Tag Archives: The Beach Boys

[60] The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds

30 May

Basking in a glorious early summer California evening, The Beach Boys should be the perfect musical accompaniment.  And if I’m honest, anything recorded before the seminal Pet Sounds would truly hit the spot.  But for the most part I’m just not feeling this 1966 classic.

Pet Sounds

I grew up listening to and inevitably loving any number of budget Beach Boys compilations full of unabashed summer fun –  what teen wouldn’t love beaches full of cars, girls and close harmonies?

Much as I found with ABBA way back at the start of this blog, I wouldn’t have blinked twice to find a Greatest Hits set included in the list.

I would never claim for a moment that tracks like “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “God Only Knows” aren’t among the very best Pop tracks ever recorded.  Along with “Good Vibrations” I believe they are the Beach Boys’ three best songs.

And Pet Sounds has probably the most definitive (and certainly the most subversive) version of the old sea shanty, “Sloop John B”.

It’s just that most of the rest of the album is far more “grown up” than I want to deal with in my surf rock.  I don’t want to hear the Boys grow self aware, don’t need to know that they had experienced any but the most superficial heartaches and setbacks.

I don’t enjoy knowing that Brian Wilson “Just Wasn’t Made For These Times”.

I miss the upbeat simplicity of “Help Me Rhonda” and “Barbara Ann”, the unapologetic feelgood naivety of “I Get Around” and “Surfin’ USA”.

I am clearly in a minority, since Pet Sounds is included in every “Best Of” list and regarded as both a touchstone and a masterpiece that inspired much of the Pop and Rock music that followed into the Summer of Love and far beyond.

In theory I can hear that musically, there is plenty going on at any moment that should be engaging me.  In practice I’d rather be belting “Fun, Fun, Fun”.

It’s not clear to me that I’m going to be allowed to leave California . . .

Next Week:  Billy Bean – The Trio

Owned before blogging? No. (3 of 60 = 5%)
Heard before blogging? No. (5 of 60 = 8%)
Recommend? No. (47 of 60 = 78%)

[59] The Beach Boys – Good Vibrations

23 May

Would Queen ever have written, recorded and released “Bohemian Rhapsody” if The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” had stayed shelved after Brian Wilson left it off of Pet Sounds?

"Good Vibrations" was eventually released on [i]Smiley Smile[/i]

“Good Vibrations” was eventually released on Smiley Smile

I am actually asking the question here, not making a statement of manifesto – I am genuinely curious.

The song is an old familiar classic that, perhaps, has lost the ability to shock and amaze.  We take the mood changes, the time signature shifts, and the  sound of the (then almost unknown)  electro-theremin for granted.  It has become another beloved, if overplayed, track for Oldies stations everywhere.

OK, sounds superficially a lot like “BoRap” so far.

The following are all quotes from the Wikipedia page on Good Vibrations:

“Layered production”, “recorded piece by piece . . . over weeks at multiple studios”, “a cut up mosaic of musical sections marked by several discordant key and modal shifts”, “dubbed a “pocket symphony””. “People complained, “that’s going to be too long a record.””

And don’t forget the tight vocal harmonies . . .

The Queen track takes things to much further extremes – it is almost twice as long, its different sections are more pronounced and differentiated – but everything mentioned above could be equally applied to either recording.

At the time they were recorded, first “Good Vibrations” and then “Bohemian Rhapsody” was the most expensive single ever made.

There is a great website making the rounds right now showing the dangers of confusing correlation with causation, so I will not make any rash pronouncements.

Instead I’ll just sit back in the New York City humidity and let The Beach Boys tease me with the California sun.

Next Week:  The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds

Owned before blogging? Yes. (3 of 59 = 5%)
Heard before blogging? Yes. (5 of 59 = 8%)
Recommend? Yes. (47 of 59 = 80%)


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