Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Beach Boys: 1977 - 1980

In 1979, THE BEACH BOYS switched labels to CARIBOU RECORDS. Their first single for the new label was the BRUCE JOHNSTON-produced disco-remake of the WILD HONEY track HERE COMES THE NIGHT. It just missed The Top 40, peaking at #44 and THE BEACH BOYS were critically panned for jumping on the disco bandwagon. (There was, after all, a time when THE BEACH BOYS were considered music trendsetters rather than trend-followers.) Their next Caribou release, GOOD TIMIN', snuck up to #33, and features some of the best harmonies the band ever did. The follow-up single, IT'S A BEAUTIFUL DAY (released as a single-only at the end of 1979) could not follow up the Top 40 success of GOOD TIMIN' ... IT'S A BEAUTIFUL DAY never made the charts at all. Recorded for the soundtrack of the movie AMERICATHON, this track was written by MIKE LOVE and AL JARDINE and produced by BRUCE JOHNSTON. Once again, it was beginning to look as if THE BEACH BOYS were not going to succeed without BRIAN's involvement. Too bad, because this really is a pretty good song.

Next came GOIN' ON. At least this follow-up single charted ... but only at an embarrassingly low #83. The harmonies were back ... and sounding strong ... but this one just never caught on with the record-buying public. Yielding to heavy pressure from CBS record label to record something listener / buyer-friendly to counteract the disappointing sales of their LA (Light Album), the Beach Boys headed back to the studio in late 1979, resulting in the release of Keepin' The Summer Alive in March of 1980. Brian was recruited from his bed, contributing and holding an interest for about three days. The first single from this mediocre, archive-raided album, Goin' On was a jewel of a throwback to an earlier Beach Boys sound, with lead vocals rotated between Mike, Brian and Carl, and arranged by Bruce. The vocals and maturing lyrics are the standout of this cut. Keepin' The Summer Alive was another commercial bomb, compounded by the failure of Brian, Dennis or Carl to tour with the Beach Boys. Brian went back to bed, Dennis was heavy into the LA drug scene, and Carl was on a solo tour to promote his own album, Carl Wilson.

CARL WILSON was becoming more and more discouraged by the band's lack of success. They seemed perfectly content to play songs that were nearly 20 years old rather than move forward musically and, for a brief period, he quit the band, stating that when the rest of the guys were willing to start rehearsing again, they should give him a call. (In the summer of 1980, I was fortunate enough to see CARL WILSON as the opening act for the MICHAEL McDONALD-led DOOBIE BROTHERS and he only performed ONE Beach Boys song during his entire set: GOD ONLY KNOWS.) After a couple of unsuccessful solo albums, he returned to THE BEACH BOYS and teamed with RANDY BACHMAN ... former GUESS WHO guitarist (and BURTON CUMMINGS collaborator) ... and leader of '70's rock giants BACHMAN-TURNER OVERDRIVE ... to write a few songs. LIVIN' WITH A HEARTACHE was as good as anything else out on the radio at the time and yet it, too, failed to chart. Amazingly, CAPITOL RECORDS was able to trounce the momentum of THE BEACH BOYS yet again when they dipped into the archives and released THE BEACH BOYS MEDLEY in 1981, cashing in on the STARS ON 45 Medley-craze that was all over the radio at the time. THE BEACH BOYS MEDLEY (featuring pieces of songs recorded between 1963-1966) went all the way to #8 on the Cash Box Chart ... their first Top Ten Record since the CHUCK BERRY-remake ROCK AND ROLL MUSIC (a #5 hit in 1976.) Once again, their past had gotten the better of them, and soon THE BEACH BOYS were lip-synching these 15 year old recordings on SOLID GOLD! THE BEACH BOYS seemed to be forever competing with their past.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Beach Boys: 1973-1976

Here's a song that probably gets played more today as a Classic Rock hit than it did when it was first released. SAIL ON SAILOR couldn't muster a ranking higher than #79 when it was first released as a single in 1973. Trying to breath new life into the band, THE BEACH BOYS hired BLONDIE CHAPLIN and RICKY FATAAR from the South African group THE FLAME. (Ironically, nobody seemed to notice ... or even care ... that "America's Band" was now not only no longer a "family" act but was also an integrated outfit! Sadly, in the scheme of things, they were considered musically irrelevant.) CARL WILSON had discovered THE FLAME and signed them to a BROTHER RECORDS recording contract. Although THE FLAME's album ALSO tanked, I can't imagine a better vocal than BLONDIE CHAPLIN's on SAIL ON SAILOR. In 1975, after THE BEACH BOYS were hot again (thanks, in large part, to the Capitol Records reissue of some of their classic '60's tracks on a 2-record compilation set entitled ENDLESS SUMMER, a Number #1 album), SAIL ON SAILOR was re-released as a single. This time, it fared a little better, peaking at #49. Amazingly, SURFIN' USA, a 1963 track that Capitol re-released as a single at the same time (cashing in on their ENDLESS SUMMER success) bested this release, peaking at #36 on the Billboard Chart.

The highlight from an otherwise average Beach Boys album, Sail On Sailor was the best cut from Holland. At this point in their career, the Boys were being hoodwinked by a slick, fabricating writer by the name of Jack Rieley. Rieley claimed to have won both Peabody and Pulitzer prizes for his journalism work, and proceeded to ingratiate himself with Brian and the rest of the group. He was put in charge of their public relations at a salary of $600.00 a week. Rieley, deciding that he and The Beach Boys would flourish in new surroundings, convinced the group to pack it all up, lock, stock, barrel, and families, and move to Holland. Brian, at this time, was pretty far gone in his drug usage. Van Dyke Parks, Brian's frequent collaborator, asked Brian to sit down and write a song worthy of including on the Beach Boys Holland album, After several pleas from Brian to have Parks' hypnotize him, he managed to write an incredible song. He tinkered around with it to the point that the rest of the group took the song and did not allow Brian into the studio to finish it. The song credits Brian, Tandyn Almer and Van Dyke Parks as composers, with lyric credit given to Jack Rieley and Ray Kennedy. No one, to this day, has any idea what contribution Kennedy made to the song. Blondie Chaplin sang a great lead vocal, and despite decent airplay, it only peaked at # 79. Interestingly, released again a year later, it would reach # 49 on Billboard.
-- Frannie

According to the STEVEN GAINES book HEROES AND VILLAINS: THE TRUE STORY OF THE BEACH BOYS, there is actually a cassette tape that exists of VAN DYKE PARKS trying to get BRIAN to write a song. The dialogue is hysterical!

BRIAN (in a low, plaintive voice): Hypnotize me, Van Dyke.
VAN DYKE: Cut the shit, Brian. You're a songwriter ... that's what you do ... and I want you to sit down and write a song for me.
BRIAN: Hypnotize me, Van Dyke. Make me believe I'm not crazy. Convince me I'm not crazy.
VAN DYKE: Cut the shit, Brian, and play the tune.
BRIAN: What's the name of the tune?
VAN DYKE: Sail On Sailor.

And, with that, Brian sat down and wrote SAIL ON SAILOR in about twenty minutes!!!

Regarding HOLLAND: The addition of JACK RIELEY as their new manager did not sit well with all of the members of the band. With DENNIS WILSON already out of commission with a broken hand, 40% of the regular recording band disappeared when BRUCE JOHNSTON quit over a lack of trust in Rieley. JOHNSTON had been a BEACH BOYS fixture since joining the band in the Summer of 1965, just in time to add his vocals to the #3 Hit CALIFORNIA GIRLS. This turn of events is what prompted the band to add BLONDIE CHAPLIN and RICKY FATAAR from THE FLAME. The BRIAN WILSON composition, SAIL ON SAILOR, was a last minute addition to the HOLLAND album. Incredibly, new manager JACK RIELEY had convinced the band that, due to their enormous popularity in Europe, they should move to Holland! Even more incredibly, they did it!!! Without any real forethought into living accommodations or booking recording time in advance, THE BEACH BOYS and their families were soon renting eleven different houses within a 50 mile radius of Amsterdam. When they realized that all of the studio time was already booked and, therefore, unavailable, they decided to build their OWN studio in a converted barn in Baambrugge. Word was dispatched back to California to dismantle the recording studio in Brian's home and ship it over to Holland! According to the STEVEN GAINES book HEROES AND VILLAINS, assemblers worked around the clock, packing each component in crates that cost about $5000 a piece to ship to Amsterdam. These crates filled nearly every one of the four flights per day from Los Angeles to Amsterdam. Some of the pieces were so heavy that they actually cracked the tarmac when unloading in Holland ... in all, the component parts weighed nearly 7500 pounds! When the pieces were finally reassembled in Holland, nothing worked! Engineers were then flown over from California and worked eighteen hours a day for four and a half weeks to get the equipment ready for their first recording session. After canceling weeks of tour dates overseas to get the studio built and the album recorded, Warner Brothers once again announced that they hated the final product. And, once again, they turned to VAN DYKE PARKS, who had saved the SURF'S UP album. This time, PARKS went to BRIAN and told him he had to write a hit song. After five days of arguing over what the song should be about, Parks threw out a title: SAIL ON SAILOR. Amazingly, Brian smiled and, within twenty minutes, wrote the signature tune. After eight months in Holland (and an untold incredible expense), the group packed things up and headed back home. It was later learned that pretty much MOST of what JACK RIELEY had to say about himself wasn't exactly the truth. Upon his first introduction to the band, he told them about his winning the Peabody Award for NBC News. He also claimed to have been Executive Administrator to the Democratic Party of the State of Delaware and, as such, a close personal friend of Robert Kennedy. (In fact, when new member RICKY FATAAR was having immigration problems, RIELEY was able to offer a personal letter from Kennedy welcoming him to the United States.) One day at lunch, Rieley was paged and, after taking a phone call, came back to the table and announced that he had just won The Pulitzer Prize for Journalism as the Bureau Chief of NBC-TV in Puerto Rico. When a member of the band's staff found a stack of Robert Kennedy's stationery in Rieley's desk drawer, suspicions were raised as to the authenticity of the letter used in Fataar's immigration proceedings. Shortly thereafter, an investigation proved that not only had Jack Rieley never won a Pulitzer Price or a Peabody Award, but he had never even worked for NBC News! After Rieley's dismissal, BRUCE JOHNSTON was convinced to rejoin the band ... and he and MIKE LOVE are still touring as THE BEACH BOYS to this day.

DON'T IT MAKE YOU WONDER???: This BOBBY KENNEDY story has been circulating for years and is recounted in both the above mentioned HEROES AND VILLAINS book and again in the AMERICAN BAND video. If BOBBY KENNEDY was assassinated in 1968, why would ANYONE believe a letter was supposedly written and signed by him in 1973 ... even if it WAS on his stationery?!?!?!?

COMPETING WITH THEIR PAST: Several times during THE BEACH BOYS' career, their past caught up with them. Being SUCH an innovative band in the early '60's wound up being a huge cross to bear. As early as 1966, while BRIAN was producing the landmark album PET SOUNDS, considered by many critics to be one of the finest albums ever made (in fact, PAUL McCARTNEY has said that PET SOUNDS served as the inspiration for THE BEATLES to do the SGT. PEPPER album ... it raised the bar of what an LP could be), CAPTIOL RECORDS released the BEST OF THE BEACH BOYS album just six weeks after PET SOUNDS first hit the charts. Truthfully, PET SOUNDS took a little getting used to ... even the band members weren't sure BRIAN was headed in the right direction. GOOD VIBRATIONS, released at the end of 1966, was a production masterpiece, taking months to record, spread over several different studios at a then unheard of cost of over $50,000. Now he was pushing the avant-garde, sophisticated sounds of PET SOUNDS on a band that made their name singing about chicks, surfing, chicks, cars and chicks! They readily admitted that they didn't "get" this new sound and were afraid releasing PET SOUNDS would be career suicide. Likewise, the public was not quite ready to accept and adapt to this new sound. Instead of giving the LP a chance, Capitol jumped the gun and released their first Greatest Hits package, effectively killing the sales of their newest release. Ultimately, THE BEST OF THE BEACH BOYS peaked at #8, sold over two million copies, and stayed on the charts for over a year and a half. PET SOUNDS spent a week at #10 and then spiraled down the chart after the GH album was released. In 1974 it would happen again. After low-charting albums like SUNFLOWER, SURF'S UP, CARL AND THE PASSIONS: SO TOUGH and HOLLAND, Capitol Records put together a 2-Record Compilation called ENDLESS SUMMER and watched it go straight to #1 on the LP Charts. In fact, it stayed on the chart for over three years! It also sparked a renewed interest in the band, albeit for the happy California sounds of the past, and introduced the group to a whole new generation of fans. They became a huge concert draw but had to rely on performing the songs that made them famous to sustain any interest with their audience. (Ironically, as part of their separation package with Capitol Records, THE BEACH BOYS retained the rights to their PET SOUNDS album. In an effort to boost sales, Warner Brothers released CARL AND THE PASSIONS: SO TOUGH as a 2-Record Set coupled with the PET SOUNDS LP. It may have helped ... the LP went to #50 on the Billboard Album Chart.) In 1981, THE BEACH BOYS MEDLEY single was released, featuring pieces of the hits GOOD VIBRATIONS, HELP ME RHONDA, I GET AROUND, SHUT DOWN, SURFIN' SAFARI, BARBARA ANN, SURFIN' USA and FUN FUN FUN ala the success of STARS ON 45's BEATLES-medley. It shot up to #8 on the Cash Box Chart, their first Top Ten single since their remake of the CHUCK BERRY classic ROCK AND ROLL MUSIC in 1976. Each time, the music of THE BEACH BOYS reached a new generation of fans, proving again that this music is timeless. However, it also stifled any chances of their new music earning a chance to be listened to. A re-release of SURFIN' USA as a single in 1974 (on the heels of the ENDLESS SUMMER LP success) earned them another Top 40 Hit, while a GREAT song like SAIL ON SAILOR would only peak at #79. Too bad we couldn't accept BOTH generations of the band ... as this series has shown, some really good music went unnoticed and unappreciated.

IRONICALLY: Ironically, while never really diminishing in popularity overseas, THE BEACH BOYS couldn't buy a hit here in the States. Yet, in 1974, ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE named them GROUP OF THE YEAR. Concerts at the BIG SUR FESTIVAL, LA's WHISKEY A GO-GO and a FILLMORE EAST appearance with (believe it or not) THE GRATEFUL DEAD ... along with critically acclaimed album reviews (despite the fact that nobody was actually BUYING their albums), earned them this coveted award. Soon, a campaign to bring BRIAN back was all over the industry and, in 1976, THE BEACH BOYS were back on the charts with a Top 5 single. ROCK AND ROLL MUSIC, the CHUCK BERRY '50's chestnut (which had also been covered by THE BEATLES in 1965) came from their 15 BIG ONES album, and pretty soon, The Boys Were Back In Town. A follow-up single, IT'S OK, went to #29. A beautiful ballad from that LP, EVERYONE'S IN LOVE WITH YOU (written by MIKE LOVE), garnered quite a bit of Soft Rock ariplay that summer, and was released as the B-Side of their next single. Although it didn't chart (and neither did the designated A-Side, SUSIE CINCINNATI, a track that dates back to the ADD SOME MUSIC TO YOUR DAY recording sessions), it's a song that deserved to be heard.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Beach Boys - 1971

One of the conditions required in signing THE BEACH BOYS to Warner Brothers / Reprise Records (and resurrecting their own banner, BROTHER RECORDS, not used since the 1967 single HEROES AND VILLAINS, the LP SMILEY SMILE and the one-off single credited to BRIAN AND MIKE, GETTING HUNGRY) was that BRIAN WILSON be actively involved in the songwriting and production of any new BEACH BOYS product. After the overall failure of SUNFLOWER, an LP that BRIAN put his heart and soul into, (he wrote seven of the twelve songs included on the LP), he once again retreated to his bedroom, feeling pretty much uninspired to continue the effort which seemed to be falling on the public's deaf or uninterested ears. By the time THE BEACH BOYS were ready to record the follow-up LP, BRIAN was not really interested in participating, even though many of the recordings were being done right in his own home studio. THE BEACH BOYS were now under the wing of new manager JACK RIELEY, a former KPFK disc jockey, who once interviewed BRIAN on his radio program and then sent an outline of how he felt the band could revitalize their career. One point made was that THE BEACH BOYS should take an environmental stand and soon they were hard at work on their next LP, tentatively titled LANDLOCKED. RIELEY received songwriting credit on three of the tracks (LONG PROMISED ROAD, the first single, co-written with CARL and FEEL FLOWS, recently featured in the CAMERON CROWE film ALMOST FAMOUS, also written with CARL. Rieley also wrote A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A TREE with Brian.) Once again, Warner Brothers was not impressed with the LP, feeling that it ALSO lacked a hit single. (As with the SUNFLOWER scenario we told you about earlier, the label was right again ... LONG PROMISED ROAD, released TWICE as a single, never made it past #79.) Word was dispatched to songwriter VAN DYKE PARKS, now a Warners executive, who had collaborated with Brian on many of the songs from the aborted SMILE album: Would it be possible to get ANY better material from Brian that might constitute a hit single? VAN DYKE PARKS had cowritten the Top Ten Hit HEROES AND VILLAINS and helped to stir additional controversy amongst the band members who had absolutely NO clue what these lyrics were supposed to be about! (Keep in mind that, up until the PET SOUNDS LP, MIKE LOVE was pretty much only singing about cars, chicks and surfing!) VAN DYKE recalled a song that BRIAN had performed on a LEONARD BERNSTEIN television special saluting American songwriters called SURF'S UP. In fact, SURF'S UP was originally planned to be the crowning centerpiece of the SMILE album ... and had been sitting in the can since that filmclip was made in 1966. He played the short excerpt that existed to the powers that be at Warner Brothers and they LOVED it ... it was "classical" rock at its finest ... the song simply HAD to be finished and included on the new LP. (They were SO sure that it was a hit that they quickly changed the name of the album to SURF'S UP.) Brian was absolutely adamant that it not be released ... he had shelved the SMILE tracks and did NOT want SURF'S UP released under any circumstances. The band and the label prevailed, however and it holds up today as one of the most sophisticated rock compositions ever written ... the LP went to #29 and THE BEACH BOYS were back ... almost. Instead of being the revolutionary break-through that everyone seemed so certain of, the single tanked ... in fact, it never even made the charts at all! Regarded today as one of Brian's finest achievements, NOBODY bought it back in 1971 ... and, once again, THE BEACH BOYS could not buy a hit.
(I remember watching the LEONARD BERNSTEIN TV Special solely to see BRIAN WILSON ... when he began performing a solo version of SURF'S UP, I have to admit that I had NO clue which direction his music was headed. Even co-writer VAN DYKE PARKS to this day cannot explain what the sophisticated, poetic lyrics mean ... and HE wrote 'em!!! But there is NO denying that this piece of music was lighyears ahead of its time for 1996/1967. )

The B-Side of the SURF'S UP single was the lead track from the LP. Written by MIKE LOVE and AL JARDINE, DON'T GO NEAR THE WATER took the ecological theme of the LP to its fullest extent. It was a nice, soft-rock ballad that I remember hearing all the time on the Adult Contemporary / Soft Rock stations here in Chicago in the early '70's ... yet, once again, it failed to chart. The last official Top 40 BEACH BOYS single was I CAN HEAR MUSIC, released while they were still with Capitol, in 1969. They would not have another Top 40 Hit until 1974 ... amazingly, when Capitol re-released SURFIN' U.S.A. as a single, cashing in on the #1 compilation LP ENDLESS SUMMER. Nothing released in the interim under the new BROTHER / WARNER-REPRISE label peaked above #49. Unfortunately, even THE BEACH BOYS themselves began to believe that they were more marketable as an "oldies" band than for any new music they might create. (By the way, they resurrected the eleven year old recording of DON'T GO NEAR THE WATER and released it once again as a B-Side, this time to their 1982 hit COME GO WITH ME, a remake of the DELL-VIKINGS song, which actually went all the way to #18 for THE BEACH BOYS.)

If IN MY ROOM was one of the most introspective, soul-baring songs a very young BRIAN WILSON had ever written, then TILL I DIE completes that circle as an adult. When LONG PROMISED ROAD was released for the second time as a single from the SURF'S UP album, it was paired with this WILSON classic for an October, 1971 release. This time, the "A" Side (which failed to chart during its first release) peaked at #79 ... but the far-superior "B" Side never charted at all ... yet stands today as one of Brian's greatest (and most personal) compositions. Part of the stipulation in signing THE BEACH BOYS to the Warner Brothers label was that BRIAN be, in some way, involved in the studio with all of their releases. He barely kept up his end of the bargain on the SURF'S UP album. However, if the ONLY song he ever contributed again was TILL I DIE, then justice was served ... it's a BEAUTIFUL song and arrangement.

Full of introspection and melancholy, Til I Die is a stand-out cut from the Surf's Up album of 1971. Beautiful, complex harmonies with a lead vocal by Brian comprise this song of resignation and despair. To that measure, Brian was pretty whacked out at this time by his heavy drug usage. He had ordered his gardener to dig a grave in his backyard and had threatened to drive his Rolls off the Santa Monica pier. One evening, with his wife Marilyn asleep, Brian drove to the beach. Filled with feelings of torment and confusion, he envisioned himself proportionate to a small jellyfish floating on the surface of the vast body of water. The following day he began work on Til I Die, trying to capture those feelings of insignificance and smallness. Brian experimented with various rhythms and chord changes, trying to emulate the ocean's tides, and to portray the feeling of being a small object, such as a raft, adrift, and the destination and final outcome being out of one's hands.
-- Frannie

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Beach Boys: 1970

After a seven year, VERY lucrative and successful association with CAPITOL RECORDS, THE BEACH BOYS found themselves without a record label ... and not in very high demand. The general feeling was that their time had passed and America didn't want to hear songs about cars and surfing anymore. Coupled with the fact that the industry felt THE BEACH BOYS were nothing without their leader BRIAN WILSON ... and Brian was completely burnt out at the time and nowhere near as involved in their career as he once was as their guiding light ... most labels felt it was just too great a risk to sign the band. Were it not for the fact that MO OSTIN, head of WARNER BROTHERS RECORDS was a HUGE Beach Boys fan, there is no telling how long they might have drifted without a recording contract. He signed them to Warners' subsidiary REPRISE RECORDS and then promptly rejected the first album they submitted! Originally titled ADD SOME MUSIC, Warner Brothers felt the material was weak and lacked a hit single ... and sent the Boys back to the drawing board. After a few new songs were added (and a few others dropped) they once again rejected the new LP, now called SUN FLOWER (two words). Renaming the LP SUNFLOWER (one word), and doing some final tweaking and fine-tuning, the album was finally released in August of 1970. Today, it is considered by many to be their finest group effort, with some folks ranking it ahead of PET SOUNDS in total musical content ... but, at the time, it went virtually unnoticed, peaking at #151 on the Billboard Album Chart ... and lasting on that chart for only four weeks. In fact, it was the worst chart-showing for a new BEACH BOYS album ever to that point. When ADD SOME MUSIC TO YOUR DAY was released as the LP's first single, it didn't make much of an impression either, peaking at #64 on Billboard's Singles Chart. (It did go to #49 in Cash Box and to #39 here in Chicago ... but, by and large, it was ignored by radio.) Today, it's a regular part of BRIAN WILSON's Concert Performance and, lyrically, he says, is one of the best songs he's ever written. The song describes just how many different ways music comes into our lives during the course of a normal day ... and, had THE BEACH BOYS not fallen so out of favor with the tastes of their musical audience, should have been a much bigger hit than it was.

By all appearances, REPRISE RECORDS was right ... there was NO hit single material on the SUNFLOWER album. After ADD SOME MUSIC TO YOUR DAY failed to make the Top 40, they released the BRUCE JOHNSTON-penned track TEARS IN THE MORNING backed with IT'S ABOUT TIME, a DENNIS WILSON tune. This time, NEITHER song charted. The next release was SLIP ON THROUGH (another one of Dennis' tunes) coupled with THIS WHOLE WORLD, a VERY catchy BRIAN WILSON track that gets you singing along instantly and captures the very essence of BEACH BOYS music ... and still comes in at under two minutes! The result was yet another non-chart single. Finally, they released COOL COOL WATER (a track originally started during the SMILE sessions) backed with DENNIS WILSON's beautiful ballad FOREVER ... and, again, THE BEACH BOYS were "shut down" on the charts. Despite critical acclaim, SUNFLOWER was, by all accounts, a clunker ... too bad, because some great, outstanding BEACH BOYS music was overlooked by the public.

A few years ago, my son Steven, who was "encouraged" to listen to Beach Boys music from birth, asked me what my favorite all-time BB song was. I had never really thought about it in the many years that I was a BB fan / listener. All their songs then started running through my head, and finally I told him that I would have to give him my answer the following day. What to choose? Sail On Sailor, which isn't typical BB at all, but one of their finest, Pet Sounds' God Only Knows, showcasing Carl's exquisite vocals, Dance Dance Dance ... a terrific representation of traditional BB music. It was so hard to come up with a favorite, but I finally chose This Whole World (Steven's reply ..."whaaaaat"?). This Whole World, from The Boys' superb Sunflower album, is a 2 minute wonder of Brian Wilson at his masterful best. With a perfect lead vocal from Carl, the lyrics aren't really deep or meaningful, just very personal. With that first lyrical line, "late at night I think about the love of this whole world ... lots of different people everywhere ..." simple, but profound. Have a listen to what's happening in the background. This was the Phil Spector influence of which Brian was so enamored. Very spiritual in sound and content, this was also a tip of the hat to Mike Love, who had taken up Transcendental Meditation ... listen for the TM "ommm" chant in the background.

Probably the least talented member of THE BEACH BOYS (both musically and vocally) was drummer DENNIS WILSON. (BRIAN WILSON was using studio musicians on drums on even their earliest recordings. In fact, it was only at his mother's insistence that Dennis was allowed to be in the band.) DENNIS was, however, the heart, soul and inspiration for the band. It was Dennis, the only REAL surfer amongst themselves, who first suggested to brother BRIAN that he write a song about the latest California craze ... and, in 1962, the hit single SURFIN' launched the career of America's Band. Dennis was, undeniably, the sex symbol of the group. He had the classic California surfer / beach bum look. And, in 1970, he wrote what would become one of the prettiest ballads THE BEACH BOYS ever recorded. Despite this fact, FOREVER never even hit the charts. The song was given new life in the late '80's when FULL HOUSE TV-heart-throb JOHN STAMOS began performing the song on the television series. (He even sang it at his own wedding!) In fact, in 1993, a new version of the song was released on THE BEACH BOYS' album SUMMER IN PARADISE, featuring STAMOS on lead vocals ... and, once again, it failed to chart. (Stamos had been performing on and off with THE BEACH BOYS for quite a few years by this point ... he even appeared in their KOKOMO video.) It's said that during the time of BRIAN's mental and physical collapse, while under round-the-clock medical care, DENNIS was feeding his brother drugs on the sly in exchange for songwriting tips and ideas. Whether or not this is true, Dennis suddenly moved to the forefront as one of the band's leading songwriters. (He wrote or shared songwriting credit on four songs on SUNFLOWER alone.) He was also encouraged enough to try his hand at acting (anybody remember that God Only Knows How AWFUL film fiasco TWO LANE BLACKTOP, co-starring JAMES TAYLOR?) and even released a critically acclaimed solo album, PACIFIC OCEAN BLUE, recently released as a deluxe edition 2-CD set. It was almost enough to make you forgive and forget the time he spent hanging out with THE MANSON FAMILY in the late '60's. (not) Conflicts with the other members of the band and recurring bouts with drug and alcohol abuse caused Dennis to be removed from the lineup on several occassions ... but, returning with broken-heart in hand and begging for forgiveness, he was generally reinstated a short time later. (In fact, when Dennis broke his hand ... some say intentionally ... in 1972, it paved the way for BLONDIE CHAPLIN and RICKY FATAAR ... formerly of THE FLAME ... to join the touring and recording band ... we'll be featuring one of their greatest BEACH BOYS contributions later this week in FORGOTTEN HITS.) Tragically, years later, DENNIS WILSON, once again ousted from the band he helped to build, drowned while heavily intoxicated on December 28, 1983.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Beach Boys ... America's Band

In honor of The Fourth of July Weekend ... and Y103.9's BEACH BOYS Weekend ... we've decided to rerun a piece that we first did back in 2003, spotlighting what was AT THE TIME some GREAT, overlooked BEACH BOYS Music. Be sure to tune in to JIM SHEA's Morning Show on Thursday, July 3rd, to listen to us feature some of these tunes on the air. You can listen live here:
Click here: Y103.9 - The Greatest Hits of All Time - Listen Live to WWYW ...
and then KEEP listening all weekend long as Y103.9 salutes America's Band ... THE BEACH BOYS!


There probably hasn't been another band in rock and roll history that has fallen in and out of favor with the music-buying public more often than THE BEACH BOYS. The so-called "America's Band" may just as well be known as the "are we hot or are we not" band. Although they've never really stopped recording new music, by 1969 their California surfin' sound had grown passe in comparison to some of the harder rock and more meaningful lyrics by the singer / songwriters of the day. During their hey-day on top, however, they managed to hit the U.S. Top 40 thirty times with timeless classics like SURFIN' U.S.A., SURFER GIRL and SURFIN' SAFARI, car tunes like FUN FUN FUN, I GET AROUND, DON'T WORRY BABY and LITTLE DEUCE COUPE and California anthems like CALIFORNIA GIRLS and DO IT AGAIN, not to mention rock and roll standards like GOOD VIBRATIONS, HELP ME RHONDA and WOULDN'T IT BE NICE. Inexplicably, they became hot again in 1974 when Capitol Records released their ENDLESS SUMMER album, a compilation of earlier hits that actually topped the Billboard Album Chart. In fact, a year later they were back in The Top Ten on the Singles Chart as well, with their version of the CHUCK BERRY classic ROCK AND ROLL MUSIC, and playing to sold out crowds on tour with CHICAGO after collaborating on CHICAGO's hit WISHING YOU WERE HERE. Forays into disco (HERE COMES THE NIGHT, 1979) failed miserably yet another taste of nostalgia (THE BEACH BOYS MEDLEY, #8 in 1981) kept the magic alive. Their return to the #1 spot in 1988 with KOKOMO, a 22 year gap since they last topped the pop charts with GOOD VIBRATIONS, earned them a whole new fan base. In between (the "off again" times), they continued to record some GREAT music ... but no one was listening. As lifelong BEACH BOYS fans, FRANNIE and I have put together a week of "must-hear" BEACH BOYS songs that WE believe would have been hits had they been released during one of their "on again" periods ... or, at the very least, are essential listening to fully appreciate the depth of the band. And I don't just mean the obvious stuff like SAIL ON SAILOR, which probably gets played more TODAY than it did when it was first released (and bombed) as a single in 1973. (Upon its initial release, it peaked at #79 ... a re-release in '75 fared a little better, reaching #49 ... but today it's part of the classic rock rotation on many of the better stations.) Some of these you'll know ... some you may not ... and others may jar a memory or two. So give us a listen ... indulge us for a week of lost BEACH BOYS classics ... grab your surfboard and hit the high tide as we remember some of our favorites ... all week long in FORGOTTEN HITS.
After KOKOMO topped the charts in 1988 (it eventually spent six months on the charts), THE BEACH BOYS re-signed with CAPITOL RECORDS and a new LP was commissioned. (Well, ONE-THIRD of an LP anyway ... four new songs were recorded, their ridiculous pairing with THE FAT BOYS on the WIPE OUT remake was added and the rest of the album was filled out with what was advertised as BEACH BOYS "Movie Music" ... songs featured in films like GOOD MORNING VIETNAM (I GET AROUND), THE BIG CHILL (WOULDN'T IT BE NICE) and SOUL MAN (CALIFORNIA GIRLS) ... songs that were already 20+ years old from movies that were then about TEN years old! Another new single was released (STILL CRUISIN' ... very similar sounding in arrangement to KOKOMO, and featured in the MEL GIBSON film LEATAL WEAPON 2) and, despite constant rotation on VH-1 (including a HUGE sports car giveaway tie-in), it stopped at #93 on the charts. Too bad ... once again, THE BEACH BOYS were out of fashion. But the REAL shame is that their NEXT single, SOMEWHERE NEAR JAPAN, didn't get played at all ... and it's a pretty good song. We're kicking off this new special series with this track ... a song many of you may have never even heard before ... thus illustrating the very point of what we'll be doing here all week long!