Thursday, 1 June 2017

The Beach Boys

"The Beach Boys are quite simply America's finest pop group. Their combination of great melodies, intricate harmonies, intelligent songwriting and sheer fun has ensured that they remain loved and admired throughout the world more than 40 years on." The Rebel Magazine asked a plethora of Beach Boy fans to answer a bunch of questions about why they love Mike Love & co. First question: What's your favourite album sleeve or photo of the band?
Emma Darling: "Any pic of Brian Wilson makes me cry. He's a genius. I love the 20 Love Songs album cover most. Look at Brian in this photo (below) makes me sob that people never understood his deep sensitivity."
Billy Smart: "Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!)"
John Tozer: "My favourites sleeve is probably The Very Best of the Beach Boys Vol. 2, because I bought it in my early teens and it introduced me to songs of theirs that were some way from the Fun, Sun, Cars, Girls songs, which of course I also loved. Or maybe its the cover to Sunflower."
Simon Love: "(This photo of) Brian in full flight."
Duglas T. Stewart:"I always loved this photo of Brian holding a photo of the other guys or their reflection as a group in a mirror. Either way it feels poignant as he is removed and separate from the others but it's also witty as he is holding them in his hands."
Question 2) Does Pet Sounds show the Beach Boys at the peak of their powers? Would you rather listen to a Beach Boys Greatest Hits compilation? Emma Darling: "Pet Sounds, Yes. I immediately liked Pet Sounds from the first listen. My favourite track on there is God Only Knows." Billy Smart: "Yes, it does. I think its the best balance of Brian Wilson, composer, and The Beach Boys, band, of all their albums, and its got the most fully-realised, interconnected sense of being an integrated work, thanks to Tony Asher. The main problem that I always have with Pet Sounds is that I always find 'I Know There's An Answer' to be a really wretched ham-fisted dirge of a song - the other 12 tracks are great, though. I'd probably chose to listen to 'Stack-O-Trax' above any other Beach Boys album." John Tozer: "Yes, unequivocally. But them at their peak and a Greatest Hits are two different sorts of listening pleasures." Simon Love: "I think "Pet Sounds" hangs together better than any other Beach Boys LP. It didn't help that every LP after the aborted "SMiLe" was a patchwork Frankenstein thing. Even up to "Surf's Up" they were grabbing songs from "SMiLe" Sometimes I think, like "Squeeze" by the Velvet Underground, I think it would've been better off being released as a solo LP. Then he could've knocked off another record of happy teenage feel good for Mike to do his little dance to." Duglas T. Stewart: "In some ways Pet Sounds could be seen as the Beach Boys or at least Brian Wilson at the peak of his powers. It's also a culmination of all of these things he was interested in exploring musically and sonically coming together. Another thing that makes Pet Sounds so powerful is its vulnerability. Brian had been going through emotionally troubling times and these songs captures his fears, insecurities and hopes with great poignancy and eloquence in the lyrics and in the music. When I first discovered Pet Sounds I thought it was the greatest album ever but there are other later tracks that are just as great as what's on Pet Sounds, just as great but different. Albums like Friends, Wild Honey and 20/20 are full of brilliant tracks. And now my favourite Beach Boys album is something else (more about that later).
Question 3) Was "Holland" the last decent Beach Boys album? Since 1973 have any of their studio albums been of any interest to you (Beach Boys Love You, MIU, L.A. Light Album, Keepin' The Summer Alive, Beach Boys '85) Emma Darling: "Yes, Holland was the last great album and one of the tracks is Sail on Sailor which I've always been a fan of." Billy Smart: "That sounds about right, although there are a few interesting things hidden in the later albums, I'm sure although I've never assiduously investigated them." John Tozer: "Holland was not a decent Beach Boys album. The only two decent tracks on it are Sail on Sailor and Leaving This Town, which was really a Ricky Fataar song on a Beach Boys album. The whole California Saga trilogy is embarrassing, and the remainder of the album is just filler. The Actual Last Decent Beach Boys Album was Sunflower, though I've always had a very soft spot for LA (Light Album), highlights of which are the cheesy but delightful Good Timing’, Lady Linda - which sank without trace on its US release but was a big hit over here - and Full Sail. There is an exquisite melancholy to the whole album, beautifully produced by Bruce Johnston, so much so that I can even listen to Sumahama, but perhaps I am a little strange in that respect." Simon Love: "Oh yes. "Love You" has got some nice little songs ("I Bet He's Nice" and "Ding Dang" for me) but "Holland" seems like the last one they were all trying to do something. Even Mike with "California Saga" Duglas T. Stewart: "Holland has some great tracks on it but it's not the last great thing they did. There's good stuff on all of the albums you list above, some are patchier than others but the great stuff is still really great.The Beach Boys Love You is my favourite Beach Boys album. I think some people start listening to it and because it sounds so different to what they expect have a knee jerk reaction to it and write it off without giving it a proper chance. Some of the golden angelic vocals are replaced with croaky damaged vocals and there's clunky, chunky synths instead of the sophisticated blends of "real instruments" on Pet Sounds. But it's still musically very sophisticated and combines that with a wonderful sometimes child like naivety. This album has been a massive influence on BMX Bandits music perhaps more than any other record. It was also our late friend Alex Chilton's favourite beach Boys album. He could play and sing every track on it."
Question 4) Mike Love not only sang lead vocals on some of the biggest hits such as Fun Fun Fun, California Girls, I Get Around but also wrote the words - what do you love most about Mike Love? Emma Darling: "His versatility." Billy Smart: "Its not got much to do with what they went on to become, but 'I Get Around' is a perfect record that I always find really funny for some reason. Maybe its because there's a note of being boastful about not very much in it."I'm gettin' bugged riding up and down the same old strip/ I gotta find a new place where the kids are hip" - you can't argue with that. Mike Love's musical skills and drive continually held the Beach Boys together, even when that took them in tiresome directions. I respect that, though I can't say that Mike love is a figure who inspires much in the way of affection in me." John Tozer: "There is nothing I love about Love. He was a talented wordsmith, sometimes (e.g. Warmth of the Sun), a good frontman for the band when they were on the road, but in all other respects a total arse." Simon Love: "That "Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous" interview: and the fact that he's blissfully unaware of how much of a dick everyone thinks he is. We've got a lot in common." Duglas T. Stewart: "Mike sang some great lead vocals, wrote some great pop lyrics and some beautiful heart lyrics too. He also made some major musical contributions to tracks including Good Vibrations and wrote some really good songs solo. The Landlocked version of his song Big Sur is so beautiful (and vastly superior to the version released on Holland). I don't like his politics but he brought a lot to The Beach Boys."
Question 5) Elvis Costello, Bryan Adams and dozens of others have recorded their own version of "God Only Knows" has any singer recorded a version of a Beach Boys hit that you think improved on the original? Emma Darling: "No, No, No, No, No." Billy Smart: "I'd ban people from covering God Only Knows if I could - David Bowie's version was the single worst recording that he ever made, and that BBC version conspicuously failed to set the world alight. Unless you count early things like Jan & Dean recording versions of certain songs made at around the same time that the Beach Boys themselves did, then nothing springs to mind. The songs that Brian Wilson made with other people are fun though - I think that he felt more at ease without his brothers and Mike Love around him." John Tozer: "Yes, the wonderful Darlin’ from Wild Honey was a cover of "Thinkin’ 'Bout You Baby" which was written by Wilson and Love for Sharon Marie, and FWiW covered again less effectively by American Spring, also produced by Brian Wilson. And, The Wondermints recorded a stellar version of Guess I’m Dumb which, while I love the original, realises the song’s potential in a way the Brian Wilson and Glen Campbell didn’t - though technically the original wasn’t a Beach Boys song, and wasn’t a hit… So maybe the ultimate answer is no? Its like anyone re-doing anything recorded by Ennio Morricone - pointless, given that he had a command of his own material that no-one else could match." Simon Love: "It's not strictly a Beach Boys song but a Brian Wilson original "Go Away Boy" by The Pearlfishers Lovely stuff. Or "God Only Knows" by The Langley Schools Music Project which is haunting." Duglas T. Stewart: "None improved on it but I think the PP Arnold version is very worthwhile. It's a really good version. I think the original is unbeatable."
Mike Love's autobiography "Good Vibrations" has been published by Faber and is in the shops now. You may also be interested to know... Duglas T Stewart has just released a new L.P "BMX Bandits Forever" Billy Smart is a regular contributor to: Simon Love released a brilliant album a few years back: Emma Darling has her own site here: and John Tozer is a man of mystery.

No comments:

Post a Comment