With the endless summer again upon us, and with no less than Brian Wilson
straight back out on the road (again!!) on his
better-even-VERY-late-than-never PET SOUNDS tour, I hearby take it upon
myself to compile a Consumers Guide of sorts to the sort of sounds every
discriminating listener, both old and new, should first consider sampling
when delving into the vast, sonically-daunting Beach Boys audio catalog.
Upon carefully studying the data below, you can proceed directly to the
nearest CD bar, and then with your top securely down simply point the car towards
Surf City, crank it up, and tell 'em The Big Pig sentcha!
(in Chronological Order)
Catch A Wave (1963)
A wet, wild and totally wonderful Call To Arms for the barefooted legions of
West Coast beach trash, both real and imagined: This is one of the band's
first, and BEST, signposts towards the fabled, mythical Land of California
("Four Seasons, you BETTER believe it!").
The Warmth Of The Sun (1964)
A rich, evocative B. Wilson melody swirling beneath lyrics of loss, pain and
remorse (composed in the wake of the JFK assassination): One of an absolute
wealth of Beach Boy recordings which continue to grow and mature ever so
gracefully with age.
I Get Around b/w Don't Worry Baby (1964 single)
This was the very first Beach Boys record I ever owned: Not a bad way to
start off one's collection, no?
Good To My Baby (1965)
Their initial album of '65, BEACH BOYS TODAY, is rightfully recognized as the
beginning of the band's most creative period (no doubt due to the fact that
Big Brother Bri had just retired himself from roadwork). This all-but-lost
rocker from Side One finds the band scaling Phil Spector's Wall of Sound,
brick-for-sonic-brick, with more than compelling results. Turn the clock
Back To Mono, I say!
I'm Bugged At My Ol' Man (1965)
Tacked, as if by mere afterthought, onto the end of the SUMMER DAYS album,
this exercise in barbershop-quintet-from-hell vocalizing takes on all sorts
of new, ominously macabre undercurrents in light of Father Murry's horrific
The Little Girl I Once Knew (1965)
Capitol Records, and no doubt at least three actual Beach Boys, flew into an
absolute panic when this eccentric little record failed to hit the Top Ten in
the autumn of '65. Solution? Throw out the BEACH BOYS' PARTY version of
"Barbara Ann" as a quickie-as-possible follow-up. Result? One of the band's
biggest international hits EVER (Sheesh... go figure!) proving, I do suppose,
that the dreaded Dumbing-WAY-Down of the B. Boys' (mass) audience began long,
long before "Kokomo" first put them on Cruise control.
PET SOUNDS (1966 album)
You mean you DON'T have your copy yet?!!
Good Vibrations (1966)
What is really left to be said about this, one of the greatest recordings of
all time? Proof of its durability: "Good Vibes" has duly survived countless
subliminal appearances on radio and TV, hawking soda pop, cupcakes and low-fat
butter substitutes (not to mention several decades of abuse on-stage at the
hands of Mike Love & Company). But somehow still, this song continues to ring
out strong, bold and true in its original, and forever best, incarnation. They
simply do NOT make records like this anymore.
Heroes And Villains (1967)
As the intended cornerstone of The Great Lost SMILE Album (not to mention
follow-up single to the aforementioned "Vibrations" monster), this poor disc
could never even attempt to live up to its utterly undue expectations. But
listened to today, it reveals itself to be one of the most subtly clever
inventions the Boys ever concocted. (Also highly recommended is the 1972
live recording off BEACH BOYS IN CONCERT.)
Had the SMILE album actually managed to come out a half year before SGT.
PEPPER, this is but one of a dozen examples therein proving The Beach Boys
were easily, musically AND vocally, light-years ahead of all other players
then on the field (and that includes Messrs. Lennon and McCartney). The
melody of this song in particular is absolutely without precedent in the
annals of (pop) music history.
Busy Doin' Nothin' (1968)
More often than not, Beach Boys lyrics mean--and say--much, much more
beneath the surface than mere sun, fun and surf: Listen closely to this gem,
for example, and you'll hear actual directions to Brian Wilson's late-Sixties
Bel Air pad!
Do It Again (1968)
The Beached Boys needed a hit--BAD--during this low-point in their career
(can you believe a concert in New York City drew only 200 paying customers
that summer?!!). So Mike Love took a trip back to the beach, Brian
discovered a great new drum-loop effect (several decades before those
Brothers Dust), and Voila! A Top 20 Triumph circa "Tip Toe Through The
Break Away (1969)
Metaphorically sending a message to their ex-employers, the Boys ended their
initial contract with Capitol Records with this stunning if seldom-heard
single (with lyrics purportedly by father figure Murry!). Check out the great
AMERICAN BAND video documentary, wherein Mike Love (not war) dedicates an
early performance of this ditty in Prague, Czechoslovakia, to none other than
anti-Communist rabble-rouser Alexander Dubcek.
I Can Hear Music (1969)
When Carl recently became the second Beach Boy to forever drift away, the
band was dealt a crippling blow from which it will likely never be able to
recover. "I Can Hear Music" was, unbelievably, the youngest Wilson's very
first attempt at record production, and somehow, someway, he deftly made this
original Ronettes number practically his own. Ahh, my... Rest in peace, sweet
Surf's Up (1971)
Casting about for a fresh lyrical collaborator in the wake of PET SOUNDS,
Brian turned to Hollywood boy-wonder Van Dyke Parks, and this landmark
composition was supposedly the result of their very first night's work
together. An auspicious beginning to say the least, and one of the truly
great Beach Boy creations.
Til I Die (1971)
True, Brian may have gone into hiding for a few years way back when, but
he'd never fail to regularly send out little phonographic "messages" to his
fans the world over. THIS message however, snuck onto Side Two of the SURF'S
UP album, sounded like nothing short of a musical suicide note. Powerful,
disturbing... and utterly magical, as only Brian Wilson can be.
In one of the band's greatest (of several dozen) marketing disasters, their
CARL AND THE PASSIONS: SO TOUGH album was first released as a double-LP set,
packaged alongside the first-ever PET SOUNDS re-issue. Of course, SO TOUGH
was made to sound all the more wobbly when placed next to their 1966
masterpiece; nevertheless, its one redeeming factor was "Marcella," a
stirring, zither-driven stomper originally composed by Brian in honor of one
of his favorite Sunset Strip masseuses. No, Really!
Mt. Vernon & Fairway (1973)
When The Beach Boys decided to relocate to the Netherlands for a year in
order to write and record their HOLLAND album (speaking of disasters), Brian
was of course hijacked from his room and forced to come along. Naturally out
of sorts, wiped on apple sap and wallowing in Randy Newman's SAIL AWAY
record, Brian composed a marvelous suite of tunes which--slyly disguised as a
children's fairy tale--told the sad, autobiographical story of a man
abandoned by his muse. Cut from the final album's line-up by forces untold
(all you need is Love), it was eventually pressed up onto seven-inch EP's and
included with the album's first pressings. Needless to say, it shuts every
other sound on the Dutch debacle down... WAY down.
It's OK (1976)
This snap-happy little-single-that-couldn't was supposed to provide the band
with their first (self-composed) hit in a decade, and was even the theme song
of their legendary Summer of '76, "Saturday Night Live"-produced television
special (wherein Officers Aykroyd and Belushi hauled a bathrobe-clad Brian
out of bed and into the cold, cruel waters of the nearby Pacific). Of
course, this first of several ill-fated "Brian is Back!" campaigns backfired
severely, but this song remains one of the Boys' coolest ever records: Grab
some headphones and start picking it apart vocally sometime for some REAL fun!
Morning Christmas (1977)
The late, very very great Dennis Wilson has gotten criminally short shift
insofar as musical appreciation is concerned: This beauty (originally from
the band's unreleased MERRY CHRISTMAS album), along with such other wonders
as "Fourth of July," "Slip On Through," and "Be Still," so obviously reveal a
tunesmith as inventive as Brian himself, yet with a heart perhaps even more
fragile. Dennis, truth be told, embodied the very persona of "Beach Boy,"
both physically and emotionally, and as such it was perhaps fitting he
finally succumbed to the sea mere miles from the Wilsons' Hawthorne,
California, homestead--a childhood house where, it seemed a million years
earlier, this entire magnificent story-in-song had begun.
(C) 2000 - Gary "Pig" Gold