A week or two ago, I noticed that Scott M., who I haven't seen in months, said something on his Friendster profile about winning some Beach Boys albums on eBay. I asked him which ones, which led to a nice little back-and-forth. Originally, I was waiting to post this until I could edit it, but fuck that. It's fine how it is. (And Scott's given me permission.)
I believe I won every single album leading up to Beach Boys Today! ? I'm a fucking Beach Boys geek, John....so I'm going to go off on a tangent right now. :) Hopefully, you're a BB geek as well. So few people I know can handle them, so I get excited when friends express any sort of interest in the music of Wilson. It's all your fault!
I have a lot of Beach Boys on CD (and a decent version of Smile). Owning the early material on vinyl, however, is really a treat to the ear. There were some live albums in my group auction, and every studio album that lead up to their more avante garde pop, which began in late 1964. This was sort of the last little purchase for my Brian Wilson collection. I now have everything that I originally wanted either on record or CD....basically, his work from '61 to '67. That's all one really needs.
Wilson started to think in classical music right around the time "Beach Boys Today!" was created in 1964. That period is still very "California" in lyrical content....so it makes for a very odd juxtaposition when placed with such deep music. The album "Summer Days/Summer Nights" is Part II to that type of thought process, and also the warning for "Pet Sounds". Orchestration and melody are perfect around this time. His music is so avante garde, sophisticated, yet beautiful in 1964-65, but you still have Mike Love's shallow lyrics on top. This factor is fascinating to me. Historically, it's interesting because it's the beginning of awareness and psychadelia in 60s America, and the country was split (much like it is now). The Beach Boys themselves, were artistically split. This is why Wilson ditched Love to work with other collaborators on Pet Sounds and Smile. All of this Beach Boys stuff is very relevant to what goes on now. Aware America vs. Blind Square America. Color vs. Black and White. It's quite ironic that the "smile project" might actually be officially released this year in our music industry.
I've been kind of obsessed with this man for awhile. I've always loved his sound since I was a kid, and fell in love with Pet Sounds during high school. I had always heard about Smile, but wasn't taking the innitiative to seek it out because I hadn't done enough research on it yet. I heard it for the first time last summer, and a lot of it blew my mind.
Maybe I should have a Beach Boys party this spring to celebrate the warm weather, and my new apartment.
Thanks for letting me go off on a tangent. If you're ever interested in copying my CDs or records, feel free. Maybe you already have all that shit.
Take care. See you soon. Scott
Awesome. I really get excited when I hear people are into the Beach Boys, too. I met a guy at the Empty Bottle recently, a friend of Sara M.'s, and found out he was a Brian Wilson fan, so we ended up talking for a while; I think we annoyed Jon M., who kept looking over and finding we were *still* talking about a band he had nothing to say about!
Anyway, I'd never really taken the Beach Boys seriously until a few years ago. I mean, I'd heard all the early 60s hits on oldies radio, and "Good Vibrations" and all that. But it wasn't until early 2001, when a co-worker let me borrow a CD of "Smile" tracks (I think it's maybe the stuff from the 1993 "Good Vibrations" box set?) and I fucking loved it that I became really impressed and curious about the band. Based on my reaction, said co-worker bought me "Today! / Summer Days/Summer Nights" for my birthday. And then not long thereafter, I bought "Pet Sounds." On those three albums, which are like 1965-66, there's definitely some great stuff, but I'm especially partial to the bits that anticipate "Smile" -- like the instrumental "Pet Sounds" (which is similar to any of the instrumental "Heroes and Villains" sections) or "Caroline, No" (which has the same intimate melancholy of "Surf's Up").
Oh, so I forgot to mention that on the same CD with the "Smile" material that my co-worker lent me, there were also a few highlights from 1968-71, some really killer singles that maybe sound a little cheesy at first but are actually incredible. (And I love stuff that's cheesy, anyway.) And so just a month ago, I went and bought "Friends / 20/20," which collects their 1968-69 albums. There's sort of this myth that after "Smile," Brian Wilson just went off into his sandbox for like 20 years. Which totally isn't true. I mean, he was no longer in a position to take as much creative control of the band, but he was still involved. And some of the other Beach Boys started writing really cool shit, too. Dennis Wilson has a song on "Friends" called "Little Bird," which is only two minutes long but takes a really interesting arc, from this Turtles-ish verse to a more jaunty harmonized chorus that fades out. And cello!
The other interesting thing about the albums after "Smile" and through "Surf's Up" (1971) is that there's reworkings of aborted "Smile" recordings -- sometimes good, sometimes bad (the version of "Vegetables" on "Smiley Smile" (1967) is terrible, in my opinion, but "Cabinessence," on "20/20," sounds really close to what's on the "Smile" bootlegs).
Also, you might be interested in the Van Dyke Parks solo album, "Song Cycle," which I own. It's kind of hard to get into -- the lyrics are really obtuse, and the melodies are really weird, too. And it sounds like a turn-of-the-century revue sometimes. But as part of the entire Beach Boys experience, it's interesting.
I'd love it if you had a Brian Wilson party :)
John. You made my day. I am so glad that you are as big a fan of the Beach Boys as I am. I've been converting people very slowly, but it doesn't usually end up too well. It's wierd. The Beatles are great, but I've never felt the need to "convert" people to that band. Maybe I figured there were people who liked them, and people who did not. The Beatles are just played all the time, over and over again. With the Beach Boys, however, I feel like it's our duty to show our generation their relevance. Most people we know have not had the opportunity to hear the broad range of Wilson and Co., and their incredible development. It has just been their early hits played over and over again, and maybe Good Vibrations played every once in awhile on the radio. Mike Love continues to hammer home the image of fun fun fun!, patriotic, and those masogynistic lyrics into the hearts of newer generations of people every year, so no wonder this is the situation.
I almost have my boyfriend converted to "fan status", but he is a critical theorist, so he will be my toughest patient. :) I made him a copy of Pet Sounds, and he laughed at the lyrics and music immediately. Then I played some of the more obscure tracks like "Pet Sounds", and "Here Today" (which scares the shit out of me still). He got a little more intrigued, and stopped laughing. THen.....a few weeks later, I played him "Wind Chimes", "Fire", and "Surf's Up",.....and his reaction was:
"This reminds me of Mark Rothko's final paintings."
Interesting reaction, indeed. When I heard "Surf's Up", my mind was blown. I cried, John. It was there and then when I realized Brian Wilson was in a category that was beyond even pop music. It's an amazing piece of work, obviously, and the perfect example of his collaboration with Van Dyke Parks. They reached their peak with that song. It's one of the greatest pieces of American music....ever.
So many people are too judgemental of artists because their "image" doesn't live up to their hip standards. They freak out when lyrics are simple, trite, and expressing something naive. They don't look at the "big picture" surrounding the development of the artist. I don't take a whole lot of the early Beach Boys' records seriously either, but you and I are on the same wavelength where we can look at the band objectively....as capable of making extremely well-thought out music. Simple. And some of those early songs are great (Don't Worry
Completely agree with you on post-Smile period of the group. Brian Wilson just stepped down from his duties as cheif conductor/producer/composer. I've read enough to realize (and empathize) that he wasn't insane, but rather depressed and probably very beaten down artistically by the music industry, other group members, and maybe partying too much. From what I understand, he never stopped composing the entire duration of his reclusive period, but never bothered to record his songs either. There was just no desire to release them anymore to the market. Music was made for his enjoyment only during that period. The man was very smart though. Just incredibly eccentric.
I love the "square" vibe they were working for during that already vacuous decade called the 70s. I own Carpenters records, for god sakes! Part of me might not necessarily like the material, but carry more of a sick fascination with perfect pop production values, and knowing the real story behind the music. Maybe I appreciate the fact that they were still attempting to make something beautiful amidst a horrendous cycle of events (Wilson's retreat, Capital records screwing them over, and Dennis' Manson Family affiliations, etc.). If I was alive during that time period, I probably would not have liked this type of stuff. Now, I look at it with a fascination, a critical eye, and appreciation that it's just great pop music made during a time when people were growing their hair out, doing cocaine, and recording half-hour guitar solos. The Beach Boys never lost the notion of a "song", or "composition". Virtuosity was such a late 60s-early 70s thing, and they avoided that always. That's why people thought they were square during the 70s.
Sorry for keeping this discussion going, but it's just too fun. Thank you though. I don't feel so alone now. I am totally having my Beach Party now. We'll pull out the Smile tracks and frighten the non-believers! :)
Cheers, John. I'll see you soon. Good luck with the shows you have coming up. Scott