Who is Looking Glass?
Looking Glass was a 1970s pop-rock band hailing from New Jersey, USA. The group was founded in 1969, and initially played together before their split in 1970. But later, three original members (guitarist/singer-songwriter Elliot Lurie, bassist Pieter Sweval, keyboardist Larry Gonsky) reunited and hooked up with drummer Jeffery Grob, and named themselves Looking Glass.
With its characterized style, the band became part of what is called the Jersey Shore sound that was really popular then. After scoring minor hits, the group then would ride the crest of success via their #1 hit “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl).” Looking Glass soon underwent several lineup changes, with lead singer Lurie leaving the group and being replaced by Michael Lee Smith. Lurie pursued a solo career and eventually went on to produce music for various projects.
The band was formed initially just for fun…
Looking Glass was one of those bands who had achieved one monster hit but this otherwise didn’t represent their true sound. The band was formed in the New Jersey city of New Brunswick in 1969. The founding members were Elliot Lurie (guitars, vocals, songwriting), Pieter Sweval (bass) and Larry Gonsky (keyboards). They were all schoolmates at a university there in New Jersey, and they eventually became active playing at local clubs as well as fraternity shindigs.
In 1970, the trio broke up following their graduation. But it wasn’t long before all of the members formed again. They recruited a new member in drummer Jeffrey Grob (who had previously played for a band called Tracks) and the newly-reformed group was christened as Looking Glass.
The group was initially formed primarily just for fun. But this time Looking Glass wanted to turn themselves into a seriously professional band. So they continued to make a name for themselves by making their frequent rounds at local clubs, writing original material, and engaging in heavy rehearsals.
Biggest hit with “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)”
Looking Glass’ efforts finally paid off when Clive Davis, president of Columbia Records, caught one of their performances. He was impressed with the band’s music, and arranged for them a recording contract with Columbia’s Epic Records label.
The band had a couple of singles that were only moderately successful, including their first charting single “Golden Rainbow” (#37 adult contemporary) in 1972. But third’s time the charm for Looking Glass when their single “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” reached the top of Billboard Hot 100 in mid-1972. It also went to #7 on the adult contemporary singles chart and #51 on the UK singles chart. The single stayed on the charts for 16 weeks.
Their self-titled debut album peaked at #113 on the Billboard 200.
“Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” was penned by Lurie, and produced by Bob Liftin. The song actually was a flip side to the single “Don’t It Make You Feel Good” which more represented the band’s sound. Anyway, the single was ignored, until a local disc jockey flipped the record over and played “Brandy” all over again. And the rest is chart success history.
Despite their chart-topping hit, Looking Glass wasn’t exactly too happy at their success. “Brandy” was overdubbed with strings and horns and was far from the group’s real repertoire, which is fast-paced, hard-driving rock and roll. Unfortunately, audiences came to identify the group with “Brandy,” only to be disappointed when they got to attend their live gigs.
Their two subsequent singles in 1973 — “Rainbow Man” and “Jimmy Loves Mary-Anne” — were only minor hits, with the latter being their last Top 40 hit at #33.
Despite subsequent lineup changes (including the addition of guitarist Brendan Harkin in 1974), Lurie left the band in 1974 to pursue a solo career. Following Lurie’s departure, Michael Lee Smith replaced him. Later that same year, Looking Glass evolved into a new band named Fallen Angels. Gonsky eventually quit following the addition of second guitarist Richie Ranno. In 1975, Fallen Angel changed once more into a new band called Starz. Despite never achieving commercial success, Starz grew to become a cult favorite and was cited as an influence to future heavy metal bands Motley Crue, Poison and Twisted Sister.
As for Lurie, his own solo career never really took off, apart from a 1974 minor hit “Your Love Song.” He went on to have a successful career as composer for film scores. His credits include The Last of the Mohicans, Night at the Roxbury, Alien 3, Mary Katherine Gallagher: Superstar, Perfect, Die Hard 2, Dying Young, and a remake of Miracle on 34th Street, among other movies.
Sweval, aged only 41, died in 1990 of unknown causes. In 2003, Lurie re-formed Looking Glass along with new members.