'Brandy' Songwriter on How 'Guardians of the Galaxy 2' Finally Gave His Hit a Deeper Meaning
Elliot Lurie could not be more pleased with the way his classic 1972 hit "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" was used in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
For decades, people have asked the former Looking Glass lead guitarist and vocalist what the deeper meaning behind the song was, assuming the longing barmaid Brandy was a metaphor. Well, there wasn't a deeper meaning. At least not at first.
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In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Lurie, who also worked as film music executive at 20th Century Fox, opened up about writing the chart-topping tune, how it came to be in the Marvel film, and director James Gunn's perfect use of the song in one of the film's most crucial scenes.
"The first Guardians is not the type of movie that I would normally watch, but I had heard so many great things that I put the DVD in, and from the first moment I was hooked," Lurie told THR. "I got a request from my music publisher about nine months ago to use 'Brandy' for the sequel, and I immediately said we have got to get this into these great movies. And then I started to read scene descriptions sent over to the publisher and I said, 'Wow, this is more than a background tune. This is really in the story.'"
The song is used twice in the Chris Pratt starrer: The first instance is when the film opens before Peter Quill (Pratt) is born with Ego (Kurt Russell) and Quill's mom (Laura Haddock) driving around listening to the song. The second usage occurs years later after Peter is reunited with his father, Ego, and they discuss the meaning of the lyrics as they pertain to Ego. Bottom line: Peter chooses Brandy, meaning his mother, and Ego chooses the sea, meaning his planet and becoming an all-powerful being.
Lurie said both uses of the song were fantastic.
"It was very interesting to me that in the opening scene you have Peter's mom in a T-top convertible singing along at the top of her lungs on the way to a Dairy Queen in a spring afternoon. That is the way the song was intended when it was first written,"said Lurie, who was 20 when he penned tune. "It was a story song, and the band I was with, Looking Glass, we were hoping and praying for a hit record that people would play in their convertibles with the tops down."
The song — which has had a whopping 1,795 percent increase in streams on Spotify since the movie was released May 5, the music service told THR — would go one to reach No. 1 in 1972. And that is when people started asking Lurie about the deeper meanings behind it, and he was forced to say there simply was no deeper meaning. That is, until Guardians provided one, which Lurie said he enjoyed.
"And maybe, in retrospect, subconsciously it was a metaphor," said Lurie. "It is certainly the use that has shined the brightest light on the song since it was originally a hit."
Lurie explained he wrote the song over a number of weeks in the early '70s while he was a member of Looking Glass, which started as college friends who worked bars and fraternities as a cover band in the central New Jersey circuit.
"I wrote 'Brandy' the way I usually write, which is I start strumming some chords and once they start coming together, I associated words," said Lurie. "I had a high school girlfriend named Randye, and I was saying her name over the chords and then I made up the verses and the story. In my mind, it was a 19th century port with sailors and barmaids and things like that. So, the name is borrowed from my high school girlfriend and then changed to Brandy because obviously that makes a lot more sense when you are a barmaid."
It took weeks for the song to finally "work," but once it did, Looking Glass began sneaking it in among cover songs when they played; "Brandy" always got a huge reaction, said Lurie, adding that it wound up on a demo tape, which made its way to renowned record producer Clive Davis.
"That was his favorite song on the demo, and he knew it would be a hit right away," said Lurie.
After a deal was in place, the song was recorded numerous times before Looking Glass had the version that would become an instant classic.
"Clive sent us down to Memphis and we did a version with Steve Cropper from Booker T. & the M.G.'s producing. Great producer. Great songwriter, but his version sounded like a bar band," said Lurie. "So we did another version. We loved all those horn bands, like Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago, so what happened was there was a producer who did a horn arrangement, and we hated it. To us, not to take anything away from The Grass Roots, but it sounded like a Grass Roots record. But we had the horn guys in the studio and they were being paid so the keyboard player [Larry Gonsky] and I hummed parts to them that we thought would work a little hipper, and those are the horn parts that are on the record."
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