Aired in June 2024

In the early 70s, as a pop rock band from New Jersey climbed the Billboard charts, they faced a unique challenge that threatened to derail their newfound success.

You see, the song that they were getting traction with nationwide was a departure from their usual rock-oriented sound. The band’s foray into the realm of pop was a surprise. While the song resonated with audiences and propelled them to stardom, it also presented a dilemma when it came to performing live.


In the late 60s, lead guitarist and singer/songwriter Elliott Lurie, keyboard player Larry Gonksy, and bassist Peter Sweval met as students at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Upon forming a band that identified with hard rock, they played at frat parties and beer joints to make ends meet.

A lack of sustainable gigs resulted in them parting company after having performed for a year. A few months later, they unanimously agreed to regroup and give it another shot. With a focus on writing their own material and getting a record contract, they rented an old farmhouse in the northwestern corner of New Jersey where they regularly rehearsed.

They started playing bars again and doing showcases in Manhattan. A showcase is essentially a market place for venue and festival bookers to see lots of artists perform in one condensed programme.

Two years later, they had the good fortune to have CBS President Clive Davis see them perform at the old Café Au Go Go in Greenwich Village. Davis liked the  band and in particular one song that Lurie had written on the farm. He signed them to his Epic Records label.

After a few tweaks and some re-arranging, a test pressing of Lurie’s composition was given to Harv Moore, the Program Director at WPGC, one of the leading Top 40 stations in the country and the #1 radio station in Washington, DC.

After putting the song into a one-hour rotation for two days, “the switchboard lit up like a Christmas tree,” according to Moore. Within three weeks, the song was #1 in the nation’s capital. By August 26, 1972, Lurie’s band, Looking Glass, found themselves atop the Billboard Hot 100.

As Looking Glass embarked on tour to promote their chart-topping single, they found themselves in a bind: their hit record was quite a contrast to their live repertoire. Reflecting on this dilemma, Lurie concedes, “We were a lot more of a hard-rock band than that record signified. When we went on tour, people who liked [the song] were often disappointed with the over-all show because we didn’t really sound like the record.”

Sometimes you have to go with the flow to achieve success. The Looking Glass unknowingly sacrificed their brand to be #1 with “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl),” this week’s Tom Locke moment in time.