that he would be appointed to a more lucrative position, but that’s not how things turned out.  The Foreign Office took his recommendation, but didn’t appoint him to a better job.    He ended up in a French debtor’s prison.

Brummell’s friends obtained his release from the debtor’s prison, but they couldn’t help him when he came down with syphilis.  He was 61 and insane and very badly dressed when he died in a Caen asylum in 1840. 

* * * * *

The Beau Brummels – somehow the second “L” got dropped – sounded like a British band, but they were from San Francisco.

The story goes that the band chose their name in hopes that their records would end up just behind those of the Beatles in record stores that organized their stock alphabetically.  According to the band’s lead singer Sal Valentino (who was born Salvatore Willard Spampinato in San Francisco in 1942), that story wasn’t true.

“That’s a total myth,” he told an interviewer a few years ago.  “We just needed a name and [the Beau Brummels] sounded good.  We didn’t even know how to spell it.”

Here’s “Laugh, Laugh,” which was produced by Sylvester Stewart – who is better known as Sly Stone:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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