November 6, 2011

dennis Many people think of Dennis Wilson as just the drummer for the Beach Boys. But he really was an artist in his own right. Sure, he was the driving force behind their touring band until his untimely death nearly twenty years ago, but the music he wrote was anything like that of the band he played in. His music was intensely personal, moody, sad, and funky; more than anything else, it was unique.

Thought I’d put together a list of Dennis Wilson tunes I thought represented the picture of an artist whose work has only recently gotten the repect it deserved – tunes I think that capture the essence of who Dennis was as an artist. Hope you enjoy them.

20. “Little Bird”, from the Beach Boys 1968 LP “Friends”. This was the tune that first got people taking notice of the potential of Dennis as a songwriter. The song oozes quaint and mellow, its tag developed by brother Brian.

19. “Celebrate The News”, the B side of the Beach Boys “Break Away” single, the last they recorded for the Capitol label back in 1969. The song’s first movement is kind of cute and awkward in an earnest and goofy sort of way, but listen to how the song shifts into a tag that is both dark and driving in a powerful sort of way, sending it into a sonic place unique for the band’s repertoire of that time.

18. “Be Still”, also from the “Friends” LP. A quiet meditative piece backed solely by organ. I always liked the idea of Dennis singing this a capella with a little bit of echo on it.

17. Dennis never completed the vocals for his 1977 tune “Holy Man”, but Foo Fighters‘ drummer Taylor Hawkins does a fine job for the legacy release of Dennis’ 1977 LP “Pacific Ocean Blue”, which also features cuts from his planned follow-up release “Bambu”. It’s a great tune, and Hawkins’ voice bears an uncanny resemblance to Dennis’.

16. “Moonshine”, from Pacific Ocean Blue. Almost Spector-like in its arrangment, this is a Dennis power-ballad about loving and losing. Majestic in its scope, this song brings back memories of loving and losing in my own life.

15. “Angel Come Home”, a tune originally scheduled for Dennis’ second solo album “Bambu” in 1979, it was taken by the Beach Boys for their 1979 release “LA (Light Album)”. This is Dennis at his funkiest, a song about loss and loneliness (a theme he wrote about often).

14. “Baby Blue”, also from “LA (Light Album). Brother Carl sings the first verse, Dennis the second, with brother Brian doing the background falsetto. A pretty, albeit haunting ballad about loss.

13. “Barbara”, unreleased from 1971. An ode to his second wife, this is just a lovely tune. Hard to believe Dennis couldn’t write music, he played what he heard in his head. A true artist.

12. “Rainbows”, from Pacific Ocean Blue. The most Beach Boys-sounding song on that album, helped in no small part by fellow BBs Carl Wilson and Bruce Johnston featured prominently on background vocals. The lyrics by Stephen Kalinich celebrates the joy of God’s creation in all of its fullness. The song’s a stunner that never really got its due.

11. “Slip On Through”, from the Beach Boys 1970 album “Sunflower”. One of the few times Dennis’ music is fully integrated with the Beach Boys sound. A classic. If you listen closely you’ll hear background vocals that are both interesting and unusual.

10. “You Are So Beautiful” – if you attended a Beach Boys concert anywhere between the years of 1976 and 1983 when Dennis was present, this was the highlight of the show. After the band would finish with “Surfin’ USA”, they’d leave the stage and let the crowd go nuts for a few minutes. Then, supported only by a blue spotlight and Mike Meros on the piano, Dennis would come out alone to sing this tune which even Billy Preston (credited as the author) admitted Dennis wrote. After finishing the song, Dennis would introduce the band, and they’d finish up with “Good Vibrations”, “Barbara Ann”, and “Fun, Fun, Fun”. Saw ’em do it more than a dozen times and it never got old. Dennis was the driving spirit behind the Beach Boys tour band.

9. “Only With You”, a Dennis tune from 1973’s “Holland” album. While sung by Carl, this Dennis-penned tune (with the help of Mike Love) oozes both romanticism and intimacy. This song was Tracey’s and my choice for our first dance together at our wedding reception 25 years ago.

8. “Under The Moonlight”, from the unreleased album “Bambu”, circa 1978. This is great rockin’ tune, showing Dennis’ other, more wild side.

7. “San Miguel”, finally released on the Beach Boys “Good Vibrations” box set, brother Carl sings this circa 1969 Dennis composition. One can easily imagine Dennis singing this rockin’ tune.

6. “Morning Christmas”. A cut designated for the Beach Boys unreleased 1977 Christmas album. This is a standout track, both moody and very intense. The tag is worth the entire song. While Dennis’ vocal is ragged, the music is both majestic and beautiful. The tag with its piano and grunting synthesizer is worth the price of admission alone.

5. “Lady”, the B side of Dennis’ 1970 solo single with Daryl Dragon (“The Captain” of The Captain and Tennille). Simple. Romantic. Very Dennis.

4. “River Song”, from “Pacific Ocean Blue”, 1977. A very powerful tune with a poignant vocal from Dennis, backed by the Double Rock Baptist Choir, which Dennis conducted without any charts. It was all in his head.

3. “Thoughts Of You”, from 1977’s “Pacific Ocean Blue”. This is Dennis Wilson at his most vulnerable, lonely, and passionate. The only artist I can equate this kind of truth-laid-bare performance to is John Lennon on his “Plastic Ono Band” LP. His lyric, “loneliness is a special place” kept me alive both physically and spiritually during a very down period in my life. For me, this is a very special song.

2. “Cuddle Up”, from the Beach Boys’ 1972 album Carl and The Passions – So Tough”. Achingly romantic and passionate, almost classical in nature. So very Dennis. Brothers Brian and Carl are on the background vocals. Breathtaking, really. I mean, how much emotion can one person pour into a song?

1. “Forever”, also from “Sunflower”. The quintessential Dennis Wilson tune, it’s a beautiful love song that captures the essence of Dennis’ soul and spirit. Brothers Carl and Brian are again featured on background vocals; Brian’s falsetto is particularly lovely.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:06 | Comments (2)
  1. downloading POB and Bambu to add to the collection.

    Comment by Jana — November 8, 2011 @ 12:54 pm

  2. I think you’ll like it a lot, Jana!

    Comment by The Great White Shank — November 8, 2011 @ 9:45 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Search The Site

Recent Items


September 2021
April 2021
January 2021
December 2020
November 2020
October 2020
September 2020
August 2020
July 2020
June 2020
May 2020
April 2020
March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006



4 Goodboys Only

Site Info