April 23, 2013

Was taking a walk around the neighborhood tonight and taking in the lovely fragrant air and the sounds of crickets chirping happily. It got me thinking about this classic song from a very unsung and (at that time) unappreciated period in the history of the Beach Boys – the post-SMiLE era between 1968 and the Holland album of 1973. During that time, the Beach Boys were at their height of creativity as a group (and the bottom of their popularity), replacing the increasing withdrawal of Brian Wilson as a creative force with albums filled with beautiful music and a peaceful vibe during one of the most tumultuous times in American history. Nowadays this period is looked at as one filled with understated greatness, and here are ten songs that best reflect the sound of my favorite period in Beach Boys history:

10. Forever, from Sunflower. The quintessential Dennis Wilson tune on an album featuring several of his tunes while he was at the height of his creativity. With Carl and Brian (his falsetto is gorgeous) on background vocals, this is as good as it gets as love songs go.

9. All This Is That, from Carl and the Passions, So Tough. This Alan Jardine-penned track started out as inspiration from Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken and, with the help of Mike Love and Carl Wilson, became the group’s ode to Transcendental Meditation. Most folks consider this a worthy equal to The Beatles’ Across The Universe in the way it conveys TM’s sense of peace, tranquility, and oneness with the universe.

8. Add Some Music To Your Day, from Sunflower. A great group effort with everyone taking a turn throughout in this homage to music as a positive and healing force in the world. Geez, you can’t say there’s a lot of music nowadays that qualifies in that regard.

7. Country Air, from Wild Honey. Lovely, tranquil, peaceful.

6. Do It Again, from 20/20. It’s a Beach Boys classic from the first catchy distorted drum intro. Personally, I like the 50th anniversary version almost as much, but there’s no doubt this was a great tune from the Beach Boys “middle era”.

5. I Can Hear Music, from 20/20. The first Beach Boys song recorded without any Brian Wilson participation. A great production by Carl Wilson shows just how much he learned from his big brother, and shimmering vocals throughout betters, I think, the original Ronettes tune.

4. (On My Way To Sunny) Californ-I-A, from Holland. Bright and bouncy, this was Alan Jardine putting his homesickness for California to words and music while the Beach Boys recorded in faraway Holland. That’s Brian on the opening and the two quick inserts, singing a quick rushed vocal on his way to the airport and high-tailing it back to L.A.

3. ‘Til I Die, from Surf’s Up. Considered by many to be the last great Brian Wilson song, it’s an autobiographical song penned from a night sat sitting on the beach as Brian contemplated suicide. Majestic, poignant, powerful.

2. Sail On, Sailor, from Holland. It’s fellow Goodboy Steve “Killer” Kowalski’s favorite Beach Boys tune. The opening piano and synthesizer tells you you’re in for a great ride, and it is. Carl Wilson’s answering vocals to Blondie Chaplin’s lead on the final verse does it for me.

1. Surf’s Up, from Surf’s Up. Simply breathtaking. There are three parts: 1) an understated Carl Wilson vocal added to the original 1967 backing track, 2) Brian Wilson’s original 1967 vocal supplemented by Carl and some 1972 synth bass, 3) a coda made up of the SMiLE track “Child Is The Father To The Man” with new vocals added by Brian (in his pajamas, no less!) when he heard the track playing in his upstairs bedroom (the Beach Boys were using one of his downstairs room as their studio at the time).

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 03:34 | Comments (4)
  1. GW,

    As you know “Sail on, Sailor” is my top BB fav. The album “Holland” really focusing my re-kindled interest on their music. Musically, that album expanded my horizons as prior to that I was a bit myopic.

    The rest is history…

    All The Best,

    Comment by Tighwad — April 24, 2013 @ 3:29 pm

  2. Actually, Bob, if it wasn’t for you I would never have gotten into the Beach Boys. You were the one that brought over The Beach Boys In Concert one day in 1974, and I was hooked like some crack cocaine addict.

    We can all look back on moments where our lives were changed by one event or another, that was one of them. From that point on, my brother Mark (may he rest in peace) and I began scoffing up every BB album working backwards from Holland until we got to their surf era music, which I never really liked. But hearing that music got me into real surf music, and the rest, as they say, is history.

    Not only did I become a huge BB fan, but to this day I’m never far away from surf music, both classic and contemporary, and you’re the one that planted that seed. Well done, my friend.

    Comment by The Great White Shank — April 24, 2013 @ 11:18 pm

  3. And that, dear readers, is what friendship is all about.

    And, oh, BTW that said same 12″ piece of vinyl remains in my collection to this day…

    Comment by Tightwad — April 25, 2013 @ 6:19 pm

  4. I still have all my old Beatles albums along with hundreds of old LPs in our garage. Might make for a good yard sale opportunity.

    Hopefully we can get together when I’m back in MA for Goodboys weekend in July. I’ll keep you posted!

    Comment by The Great White Shank — April 25, 2013 @ 8:12 pm

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