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There’s a lot that could be talked about in the world of 1972.  Nixon made his eight-day trip to China to meet with Chairman Mao, the first for a western leader.  Five men were apprehended attempting to ‘bug’ Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C., in what would be the prelude to the Watergate Scandal and the ignominious end to the Nixon presidency.  Governor George Wallace of Alabama was shot in Maryland, leaving him paralyzed until his death in 1998.  Briton took over direct rule of Northern Ireland which began a series of bloody Sundays as many Protestants and Catholics were killed in numerous protests over the year.  Violence reached the world of sport with the massacre of nine Israeli athletes by Arab gunmen at the Munich Olympics.  The first tenants of the newly-built World Trade Centre in New York City begin to occupy their offices.  And who in Canada could forget the memorable 1972 Canadian-Soviet Summit series?  Even those who knew little about the game of hockey had their eyes glued to their television sets during that final and deciding game on September 28th. All these things were great events in the world of 1972.  But what is probably most important to what you are reading now are the events that happened to the Brass Union band during the early part of 1972.  Ever since the band’s inception in 1966, the band had mirrored (in their own way) the events that happened in the music world.  And ironically, in a year that had a song about “The Day the Music Died” sitting atop the Billboard Music Chart, this year would be no exception.
"Here's another shot. Right in front. They Score!! Henderson has scored for Canada!"
Top 10 Singles of 1972 1.   American Pie -- Don Mclean 2.   The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face - Roberta Flack 3.   Alone Again (Naturally) -- Gilbert 0'Sullivan 4.   Without You -- Nilsson 5.   I Gotcha -- Joe Tex 6.   Let's Stay Together -- Al Green 7.   The Candy Man -- Sammy Davis, Jr. 8.   I Can See Clearly Now -- Johnny Nash 9.   A Horse With No Name -- America 10.  Me and Mrs. Jones -- Billy Paul
The Brass Union did indeed work hard on the Fairytale during 1971.  By the late summer of that year, they had the production completed enough to do a 'trial performance' in front of an audience.  So they headed to Camp Wanakita, a YMCA summer camp in south-central Ontario and performed their show for the camp kids.  Everything went very well and the kids loved it.  Later in the fall, the band did the show at the Four Winds Lounge in Sault Ste. Marie for one night while they were performing a week-long club date, again to a good response.  Both these shows were on make-shift stages:  one at the kid's camp and the second on the club stage.
The third performance of the Fairytale was a benefit show for children just after Christmas in 1971 at the beautiful Palace Theatre in Hamilton.  Whereas the two previous shows had been on smaller, rather inadequate stages to do a proper performance, the Palace Theatre stage was set up for this type of show and they had a full stage with all the facilities to perform with full effect.  Again, the show was a big success.  The newspaper clipping to the right was printed in the Hamilton Spectator a few days after the show and the article below is from RPM magazine early in January of 1972, a week or so after the show. By the time January 1972 rolled around, there was a great deal of hope in band.  They had released their single a few years back (with moderate success), played just about everywhere locally that could be played and they had become 'regulars' in a number of excellent clubs, playing to packed houses every night of the week.  And now. they had a full hour-long original production ready to go.  The next thing to do was to approach the 'record execs' to see what could be done with their Fairytale.  They linked up with Jack Thompson in Toronto who was trying to get a major record company involved.  "He set up a showcase at a soundstage in Toronto called Lakeshore Studios (no longer there) in the spring of 1972", recalls Cliff Hunt. "He managed to get the interest of Polygram Records in NY and a couple of key execs flew in to see us perform the show." The boys continued to practice and play one-nighters and club dates throughout the spring of 1972 while they waited to hear word back from Jack.  But playing bars wasn't what the band wanted to do.  They wanted to sign the Fairytale to a  recording deal.
From RPM Magazine – January 8, 1972  BRASS UNION PRESENTS HOUR LONG FAIRY TALE  The Hamilton-based Brass Union presented an hour long musical/drama presentation (Dec 29) at Hamilton’s Palace Theatre.  Titled “Fairy Tale”, the writing credits went to group members Bruce Ley and Leonard Blum and is a first for a Canadian group.  They put together this package for the benefit of the “Punch and Judy” crowd, an age bracket long ignored by the pop culture crowd in this country, but of much importance in the UK.  The “Fairy Tale” characters are all costumed with as much creativity as funds would allow.  Much of it left up to the owner’s imagination and resourcefulness.  The show carries a production team of three, comprised of Richard Moses, sound engineer; Bradley Stone, master lighting and special effects; and Humble, spot-lighting.  The group carries its own sound and lighting systems.  The Union presented their “Fairy Tale” in two test markets before their benefit show in Hamilton.  One was for a very young audience at a summer camp and the other for an audience of teens and young adults, resulting in a general acceptance from both age groups.
Word came back a little while later, and the consensus from the record execs was that:  "It was a brilliant concept and performance, but that they did not believe there were any 'hits' or 'rock anthems' like in The Who's, Tommy, or Jesus Christ Superstar, and that without  radio hits, it would be very difficult to market."  This was a big blow to the band, but throughout the spring of 1972, as they tried to market The Fairytale using their own 'contacts', the band continued playing bars which they were getting sick of playing.  They continued to practice, work on their show, and keep the Fairytale ‘tight’ for possible recording -- playing a few local shows, one-nighters, and did another couple of road trips -- but as the year dragged on into the spring, it was becoming clear that the desired record deal was not going to happen.  The boys had nearly been at each other’s throats by the time they finished the grueling practice schedule of the year before and the disappointment that was setting in during the late spring of 1972 was becoming very difficult to manage.  They didn’t want to be just another bar band and by April/May, that is what they had become.  So finally, after months of essentially sitting still waiting for something that didn’t look like it was going to happen, the band decided to end it.  Darrell Nameth, the band’s leader at the time, recalled recently:  “I was standing out front of one of our shows in March or April of 1972, talking with the guys and we looked at each other and said: ‘You know what?  That’s enough.”  Nobody questioned it.  Nobody tried to keep the band going.  Because by that time, everyone agreed.  The band decided to play one last gig back where it had all began, at Burlington Central High School.”  They announced that it would be their last gig and to a great deal of sadness both from the audience and on stage, played a completely sold out show.  And that was it.  The band folded.  Some of the guys got together a year later and played a show under the name “Rockets”, but only about half the original band was there.
The Brass Union A band collage from early 1972 (one of the last pictures taken of the band)  From left to right, top to bottom:  Len Blum (lead guitar), John Hannah (drums), John Willett (trumpet), Cliff Hunt (trumpet), Darrell Nameth (saxophone), Bruce Ley (organ), Terry Bramhall (bass guitar), Bruce Wilson (rhythm guitar) and Don Berryman (trombone). The Rockets -- August 1973
Researching this story and reconnecting with the band members has yielded a great deal of 'feeling' about the band and it's eventual demise.  Most of the guys feel quite bad that the band ended as it did, right at the time when they were the best that they'd ever been -- and I'll admit, I feel somewhat the same myself.  But I think that rather than dwelling on the fact that the band ended, I'd rather remember that the band ever existed in the first place.  The Brass Union had an incredible six-year run that yielded experiences and adventures that have lasted a lifetime. So really ... it's alright.
This song wasn't part of the Brass Union songlist, but it seemed appropriate to put it here.
HOME BACK July 28, 2013
From the 1972 songlist