Brinsley Schwarz played a role in rock history much larger than their record sales or chart positions would suggest, and for several reasons. Foremost, they were the first of London’s Pub Rock bands, pioneering a shift in attitude among some fans who came to feel that it was important to see bands perform in intimate settings, and that bands that had achieved major financial success and were holed up in country mansions no longer shared the perspective of the common man and thus lost a critical element of connection with their audience. So the first role of the Brinsleys was to begin generating this attitude shift.
Pub rock bands played in a wide range of styles, but this attitude was common to all, and over the next six years Brinsley Schwarz and others created a circuit of pubs in London and beyond that was willing to showcase pub rock groups to crowds of fifty to two hundred fans a night. At the start, many of these bands were influenced by American country flavored rock, but as time passed groups like Ducks Deluxe, Dr. Feelgood, the Kursaal Flyers, Kilburn and the High Roads, Graham Parker and the Rumour, and Eddie and the Hotrods help light the path to punk and new wave, whose debt to pub rock has never really been properly acknowledged. This was the second role of the Brinsleys – laying the foundation for a circuit of venues without which punk and new wave might not ever have gotten off the ground.
In addition, in 1975 both Bob Andrews and Brinsley himself joined Graham Parker’s backing band, the Rumour, and with third Brinsley Schwarz member Nick Lowe as producer, helped launch Graham Parker to critical acclaim in the mid 1970s. Although it’s widely forgotten today, Parker’s first three albums drew near-unanimous critical raves, and his rough and tumble vocal style combined with the powerhouse backing of his band provided a template for a lot of new wave groups to follow, not the least of which included Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson. Thus the third role of the Brinsleys was in laying a template for a new type of singer-song writers who were not mellowed out hippies but who hit hard and flashed anger more often than sorrow.
Nick Lowe himself made some outstanding solo records, most notably his debut lp The Jesus Of Cool, which remains a classic of power pop. Brinsley Schwarz rhythm guitarist Ian Gomm also released a handful of solid power pop albums. And drummer Billy Rankin subsequently played on one of Dave Edmunds’ best record, Get It. In this final role of diaspora, well after the demise of the band members of Brinsley Schwarz were making excellent records in other combinations.
Two Brinsley Schwarz songs in particular resurfaced later in rock history. The song "Cruel To Be Kind" was recorded in the sessions for the bands final 1974 The New Favourites Of Brinsley Schwarz album but never made it to the record. Instead it was released on Nick Lowe's first solo album and in 1979 Lowe re-recorded Cruel To Be Kind and made it a major solo hit. Another song from the sessions - "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding / Ever Since You're Gone" - did make to the album and later became a hit for Elvis Costello. In 1972 the band backed Frankie Miller on his debut album, Once In A Blue Moon
The excellent book “No Sleep Till Canvey Island” by former Kursaal Flyer Will Birch provides an outstanding account of the band and its fellow pub rock groups and is highly recommended.