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Walk Away Renee by The Left Banke

Album: Walk Away Renee/Pretty BallerinaReleased: 1966Charted:
5
  • This was written by band member Michael Brown, who was 16 at the time, with help from his friends Bob Calilli and Tony Sansone. Brown wrote it after meeting Renee Fladen, the girlfriend of the band's bass player.
  • Renee Fladen was in the control room when Michael Brown tried to record his harpsichord part. He later said in an interview that he was so nervous trying to play with the beautiful Renee present that his hands were shaking. In the end he gave up and returned later when he recorded it without any problem. (thanks, Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England)
  • The line "Just walk away Renee" is often misinterpreted as "Don't walk away Renee." The singer has decided that Renee will never return his affections and is better off with her out of his life.
  • The idea of using a girl's name in the title was inspired by The Beatles "Michelle."
  • This was the first hit for The Left Banke. They had another a year later with "Pretty Ballerina," which was also inspired by Renee.
  • In 1969, this was a #3 UK hit for The Four Tops. The Left Banke's original version never charted in England.
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Comments: 58

On this day in 1966 {October 22nd} the Left Banke performed "Walk Away Renee" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
At the time the song was at #6 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and the very next day it would peak at #5 {for 1 week}...
{See next post below}...
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
On September 4th 1966, "Walk Away Renee" by the Left Banke entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #69; and on October 23rd, 1966 it peaked at #5 {for 1 week} and spent 13 weeks on the Top 100...
It reached #3 on the Canadian RPM 100 Singles chart...
The group had two other records make the Top 100 chart; "Pretty Ballerina" {peaked at #15 in 1967} and "Desiree" {reached #98 in 1967}...
On March 3rd, 1968 the Four Tops' covered version of the song peaked at #14 {for 2 weeks} on the Hot Top 100 {it reached #3 on the United Kingdom's Singles chart}.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
Back in '66 I bought this 45 rpm single, as it was climbing the charts. On the radio, it was difficult to understand the lyrics. When I played my record, it was no better. I was stumped as to what some of the lyrics were. Some of it I could understand. Great song & emotional. Plus, I thought these guys were from Europe at first. Then later The Four Tops came out with an absolutely great hit of this song & I understood their lyrics. I know one thing though - we could never dance too well to this record in '66. Even slow dancing. And this was in '66 when there was a lot of dancing going on. After a few more years & a few releases, we never heard from this group again. But it was great while it lasted.Rotunda - Tulsa, Ok
Just Walk Away Renee is not the only Left Banke Song that was inspired by Renee Fladen (Renee Fladen-Kamm) note she was also the muse for Pretty Ballerina and She may Call You Up Tonight. All three songs are excellent for different reasons.Tony - Felixstowe, United Kingdom
And, Renee, very interesting about your feelings about the song, too.Steve - Whittier, Ca
Renee of Newton, very fascinating story about your name. Whoa, Jo, So TX...this was a STALKER song? Steve Martin (THE Steve Martin??) is one of the writers. Good thing the writer was 16 as Renee was 15 even though some states cut off below 16. Wonderful song.Steve - Whittier, Ca
I grew up with this and for a long time did not like it as my name is Renee. Spelled exactly the same. All through 1970's it almost became a thorn in my side. Then it slowly was not played, and eventually never mentioned. It wasn't until the day after my father passed away in 2000 that I heard that song again and yet again just today, a week before Father's Day. Now this song has meaning to me, but for different reasons than what was intended by the writer. I guess if we listen carefully, we can all find our own meaning in each song.Renee - Newton, Nh
Like many bands at their start,the Left Banke were 'playing all around'-- I heard them at the Weirs Ballroom, Laconia NH one evening.Rich - Portsmouth, Nh
I LIKE the understated style of singing and I think the lyrics are nearly perfect with the imagery of the empty sidewalk, and the melody haunting. The way the strings are produced at the beginning of the chorus is both deep and sounds layered. The way he sings adds to the melancholy of the song and the feeling of rejection. The fact that he doesn't blame her is also fairly unusual-the empty sidewalks on my block are not the same, you're not to blame. He is trying to get over the signs of an unrequited love and struggling to stay optimistic about life. I had also heard that Leonard Bernstein was very impressed with the song. I could argue that it is one of the best pop songs of all time, and yes, written by a 16 year old. I don't think it will ever date, and personally, I love it both emotionally for what it does and the depth of the music and lyrics.Michael - Minneapolis, Mn
I was fourteen when I first heard this at a school dance, my childhood sweetheart and I danced the "slow dance" (those baby boomers will know what I am talking about) way to this many many times. Alas I dropped him when I was 17 & now after 42 years I realize he was the person I should of married, but he is now deceased. So everytime I hear or play this song,by anybody I can't stop crying. My favorite version is by Linda Ronstadt With Ann Savoy on "Adieu False Heart".Kristyna - Stephenville, Tx
"Walk away Renee," is a great song, timeless, and immortal, After I finally understood the lyrics, I realized that the very same experience happened to me in the 70's, although, my "Renee" was "Nancy," now it's Michelle in the 00's, I'm sure everyone shares that lost love feeling. I have a massive record collection, and rediscovering this song has filled a vacancy in my music, and my life.Michael - Taylorville, Il
I heard a rumor at the time that Cher sang in the background on this. Any truth to that?Pat Bell - San Diego, Ca
I love this song, always have. When I was living in the Northern Virginia/DC area back in the early 90's a local radio station had a couple of guys called Lowen and Navaro (Dave Navaro) in the studio for some live music. I happened to catch them doing Walk Away Renee. It was fantastic, so moving. Only time I heard that performance. Would love to have the chance to hear again.Mike - Manahawkin, Nj
The original version did nothing in Europe. But Four Tops' version was a hit. Anyway, this is a remarkable song, composed by a 16 year old. I sincerely believe that both Paul and John woukd have been pleased with having this one on their conscience. And these are lyrics you can read loud without blushing. That goes for a minority of the songs written in 1966.Karl - Oslo, Northern Mariana Islands
Right on, Joe from Fairfax. I love the Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes version.Michelina - The Mountains, Co
Robert.S received a dear John letter while serving in Viet nam in 67... broke his heart with nowhere to go with his pain., we all got dear johns after about 8 months, you just could not hold a heart for 8 mos, we all had 4 mos left in-country, but they were gone, this song breaks me up after 42 years...Mike Hendershot - Beaumont, Ca
I believe that the word "Don't" is often thought of instead of "Just" in "Just walk away Renee" by optimistic people. Even though I know the words, after all these years I sometimes still think of using "don't" for the lyric.Jim - Macclenny, Fl
One of the first stalker songs of the 60's. Written by musical prodigy Mike Brown sung by Carmelo Esteban Martin Caro aka Steve Martin Caro. Inspired by 15 year old Renee Fladen girlfriend of bassist Tom Finn, she later dated drummer Warren David of same group before she "split the scene" as per Mike Brown and other band members. She was a beuatiful platimum blonde who attended Left Blanke's practice sessions.Jo - So Tx, Tx
Even though the lyrics don't sound clear, I really like that son since it's an outstanding blend of classical music and pop. It's one song I never get tired of hearing on oldies stations.Howard - St. Louis Park, Mn
I have long loved this song.
Very simple lyrics, but still quite good, as sometimes the simplest lyrics can be the best.
The sign that points one way and the empty sidewalks on my block are not the same you're not to blame.
Mike Brown must have been a prodigy.
Oldpink - New Castle, In
Mike Brown was the main author and brains behind this great song, but he was not the lead singer. It was Steve Martin (obviously not the comedian!).John - Cincinnati, Oh
"Walk away Renee" has a theme so reminiscent of my loss. I felt the greatest love of my life many years ago... the memory is haunting. She comes to me in dreams now, stirring up our past. In a world misunderstood we were forced apart... two women unwittingly and deeply in love. Pressured, she married a 'high school sweetheart' with hopes of a 'normal' life. She pleaded with me to be her maid of honor and out of love I did so. At the church alter, I stood silently by her side, swallowing my pain, I witnessed her marriage and remembered the last time we touched. I watched the newly married couple drive away beginning their honeymoon and separating our lives. I've long since moved away and have kept a respectful distance. I have not seen her or her family in all these years. I've always wondered where she placed our love, does she think of me? Sadly we are at a point quite aware our lives will end... I will leave a red rose at her grave and even more so, I pray she will leave a rose at mine.
-J, Syracuse, NY
J - Syracuse, Ny
I think that the song writer is trying to express how most people long for the chance to revisit the past. He refers to the "sign that points one way," meaning that no one can go back.
The writer is telling Renee that he remembers how they once felt about each other, that he really loved her in the past, but nothing is the same any more.
He means that too much time has passed and the both of them have changed. Even though he stills remembers the love they shared and longs to go back in time, he understands that it isn't possible.
The music is haunting and the words, though simple, convey a message of past love that was lost. Most people have some regrets and think about how life would have been if we had made different decisions.
I love this song.
Fran - Chicago, Il
David Cassidy also did a version of Walk Away Renee. I discovered it by accident when searching youtube for videos of my favorite actress, Kay Lenz. His version is somewhat slower than the ones done by Left Banke and Four Tops, but very listenable. Don't forget that Kay Lenz was married to David Cassidy for six years and the video on youtube contains a montague of pictures of David Cassidy, about half of which include his wife Kay. There are several pictures of Kay that demonstrate how stunningly beautiful she was (and still is).Michael - Columbia Heights, Mn
I had a dream, a long time ago. It was back in high school, and had a crush on a girl named Renee. She was friendly to me, but not really approachable at the time (of course I was shy). I was playing in a band, which played mostly late 60s-early 70s music.

One night, I played in a local pub for high school students, and she happened to be in the audience listening to the music. Anyway, one of the songs I sang lead on was this particular song. While singing this song, I happened to look out at the audience to see if I spotted her, and she was there alright, with tears in her eyes, supported by her friend. After the concert, I was backstage, relaxing with a drink, packing up, and she was standing there, with that sad look. She ran up to me, and hugged me and kissed me, and cried, telling me how moved she was. She also told me she never knew how much I felt about her, and she realized she too had warm feelings for me. I was a happy man from that night on, and even happier when I woke from my dream.
Frank - Hasbrouck Heights, Nj
I met Tony Sansone back in 1967 when he was managing a Band in Baltic, Ct. Its a tiny village, but he left a lasting impression on everyone one of us who knew him. We became good friend and after 38 yrs. we are still in touch.
He is still in the music biz and enjoying a good life. Keep writing Tony we all love your work.
Wil - Baltic, Dc
This is one of my all-time favorites. It reminds me of a crush I had between junior high and high school with a girl named Renee. She was beautiful and road a motorcycle. I would have loved to have ridden it with her. ...*sigh*...Guy - Birmingham, Al
Leonard Bernstein evidently loved the Left Banke--and no wonder why. This is fresh melody writing at its peak. I think a moment or two in the lyric is weak--but few pop songs written by amateurs (let alone 16 year olds like Brown!) aren't. Brown's father, a session violinist for Bacharach and others, plays on this (I believe).Jay - Syracuse, Ny
I love this song, maybe because my name is in it. I just hope I never hear anyone dedicate it to me since the Renee in the song left the singer brokenhearted!Renee - Bloomington, Mn
If you're in Austin, Texas, seek out Jimmy LaFave, a well-known singer who does a wonderful rendition.Jim - Austin, Tx
My brother Richard - alas, no longer living - had claimed for years that he and his band were present during the recording of "Walk Away Renee." His band was using the same or adjacent studio facilities in this building - full of music industry offices - which was a few blocks north of Times Square (near the Brill Building). Richard also claimed that the bass player in the band was having difficulty doing the bridge to "Walk Away Renee." He told me that somebody then yelled out, "Can anybody here play this part?" and Richard answered, "I can." He played the part and the band wrapped up the session for that day. To the end, Richard never knew if they had used his bass part or if it were re-recorded later.
Richard was not prone to tall tales, and this was the only story of this type that he's ever mentioned. Can anybody tell me the particulars of that recording session and whether it's possible that his (anonymous) bass part is in the final recording?
Joe - New York, Ny
I absolutely love this song. My name is Renae (spelled differently than the song) and whenever I hear it on the radio, I always get goosebumps--Like God is talking to me. It always makes me cry because it's about unrequited love and I always think about the guy who broke my heart.

-Renae
Renae - Minneota, Mn
Often overlooked is the outstanding album on which their two biggest hits are on....Check out 'I've got something on my mind' and 'She will call you up tonite' from that album..Both great songs.Rob - Stamford, Ct
This is one of my favorites of all time. It's no surprise it's about a love never had. Say what you will about the mumbling but it adds to the effect and sadness of the song about a heart broken that can't let go. Its tone is perfect and this song laid the foundation for millions of others that used haunting classical music for its sound. Their influence from using classical music and mumbling is obvious and present in some of the great artists to make music (REM, Aerosmith,etc) This is a sad and beautiful song that is one of the best ever.Fightingamish00 - Little Rock, Ar
My name is Michelle Renee. It was interesting to see that the one song title was inspired by another. And, yes, I was named after both songs. From parents who "grew up" in the sixties, I should consider myself lucky!Renee - Forest Hill, Md
I was dreadfully incompatible with my regular-ed kindergarten class many years ago, so I was placed into the Special-Ed classroom of Mrs. Renee Gott. Even after all of these years, I cannot help but think about Mrs. Gott when I hear this song.Darrell - Eugene, United States
Yeah, one of those classic unrequited love tunes with the squealing violins and the on-the-verge-of-crying vocals that always seem to get to me. Another classic in the genre is Dionne Warwick's "Walk on By".Guy - Wellington, New Zealand
Check out Linda Ronstadt's album Adieu False Heart for a really amazing Walk Away Renee, one of the most beautiful rendiditions you will ever hear.Jk - Los Angeles, Ca
I named my daughter after this song 28 years ago, I loved it so much! To this day, it is still my favorite song - as well as my "love" looking down on me from the heavens above. A great, great song!!
Our oldies station plays it very frequently.
Suzy - Chicago, Il
Renee does indeed live in the Bay Area, and has become a successful and respected music teacher, musical director, and artist. She appears to want to distance herself from her happenstance connection to the song, perhaps for personal reasons, but maybe also because she knows the enduring power of this song is that we all insert our own version of an unrequited love into the song's Renee character.Paul - Sacramento, Ca
As great a factoid as it is, Steven Tyler did collaborate with the group in the late sixties, but did not sing on this song.Matt - Boston, Ma
Renee was someone else's girlfriend. The way I heard it, Mike Brown made a play for her and she rejected him. I think that "just walk away, Renee" is a defense. How do you deal with rejection? Make it seem like you did the breaking up. But that is only my spin on it. I could be wrong. Still, a touching and heartfelt song. And, to the poster below who called this a "British invasion song" -- these guys were from Brooklyn, NY!Jerry - Brooklyn, Ny
This song is probably about who is now Renee Fladen-Kamm. I think she lives in Canada and have heard she is a producer. There is some information that she may live in San Francisco. Good luck and Aloha! Curtis, HICurtis - Mililani, Hi
Whatever the reason, the words ARE rather garbled, which is ironic for such a "sensitive" song for which one would expect the lyrics to be key. Since realizing it was "just" and not "don't," I've been confused as to why he's telling her that to walk away when it's clearly not to his liking. Maybe he knows they have to break up because she's not happy and he's reassuring her that he won't try to change her mind? Might be more convincing if he didn't then proceed to go on and on about how miserable it's making him!Fyodor - Denver, Co
Elliott Smith did a really incredible version of this live...I haven't found it on any commercial CDs though, just through traded live tapes.Brendon - Paxton, Il
I heard the song today and decided I would finally try to find the words. For years I thought he was saying both "don't" and "just".As well all my life people have been saying "Don't walk away Renee" to me since my name is Renee. :)
I love this song!!!! thanks for the words
Rene Fullerton Ca.
Renee - Fullerton, Ca
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes have a great live version of this somewhere. Slower and lower...Joe - Fairfax, Va
When I first heard this song I loved it. And I'm not a big fan of British Invasion music but this is a good song nonetheless.Gerry - Danvers, Ma
I have a massive collection of British Invasion hits. The reason I am at this website is to find Walk away Renee for downloading. I just want one song and dont want to pay fees to join a site..............If anyone can help me. I would appreciate itMichael Wheeler - Las Vegas, Nv
Charles -- I never said it was not heartfelt -- I only said it was shame he could not enunciate his own words better! But, hell, even Elton John mumbles a lot of his songs! Anyway, I knew the story behind the song and even know the section in Brooklyn where Mike and his band played.Jerry - Brooklyn, Ny
This song really gets me. I can't get enough of it.Henry - Kingston, Ny
Jerry-
If you did a little research on this song, it really was one from the heart. Apparently Mike was in the studio, getting ready to lay down the harpsichord track for this when Renee walked in. She didn't know about the song and he was so nervous that he couldn't play it. He had to return later to finish it. My guess is he was trying to get his emotions across vocally, and sometimes in those instances, diction takes a back seat.
Shortly after the song was released, her family moved to Boston from NYC. Hey you're never in love like when you're in love at 16.
Renee is now a musical director and Opera singer.
Charles - Bronxville, Ny
Ricki Lee Jones does a fabulous version. I saw her in concert at the Pier in NYC and was mesmerized by her soulful rendition.Clifford - Cottekill, Ny
The Four Tops have a terrific cover of this.
The lyrics are really quite touching but Mike Brown garbled them badly. It was after hearing the Tops version that I could finally understand the whole thing.
"Pretty Ballerina" has a beautiful melody and a nice storyline, but Brown mumbles this one even more than "Renee"
Jerry - Brooklyn, Ny
Did you ever walk your friend halfway home, and then have to say goodbye and walk back to your house as you watched them walk back to theirs? I always assumed that this is what this song was about...the way home seems different without your friend there.Jenifer - Tokyo, Japan
Billy Bragg uses the melody but provides his own talkover lyric - a great version.Alex - Melbourne, Australia
Aerosmith's Steven Tyler sang backround on this.Tai - Boston, Ma
Hylas, the songfacts states "music is BASED on Bach's Pretty Ballerina". These are indeed, two different songs.
also, Walk away Renee was the first pop song to use a "classical music" theme.
David - Lubbock, Tx