The Beach Boys

TrackAlbum
In My RoomSurfer Girl
Fun Fun FunShut Down Volume 2
I Get AroundAll Summer Long
Kiss Me, BabyThe Beach Boys Today
California GirlsSummer Days ...
God Only KnowsPet Sounds
Caroline NoPet Sounds
Good VibrationsSmiley Smile
Heroes And VillainsSmiley Smile
WonderfulSmiley Smile
Can't Wait Too LongSmiley Smile/ Wild Honey CD
Be StillFriends
Do It Again20/20
Cabinessence20/20
ForeverSunflower
Cool Cool WaterSunflower
Feel FlowsSurf's Up
'Til I DieSurf's Up
Surf's UpSurf's Up
Sail On SailorHolland
Ding DangLove You

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Contributors: David Lewis, Rob Morgan, Peter Viney

3 contributors, 7 songs each, those were the rules. 21 songs were then chosen at three different locations, incredibly without any major overlap. So, on to contributor number one…

If I’m honest, I have to admit that some of of the Beach Boys leaves me cold: there! I said it. Maybe it’s because I don’t surf, and as a teenager, felt that being ‘true to my school’ wasn’t always the best option, or driving in hot rods would lose you your license very quickly where I lived. Nonetheless, those bits of the Beach Boys that don’t leave me cold are among the most beautiful, transcendent pieces of music ever written. I agree with all the songs on this list (and will have a couple of ‘What! No’s?’, no doubt). In true Toppermost spirit, I’m trying to steer you away from the more familiar. Having said that, the big hits are stupendous and no list would be complete without a couple of these. I’ve used Andrew Hickey’s volumes on the Beach Boys On CD and Mark Dillon’s Fifty Sides Of The Beach Boys: The Songs That Tell The Story for fact and authoritative opinion. Both are recommended reading.

The Beach Boys though are one of the most perfect expressions of joy. While complex emotions are a major part, at the bottom of a Beach Boys song is the joy of life. At their best, the music uplifts and enhances. And there is a stunning period of songwriting growth; I think only Lennon and McCartney grow as songwriters as quickly. And there’s a deeply respectful rivalry between the two.

While the Beatles were the more consistently successful, both financially and artistically, the Beach Boys could, at their best, top even the Fab Four.

As I’m sharing this Toppermost with two esteemed writers, I’ve relaxed one of my rules – I have three from Smiley Smile (my favourite of the albums), rather than one or maybe two from a given album.

Mike Love is seen by many Beach Boys fans as the bad guy in the story. After all, he sued his mentally ill cousin for co-writing credits, at a period of time when he shouldn’t have needed extra money, sued his life long friend for using the name of the band they both were integral to, and he has seemingly tried to stop the progress of the Beach Boys as serious composers. Maybe. But at his best, he is a crucial part of that glorious vocal blend as a bass/baritone (and a decent lead tenor as well), and when he does good lyrics, they are very good indeed. Fun Fun Fun was one of the first attempts to consciously match the Beatles. Brian’s music is just superb. The arrangement is amazing. Chuck Berry introduction (straight from Johnny B. Goode: Chuck, surprisingly, didn’t sue.) Brian was mastering the form. While he’d perfect the form with I Get Around, this is a major step forward. And the lyrics, complete with a hectoring Greek chorus (you shouldn’t have lied, now/ you shouldn’t have lied) are almost perfect. It caused a major rift as Murry, the Wilson boys father and manager, felt the song was immoral. Of course, hitting your son with a block of wood, causing permanent deafness in one ear is upstanding and correct behaviour …

The Love You album was an extreme departure – Brian and Dennis’ voices had been nearly destroyed – the soaring vocals were gone, almost forever. As a result, Love You sounds different to most of its predecessors. It divides fans; they either love it or hate it. Ding Dang is Brian Wilson’s favourite song from Love You. Co-written by Roger McGuinn, most critics tend to dismiss it. Hickey calls it a ‘very silly song indeed’. But, it’s joyful. Rock and roll is supposed to be fun. This is if nothing else (and there’s not much) gloriously fun. I’d imagine that it reminded Brian of singing with his brothers, cousin and friend, before the pressure, before the fame, before the problems. On top of that though, is one of the most complex and surprising backing vocals ever recorded. A part lands on every rhythmic subdivision. It manages the trick of seeming effortless, despite weeks of work going into it. Just incredible. Ding, dang, dang wooh, ding and a ding dang!

After Pet Sounds, the Beach Boys were divided. The Wilson brothers wanted to make art. Mike Love and Al Jardine wanted to develop the successful formula of sun, surf, sand, with a bit of transcendental meditation. Do It Again is one of the songs in which the Love/Jardine formula was applied successfully (if we ignore Kokomo, which I’m happy to do). A magnificent production,and great harmonies; if all the effort expended on trying to recapture the pre-1966 Beach Boys was this good, the Beach Boys story would be much different. Brian soars over the top, but all of them are stunning. Low charting in the US, it was a number 1 in the UK and Australia. The drum sound was apparently made by miking the snare through a synth, making it one of the early electronica pieces. While Mike Love’s lyrics can be trite and awkward, this is an example of his best work.

In my Monkees toppermost, I claimed Daydream Believer was perhaps the most perfect pop single. Here’s another major contender. Good Vibrations is not a song … Not really. Try playing it on just an acoustic guitar. It has maybe 25 bars of musical ideas. But what ideas. It builds and builds and builds. Gorgeous lead vocal by Carl. Theremin, apparently inspired by Doctor Who, though the historical record suggests not. This single took months, and went through several versions. Mike Love’s lyrics, again, some of his very best, help, but it’s a sophisticated, complex artwork. Sudden shifts in tone, but never a loss of focus. Listening to the various outtakes, which were released on various compilations and reissues, it’s remarkable how much of it is traditional rock and roll – shuffles, doo-wop harmonies, straight beats. Yet this 3½ minute wonder seems to have 2 hours of music. There is so much that can be said about this piece of art. It ranges from the gloriously absurd – just what are ‘excitations’? – to the unbelievably superb: the beautiful construction of the ‘na na na na na’ bit. Good Vibrations is never less than stunning, even after familiarity has dulled the edge. No one has ever successfully replicated the idea, though many have tried. It is all of a piece, eight or nine sections, building on a minimum of ideas, and leading the audience to new and exciting musical places.

Heroes And Villains is another great Brian Wilson composition. Lyrics by Van Dyke Parks, Brian’s favourite collaborator. This is the track that broke the Smile project. It was meant to be the track which surpassed Good Vibrations, but perfectionism, legal issues, drug abuse and mental illness saw the whole project abandoned. Rebuilt as a single, it was a commercial disappointment, though it has shown to be remarkably resilient. It’s still a part of the live repertoire. ELO has used the melody at least twice. It’s slightly ahead of its time; making Southern California part of the extended universe that, say, Robbie Robertson’s Nazareth in The Weight belongs. Had it come out six months later, it would have been a bigger hit, and would have launched the Smile project more definitively. Instead it comes out on Smiley Smile. No introduction, and sudden shifts in tone. Brian Wilson has an unsurpassed reputation for arrangement – no wonder.

This was apparently written on the same day as Cabinessence, Surf’s Up and Wonderful. All of these songs appear in this Toppermost, all deservedly. The next time you feel a sense of accomplishment from a day’s work, reflect on this day’s work: four of the greatest songs of all time.

Sail On Sailor is sung by Blondie Chaplin, who sounds remarkably like Carl, and apparently following the phrasing of an early Carl take, this song is one of a handful that demonstrate Brian Wilson’s undiminished talent for magnificent songs. Brian apparently worked with many people on the song, apparently not telling his various collaborators about each other. Blondie of course later worked with members of the Band and is one of the session musicians with the Rolling Stones in their concerts. Typically beautiful Brian melody, and gorgeous evocative lyrics. The Beach Boys do R&B. And do it amazingly well. Dillon suggests Blondie imparts the frustration of living under apartheid in his interpretation. Blondie is a South African and so knows these frustrations. I can also see Brian’s frustrations with his own struggles in there. It’s a Van Dyke Parks lyric, apparently.

One of the most beautiful, evocative and elusive songs ever written; on first listen to Wonderful, many years ago, I though ‘what’s this nonsense?’. But, like the memory of a pleasant aroma, it stayed with me, and I listened again and again. Its mature lyrics juxtapose against its childlike melody; Brian sounds like a 10-year-old who knows complex harmonic and rhythmic theory, but who seems to be hammering randomly at the piano. Written on a piano in a sandbox in Brian’s living room (on that remarkable day which produced three other classic masterpieces), Mike Love calls this his favourite song from Smile. The lyrics are about loss of innocence. Even the initially baffling section, the ‘left turn into a hash den’, as described by Dillon, is perfect. My reading is that it is the outside world; while the protagonist deals with her changes, the world goes on, confusing and intrusive. The performance is heartbreakingly beautiful. A song which rewards deeply with patience. Listen to it again, it’s worth it. I prefer the Smiley Smile version; Carl Wilson’s vulnerability is a little easier to bear than Brian’s, which, even divorced from its context, is overwhelming. Nonetheless, both are great versions.

David Lewis

 

One track on the third studio album Surfer Girl gives the first intimation that there was more to the Beach Boys than just sun and sea and surfing and girls. There was a whole world out there, and it wasn’t quite as joyful as the Beach Boys had implied in their work. In My Room was co-written by Brian Wilson and Gary Usher, at this point a fellow surf music collaborator and in the future a producer of note (The Byrds, Peanut Butter Conspiracy) and creator of the late 60s soft pop beauty Sagittarius, who would record their own lush interpretation of this very song. But back in 1962, here was Brian and Gary channelling their deepest fears into a song. It just wasn’t what people sang about in pop music, even the Beatles had couched their internal thought world of There’s A Place (on Please Please Me) in terms of love, inviting someone else into their world. There is no such welcome to outsiders in In My Room. It is a place where the singer can escape, to remove themselves from society, to hide away from responsibility, to lock out worries and fears. A total retreat in every sense. Sure he can scheme and dream there, but can cry and sigh without being seen, without losing face in public. The singer isn’t afraid of the dark, the room is their sanctuary, their safe haven. And yet the music is so simple, still in the surf domain, tremulous guitar arpeggios, a soft bed of organ. Didn’t anyone hear this song and worry why such dark thoughts were being written by such a young man? The harsh pill is sweetened by those lovely harmonies, but the thought remains – what are they hiding from?

My word, this is beautiful. In musical terms, there is already a huge leap from the simplicity of In My Room to Kiss Me, Baby (The Beach Boys Today) and it is only three years on. By now, Brian has retreated to the studio that has become his ‘room’, the place he feels happiest. He has assembled the Wrecking Crew to record the backing tracks, adding a new lusciousness to the music, a new depth to the arrangements, and there is more complexity to the harmonies, more layering involved. But that’s just the technicalities of the sound, the heart of the song is so much more than that. The scenario: a couple are breaking up, a late night argument has led to this break up, and in the harsh morning light the singer is wondering if it was the right thing. Every single line is loaded with hidden depths, wondering if the other is thinking the same thoughts. He wants to get back to her, to have her kissing him, to know that love is still there. It is a moment that so many people can associate with. I know I can. I have only ever split up from a partner once, and within a few days we got back together again. But within those few heartbroken days, the only song I wanted to hear was Kiss Me, Baby. It probably didn’t help but it offered hope. Kiss Me, Baby taps into that universal moment of regret.

Pet Sounds is an acknowledged classic album and for me the closing song, Caroline, No, is its masterpiece. It builds from simple foundations; that heartbreaking opening chord change, the sadness within the words, the lost innocence, the gradual introduction of instrumentation as the song sadly progresses. Searching for the things you used to love in someone who has changed, trying to recreate the past, even the unison flutes at the end of the song (a hat tip to the flutes on You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away) sound mournful; there is no return, the past is gone forever, and so has love.

Can’t Wait Too Long is a 1967 outtake, eventually issued on the Smiley Smile/Wild Honey CD. A curious piece this, taking the ideas of modular music from Smile and creating a small five minute symphony. As far as I can tell this was recorded around early 1968 but never used – though the main melody was included within Brian’s That Lucky Old Sun album many years later.There is so much music and invention crammed into these few minutes; vibraphones, tack pianos, gentle percussion, fuzz bass, a perfect little chord change here and there, those beautiful harmonies, even a little section of Brian Wilson talking about the moon and the stars. Sure it lacks the scale and ambition of Smile but it eradicates the idea that Brian Wilson ‘lost’ his abilities as soon as that project was binned.

Brian’s late 60s retreat from front line Beach Boys duties allowed the other members of the band to shine, and nobody shone quite like Dennis Wilson. He may have been the only surfer, the most hedonistic, the one who hung out with Charles Manson but his songwriting was beautiful and heartfelt, as was his voice. Be Still on Friends is so simple and frail, just organ and Dennis’ voice for barely 90 seconds but it is perfect, a pure distillation of love and hope, even if the sentiments are slightly hippyish. Somewhere, Robert Wyatt was listening.

Forever is another Dennis beauty, this time given the full-on Beach Boys arrangement. Dennis still sings like a fragile choir boy, and the song itself is a gorgeous love song, passionate and full of meaning. When Dennis sings “I’ve been so happy loving you”, it cuts through all the nonsense of so many love songs. A song as special as this should be a staple of first dances at weddings, it should be included in the pantheon of great Beach Boys songs too, not hiding on side two of an album (Sunflower).

Finally, Brian’s retreat leads to the Last Great Beach Boys Song. ‘Til I Die from Surf’s Up is a realisation of one’s place in the world, a speck of dust, just a leaf in the wind, a cork on the ocean, and Brian’s “I lost my way” is utterly heartbreaking. The gentle patter of the primitive drum machine, the waves of organ and vibraphone, the calm after the storm, and while Brian asks “How long will the wind blow?” the answer comes back, “Until I die”, it will never end. The Beach Boys were never that insignificant, sure they did lose their way but their music will endure forever, and beyond the surf and sun and endless summer that one member believes is their legacy. The world of emotion is available within their rich catalogue, you can surf over it or dive in deep.

Rob Morgan

 

Cabinessence is the full SMiLE experience in its three distinct sections; Home On The Range, Who Ran The Iron Horse? and The Grand Coulee Dam, though it slipped out on the 20/20 album indicating what we’d missed. It was written at the same time as Heroes And Villains and Surf’s Up. This song was the cracking point for Mike Love when Van Dyke Parks said he had no idea what his lyrics meant. Brian Wilson has said it’s about Chinese labourers on the railroads watching a crow flying over them, while Parks has said it might be about Van Gogh’s crows in a cornfield, but then again it might not. Plucked banjo, played by Carol Kaye instead of her normal bass guitar? Harmonica? Accordion? Bouzouki? Hammers on iron? So much is happening, but it stays just on the right side of “jarring”. Where does that huge bass drone come from? To me it’s Saturday Morning pictures at the Modern Cinema, with an audience of kids with cap guns firing at Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers on the screen. Yippee Yi Ay.

California Girls has one of the strongest pop hooks of any Beach Boys song. Oh, the sheer cheeseyness of watching Mike Love-led Beach Boys in the 80s. Mike was stooped over with back problems, looking ancient, California Girls started and a bevy of bikini clad beauties shimmied on. But my daughter-in-law is a genuine California Girl. The song has an instant RING! effect as soon as it starts. Brian Wilson says that (like Cabinessence) the tune was inspired by his love of cowboy movies. The orchestral beginning was loathed by his dad who thought it uncommercial. It is said to be the Beach Boys most played song on radio.

Cool Cool Water is a chant as much as a song, and a chant that had been in Brian Wilson’s head for years. It was started in 1967, but didn’t appear till 1970 on Sunflower. It might be the simplest song Brian ever did – the contrasting piece to Cabinessence. It’s closely related to I Love To Say DaDa, retitled In Blue Hawaii on Brian’s SMiLE Sessions album.

Written by Carl Wilson and Jack Rieley, Feel Flows is on Surf’s Up but it was a new song, not a SMiLE survivor. It vies with Brian’s title track Surf’s Up on one of my all-time most played albums. If only they hadn’t put the awful Student Demonstration Time on there to impede the flow. Carl Wilson also played organ, moog synthesizer, piano, lead guitar and the complex bass line and layered the vocals. Charles Lloyd came in to add flute and sax. The bass line was so tricky that their touring bass guitarists are said to have needed to read it. It has one of the richest most complex layered sounds of any Beach Boys song, and that really is saying something. Rieley’s lyrics are impressionistic, thus fitting in with Van Dyke Parks on the title track. Carl also contributed Long Promised Road to the album, another song which was on my shortlist. Carl is the lead voice on both God Only Knows and Good Vibrations, and this song shows his production and playing abilities. Carl also produced Al Jardine & Mike Love’s Don’t Go Near The Water on Surf’s Up, another magic melody and production, in spite of unfortunate dumb lyrics.

Let’s quote another singing bass player, John Wetton (who has recorded the next one twice): “God Only Knows is my all-time favourite. That song has got everything, There’s harmony, melody, feeling, arrangement, it is simply divine. I remember that I was lying in bed with a tiny miniature radio tucked away under my pillow. I listened to Radio Luxembourg on 208 metres and suddenly I heard God Only Knows. It was like everything before had only happened in black and white and suddenly it all turned to colour. I also think it was one of the first songs with the word ‘god’ in the title without being a religious song; a very courageous thing to do at that time. I like classically inspired music but this God Only Knows was and is the ultimate song for me. If you listen to how the bass is played in that song it’s pure magic. God Only Knows to me meant that there was a future in rock music, things could be done differently.”

It’s also George Martin’s “favourite non-Beatles song of the Sixties”. Back to me: The high point of Pet Sounds where Brian Wilson was consciously feeling he was in competition with The Beatles, and especially a third singing bass player, Paul McCartney. The French horn was played by Alan Robinson, following Brian’s guide vocal by ear. As on many Beach Boys records, they doubled bass guitar and double bass on identical parts. That first line, sung by Carl Wilson: I may not always love you … is always a thrilling prelude for the rest of the record to follow. When I saw Brian Wilson live, I think God Only Knows was the most transcendent moment of all, chills up the spine, hair standing on head, heart beating perfection. One of my greatest in concert experiences.

The first Beach Boys record I bought was Surfin’ Safari. The second was Surfin’ USA. For the UK that makes me a very early adopter, but none of my close friends liked them at all. I Get Around came out in 1964, and it was the third one I bought … I’d missed a few. It was the first Beach Boys Top Ten hit in the UK. Earlier Beach Boys material just didn’t catch on in Britain, where their peak era is 1964-69. Move on to Hull University. Late 1966. We bought a record player between seven of us. The guy next door had a box of Beach Boys singles. I suddenly realized it was cool to like The Beach Boys and that I was not alone. That autumn was dominated by Sloop John B, Barbara Ann (both in if I’d been choosing twenty) and I Get Around … it was already two years old, but their best track so far. We played it till it wore out and bought another copy. As one of the great two-sided singles, both sides wore out. The B-side was Don’t Worry Baby. For me, I Get Around is the magic first term with your own room at university. Instantly. It was sung by Mike Love and Brian Wilson. It was written by Brian Wilson, though Mike Love won a share of the royalties in 1992 for thinking of repeating ‘round round get around’. On the Made In California box set, you can hear the instrumental track intro, showing how marvellously chunky Carl Wilson’s guitar part is, twinned with Ray Pohlman’s forceful six-string bass. There are two six string bass guitars on the track … Glen Campbell plays the other. Brian Wilson plays keyboards.

They say the title, Surf’s Up, was inspired by Dennis Wilson’s description of British audiences sniggering at the Beach Boy’s striped short-sleeve shirts uniform. Van Dyke Parkes wrote the lyrics and entitled it, shocking Brian Wilson. Surf’s up – as well as waves being high enough to surf, it implied the game was up. The surfin’ safari had ended.

So what the fuck does columnated ruins domino, canvas the town and brush the backdrop mean? Brian told Jules Siegel in 1966:

It’s a man at a concert. All around him there’s the audience, playing their roles, dressed up in fancy clothes, looking through opera glasses, but so far away from the drama, from life. Back through the opera glass you see the pit and the pendulum drawn The music begins to take over. Columnated ruins domino. Empires, ideas, lives, institutions; everything has to fall, tumbling like dominoes. He begins to awaken to the music; sees the pretentiousness of everything. The music hall a costly bow. Then even the music is gone, turned into a trumpeter swan, into what the music really is. Canvas the town and brush the backdrop. He’s off in his vision, on a trip. Reality is gone; he’s creating it like a dream. Dove-nested towers. Europe, a long time ago. The laughs come hard in Auld Lang Syne … Of course that’s a very intellectual explanation. But maybe sometimes you have to do an intellectual thing. If they don’t get the words, they’ll get the music, because that’s where it’s really at, in the music.

I was amazed he’d thought it out! It was recorded in 1966 for SMiLE, then Brian Wilson did a solo piano version in 1967 for a TV documentary, which is one of three versions on The SMiLE Sessions. The song was a legend for a few years until its eventual 1971 release for Surf’s Up, the album initially known as Landlocked. Carl Wilson produced and re-did the first verse vocal, after Brian declined, with Al Jardine doing the ending. For me it’s the Beach Boys greatest achievement, both melodically and instrumentally, plus those weird lyrics are a resonating semi-abstract word painting. You can find the 1967 solo version, plus “1st Movement” and “Piano demo” on the SMiLE Sessions and “1967 Version/2012 Remix” on Made in California. As with so many SMiLE outtakes and alternatives, it’s fascinating, but they nailed the song on its main Surf’s Up release. I love the description of it as “baroque psychedelia.”

Peter Viney

 

The Beach Boys official site

The Beach Boys Fan Club

The Beach Boys – The Complete Guide

Beach Boys Discography (US & UK)

The Beach Boys Setlist Archive

Beach Boys Britain message board

Endless Summer Quarterly fanzine

Brian Wilson’s website

The Carl Wilson Foundation

Dedicated to the life, music & memory of Dennis Wilson

Mike Love’s website

Al Jardine’s website

The Beach Boys biography (iTunes)

The Beach Boys topper-21 in the list at the top of this page is in chronological order. David Lewis’ website is here, Rob Morgan’s here, and Peter Viney’s here and his review of the Brian Wilson biopic “Love & Mercy” is here.

TopperPost #412

12 Comments

  1. Glenn Smith
    Feb 16, 2015

    I’ve read this Toppermost three times now and I’m still musing over this incredible troika of lists and career summaries. I think part of the Beach Boys appeal is analogous to the way we non Americans love America: a heady combination of stunning brilliance and mind blowing creativity coupled together with some awful “look away we are hideous” moments. My first Beach Boys album was a copy of Summer Days which I stole from my father’s house on a visit where I certainly was bugged with my old man. The cover of that album says it all, there is only the four of them, Jardine was missing as they all stood or sat awkwardly on a boat on the sea, Brian desperately clinging to the rigging and Carl sitting down looking decidedly ill, beach boys indeed. But what a record, Summer Means New Love, Help Me Rhonda (both of which would be in my magnificent seven) and of course California Girls, I must have played the intro alone a hundred times trying to work out exactly what was going on. Like Rob I’m besotted with In My Room, an extraordinary piece of songwriting from Brian and Gary Usher. I’d double A side that with I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times as the ultimate Brian state of mind single. Sail on Sailor is superb and it goes without saying that God Only Knows is beyond perfection. And just as Hal David sometimes gets seriously overlooked in the celebration of Bacharach, so too, as is noted above, the lyricists chosen by Brian are a major part in the evocation of Brian’s America: Gary Usher, Roger Christian, Tony Asher and Van Dyke Parks are all crucial in the painting of the masterpieces of Americana that come tumbling out of Brian’s imagination. What a Toppermost.

  2. Peter Viney
    Feb 16, 2015

    We did our three parts completely separately without seeing the others until they went online, which was different from the collaborative Cohen toppermost. I loved David and Rob’s perspectives, and Glenn’s notes. In retrospect, we stopped at Holland, except for just Ding Dang from “Love You” (which Brian Wilson keeps saying is one of the two albums you should start with … the other being Pet Sounds.) I’d go for the recent “The SMiLE Sessions” and a Greatest Hits compilation myself. I thought about our more or less tacit dismissal of later stuff. Given twenty on my own, I might have added The Trader from Holland, and Marcella from Carl & The Passions, and Good Timin’ from L.A. (Light Album). BUT as Brian Wilson re-does them with his own band in his live act, they could always be considered for a Brian Wilson toppermost.

  3. David Lewis
    Feb 17, 2015

    It’s really really good: I’ve read the full article (we knew what the others were doing, but not what they’d say. And Rob and Peter have excelled themselves.) Near misses: there were a few – ones that didn’t get there (that aren’t in the list), for me include Surfin’ USA – yes, I know, I said I didn’t surf, but a great song’s a great song, even if it’s a Chuck Berry lift; Sloop John B; Don’t Worry Baby (which is linked (fantastically) above. And a few others I can’t think of off the top of my head.
    Barbara Ann: off-key and sloppy – listen to it devolve towards the end. Half sing Peggy Sue, half sing Betty Lou, someone breaks down in giggles. It wouldn’t make my list, but there is an enthusiasm there, particularly in the single edit (which might just push me to include it). If I was to go with Beach Boys Party, it’d probably be Papa Oom Mow Mow, or perhaps You’ve got to hide your love away … The last point I’ll make is of that magnificent video of Good Vibrations. I’d heard some of the audio, but thanks to Merric for finding that. What struck me is Brian leading the session, very professional, in charge. But when he sings, he is ‘in his room’: an ecstatic look of joy on his face, which to me is the undercurrent of all his work (even if not all of it works): even in his most depressing and sad songs, there’s a redemption there. And that face just nailed it for me.

  4. Jerry Tenenbaum
    Feb 18, 2015

    “Holland”: I found this album to be ‘otherworldly’ for The Beach Boys. While I heard the influence clearly, the songs took a step forward for me. “The Trader” with its unique chorus and “Leaving This Town” with its profound sadness struck me in a different way from all the Beach Boys songs that preceded. I was not enamoured by the material later on the album but was actually dumbfounded by these songs and “Sail On Sailor”. I wondered if these could be the same people who sang “Little Deuce Coupe”. I pondered the influence of their collaborators. For me, The Beach Boys with their collaborators had entered a different realm inhabited by later Beatles and others. There were hints before this album in “Heroes and Villains” and even ‘Surf’s Up”, but nothing really prepared me for this. While I absolutely agree about ‘fun’ as being what Beach Boys material was mostly about, I marvelled at this effort and its delivery. Thanks for this one, gentlemen. Any assessment of Beach Boys must include the mastery of Brian Wilson and how this was translated by the group but it cannot ignore what potential there was as portrayed by “Holland”. Alas, I’m not sure that potential ultimately was fulfilled. For whatever reason (probably set minds unable to accept a different Beach Boys approach), this album was apparently not a huge commercial success and was not followed by others of its ilk. Please correct me but soon after, the game was touring, effectively for years thereafter with no major writing attempts of this type. For me, “Holland” was Beach Boys “Revolver”. Criticism and comments welcome, please.

    • Peter Viney
      Feb 18, 2015

      Holland LP came with that free EP, Mount Vernon & Fairway. I can’t say I played that much, but it’s on the CD now. My initial thoughts list had three Holland songs: Sail on Sailor, The Trader and Funky Pretty, but you’re right about Leaving This Town. Then there’s the California Saga trilogy, especially Big Sur, but not The Beaks of Eagles. Trader is a Carl Wilson composition and a great song. I thought Steamboat by Dennis Wilson, sung by Carl, had a Band influence, and as mentioned in David’s section, Blondie Chaplin later was a temporary member of The Band, and bootlegs exist of the 80s Band doing Sail on Sailor. I suspect it was the last “wholly pleasing” album, though I’d take Surf’s Up in preference. I did think, but not for long, about including the title track of ‘That’s Why God Made The Radio”

  5. Colin Duncan
    Feb 18, 2015

    An interesting approach to selecting songs for the list and it was interesting that no writer selected the same songs. I have two abiding memories related to the Beach Boys – reading Brian Wilson’s candid autobiography and seeing Brian Wilson in concert, with the concert beginning with the nineteen musicians on stage (I counted them) singing unaccompanied. A great night, where the musicianship and especially the singing was outstanding. The selected list has three big misses for me – ‘Don’t Worry Baby’, ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ and ‘Darlin’. And I still play ‘Pet Sounds’ and ‘Smile’ regularly. Thanks for the effort, lads.

  6. Pat Brennan
    Feb 19, 2015

    Let Him Run Wild has to be in there somewhere.

  7. David Lewis
    Feb 20, 2015

    The big ‘What! No?’ is of course Wouldn’t It Be Nice. A gorgeous song. I thought someone else would pick it up. Agree too with Don’t Worry Baby. Its refiguring of masculinity is rare: only Brian, Lennon and Hendrix were brave enough to admit that a woman was better than they were. (presumably Paul agreed)

  8. Alex Lifson
    Feb 21, 2015

    I too, have looked over this list a couple of times and marvel, not only at the picks, but also what was left out as well. Like Jerry, I “champion” the Holland album. It is to me, up there with Pet Sounds and Smile. I always refer to this as the Blondie Chaplin album. Like everyone, there are plenty more songs that I could’ve seen on the list. If I have to choose one it would be The Little Girl I Once Knew. The intro is one of Brian Wilson’s most glorious.
    Great work guys!

    • Peter Viney
      Feb 23, 2015

      Once I started relistening to Holland I couldn’t stop. The other beauties in there are Only With You (my current ear worm) and part 3 of California Saga, “California” which has a strangely Cabinessence feel to it!

      • Alex Lifson
        Feb 24, 2015

        My ear worms would be Sail On Sailor and Leaving This Town. It’s a shame that Blondie Chaplin didn’t last longer in the group as it seems that he could’ve made a stronger impact on the groups’ material than anybody else did after his departure.

    • Rob Morgan
      Feb 27, 2015

      Odd you should mention The Little Girl I Once Knew as it was on my list of seven for quite a while, being dumped for Cant Wait Too Long. I totally agree about the intro and in a way I feel the song itself doesn’t live up to the potential of that start. I suppose what I’m trying to say is I preferred that intro as part of Trombone Dixie!

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