"That's right," original member Declan Mulligan tells us one night recently at The Stone in San Francisco, where a re-formed Beau Brummels is working at a comeback. "We sang together into one microphone because there weren't that many microphones." Imagine—all five of them hunched over one microphone, and yet producing that great, trademark harmony vocal, touching noses, getting electrocuted.
"It got so bad," Declan continued, that I bought one of those things called a phase tester with a light on the end of it. And when I walked out at the Civic Auditorium, I had it stuck on the top of my guitar and put it to the microphone, and if that thing lit up, you didn't dare touch that microphone."
"It felt like more than it was, I'm sure," fellow founding-member and bassist, Ron Meagre, interjects. "But it threw you back about two feet. One minute I was standing in front of the mike, the next minute I was standing away from it, looking at it and going, 'Oh, God.'"
"You'd run out on stage at some civic auditorium," Declan shrugged, "and you'd use the same P.A. system that public speakers used. And what micro phons there were rarely picked up all the instruments. But they made do. Harmonies? You learned to hear it within your own head after a while,"
Do you remember seeing those old films of, say, early Beatles? Remember the really thin sound and all the screaming girls? Declan remember those days well...
I went to the last Beatles concert [Candlestick Park, San Francisco, August 29, 1966] and when there are that many people screaming together, it just blends. Can you imagine thousands of kids just blending in a scream? It sounds like cacophony. I think that time, the Sixties... There won't be anything like that again in our lifetime. It was like that for everybody. I mean, even Ron and I were in danger of losing our lives one night in '65 in Sacramento [California].
"We were attacked by girls," Declan is serious. "What happened was, the car that was coming to pick us up took off without us. I said to Ron, 'Let's get down the street,' and there were probably 20 or 30 girls after us. Then we stopped at a light. First of all, they attacked Ron and they had him on the ground and were pulling his hair out! I pushed the girls away and we ran down the street. There was a car stopped at a traffic light, and I said, 'Please, let us in.' Then the girls—you know what they did?—they were standing on the roof [of the car], going 'boing,' boing' until a policeman came by and said, 'All right, get off!'"
But how much more exciting that must have been, compared to what greets bands so often these days—apathy, even hostility. The Beau Brummels have always had a happy sound, and their music today, a mixture of oldies and new songs, is no exception When I interviewed the band several weeks ago, there were two original member, Declan and Ron. John, on bass, was an old, old fan of the Brummels.
"Actually," John confided, "I liked the Beau Brummels better than I liked The Beatles." Peter and Jimmy are new members, and somewhat younger. And now, I hear, Ron has gone off to become a session player with the likes of Dolly Parton.
Declan seems to embody the essence of Beau Brummels. He's been playing for a long time, something like 25 years. "I used to play three nights a week in Ireland when I was a kid going to school. Dad didn't like it at all. 'You're wasting my money. Get out and get a job.'" Did his Dad ever forgive his son? "Well, God rest his soul, I don't think he ever did. He always said to me, 'How come you don't play in a good band?'" A good band, apparently, was a band like that which a friend's son was in. "What his son was making," Declan explains, "It was astronomical; he was buying all this property. And here I was, I'd come back [to Ireland] just breaking up with a band that was supposed to be a very big band in the U.S. with a record out, and it didn't really impress my Dad at all because I really went home penniless. The Beau Brummels had money on paper, that's all."
I've heard that story from other stars of the Sixties—to be polite, the biz was more than a little flakey in those days. Even so, Declan declares that it is much more difficult to "make it" these days than back then.