Walk Away Renee

The Left Banke

Song Review by Jason Ankeny

The rock era's quintessential expression of unrequited love, the exquisite "Walk Away Renee" was the biggest hit of the Left Banke, the short-lived but highly influential New York group whose Baroque pop approach expanded on the success of records like the Beatles' "Yesterday" to further explore the common ground between popular and classical music. Left Banke mastermind Michael Brown composed "Walk Away Renee" when he was just 16; the song was inspired by Renee Fladen, the girlfriend of bandmate Tom Finn and the unwitting muse behind Brown favorites "Pretty Ballerina" and "She May Call You Up Tonight" as well. Although "Walk Away Renee"'s lyrics imagine Brown and Fladen tearfully ending their romance underneath the one way sign at the Brooklyn intersection of Hampton and Falmouth Avenues, in reality the young composer never admitted his feelings for the girl, and her presence at recording sessions reportedly left him so shaken he was unable to perform. Plaintive and poignant, the song's dreamlike patina perfectly complements the fantasy world Brown creates, its combination of angelic harmonies, chamber-like string arrangements, and harpsichord-driven melody boasting uncommon complexity and drama. After reaching the Top Five in the autumn of 1966, "Walk Away Renee" was subsequently covered by acts as disparate as the Four Tops, Southside Johnny, and Billy Bragg, a grouping that underscores the universality of the longing and loss Brown so eloquently articulates. And Renee herself? The story goes that shortly after the song was recorded, she and her family relocated to Boston, and no one in the Left Banke ever saw her again.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
There's Gonna Be a Storm: The Complete Recordings 1966-69 1992 Mercury 2:42