Posts Tagged ‘The Beach Boys’

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Brian Wilson has released his solo, piano instrumental rendition of The Beach Boys‘ hit, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”. The song release comes just two weeks after he announced “At My Piano”, a collection of 15 Beach Boys classics reimagined as solo piano instrumentals, due out November 19th via Decca Records,

Back in September, along with announcement of the album, Wilson shared the first single, “God Only Knows“. Much like the first single, the newly released “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” stays true to the song’s original structure and feel. While it has a slightly slower tempo, this solo rendition from Wilson captures the many different melodies and vocal tonalities present on the original recording from The Beach Boys’ 1966 album, “Pet Sounds”. Despite the absence of vocals, it’s hard to refrain from singing along with Wilson as he gracefully glides through the first chorus. As Wilson said in a statement alongside the album’s announcement, “We had an upright piano in our living room and from the time I was 12 years old I played it each and every day. I never had a lesson, I was completely self-taught.”

He continued, “I can’t express how much the piano has played such an important part in my life. It has bought me comfort, joy, and security. It has fuelled my creativity as well as my competitive nature. I play it when I’m happy or feeling sad. I love playing for people and I love playing alone when no one is listening. Honestly, the piano and the music I create on it has probably saved my life.”

These sentiments are ever-present on this recording, which allows the listener to tap into each and every emotion Wilson feels when playing.

Below, listen to Wilson’s solo piano rendition of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, set to appear on the forthcoming album At My Piano. Tour dates and tickets to Wilson’s ongoing tour, Brian Wilson: Greatest Hits Live!, with Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin.

A Decca Records recording; ℗ 2021 Brimel, under exclusive licence to Universal Music Operations Released on: 2021-10-01


Some time in the spring of 1966, Al Kooper, a musician who’d recently supplied the signature organ riff to Bob Dylan’s ground breaking track “Like a Rolling Stone,” was invited to Brian Wilson’s home to hear some new Beach Boys music, an album called “Pet Sounds”, still a few weeks away from release. “He played it for me,” remembers Kooper, “and then he played it again, which did not bother me. Little did I know that it would receive more plays than anything else in my house for the rest of my life. It’s still my favourite album. Brian was in a world of music that no one else dwelled in.”

Al Kooper is not alone in his assessment. Mojo magazine has named Pet Sounds, the Beach Boys’ 11th album, the greatest LP of all time and Rolling Stone placed it at number two in its original top 500 list, just behind Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Conceived, written, produced and arranged by Wilson, with lyrics primarily by advertising copywriter Tony Asher – with whom Wilson had never previously collaborated – Pet Sounds was released by Capitol Records on May 16th, 1966, more than a half-century ago. Its impact has only swelled over the years and it was celebrated in 2016 by Capitol via Pet Sounds (50th Anniversary Collectors Edition), a box set housing four CDs and a Blu-ray audio disc. The package, which both reprises and expands upon The Pet Sounds Sessions, released 20+ years ago, includes the original album in stereo and mono, various other mixes, session outtakes and previously unreleased live recordings. It provides deep insight into the making of a landmark recording.

While much of the box set’ may appeal only to diehard fans and audiophiles, the original 13-track album, which features such Beach Boys classics as “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “God Only Knows” and “Caroline, No,” continues to find new fans. A key recurring plot point in 2015’s Brian Wilson biopic,Love & Mercy, revolved around the heady, intense Los Angeles sessions for the album, the creative genius directing the ace studio musicians known as the Wrecking Crew while butting up against the other group members, who, the film alleges, felt that his new compositions were not representative of their trademark, best-selling sound. Those oft-repeated qualms, say Beach Boys Mike Love and Al Jardine, never existed.

Adds Love, “One thing I’ve been quoted as saying was, ‘Don’t fuck with the formula.’ But I never said that! It’s the most famous thing I said that I never said. First of all, I named the album. Second, all of us – Carl [Wilson], Al, Bruce, myself – all worked really hard on the harmonies. Pet Sounds is awesome for so many reasons. It was a big leap from where we were,” says Jardine. “We’d been out on tour for a long time [minus Brian, who’d stopped traveling with the band in 1964 to concentrate on writing and recording, his place in the road band taken by new recruit Bruce Johnston]. There was a lot of adjustment. But it wasn’t that we didn’t want to do it.”

Not all Beach Boys fans did initially fall for it though. On its release, Pet Sounds, despite garnering raves from the nascent rock press, It was a lesser performance than most of their previous albums, among them 1965’s Beach Boys Party! and Summer Days (And Summer Nights). Whether or not Brian Wilson and the other Beach Boys felt they’d created a defining work, Capitol Records balked, its executives complaining that the new music – much of it lush, soft, ambitious and introspective, Brian’s response to the Beatles’ new, more sophisticated direction on Rubber Soul – was too far removed from the music the public had come to expect from them.

“We played the album for Karl Engemann, the A&R [artists and repertoire] guy at Capitol responsible for the Beach Boys,” says Love, “and he listened and said, ‘Gee, guys, that’s great, but couldn’t we get something more like “California Girls” or “I Get Around” or “Fun, Fun, Fun”?’” The label’s solution was to tack on to the end of the album’s first side the group’s most recent hit single,  “Sloop John B.” Stylistically, it seemed at odds with Wilson and Asher’s more reflective compositions, among them “That’s Not Me,” “I’m Waiting for the Day,” “Here Today,” “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times,” “You Still Believe In Me” and the achingly beautiful, Carl Wilson-sung “God Only Knows,” a romantic gem that Paul McCartney has cited as one of his favourite ever songs. The album also included two instrumentals, a head-scratcher to the company brass who’d only seen the Beach Boys as a vocal group.

“It didn’t meet their expectations so they took Pet Sounds off the market and quickly put out a best-of album that took the wind out of our sails,” says Jardine. “We really didn’t have a chance to exploit it or perform it.

Brian raised the bar with Pet Sounds,” says Jardine. “People play off that ingeniousness that he has. He hears things and phrases things in a way that you wouldn’t expect.”

For Brian Wilson, who turned 78 on June 20th, 2020, the album represents part of a continuum, the latest development in his evolution as an artist. By the time Pet Sounds was released he was deeply involved in perfecting his next masterpiece, the single “Good Vibrations,” which he’d hoped to include on the album but continued to fine-tune for months. “I decided to experiment with a new kind of music,” Wilson said. “I was young and creative and we really did good. I’m glad that people still like the album.

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Signed copy of the 1995 album ‘Orange Crate Art’, by Brian Wilson & Van Dyke Parks. As singer & songwriter for The Beach Boys. Brian is ranked among the greatest American composers of popular music in the rock era thanks to his unorthodox approaches to song composition & arrangement & mastery of recording techniques – he was the first rock producer to use the studio as a discrete instrument; after signing with Capitol Records in 1962, he wrote or co-wrote more than two dozen Top 40 hits for the group; The Beach Boys were inducted into the R&R Hall of Fame in 1988; Brian was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of fame in 2000; Rolling Stone ranked him #52 on their 2008 list of ‘The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time’; UK music weekly NME ranked him #8 on their list of ‘The 50 Greatest Producers Ever. He released & toured his version of the ‘lost’ Beach Boys ‘Smile’ album in 2004, which also earned him a Grammy Award; Brian issued his latest (& 11th) solo album, ‘No Pier Pressure’, in 2015; to celebrate the 50th anniversary of ‘Pet Sounds’, Brian embarked on the ‘Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary World Tour’ in 2016; that same year saw publication of the autobiography, ‘I Am Brian Wilson’

Van Dyke Parks – composer, lyricist, arranger, producer, and all-around iconoclast – found inspiration in those familiar fruit crates painted with lovely, bucolic images of the fantasyland known as California. Having crafted a relaxed, loping melody, he was determined to set lyrics to it. The story goes that the first word he thought of was “orange.” While it isn’t easy to rhyme, it does stir at least four of the five senses. Orange Crates spread a romanticized notion of a land of abundant sunshine and endless possibilities; perhaps Mississippi native Parks could ruminate on his adoptive state in song…or songs. Who possessed the quintessential California voice to bring them to life? The sonic auteur summoned his old friend and collaborator Brian Wilson to lend his voice and trademark harmonies. turned into “Orange Crate Art”.

Now, that 1995 album – Parks and Wilson’s first collaborative effort since 1967’s abortive SMiLE but happily not their last – has received a beautiful 25th anniversary expanded edition from Omnivore Recordings.

From the gentle opening title track, the album unfolds with cinematic flair as a series of musical vignettes or snapshots. Parks’ words – typically dense, filled with striking and sometimes free-associative imagery and interior rhymes – conjure a Golden State fantasia. His memorable if often unconventional melodies draw on many rich strains of American popular song. Robustly sung by Wilson with shimmering, stacked multi-part harmonies (other vocalists including Three Dog Night’s Danny Hutton and Lion King “Circle of Life” singer Carmen Twillie do appear on the backgrounds of a few songs), “Orange Crate Art” takes listeners to the heart of wine country in Sonoma…what better to rhyme with aroma? It’s nostalgic, sure, with references to rocking chairs and barnyard gates, but also immediate. You can smell the ripe oranges or the wine “from the vine of a vintage cru.”

A tropical, steel drum-flecked invitation to “Sail Away” (“You go and get the telephone/Give it a real good yank and thank God we’re all alone in a tropical zone”) is swathed in the splendour of strings even as it evokes a wistful counterpoint to Wilson and Parks’ rocking entreaty to “Sail on Sailor” from two decades earlier. (The instruments throughout are as colourful as the lyrics, with hammer dulcimer, harmonica, trumpets, and more adding vibrancy.) “Orange Crate Art” offered a plea to “Hear the lonesome locomotion roar/Hobo hop on if you dare.” That thread reaches fruition on “My Hobo Heart,” one of three songs featuring words by Albert Hammond’s old songwriting partner Mike Hazlewood. Over swooning, intricate harmonies and impressive falsetto, Wilson adopts the role of a travelin’ man who succumbs to true love. The arrangement is tight and bright with keyboards bringing a breezy air.

Orange Crate Art is at its most carnival-esque on the swirling “Wings of a Dove,” on which the wordsmith Parks playfully brings the listener in again with the onomatopoeia of “the din tin tin tabulation” (for “tintinnabulation”). Wilson has a stunning, wordless vocal interlude on the yearning “Palm Tree and Moon;” whereas that song found him dropping a letter in a bottle in the sea (“I don’t know where it went so I sent to Sacramento/Said you were meant for me”), “Summer in Monterey” landed him on California’s central coast. A reflection of first love, it’s cited by Wilson as one of his favourites on the album, and it’s not hard to see why. Parks’ music and Hazlewood’s lyrics are imbued with the innocence and childlike sweetness that defines much of Wilson’s finest work. “My Jeanine” is another remembrance of love with a delightful streak of whimsy.

Another of Brian’s favourites, “San Francisco,” seemingly returns to the western milieu of SMiLE‘s “Heroes and Villains” when it starts with the a cappella exclamation “Time to giddy up! Do wah diddy up!” Featuring one of Wilson’s toughest vocals (“It’s pretty rockin’, you know,” he offers in the liner notes, and indeed, he even snarls some of the lyrics), the ever-shifting, rhythmic mini-suite of a song is packed with cultural allusions as it paints a portrait of a rough-and-tumble San Francisco very different than the ones Tony Bennett or Scott McKenzie sang about.

Perhaps the song that best encapsulates Orange Crate Art is “Hold Back Time.” Its sentiment is straight out of Tin Pan Alley (“Hold back time/Don’t talk about tomorrow/Tell that old clock on the wall he’ll just have to call it a day/Hold back time when we’re in each other’s arms/We’re in each other’s arms, so hold back time…”) but as affectingly sung by Wilson – who has experienced his share of well-publicized ups and downs – it’s achingly poignant. So is the escapist paean “Movies Is Magic,” which proclaims, “Movies is magic/Real life is tragic/I regret I gotta say/It is time we get away/to the movies and magic.” The simple yet profound message has never felt so relevant. A full orchestra is deployed for a touch of Max Steiner or Alfred Newman-esque Hollywood grandeur.

Mike Hazlewood penned both music and lyrics for “This Town Goes Down at Sunset,” a pretty, low-key tune that brings Orange Crate Art full circle, from its earlier call of “Sun up!” on “Sail Away” to sundown. It’s followed by a gorgeous grace note, a fully-orchestrated rendition of George Gershwin’s 1919 “Lullaby.” The hypnotic work is considered one of the Broadway tunesmith’s first “serious” pieces of music and later formed the basis of an aria in his 1922 one-act jazz opera Blue Monday, a precursor to Porgy and Bess. It’s an unexpected if altogether appropriate finale.

However, there’s an encore on Omnivore’s reissue. Three previously unreleased bonus tracks have been rescued from the vaults including two more Gershwin compositions. Brian, who has long cited the legendary composer as an inspiration, adds layered, wordless voices to the famous “Rhapsody in Blue” and delivers Ira Gershwin’s lyrics on a smooth and dreamy rendition of “Love Is Here to Stay” recorded for Warner Bros. honcho Mo Ostin and his wife Evelyn. The final bonus is Bob Thiele and George David Weiss’ anthem of hope, “What a Wonderful World.” Singing over spare keyboard accompaniment, Brian movingly shapes it into a close cousin of his own perennial concert closer, “Love and Mercy.”

The 25th anniversary edition, produced by Omnivore’s Brad Rosenberger, also adds a second disc reprising the entire original album stripped of Wilson’s soaring vocals. This mix is beguiling in its own way, shining a spotlight on Parks’ elaborate and ever-inventive arrangements as well as the talented musicians involved. Previously buried or less prominent flourishes from steel drums, sleigh bells, accordion, or Wilson’s signature bass harmonica rise to the surface on this disc. There isn’t enough room here to name them all – they’re listed in the digipak – but mention should be made of such top-drawer session vets as Grant Geissman and Fred Tackett (guitar) as well as Tommy Morgan (harmonica) and Dennis Budimir (drums), both of whom played on countless records with The Wrecking Crew. Morgan has even been credited with introducing Brian to the bass harmonica.

Though Brian Wilson didn’t compose any of the music on Orange Crate Art, his imprint is deeply felt on the album as he brought pure warmth to Parks’ deliciously complex musical creations. The album “is a continuum of that which stood, freeze-frame, at the release of SMiLE,” Van Dyke writes in his new liner notes. It’s a key part of a vibrant tapestry of Americana that runs through both artists’ solo albums: whether Parks’ Song Cycle (1967) and Discover America (1972) or Wilson’s That Lucky Old Sun (2008) and Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin (2010). That Lucky Old Sun revisited many of the themes on Orange Crate Art, and even features Parks’ spoken-word poetry interludes. On Reimagines Gershwin, Brian reinterpreted both “Rhapsody in Blue” and “Love Is Here to Stay.”

Shortly after the release of Orange Crate Art, Brian Wilson began working with Andy Paley on a group of songs that still haven’t yet been fully realized. (He tantalizingly admits in his liner notes, “I’d love to get back to those songs eventually, too.”) By 1998, he’d release the studio album Imagination with producer Joe Thomas and a new set of collaborators; within a couple of years he’d form the remarkable band with whom he’d triumphantly return to the concert stage. He and Parks would complete their long-lost masterpiece, SMiLE, in 2004.

Omnivore has afforded this grand, sweeping journey through the heart of both the Golden State and the United States the respect it deserves. Michael Graves’ subtle, quiet, and detailed remaster preserves all of the dynamics of the album while revealing nuances in vocals and instruments. The CD’s six-panel digipak and 16-page booklet designed by Greg Allen both honour the spirit of the original release. Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks’ Orange Crate Art is ripe for rediscovery.

“Orange Crate Art” is available now on CD and vinyl!

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Echo In The Canyon celebrates the explosion of popular music that came out of LA’s Laurel Canyon in the mid-60s as folk went electric and The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield and The Mamas and the Papas gave birth to the California Sound.  It was a moment (1965 to 1967) when bands came to LA to emulate The Beatles and Laurel Canyon emerged as a hotbed of creativity and collaboration for a new generation of musicians who would soon put an indelible stamp on the history of American popular music. Featuring Jakob Dylan, the film explores the beginnings of the Laurel Canyon music scene.  Dylan uncovers never-before-heard personal details behind the bands and their songs and how that music continues to inspire today.  Echo in the Canyon contains candid conversations and performances with Brian Wilson, Ringo Starr, Michelle Phillips, Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Roger McGuinn and Jackson Browne as well as contemporary musicians they influenced such as Tom Petty (in his very last film interview), Beck, Fiona Apple, Cat Power, Regina Spektor and Norah Jones.

Release Date: May 24, 2019 Director: Andrew Slater

Echo in the Canyon 
by director Andrew Slater

I did not set out to make a film about the Laurel Canyon music scene. In fact, I didn’t set out to make a “film” at all. I was looking to record some music.

Growing up in New York in the 1960s, AM radio transported me to places I wanted to be. Of course The Beatles defined mod London, and Bob Dylan defined New York. But the songs by The Byrds, The Beach Boys, The Mamas & The Papas and Buffalo Springfield painted an idyllic picture of life in bohemian Los Angeles. As a young adult I was drawn to move to Los Angeles by these groups and the lifestyles they expressed in song.

Throughout my career in the music business, this earlier music of my adopted hometown was an obvious part of the bedrock of my generation’s cultural place in the universe. But I was also aware of how it remained part of the foundation of the musical palette for generations of musicians that followed.

Whether through nostalgia or some other force I cannot quite account for, as we neared the 50th anniversary of the advent of this revolutionary period in rock and roll, I was struck with the need to explore the music of this era through the eyes, ears and souls of musicians who were born into a culture where this music was always a part of the world as they knew it.

I enlisted the help of Jakob Dylan, along with a few artists of his generation, to join me, and we journeyed to places where the music was made and to the people who made it. Jakob had known many of these people his whole life, and they began telling him the stories behind the songs. And the stories we heard echoed all the things I thought I knew but never was able to articulate in a way that clearly captured what was happening at this fantastic creative moment in time.

We recorded the music that is now the Echo in the Canyon album, and luckily I must have always known this project would be more than just a record, as I began filming our experiences early on, whenever and wherever it was possible. It was not long before it became clear through our conversations with the original artists that this needed to be more than album. The stories and insights, told by my heroes, “primary sources” from this magical period of time, were too compelling to be buried in “research.” That is how this movie, which has now taken on a life of its own, came to be made.

What was happening here in the mid-‘60s, before the onset of psychedelia and the era of the singer-songwriter was obvious to me—but no one had ever told the story of this legendary place from the standpoint of how deeply and richly the artists impacted and collaborated with one another, and how the waves of influence traveled across the ocean to England and back, with The Beatles claiming The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” as a precursor to much of the musical landscape of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

Personally, I embarked on the Echo in the Canyon project because these songs defined what I couldn’t say about the places that I had yearned to see. And these bands changed the way I thought about music—electrifying folk and trading ideas amongst each other that not only inspired The Beatles but inspired generations of artists to this day. And I wanted to film and record it to be experienced in a state-of-the-art movie theater, to try to recapture the magic I felt so many years ago. Thank you Landmark for helping me bring this dream to life.

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Beach Boys

For some bands, it’s an awesome to try and collate what their best album is. For instance Do you prefer Abbey Road, Revolver, or Sgt. Peppers? Siamese Dream or Mellon Collie?. Some bands have a best album that’s hard to debate against. Despite a vast catalogue of 29 studio albums (plus a few legendary discontinued records) and loads of hit singles, there’s a critical consensus that 1966’s Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys‘ is their greatest record, It’s a highly personal work from Brian Wilson that captures him at the peak of his composing teenage symphonies to God. I’m not going to argue with the consensus, For a window of time, they were one of the few American bands that could legitimately rival The Beatles. It’s hard to remember that now, amidst all the legal battles over rights to the band’s name and the tidal waves of sloppily-curated studio session box sets, but for awhile and, yes, even beyond the release of Pet SoundsThe Beach Boys were making albums that were strange and beautiful in equal measure. The great and storied (and eventually released) Smile was supposed to follow that, but was aborted after Mike Love’s objection to it and the label’s demand for a deadline. Brian’s mental health also got in the way.

Their power was in more than just those two albums though. There are hardly any Beach Boys albums that don’t have at least one worthy song,  The Beach Boys have many other worthwhile albums in their catalogue. Here are my favourites from these Californians Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, and Bruce Johnston:

The Beach Boys Summer Days and Summer Nights

Summer Days (And Summer Nights!) ( 1965 )

Often the mark of a good Beach Boys album is how much of it is contributed by the Wilsons, as opposed to the less talented members. There’s plenty of Brian Wilson genius on Summer Days, Of all The Beach Boys’ albums featuring exclamation marks, Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) is the strongest. Released in 1965, it was then a 23-year-old Brian Wilson’s ninth studio album and provided the platform for the complex harmonies and chord structures of overplayed/underappreciated pop standards like “California Girls” and a superior version of “Help Me, Rhonda” that he’d become famous for. It’s an album of high highs, like Brian’s nod to Phil Spector’s signature powerhouse sound on the gorgeous “Let Him Run Wild” as well as equivalent limbo-champion lows.

Summer Days is a borderline surf-rock album (Capitol Records demanded he return to these themes after The Beach Boys Today! failed to sell as well as past records) with a song dedicated to Salt Lake City. The track “I’m So Bugged At My Ol’ Man” is so laughably bad that Brian cited his vocals as “Too Embarrassed” on the album. Also the Carl Wilson showcase ‘Girl Don’t Tell Me’, but it’s offset by Mike Love’s crassness on cuts like ‘Salt Lake City’ and ‘Amusement Parks U.S.A.’.

People like to say that although Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) is the technical predecessor to Pet Sounds, Today! is the true predecessor. I actually disagree. Side B of Today! is undeniable in the development of Pet Sounds, but in different ways Summer Days came closer. (It also has the superior version of “Help Me, Rhonda.”) It came out a month before The Beatles’ Help!, and both of those albums feel similar. They’re both the last album by each band to contain any resemblance to their early material, and both followed by what’s largely considered each band’s first 10/10 classic. Summer Days‘ most obvious achievement is “California Girls,” which is sort of the significantly better sequel to “I Get Around.” Like that song, it’s still fair to call it surf pop, but other than Mike Love’s nasally vocals and the lyrics, this is much closer to the heavily-arranged pop of Pet Sounds. Brian conducting The Wrecking Crew on this one was his greatest musical achievement to date (Hal Blaine’s drumming and the song’s intro are major highlights), and the harmonies in the chorus are transcendental. The Brian-sung, Wall of Sound-inspired “Let Him Run Wild” could fit on Pet Sounds without changing it at all. “You’re So Good to Me” is close too and the a cappella closer “And Your Dreams Come True” is the most psychedelic the band’s harmonies had sounded at that point. “Amusement Parks U.S.A.” is a fascinating one because it kind of sounds like Mike Love fighting to make it “Fun, Fun, Fun” over Brian’s increasingly darker arrangements. The one cover here is of a Phil Spector song, which is a fitting tribute to his hero who he’d eclipse on his next album. And then there’s the great “Girl Don’t Tell Me,” which basically predicts The Shins’ first two albums. It doesn’t have the cohesion of Pet Sounds or side B of Today!, but it’s a collection of some the band’s finest material.

Beach Boys

Friends (1968)

If there’s a most underrated Beach Boys album, it’s gotta be Friends. It wasn’t popular like their early material, and it wasn’t a critical darling like Pet Sounds either. But it’s really just about as good. If Smile had come out and gained success and competed with Sgt. Pepper’s, maybe Friends would be talked about in the same breath as White Album. But the way things played out, you’ll hardly hear it mentioned in the same breath as The Notorious Byrd Brothers. It’s still up the stripped-down, lo-fi alley of Smiley Smile and Wild Honey, but it’s prettier and less quirky. Brian’s unique vision of pop music and the band’s unparalleled harmonies are as intact here as they are on Pet Sounds and Smile, and there’s truly no skippable track.

The harmonies on “Anna Lee, The Healer” are some of the most gorgeous of the band’s career. They’re so full-sounding that you forget they’re only backed by piano, a bass, and the tiniest bit of hand drumming. Mike Love had just gotten back from a trip to India to study Transcendental Meditation with The Beatles and Donovan, so even he was on board with the ’60s counter-culture stuff this time. The closing track is actually named “Transcendental Meditation,” it’s one of the band’s most outwardly psychedelic songs ever, and Mike Love even helped write it. This is the first one where Dennis was a key songwriter too, and his contributions (“Little Bird” and “Be Still”) are both up there with Brian’s. The one-two of opening tracks “Meant for You” into “Friends” is as good an album introduction as any, and this album’s genre experiments are successful too. “Busy Doin’ Nothin’” toys with bossa nova, while the instrumental “Diamond Head” incorporates Hawaiian music. It’s not an album with Brian in the conductor’s booth, but it’s definitely the one where they clicked most as a band.


The Beach Boys Love You ( 1977 )

Love You was initially intended as a solo debut for Brian Wilson, who provides most of the songs, instrumentation, and lead vocals. It’s an oddity in The Beach Boys’ catalogue – largely played by Wilson on synthesisers, it sounds off the cuff where most Beach Boys records are pristine and lovingly arranged. But it’s a fascinating insight into Wilson’s state of mind in the late 1970s, oscillating between childlike playfulness and devastating insightfulness.

Admittedly, I like Love You more in concept than in actuality, but the story behind it and the weirdness of its existence keep it interesting. After Brian had retreated from much of the band’s writing and recording, he took most of Love You on by himself It hearkened back in spirit to Pet Sounds and “Good Vibrations,” but it was recorded largely with synthesizers before that approach became commonplace. Theoretically, Love You is what Animal Collective and Panda Bear have spent the last nine years doing (though in reality, they’ve bested this album a few times). It’s a total outlier in the band’s catalog, a highly underrated album of the late ’70s, and a rare moment where Brian took control of songwriting during that era. It’s the first must-hear album on this list.

Beach Boys Holland

Holland ( 1973 )

After the underwhelming Carl and the Passions, The Beach Boys attempted to focus Brian Wilson by recording in the Netherlands. Wilson was still troubled, listening obsessively to Randy Newman’s Sail Away during the trip, but he was functional enough to contribute the opener ‘Sail On Sailor’. Carl provides the historical epic ‘The Trader’, and even Mike Love contributes the likeable ‘Big Sur’. It was the last really satisfying group effort from The Beach Boys before the success of the Endless Summer compilation turned them into an oldies act.

After Blondie Chaplin struggled to fit in with the band’s sound on Carl and the Passions – “So Tough,” he ends up being the strongest part of Holland. Blondie takes lead vocals on opener “Sail On, Sailor,” a song Brian had written with Smile collaborator Van Dyke Parks that was given to the other band members (and a few co-writers) to finish. It’s the album’s best song, and remains their most memorable ’70s single.

Some of the Wilson/Parks song cycles also must have rubbed off on Mike Love and Al Jardine, who offer the three-part “California Saga,” one of Love’s finest moments in the band. There isn’t much contribution from Brian on this one, but all the members are on their A game and it’s really a progressive record. There are no throwaways or silly covers or needless instrumentals, and no throwbacks to their early days or misguided hard rock songs. but today it sounds like a gem of that era.

The Beach Boys Wild Honey

Wild Honey  ( 1967 )

The Beach Boys recorded the relatively straightforward Wild Honey at the height of psychedelia. It must have made them look anachronistic when The Beatles were making Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour, but it holds up well, with the group handling most of the instruments themselves and Carl recording terrific lead vocals on songs like ‘Darlin” and a cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘I Was Made To Love Her’.

This was a Beach Boys attempt at an Stax-inspired album should have been, for all intents and purposes, a bona fide disaster, as there are very few things whiter than suburban boys in matching pinstripe shirts and ’50s-style crewcuts. Instead, 1967’s Wild Honey marks a return to music created in-house by The Beach Boys themselves instead of the complex instrumentalist backings performed by the Wrecking Crew forPet Sounds and Smile. Even though it’s the last album that features Brian as primary composer, it’s cherub-voiced Carl who took the lead on many songs and in many areas of production on the album. The only actual connection to Smile though is “Mama Says,” which is a reworked part of “Vega-Tables.” Sometimes I actually prefer this weird a cappella version.

What Wild Honey lacks in musical complexity, it makes up for in personality on songs like the title track for the most part, his lead vocals help his songs to resonate through clear pop hooks and infectious lightheartedness in ways that no song on any of Brian’s hyper-controlled albums ever could. Even Brian sounds like he’s having actual fun as lead on the deceptively innocent “I’d Love Just Once to See You” and “Here Comes the Night” .

The Beach Boys All Summer Long

All Summer Long  ( 1964 )

At only 25 minutes long, and containing filler like studio banter and an unremarkable guitar solo on ‘Carl’s Big Chance’, All Summer Long is a remnant of the era before the pop LP as an art-form. But there’s a lot of great material here – ‘I Get Around’ was the deserved hit single, but there are also great album tracks like ‘Girls On The Beach’ and ‘We’ll Run Away’.

“The Warmth of the Sun” may have hinted at the balladry of Pet Sounds, but the first time we hear Brian attempting the multi-layered complex pop is “I Get Around.” It was All Summer Long‘s lead single, opening track, and The Beach Boys’ first U.S. #1 song. The song sounded enough like a fun-in-the-sun pop song to fit in with stuff like “Fun, Fun, Fun” and “Surfin’ USA,” but Brian knew it was so much more. The way he brings in the overlapping vocal harmonies in the intro was some of his most complex work to date. And though he had worked with members of The Wrecking Crew before (the group of session musicians who Phil Spector also worked with), this was the first time he teamed with them to give The Beach Boys his own spin on Spector’s Wall of Sound. If you’re making a list of milestones leading up to Pet Sounds, this song is a major one. The album’s title track, “Wendy,” and “Don’t Back Down” are three more stone cold classics of the early era; and “We’ll Run Away” and “Girls on the Beach” are two more of Brian’s excellent falsetto-led ballads. Both of them show how essential the group’s lush harmonies would be to those types of songs in their psychedelic period.


Adult/Child  ( 1977 ) (unreleased)

It might be cheating including an unreleased, but widely bootlegged, album in this list, but Adult/Child is a fascinating part of the Beach Boys story. Brian Wilson launched into recording Adult/Child just five days after completing Love You, but instead of using synthesisers, he often utilised big band arrangements, reminiscent of Sinatra. The record company rejected it for being too strange, but it’s no stranger than Love You, and it feels more like a group effort, with lead vocals from all five Beach Boys.

Beach Boys

The Beach Boys

I said in the intro that there are hardly any Beach Boys albums that don’t have at least one worthy song. I’ve mentioned a few highlights on the previous albums, but starting here, every album has a handful of worthwhile tracks. Brian wrote or co-wrote three songs on this one, and horribly dated production aside, you can still hear some of his magic. All three of Brian’s contributions have melodic changes that ever so slightly hint at his better days, and even the songs that aren’t penned by him have those Beach Boys harmonies that still no other band has been able to master. It didn’t produce any real Beach Boys staples and it didn’t break any of the ground that their best releases did, but it’s too straight-up enjoyable to fully hate.

Especially given the sort of ’80s pop revival that goes on today, these songs could be very fashionable right now with a little tweaking. Dev Hynes would probably love to write a song like “Crack At Your Love.”

Beach Boys

20/20 (1969)

This one has an uneven and often disappointing side A, but side B is almost flawless. Side A kicks off with “Do It Again,” an obvious throwback to their early days in sound and song title, which felt like a major regression coming right after the band’s most creative period. Brian co-wrote it with Mike Love, and it’s always seemed like the moment Brian finally gave in to Mike’s three-year-long pleas to return to this sound. Side A also has the hard rocking “All I Want to Do,” a sound that’s never suited them well, and Bruce Johnston’s pretty but mostly-unnecessary instrumental “The Nearest Faraway Place.” At least those are balanced out by Dennis’ quality ballad “Be with Me” and a fine Carl-sung version of The Ronettes’ “I Can Hear Music” (honoring the band’s Phil Spector influence once again). Side B begins with a cover of blues legend Lead Belly, and only gets better from there. The psychedelic waltz “I Went to Sleep” is up there with Brian’s best work and “Time to Get Alone” isn’t far behind. (They were also both reportedly written before the 20/20 sessions, which is not surprising.)

Then comes Dennis’ masterful “Never Learn Not to Love,” which was based on a song given to him by his then-friend Charles Manson (despite Manson being a truly horrific person, it is difficult to deny his musical talent). And they’re less necessary in this context now that The Smile Sessions exist, but the album closes with two of the very best songs from the then-abandoned Smile, “Our Prayer” and “Cabinessence.”

Beach Boys

Carl and The Passions “So Tough” (1972)

This is the followup to their last truly excellent album, and the first to feature Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar. Blondie’s contributions would improve significantly on the next album, Holland , but here his harder rock tendencies feel out of place and often hold the band back. Brian doesn’t take lead on any songs and only contributes a bit of songwriting (including the highlight “Marcella”), but the real star on this album is Dennis. His ballads “Make It Good” and “Cuddle Up” are as good as most anything he’s written.

“Cuddle Up” was written by The Beach Boys‘ drummer, Dennis Wilson, and Daryl Dragon of The Captain and Tennille. “Cuddle Up” appeared on The Beach Boys‘ 1972 album, Carl and the Passions – “So Tough”. It was also the B-side of the single, “You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone”.

Beach Boys Surf's Up

Surf’s Up ( 1971 )

Surf’s Up is a decidedly two paced record. You get divine music from the angels, like the beautiful title track (a Smile leftover), Brian’s ‘Til I Die’, and two of Carl’s best Beach Boys songs, ‘Feel Flows’ and ‘Long Promised Road’, but you also have to sit through atrocities like ‘Take Good Care Of Your Feet’ and Love’s hackneyed ‘Student Demonstration Time’.

The Beach Boys’ released Surf’s Up, and despite the tongue-in-cheek title it was the darkest album the band would ever record. The album cover depicts a nod to “End of the Trail,” a sculpture featuring a broken-down Native American man who, after coming to a sudden halt, is about to plummet over an unseen precipice—given Brian’s all-consuming nervous breakdown within the next two years, the imagery is all too portentous.

Straight from the discordant chords that open the album on “Don’t Go Near the Water,” the album is miles from “Surfin’ Safari” as an early pioneer of prog rock. Carl’s alien and ethereal “Feel Flows” finally connected The Beach Boys to the counterculture more than the album’s Kent State shooting protest jam “Student Demonstration Time” ever could, and the organ-laden “A Day in the Life of a Tree” and the haunting “Til I Die” may just be Brian’s last great compositions. But the real standout is the album’s title track, a leftover from Smile. “Surf’s Up” is innovative, enigmatic and sublime evidence of the woulda/coulda/shoulda run for their money The Beach Boys almost gave the Beatles in 1967.

Beach Boys Sunflower

Sunflower  (1970 )

1970’s Sunflower takes the group’s penchant for sun-soaked melody and applies it more gently on an album that exudes warmth through skilled, elegant production. The Beach Boys’ efforts on the album “in many respects, it’s their Abbey Road a lush production that signaled an end to the 1960s, the decade that gave them creative flight.” There are points when Sunflower is too decadent for its own good ”Tears in the Morning” oozes schmaltz, including a literal accordion solo when Bruce Johnston laments that his wife has left him for Europe—but the album also contains the the undeniably cool shoegazing precursor “All I Wanna Do” and the aching “Forever,” Dennis Wilson’s finest lead vocal contribution apart from his solo work on Pacific Ocean Blue.

The Beach Boys re-focused at the beginning of the 1970s, after signing to Reprise Records. The album went through a troubled genesis – there were enough leftover songs from the aborted attempts to form a bootleg named Landlocked – but the results were strong, a collaborative album with songs from Brian, Dennis, and Bruce Johnston.

After the 1960s ended, The Beach Boys had another creative boost. They weren’t doing weird lo-fi recordings anymore, and they successfully moved past the indecisive 20/20 to write another classic album. An early highlight is Brian’s “This Whole World” that sounded more spirited that he had in a while, and he and Carl sound great singing it together. “Deirdre,” “All I Wanna Do,” and “Our Sweet Love” have remnants of the psychedelic era, and they’re three of the band’s most gorgeous ’70s songs. They also managed to tack on a Smile leftover that never made it on the eventual Smile tracklist, “Cool, Cool Water.” Dennis’ songwriting contributions were becoming more and more important to the band, and it’s actually he who wrote the album’s best song: “Forever.” He must have hung around his brother enough that he picked up a trick or two, because this is the same kind of intimate beauty Brian perfected on “God Only Knows” and “Caroline, No.” Sometimes “Brian Wilson” and “The Beach Boys” begin to feel synonymous, but Dennis wrote enough great songs in their career to make up an album of their own. He’s The Beach Boys’ George Harrison in a way. (And actually, he did make an album of his own: 1977’s Pacific Ocean Blue, which may be the best Beach Boys offshoot album.)

The Beach Boys Smile Sessions

The Smile Sessions recorded 1965-1971, released  ( 2011 )

Smile was Brian Wilson’s ambitious followup to Pet Sounds, but it was beset with difficulties – Wilson became laden with addiction, superstition, and pressure from band mates, and was unable to complete the project, despite the massive success of single ‘Good Vibrations’. While many of the key songs turned up on later Beach Boys albums, and it was widely bootlegged, it wasn’t until Wilson’s 2004 re-recording of the project that there was a template for an official version, and it’s often spellbinding.

The 2011 release of The Smile Sessions finally gave us the 1967 recordings, assembled mostly according to the BWPS tracklist (with input by Brian), and it’s probably about 90-something percent done compared to the way Brian envisioned it at the time. Considering his perfectionism was hitting insane levels at that time, this is a more-than-acceptable version of the album.

Still, the possibilities did, and in some ways still do, remain endless. If Smile came out in 1967, would “Good Vibrations” have turned into an eight-minute song? Or a 15-minute one? Going by the song getting a full disc of outtakes, that doesn’t sound impossible. And would it really have ended up as the last track on the album? Either way, the album as we know it is as amazing as it was always hyped to be. It took what Brian had achieved on Pet Sounds to wildly new levels, it topped anything The Beatles had done, and it quite possibly would have been the greatest album of the 1960s if it had come out then.

Pet Sounds is a perfect album of pop songs, any of which exist as perfect pop songs on their own. But working with Van Dyke Parks, Brian crafted Smile as a song cycle where countless segments were recorded separately (enough to fill five discs on the box set version of The Smile Sessions), intended to be pieced together as one massive statement. (As you may know, Van Dyke Parks put out his own similarly-minded album that same year, simply titled Song Cycle.) Where songs exist that could be considered covers, like Dennis’ haunting medley of “You Are My Sunshine” and “The Old Master Painter” or the segment of doo wop song “Gee,” they’re working within the storyline of the album. The same is true for the instrumentals and the a cappella songs. A few absolute classic pop songs appear — “Heroes and Villains,” “Cabin Essence,” “Surf’s Up,” and of course “Good Vibrations” but even those take on a larger life within the context of the album. What is “Heroes and Villains” without “Our Prayer” and “Gee” leading into it? Or “Surf’s Up” without “Child Is Father of The Man”? And “Good Vibrations” manages to sound even more epic coming right out of “Love to Say Dada.” (“Good Vibrations” is, by the way, the greatest pop song of all time.

I’ll still take certain Smiley Smile and bootleg versions over the ones here. And Brian’s solo piano version of “Surf’s Up” bests the full-band one. That doesn’t actually take away from the album though. Those versions still exist and they’re still great to listen to, but no bootleg could sequence and transition these songs the way Brian could and eventually did. Even if it wouldn’t have been exactly like this in the ’60s. It’s still tragic that Brian’s internal demons and the album’s external enemies prevented it from being released then. But maybe it needed to be this way. Maybe Smile was truly ahead of its time, and it needed to sit in the vaults, slowly become a legend, and finally get a release over 40 years later. Or maybe I’m just buying too much into good ol’ fashioned rock ‘n’ roll myth-making. Either way, it’s expertly executed ambition from an artist who’s truly a pop genius.

The Beach Boys, 'Smiley Smile'

Smiley Smile  (1967)

Let’s just get one thing out of the way right now: Smiley Smile isn’t Smile, the much-mythologized magnum opus Brian meant to follow up Pet Sounds with. The album—Brian’s “teenage symphony to God”—was meant to be an auditory journey across America via Van Dyke Parks’ tongue-twisting lyrics and Brian’s soundscape vignettes of American life to, the through-line of classical composition not to replace pop’s intimacy but to reinforce it, linking one personal moment to the next.” After 90 hours of tape and an estimated $50,000 spent on “Good Vibrations” alone, Smile was shelved, and The Beach Boys still owed Capitol a record. Enter Smiley SmileThe Beach Boys cranked out the diminutively-titled album in under two months to meet the record label’s deadline. It was met with critical confusion, and even Carl bemoaned it as “a bunt instead of a grandslam.” And it’s true: Not to mince words, but Smiley Smile is fucking weird, to the point where it’s almost … remarkable? It contains obvious Smile-era standouts like “Good Vibrations” and the poignant Western-themed “Heroes and Villains,” but those are nestled in among the stoner strangeness of lo-fi-produced songs like “Wind Chimes” and “Wonderful.” “Vegetables” features the percussive rhythm of one Paul McCartney chomping celery, and “She’s Going Bald” is a hilarious reminder that The Beach Boys were 100% dudes in their early 20s, Pet Sounds elegance be damned. As far as late ’60s time capsules go, Smiley Smile is a goofy exploration of the new musical freedom The Beach Boys had, even if nobody—including the band themselves—took it too seriously.

Some days Smiley Smile is my favorite Beach Boys album, if Smile would’ve come out in 1967 how the history of pop music would’ve changed because of it. Would it have topped Sgt. Pepper’s?  Would that have caused The Beatles to react the way they reacted to Pet Sounds, causing them to write an entirely different album than White Album?.  I wish Mike Love wasn’t resisting it’s release, I wish the label wasn’t rushing Brian to put something out,  Smile was aborted, it resulted in Smiley Smile, one of the strangest and absolute greatest albums of the strange and absolutely great 1960s. Most of the album was material written for Smile, which would’ve been Brian’s grandest and most ambitious statement to date, instead turned into minimal lo-fi recordings in his home studio. Where “Vega-Tables” had countless musicians on the Smile version, here it was backed by little more than a 2-note bassline.  “Little Pad,” one of the songs that wasn’t written for Smile, has the band laughing while they’re singing. “She’s Goin’ Bald,” based on a Smile track that never made it on the eventual tracklist, has the band pitching up their voices until they sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks. It’s obvious why it flopped as a followup to Pet Sounds, but it’s an endlessly fascinating album that we’re lucky exists. It’s easy to draw direct lines from this to the lo-fi indie scene of the ’90s, or like, Pinkerton. If an album was ever ahead of its time, this one is.

While Smile is absolutely the album it was always talked up to be, I prefer some of the Smiley Smile versions of these songs. This quirky version of “Vegetables” has always suited the lyrics better. And I’ll actually take the more minimal, haunting Smiley Smile version of “Wind Chimes” over the way Brian first intended it. Pet SoundsandSmile are no doubt classics of psychedelic pop, but they’ve never actually sounded as druggy as this album does. If you’re trying to convince a newcomer that the Beach Boys had an edge, sometimes you can’t even put on “Good Vibrations” or “God Only Knows” because people know those songs and never thought about them as psych-pop. But put on the Smiley Smile version of “Wonderful” or “Fall Breaks And Back To Winter” and they might say, “That’s The Beach Boys?” It’s amazing that almost 50 years into this album’s existence, it’s still that shocking.

The Beach Boys Today!

Today!  ( 1965 )

If Pet Sounds is famous for being Brian’s “complete statement” to rival the thematic continuity of The Beatles’ Rubber Soul, then the roots of thier efforts lie in The Beach Boys Today!. It came out three months after Beatles for Sale, which was The Beatles’ first album after Bob Dylan had introduced them to pot. The transition that album makes is undeniable, and likewise Today! is Brian’s first album after being introduced to pot and it’s the first one that you can’t call surf pop.

Side One is run-of-the-mill pop fodder laced with the surf guitar riffs familiar to the group’s early albums on songs like “Do You Wanna Dance?” ‘When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)’, and “Help Me, Ronda,” a standout despite the unnecessary fake fadeouts and the brutal recording sessions it look to make it (hear the Wilson brothers’ father drunkenly berate them and sweet, sweet Al for almost 45 minutes as they try to record the song’s tricky harmonies . But Side Two is where The Beach Boys Today! shines, on which Brian creates a suite of cohesive ballads that turn the band’s attention away from cars, girls and surf to focus on more introspective themes. Brian began to experiment with non-traditional pop music instrumentation,but it’s the second side that’s truly spellbinding, a mini-suite that’s like an overlooked younger sibling of Pet Sounds, with great tunes like ‘Kiss Me Baby’, ‘Please Let Me Wonder’, and the doo-wop of ‘I’m So Young’, It’s a stunning statement from a young Brian Wilson. using French horns and additional pianos, basses and saxophones on confessional tracks like “She Knows Me Too Well” and “In the Back of My Mind” for a stunning departure from the band’s previous style.

beach boys

Pet Sounds’ (1966)

Brian got blown away by the Beatles’ Rubber Soul, and Pet Sounds was his response. He paid the price for ditching their hitmaking formula when Pet Sounds flopped. Now it’s one of the planet’s most beloved albums (ranking Number Two on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 greatest albums). Yet it’s still startling to hear, full of alien sonic details. Especially “God Only Knows,” a song everybody wishes they could sing, although only angels or Carl Wilson could reach the high notes.

beach boys

‘Endless Summer’ (1974)

A whole album of “Fun, Fun, Fun,” stretched out to a double-vinyl portrait of the life and death of the American dream. Endless Summerhas all the early hits – from the joyride of “I Get Around” to the moody gloom of “In My Room.” It cuts off before Pet Sounds, but it still remains their essential anthology – if only because you’re guaranteed not to run into “Kokomo.”

thanks Aphoristic Album Reviews, Paste Magazine

Orange Crate Art

Orange Crate Art is the first collaborative studio album by American musicians Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, released in 1995 on Warner Bros. Records. The album consists mostly of songs written and arranged by Parks, with Wilson featured as lead and backing vocalist. Its title refers to the sun-drenched, idealized paintings that grace wooden fruit crates, and its theme is a nostalgic view of the history of California.

Brian Wilson and wunderkind lyricist Van Dyke Parks worked together in the mid-1960s to compose The Beach Boys’ famously shelved SMILE album; the pair re-teamed 30 years later for Orange Crate Art. “It was to extol the propagandist art that brought California a sense of realty,” notes Parks of the title song, and the entire Warner Bros. collection paints the Golden State with a nostalgic glow. That’s Wilson’s sweet spot, even if songs like “My Hobo Heart,” “Hold Back Time” and “Lullaby” recall an era that predates surf music. As on their first collaboration, the wordplay is intricate, the arrangements dense and varied, and no expense has been spared to bring in top-flight instrumentalists. This is Brian Wilson’s birthday, and while others may mark it with his ’60s hits, we’ll take a deeper dive to celebrate the late-career resurgence heard on Orange Crate Art.

The song “Sail Away” from Brian Wilson & Van Dyke Parks’ 1995 album “Orange Crate Art”.

The way the story is sometimes erroneously told, The Beach Boys were nothing more than a convenient vehicle for Brian Wilson’s incendiary songwriting and brilliant producing. Of course, that misconception overlooks the crucial contributions of the talented men at Brian’s side bringing his artistic vision to thrilling life with their vocals. It also neglects to take into account the years when the troubled genius contributed only sporadically to the band’s output. Consider 1971’s album Surf’s Up, where the rest of the band picked up the songwriting slack for their leader and Bruce Johnson’s wistful waltz “Disney Girls (1957)” stood out as one of the disc’s finest moments.

Johnston would make a mint later in the decade as the writer of Barry Manilow’s “I Write The Songs,” but this earlier effort is the stronger song. “That’s just the way I write,” Johnston said of “Disney Girls (1957)” in a 2011 interview. “That wasn’t anything other than a really nice song. I was able to weave the voices into it, oohs and aahs. Not that it was ever a hit, but it sold millions of copies riding around other people’s albums. People just loved the lyrical point of view. That’s just one of those nice accidents.”

If you’re not listening closely enough, you might read the title, hear some of the references in Johnston’s opus, and think that it’s easy nostalgia, something in which The Beach Boys have been known to trade. But what you come to realize, either by perusing the lyrics or listening to the subtle ache in those “oohs and aahs,” is that the “fantasy world” on which the narrator fixates is just that, an idealized vision of happiness that he hasn’t yet attained. “Oh, reality, it’s not for me/ And it makes me laugh,” he says. So he instead conjures something that’s part romanticized past and part desired future, a world filled with Tootsie Rolls, Patti Page and “a local girl in a smaller town.”

The unspoken context is that this song comes from a touring musician leading what was likely a hectic life with one of the most famous bands on the planet, so when he sings, “Guess I’m slowing down,” it doesn’t sound like he’s fighting that instinct. In fact, he suggests that this new lifestyle might actually be good for his muse: “Just in time, words that rhyme/ Well, bless your soul.”

In the bridge, the narrator even brings his whole family in to meet the hypothetical girl who will transform him from the rat race to church bingo; he even uses the word “swell” to describe her without a trace of irony. When he reaches the final verse, his longing for this simpler life is palpable, and he seems to regret the path that led him to miss out on this dream girl and idyllic life the first time around. It even seems like he has completely shunned reality by song’s end: “Guess I’m going to stay/ It’d be a peaceful life/ With a forever wife/ And a kid someday.”

In each refrain, the narrator promises, “Fantasy world and Disney girls/ I’m coming back.” The chance that he might never get back there to fulfill that promise is what lends “Disney Girls (1957)” its melancholic air. No Brian Wilson, no problem on this one, as Bruce Johnston stepped up for his signature moment in The Beach Boys.

Where next after the album Surf’s Up?That was the question for The Beach Boys as they sailed the uncertain commercial waters of the early 1970s. The surprising answer was an album in which Brian Wilson’s involvement was limited, on which Bruce Johnston barely featured after his sudden (and temporary) departure, and which was named after the band that Carl Wilson and Mike Love had formed in high school.

Carl and the Passions – ‘So Tough’was released on 15th May 1972, and if it failed to deliver any major hits, It was the Beach Boys’ 17th studio album stands as a showcase, especially, for Carl, as he took a greater hand in studio direction. Surf’s Uphad won rave reviews and landed the group on the cover of Rolling Stone in an extensive interview, but it was less than a sales blockbuster, and the group’s direction was to change again.

Sessions for the new record began in December 1971 at the Beach Boys’ new recording studio, Brother, just before the group embarked on some pre-Christmas tour dates. ‘All This Is That,’ written by Carl, Mike and Al Jardine, was one of the first songs to come together, as were ‘He Come Down’ and ‘Marcella,’ which (as Keith Badman’s The Beach Boys diary book detailed) came to life under the title ‘Beatrice From Baltimore.’ 

By the new year of 1973, the factions within the band were prompting Carl to suggest that fresh impetus and new faces may be needed. Not long after the sessions began, Bruce Johnston had a falling out with manager Jack Rieley and left the band. That led to the arrival as official members of South Africans Ricky Fataar and Blondie Chaplin, as the Beach Boys became, in name at least, a seven-piece outfit. Their input was felt on the albums that continued, firstly at Brother, and then at Brian’s home studio in Bel Air.

Fataar and Chaplin wrote and sang on ‘Here She Comes’ and ‘Hold On Dear Brother,’ while Dennis Wilson took lead vocals on the pretty ‘Make It Good’ and ‘Cuddle Up,’ written with Daryl Dragon, later to find fame as one half of the Captain & Tennille. Brian’s main involvement was on the opening ‘You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone,’ which became the LP’s first single, followed by ‘Marcella.’

By the spring, Johnston’s departure through what he called “differences in musical policy” was confirmed. When the album emerged, with the Beach Boys on an extensive European tour, the overall feeling was of a highly listenable if disjointed record, by a group heading in several directions at once.

Carl Wilson described this album as “a scattered project , it wasn’t everybody pitching in…”.it’s certainly an eclectic collection ; “all this is that ” is certainly a hidden gem. I’ve always much preferred side two of “Carl & The Passions” over side one – I’ve always taken “Hold On Dear Brother” to be about Brian.. I think that “All This Is That” is one of The Beach Boys more beautiful songs – kind of their own “Across The Universe” in a way, and the two Dennis Wilson songs are career high points for him, in my opinion…“Marcella” does sound kind of Stones-ish to my ears – the Chaplin/Fataar songs, sound very much to me like something by The Band – but the first five songs on the album, to me, are just so – so. good,

Reprise released it in America as an initial twin-pack with Pet Soundsa juxtaposition which hardly helped the new record to shine.  Rolling Stone felt that only four of the tracks were “acceptable”, and that Brian Wilson’s lack of genuine involvement hurt the album.

The Beach Boys
  • Blondie Chaplin – vocals
  • Ricky Fataar – vocals; drums; slide guitar; production on “Here She Comes” and “Hold On Dear Brother”
  • Al Jardine – vocals; production on “He Come Down” and “All This Is That”
  • Mike Love – vocals
  • Brian Wilson – vocals; production on “You Need a Mess of Help to Stand Alone”
  • Carl Wilson – vocals; guitar; bass; keyboards; production on “He Come Down,” “Marcella,” and “All This Is That”
  • Dennis Wilson – vocals; production on “Make It Good” and “Cuddle Up”
  • Bruce Johnston — harmony and backing vocals on “Marcella”

The Beach Boys released three albums chock full of material from 1967!

1967 – Sunshine Tomorrow, 1967 – Sunshine Tomorrow 2: The Studio Sessions, and Live Sunshine – 1967 dive deep into a fascinating and frenetic chapter in The Beach Boys’ long, groundbreaking creative arc, exploring the band’s dynamic year through their recordings. The Beach Boys have personally overseen the creative process for the three collections, which are produced by Mark Linnet and Alan Boyd. Reviewer Jesse Jarnow praised 1967 – Sunshine Tomorrow as “remarkable,” saying, “These recordings make it possible to hear The Beach Boys simultaneously as the moody pop geniuses of Pet Sounds and the fresh-faced surf-rockin’ teens from Hawthorne, California.”

1967 – Sunshine Tomorrow features Linett and Boyd’s new, first-ever stereo mix of The Beach Boys’ 1967 Wild Honey album and all three collections throw open the legendary band’s vault to debut sought-after rarities, 50 years after they were put to tape. Previously unreleased highlights across the titles include The Beach Boys’ shelved “live” album, Lei’d in Hawaii, studio recordings from the Wild Honey and Smiley Smile album sessions, and standout concert recordings spanning 1967 to 1970. Wild Honey’s 2017 stereo mix is also available in a 180-gram vinyl 50th Anniversary Edition.

The Beach Boys’ final studio session for the shelved SMiLE album took place on May 18th, 1967, with Smiley Smile album sessions booked at Brian Wilson’s new home studio from June 3rd through the end of July. The band’s 12th and 13thstudio albums were released exactly three months apart to cap the year’s studio efforts: Smiley Smile on September 18th followed by Wild Honey on December 18th.

For the Smiley Smile sessions, “I wanted to have a home environment trip where we could record at my house,” recalls Brian Wilson in the liner notes for 1967 – Sunshine Tomorrow. “I wanted to try something different, something new. I produced Smiley Smile, but Mike inspired me. He said ‘Brian, let’s make a really good, easygoing album’. We had an engineer convert my den into a studio. We had my piano detuned to make it ring more.”

“Just prior to that, Brian had built up this production peak and then just completely reversed field, and (for Smiley Smile) did something so light and airy, and y’ know, easy,” explains Mike Love. “That was an underground album, I figure, for us. It was completely out of the mainstream of what was going on at that time, which was all hard rock, psychedelic music, and here we come with a song called ‘Wind Chimes.’ It just didn’t have anything to do with what was going on – and that was the idea.”

“Times were changing,” adds Al Jardine. “We were happy to put our musical skills to work. We didn’t have to look at the clock; there was virtually 24-hour availability to experiment.”

In ’67, The Beach Boys Still Raised A Smile

It was, at the time, an album of what might have been, but Smiley Smile is nonetheless a fascinating chapter in the story of the Beach Boys.

The early weeks of that year saw Brian Wilson experimenting with ever more sophisticated studio techniques in his quest to follow the groundbreaking Pet Sounds opus of 1966. The first working title for the new project was Dumb Angelwhich later changed to the name that would become legendary among legions of fans as the great lost Beach Boys record, Smile.

The ambitious ideas and often eccentric methodology that Wilson explored with lyricist Van Dyke Parks, for what was envisaged as an even greater sonic tour de force than Pet Sounds, were often met with bemusement by Brian’s band members. Huge sections of what was recorded were subsequently abandoned, and became the subject of great conjecture among devotees for the next four decades.

In more recent years, Wilson let audiences into his creative process of the periodfirstly with the 2004 live performances that became the Brian Wilson Presents Smile album, and then via Capitol’s The Smile Sessions box set, which set out to reassemble much of it in 2011.

Heroes and VillainsBut at the time, what remained of the work was gathered together on Smiley SmileIt was something of a curate’s egg of a disc, onto which Capitol placed the previous year’s masterwork ‘Good Vibrations’ and a tantalising glimpse of what might have been, in the epic ‘Heroes and Villains.’ The song charted in the summer and performed well, reaching No. 8 in the UK and No. 12 in the US.

British audiences, indeed, remained loyal to the Beach Boys through the year, also giving them an unlikely hit with the incongruously belated release of ‘Surfer Girl.’ Even as the Smile sessions were unravelling in May, the group (minus Brian) were delighting British audiences on an eight-date, two-shows-a-night tour.

Smiley Smile included several whimsical and sometimes downright peculiar material, such as ‘Vegetables’ and ‘She’s Goin’ Bald,’ but it was also home to Carl Wilson’s lovely vocal interpretation of a Parks lyric and his brother’s melody on ‘Wonderful.’ American audiences never fully embraced the album, which peaked there at No. 41; in the UK, it didn’t enter the chart until November, but spent four weeks in the top ten and peaked at No. 9. It was a positive end to a difficult year.

All three of the releases document the group’s pivotal post-Pet Sounds period – including sessions for Smiley Smile and Wild Honey, the two 1967 albums they recorded after shelving the famously ambitious SMiLE LP. 1967 – Sunshine Tomorrow 2: The Studio Sessions includes 29 studio session recordings, and Live Sunshine – 1967 features 109 live recordings, most of which are previously unreleased.

Highlights from the Studio Sessions set include an a cappella version of “Heroes and Villains,” the previously unreleased “Tune L” and outtake “Good News.” The live set includes recordings from Hawaii, Detroit, Washington D.C.; White Plains, New York; Pittsburgh and Boston.

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The Beach Boys oversaw the creative process for all three collections, which Mark Linett and Alan Boyd co-produced. 1967 – Sunshine Tomorrow included Linett and Boyd’s first-ever stereo mix of Wild Honey; the previously unreleased “live” album Lei’d in Hawaii, studio recordings from the Wild Honey and Smiley Smile sessions and concert recordings spanning 1967 to 1970.

On August 25th and 26th, 1967, The Beach Boys (absent Bruce Johnston, but with Brian Wilson on organ for his first concert appearances with the band in more than two years) recorded two concerts and rehearsals in Honolulu for a prospective live album to be titled Lei’d In Hawaii, applying a new Smiley Smile-inspired aesthetic to the performances. Just over two weeks later, the band (with both Brian and Bruce participating) began re-recording the live set in-studio at Brian’s house and at Wally Heider Recording in Hollywood, after the Honolulu concert tapes were deemed unusable. Although completed and mixed, the final planned audio element of a canned concert audience was not added and the Lei’d In Hawaii project was cancelled. Those live, in-studio performances morphed into sessions for the Wild Honey album, primarily comprised of original Brian Wilson/Mike Love compositions.

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Two days after wrapping the Wild Honey sessions on November 15th, 1967, Mike Love, Carl and Dennis Wilson, Al Jardine, and Bruce Johnston returned to the road for The Beach Boys’ Thanksgiving Tour, premiering several songs from the forthcoming album at their concerts.

New Beach Boys Digital Collections Include Raft Of Previously Unreleased Live And Studio Recordings

Following the acclaimed 2CD and digital collection 1967 – Sunshine Tomorrow, released in June, The Beach Boys have released two new digital collections through Capitol/UMe: 1967 – Sunshine Tomorrow 2 and Live Sunshine – 1967.

Both these new collections reveal more of the legendary band’s pivotal 1967 creative work in the studio and onstage. 1967 – Sunshine Tomorrow 2: The Studio Sessions presents 29 studio recordings and Live Sunshine – 1967 features 109 live recordings, most of which are previously unreleased.

1967 – Sunshine Tomorrow, 1967 – Sunshine Tomorrow 2: The Studio Sessions, and Live Sunshine – 1967 dive deep into a fascinating and frenetic chapter in The Beach Boys’ long, groundbreaking creative arc, exploring the band’s dynamic year through their recordings. The Beach Boys have personally overseen the creative process for the three collections, which are produced by Mark Linnet and Alan Boyd.

1967 – Sunshine Tomorrow as “remarkable,” saying, “These recordings make it possible to hear The Beach Boys simultaneously as the moody pop geniuses of Pet Sounds and the fresh-faced surf-rockin’ teens from Hawthorne, California.”

1967 – Sunshine Tomorrow featured Linett and Boyd’s new, first-ever stereo mix of The Beach Boys’ 1967 Wild Honey album, and all three collections throw open the legendary band’s vault to debut sought-after rarities 50 years after they were put to tape. Previously unreleased highlights across the titles include The Beach Boys’ shelved “live” album, Lei’d In Hawaii, studio recordings from the Wild Honey and Smiley Smile album sessions, and stand-out concert recordings spanning 1967 to 1970. Wild Honey’s 2017 stereo mix is also available in a 180g vinyl 50th-anniversary edition.

The Beach Boys’ final studio session for the shelved SMiLE album took place on 18th May 1967, with Smiley Smile album sessions booked at Brian Wilson’s new home studio from 3rd June through to the end of July. The band’s 12th and 13th studio albums were released exactly three months apart to cap the year’s studio efforts: Smiley Smile on 18th September, followed by Wild Honey on 18th December.

For the Smiley Smile sessions, “I wanted to have a home environment trip where we could record at my house,” recalls Brian Wilson in the liner notes for 1967 – Sunshine Tomorrow. “I wanted to try something different, something new. I produced Smiley Smile, but Mike [Love] inspired me. He said, ‘Brian, let’s make a really good, easygoing album.’ We had an engineer convert my den into a studio. We had my piano detuned to make it ring more.”

“Just prior to that, Brian had built up this production peak and then just completely reversed field, and [for Smiley Smile] did something so light and airy, and y’know, easy,” explains Mike Love. “That was an underground album, I figure, for us. It was completely out of the mainstream of what was going on at that time, which was all hard rock, psychedelic music, and here we come with a song called ‘Wind Chimes’. It just didn’t have anything to do with what was going on – and that was the idea.”

“Times were changing,” adds Al Jardine. “We were happy to put our musical skills to work. We didn’t have to look at the clock; there was virtually 24-hour availability to experiment.”

On 25th and 26th August 1967, The Beach Boys (with Bruce Johnston absent, but with Brian Wilson on organ for his first concert appearances with the band in more than two years) recorded two concerts and rehearsals in Honolulu for a prospective live album to be titled Lei’d In Hawaii, applying a new Smiley Smile-inspired aesthetic to the performances. Just over two weeks later, the band (with both Brian and Bruce participating) began re-recording the live set in-studio at Brian’s house and at Wally Heider Recording in Hollywood, after the Honolulu concert tapes were deemed unusable. Though completed and mixed, the final planned audio element of a canned concert audience was not added and the Lei’d In Hawaii project was canceled. Those live, in-studio performances morphed into sessions for the Wild Honey album, primarily comprised of original Brian Wilson and Mike Love compositions.

Two days after wrapping the Wild Honey sessions on 15th November 1967, Mike Love, Carl and Dennis Wilson, Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston returned to the road for The Beach Boys’ Thanksgiving Tour, premiering several songs from the forthcoming album at their concerts.

Inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1988, and recipients of The Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award, The Beach Boys are a beloved American institution that remains iconic around the world.

The 1967 Sunshine Tomorrow 2: The Studio Sessions and Live Sunshine1967 are available digitally now.