Monday, March 7, 2016

The Beach Boys Evolution (circa 1965)

Chet Coppock's postings in Forgotten Hits have become very popular with our readers. 

Normally these are free-spirited musings designed to spark some conversation ... but today he plays it straight when he takes a look back at a key, pivotal moment in Beach Boys history.

Take it away, Chet! (kk)

Kent, My Boy: 

Today's sermon is a little bit abstract, but I hope it will shed some light on one of the single most melodic songs in rock 'n roll history. Hey, my house - my game. 

I have been blessed to see the Beach Boys in six different decades. That means I'm damn near at an age where I might have to breakdown and see Wayne Newton. 

Let's go back to 1962.  The Beatles have yet to invade, a global missile crisis will be averted and the Cubs were only 54 years removed from their last World Series title.   

Meanwhile, a group of kids from Hawthorne, California, are beginning to knock out sounds in Murray Wilson's basement or garage. 

The group will emerge on Billboard in October, '62, with "Surfin' Safari." Quite frankly, the title track sung by Mike Love is listless given that Mike's voice just hasn't fully emerged. It's years away from the brilliance he packaged on "Do It Again" during the summer of '68. Don't even get me started on Mike's tremendous performance on "Good Vibrations." 

Maybe Capitol Records or "The Wrecking Crew" knew the Boys were on to something but I have no recollection of the group stealing any attachment I had to Dion, Del Shannon, Ray Charles or Gary "U.S." Bonds. 

Still, the group is on the prowl. By 1963, Brian Wilson's song writing maturity is beginning to emerge as he turns out the raucously enjoyable "Be True To Your School" and a magnificent tribute in a capella, "A Young Man Is Gone", to James Dean. 

But the knockout punch is "Spirit of America," a vocal salute to land speed stud Craig Breedlove and doo wop. The song is just magnificent. There is just one twosome, John and Paul, that could have come close to emulating the magnificent layers of harmony. Brian's falsetto background on "Spirit" makes the song seem almost like an anthem.
So, we move on a few years. In July, '65, The Beach Boys remarkably turn out their ninth album in three years. One can only assume that Brian had both Capital and Daddy Dearest aiming guns at his temple. The piece is titled "Summer Days (And Summer Nights)" and, in its own way, the album is damn near as good as "Revolver."  

A revamped "Help Me Rhonda" carried by Al Jardine will clock in at #1 while "California Girls" would become a top five hit.  

But, this cannot be overlooked. 18 years old Carl Wilson, still lugging a major share of baby fat, sings a melodic and poignant lead on the pristine "Girl Don’t Tell Me." The song is the hopeless lament of a teenage boy expressing his feelings about the end of a classic youthful summer time romance. Fact: the first time I heard the song, I cried. That was a mere 50 years ago.  

With this lead, Carl has emerged. He is now a voice of gold. Side note: "Girl" should have been released as a single, but the Beach Boys had a live album warming up in the bullpen.
14 months later, with Carl still in his teens, he sings lead on the elixir, the incredibly beautiful, "God Only Knows."  

In my opinion, Carl doesn't deliver in such prolific fashion on "God", if he hadn't discovered his vocal resonance on "Girl."  

Lastly, "Summer Days (And Summer Nights)"  should be revered as an album of genius, a literal work of art. There are just two issues. "Summer  Days" was a gear change as Brian moved away from 409's and metal flaked rims to more emotional "human element" songs. Secondly, I rate "Pet Sounds" just behind the Beatles' "White Album" as the finest collection of musical art ever released. "Summer Days" gets lost in the shuffle.  

The killer: from "Surfin' Safari to "Pet Sounds" the boys recorded 11 albums in under four years.   

Yes, it was a different era. Please, let’s all give Carl Wilson is just due.  

Chet Coppock
National Commercial Spokesman: Brain Aneurysm Foundation


The liner notes to the reissued two-fer pairing of "The Beach Boys Today!" and "Summer Days (And Summer Nights)" bear out much of what Chet is telling us today.

"Girl Don't Tell Me" is structured very much like The Beatles' "Ticket To Ride", from the guitar breaks to the chord changes ... from the drum rolls to the "I'm the guy, hi, hi" vocal phrasing.
The Beach Boys played on this track, and the era in which it was done certainly contributed to the Beatlesque quality of it.  Brian played the celeste on this cut.  Considering that this was the tenth Beach Boys album and what a great voice Carl has, it's hard to believe that this is his first lead vocal.

"Girl Don't Tell Me" did, in fact end up on a single ... albeit as the B-Side to "Barbara Ann" several months later.  (Do you REALLY like this one more than "I'm Bugged At My Ol' Man"????)  Other great tracks on this LP include "Let Him Run Wild" and "You're So Good To Me", both also featured as B-Sides ... and, of course, "California Girls", perhaps the single greatest production achievement of Brian Wilson's entire career.  Listen to that opening ... it's damn near symphonic!!!  (kk)

Many years later Brian acknowledged as much ...

"California Girls" was something I'm very proud of in a sense because it represents the Beach Boys really greatest record production we've ever made. It goes back to 1965 when I was just sitting in my apartment, wondering how to write a song abut girls, because I love girls.  I mean, everybody loves girls.  So I got the notion and I wrote "California Girls".  And then I said to myself, this needs some kind of an intorduction that would be a total departure of how the song sounds and yet would somehow lead into the melody.
Brian accomplished that with the incredible symphonic intro, which is among the most amazing bars of pop music ever recorded.  Brian recently said it's the favorite piece of music he's ever written.