SMiLE, America

February 26th, 2017

Image result for brian wilson presents smile Having finished reading Brian Wilson’s new autobiography, there is little doubt that SMiLE was pivotal to Brian’s life- the book opens with the first performance of the album in 2004. Brian’s breakdown in 1964 and Pet Sounds were also very important -indeed matching the greatness of Pet Sounds was surely one of the reasons SMiLE was such as challenge to complete -  but the collapse and redemption of SMiLE  mirrors Brian’s own retreat and recovery.

The book also talks about the connection between SMiLE and America – Brian notes that the album is about the whole world, but particularly about America. The first movement in particular covers the breadth of the country, from Hawaii to Plymouth Rock, the growth of the country, the heroes and villains and great American music. It shows the possibilities and greatness of the country, the ability to assimilate many things and come out even greater. In this respect, as we celebrate 50 years since SMiLE was originally scheduled to be released, maybe America needs a SMiLE even more than ever.

The SMiLE That You Give

February 20th, 2017

Image result for brian wilson presents smile There was no release date in 1967 for SMiLE. Given that most of the sessions took place in the later part of 1966, and the last studio album from the Beach Boys was Pet Sounds in May 1966,  in an alternate universe we may well have seen the Beach Boys releasing SMiLE exactly 5o years ago. But the legend took a different turn, and instead we saw the first “release” of SMiLE in a live concert in London exactly 13 years ago. And I was one of the very lucky people who was there.

February 20, 2004 will always be one of the greatest day of my life, when I was a live witness to musical history being made in the company of the some greatest legends of rock and pop (Paul McCartney, George Martin and Paul Weller were there as well as the co-creator of SMiLE Van Dyke Parks). SMiLE is a great album, but it will always be even more special to me, because of that connection.

Over the next few months, this blog will celebrate the 50th anniversary of SMiLE being shelved and celebrate the music itself. As we will see, SMiLE is ultimately a microcosm of life itself, as well as the triumph against adversity. The world may well have done with a SMiLE in 1967 but now , more than ever, we need it in 2017.

Grammys Only Know II

February 13th, 2017

You can know watch the Grammy tribute to those who passed on in the last year online here, including John Legend and Cynthia Erivo singing God Only Knows,  around which the tribute was based.

Grammys Only Know

February 9th, 2017

Ted Jensen's 2002 Grammy.jpg The Grammy’s haven’t been that kind to Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, but this year’s event will see God Only Knows being used for the In Memoriam section, which will unfortunately feature a lot of great musicians.  The special arrangement will be sung by John Legend and Broadway star Cynthia Erivo.

Showtime Pet Sounds

February 4th, 2017

It might be a year late for the 50th anniversary, but Showtime have just announced a documentary on the iconic album, which will be premiered in April. Titled Beach Boys: Making Pet Sounds, it will be the second time Showtime will cover a major Beach Boys/Brian Wilson -they were responsible for Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson And The Story Of Smile , which covered Brian’s revival of SMiLE in 2004. And of course, it will be the 50th anniversary this year of when SMiLE was originally planned to be released.

Brian’s Hidden Beauties CXLVII: Our Special Love

January 28th, 2017

Image result for brian wilson our special love

The first taster of No Pier Pressure was this collaborative track, featuring Peter Hollens. It was released on September 28, 2014, more than six months before the album saw the light of day. Peter Hollens is known as an a capella artist, and although this song does feature some instumentation, it is the lovely vocals that are a standout on the track. Once again, it’s a Brian-related track which has a very special transcendental feel which takes romantic love from the mundane to a very spiritual place.

Brian’s Hidden Beauties CXLVI: That’s Why God Made The Radio

January 22nd, 2017

Image result for that's why god made the radio

Hearing this song played in a restaurant recently reminded of the Beach Boys 2012 reunion, which looks like it now won’t be replicated. So here is what I original wrote about the title song of the Beach Boys last album just after its release.

It might look it was written by committee, but sometimes committee’s do produce decent results especially when Brian Wilson is a member (Sail On Sailor and Isn’t It Timeare other examples). This song is symbolic of the 2012 Beach Boys comeback, being the first single and the title track from the comeback album.

That’s Why God Made The Radio works because it is a nostalgic, heartfelt look at the classic era of pop music -it’s a ballad with an understated arrangement, bar a cranked-up guitar in the middle, which may be a sop to the newer generation of listeners. And with Brian back on the lead vocals and the magic harmonies, you know that the Beach Boys are back.

10 Teenage Influences

January 14th, 2017

A lot of people are revealing the 10 records that influenced them most as a teenager, so I thought I would join the bandwagon and list mine. You may notice this is a Brian Wilson/Beach Boys free list, as my love for the group only emerged in my 20s. The list probably reflects more the acts that impacted me the most, with the albums being the ones that the have had the longest lifetime impact.

1) Beatles -Abbey Road

2) Simon & Garfunkel-Bookends

3) Bob Dylan- Blood On The Tracks

4) The Jam- Sound Affects

5) The Smiths- The World Won’t Listen (I know technically a compilation…)

6) Kane Gang- The Bad And Lowdown World Of The Kane Gang

7) Bruce Springsteen- Born To Run

8) George Harrison- All Things Must Pass

9) David Bowie- Hunky Dory

10) Paul McCartney & Wings- Band On The Run

Brian’s Hidden Beauties CXLV: The Little Girl I Once Knew

January 9th, 2017

Beach Boys - The Little Girl I Once Knew.jpg

When Brian Wilson commenced his return to the road in 1999, his opening track was The Little Girl I Once Knew - chosen it seems as a balance between a minor chart hit/Beach Boys classic and an avant-garde track showcasing Brian’s production skills. Certainly, after California Girls (intro notwithstanding)  and Help Me Rhonda, the silences and unconventional song structure were something of a shock, leading to a subdued chart performance.

In retrospect, this single-only track was an important stop  on the road to Pet Sounds and SMiLE, with the pocket symphony approach and loss-of-innocence lyrics. As at the start of the 1999 tour, the song is a clear testament to the creativity and genius of Brian.


Exit 2016 Stage Left

January 5th, 2017

2016 became more than just a year….by the end of December, it was a malevolent living entity, killing heroes and dividing people in a way that seemed planned by some dark demonic forces. While some people undoubtedly had good years and there was a lot more good than people may give the year credit for, the buzz on social media was certainly around more hope in 2017 than fondness for the year for the year past.

Given the nature of the year, it’s not surprising the biggest story in Beach Boys land was not the autobiographies of Mike Love and Brian Wilson, or the successful Pet Sounds 50 tour, but the possibility of Mike Love’s Beach Boys playing at Trump’s inauguration. There isn’t any doubt Brian Wilson wouldn’t consider it for a second after signing up for the Not Afraid initiative, where he has a prominent place at the end.

So what does 2017 hold? Brian’s rock and roll album? The Bedroom Tapes? The only thing for certain is that Brian’s Pet Sounds 50 tour will extend beyond the 51st anniversary of the album, and while it isn’t exactly a never-ending tour, Brian’s later day role as a road warrior continues. The one thing we have learned is that nothing is certain, and I can only wish readers of the blog health and happiness, as well as love and mercy.