Born Stephen Friedland in 1940, Brute Force became a member of the Tokens* in the early sixties, soon after they had scored a US #1hit with The Lion Sleeps Tonight. As part of the Tokens' Bright Tunes writing and production team, he used his unexplained nom de plume to write three minute psychodramas that few, Shadow Morton aside, could equal: Del Shannon's She Still Remembers Tony and the Bitter Sweets' What A Lonely Way To Start The Summertime were two of the best, both super-intense, end-of-romance wrist slashers.
And then there's the Chiffons' Nobody Knows What's Going On In My Mind But Me from 1965, an insight into a teenage girl's unhinged but meticulously controlled mind-state. It is at once garbled, triumphant, and - like the Bitter Sweets' single - on the verge of completely losing it. Nobody Knows... is one of the ultimate late-period Girl Group 45s and a rare (though fragile) show of female defiance in the genre. It eventually became a hit of sorts, on the dancefloor at Wigan Casino, via Tammy St John's clattery cover.
Out of the Tokens and sore from the failure of Confections, Force made an attempt to swim the Bering Strait in 1968, from Alaska to Russia, to focus world attention on the closeness of East and West at the height of the Cold War. He made it halfway, to Little Diomede Island. The Inuits took pictures, Life magazine ran a feature - he may have an odd name, they thought, but the kid's all right. Then came King of Fuh.
A Brute Force show could open with him lying on his back, panting like a dog for four minutes - his Extemporaneous album, released in 1969, captured his whacked-out philosophical improv. Still performing, he remains ecologically concerned, politically involved and satisfyingly odd. When Extemporaneous was re-issued by Rev-Ola in 2004 he played a few shows in Britain with Brummie eccentrics Misty's Big Adventure: while he was over he played a one-off show for a horse, the thoroughbred mare Premier Bid (the horse's owners named a foal Special Bru in his honour). If you've seen the documentary The Battle For Brooklyn, you won't be surprised to hear that Brute, now 70, played a show at the re-opened Freddy's Bar, with its original prohibition-era fixtures and fittings re-located from the building that had made way for the barely legal Atlantic Yards development. Brute still picks his battles well.
*The Tokens' own BT Puppy label is, in its own way, as odd as Apple. Some of its releases were in such tiny numbers they are almost impossible to find, including the Tokens' own album Intercourse: if you ever want to hear a harmony pop album with songs of haiku length, humorous-stroke-suicidal lyrics, and odd animal noises, then look no further.