Archive for the ‘Beach Boys’ Category

If It’s July…It’s Europe

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

July may be month of national days in the USA and Canada, but this July, Brian Wilson will be touring in Europe in an extended European jaunt that extends into June and August. Brian will be covering a number of countries, and performing at some festivals in what could be (but maybe not) his last European jaunt. The full itinerary can be seen here.

The Duality Of The Elements

Saturday, June 10th, 2017

Image result for what are the 4 elements In my part of the world, the Western Cape, we have seen the duality of the elements. The wind and water have brought healing rain during our worst drought, but also floods and damage in Cape Town. Fire keeps us warm in winter, but has just devastated the beautiful coastal towns of Plettenberg Bayand Knysna.

SMiLE is an album of duality…the heroes and the villains…and indeed there are some things that are black and white, pure evil or pure good.  But much is in between, and as we celebrate the rain, we mourn the loss of life of property and the devastation in Knysna. All four of the elements that are part of the album have their power to build and to destroy. But whether we save the world, or destroy, will depend on that fifth element …love, good vibrations, the forces that bring people together rather than divide them.

SMiLE Track-By-Track XVII: Good Vibrations

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

“Good Vibrations” cover

It’s appropriate to end our revisit of the SMiLE track-by-track on the day the rains came to Cape Town. We got our drought relief. But in the ensuing, some lost their lives while others lost their livelihoods.

You know this song. And indeed, I’ve already covered this song on this blog on the 40th anniversary of it’s release, which I noted then was a highpoint for the group, and unfortunately the only was down. So the question is, does it belong on SMiLE?

I believe the answer is yes -for both commercial and thematic reasons. Commercially, I believe it had to be there, just as Sloop John B had to be on Pet Sounds- a strong hook to buy the album. Brian wasn’t oblivious to commercial necessity and it was on the original SMiLE tracklist.

Thematically, I see Good Vibrations as a kind of “fifth element” -the non-visible, almost spiritual connection that one can have between people; the transcedesence that is hinted at in the fire and water segments that precede this song.

On the 2004 version of the completed SMiLE, Brian goes back to the original Tony Asher lyrics and adds the hum-de-dum sections that was not part of the original single. Some may have seen it as churlish to move away from the song that everyone knew, but this was always going to be remake, and the differences provide some good distinguishing features and it certainly rocked in live performances.

SMiLE Track-By-Track XVI: In Blue Hawaii

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

As I repeat my original write-up of the “water” element, we have the worst drought for many generations in Cape Town. We definitely need some healing water soon- it’s in the forecast, let’s hope it comes for real.

We move from the fire to the cleansing water, but the initial part of the “water” section is the atonal water chant. Then suddenly, the music changes to the elemental, healing “I love to say da da” and we are magically transported to Hawaii and some of the most beautiful harmonies and music imaginable.

The resulting creation, In Blue Hawaii, is for my money, one of the top songs in Brian’s canon, and made SMiLE well worth almost four decades of waiting. Water is the purifying ,cleansing element, and the lyrics certainly hint at the Christian concept of washing away sin. Even outside that context, there is definite sense of escaping from the madness into some sort of paradise, and the song, presumably only finished in 2004, definitely fits in well with the overall redemption that concluded the story of SMiLE.

One of things that has struck me about SMiLE is the “elemental” nature of the music- not just the elements theme that is part of the album, but the way that much of the music has a way of sticking in your head, as if Brian has found the very element of a pure pop melody. The main refrain- known originally as I Love To Say Da Da and resurrected in Cool Cool Water- has a childlike quality to it, but once you hear it, you’ll never forget it. Just like water itself, it seems part of the very basics of music and life.

Shortcuts To Infinity

Saturday, May 27th, 2017

DVD Stephen Kalinich has been an integral part of the Beach Boys story, having written with all the Wilson brothers, and now there is a movie project about him in the works, subject to some funding. Head over to this Kickstarter page to find out more.

SMiLE Track-By-Track XV: Mrs O’Leary’s Cow

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

This is the one track in the Beach Boys/Brian Wilson canon that genuinely scares me, and one that I have mixed feelings about. Of course, it has a history with Brian Wilson’s own paranoia and belief that the track had some sort of power to inflict troubles, but the reality is that the track became a key part of the SMiLE debacle that imposed huge mental chains on Brian.

Mrs O’Leary’s Cow is a track like no other in Brian’s ouevre. Forget the silly whistles that lead-in the track; the music is like a descent to hell, with a heaviness that rival’s anything that metal can bring up. It’s not necessarily an enjoyable experience, but there is a power that is overwhelming, and no amount of fireman’s hats and whistling can distract that there is something intense happening here.

Most peversely, but in line with the singularity of this piece, the song got the only proper Grammy that Brian and the Beach Boys ever got, for best instumental. This is despite the humming in the song, and even more so, despite Brian being known as the master of vocal harmony.

But in album of duality, the element fire, which this song clearly represents, has the most duality of all. Fire can detroy and kill, but at the same time, it can also renew by burning out the old to allow the new to grow. And that is the miracle of SMiLE, that the fire that almost consumed Brian eventually lead to his biggest redemption.


It Wasn’t SMiLE But….

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

1967 was the Summer of Love, the year of Sgt. Pepper and the year SMiLE didn’t happen. But even although the Beach Boys faded from their 1966 critical and commercial success, they did do quite a lot, including two studio albums.

To celebrate that, we will now be getting 2 CDs worth of rarities, including the first stereo mix of Wild Honey, on 30 June. You can see more detail here, and start looking forward to celebrating a year that still saw some great new Beach Boys music.

51 Years Great

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Although the Pet Sounds 50 year tour is still ongoing, the greatest album ever turns 51 today. Here is what I said about it a year ago.

SMiLE Track-By-Track XIV: Wind Chimes

Monday, May 15th, 2017

Windchimes have a distinctly spiritual quality and this song pays tribute to these popular household items, as well the air element. As with much of SMiLE, there is a real sense of contrast, especially between the slow, ethereal first part of the song and the quite heavy instrumental fadeout. Of course, the element air is one of contrasts- it can be the light breeze, or the raging hurricane.

SMiLE Track-By-Track XIII: On A Holiday

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

This is an interesting track, a bit of a break (holiday?) from the elements theme. Instrumental sections called Holiday were known to collectors, but on the completed 2004 album, it becomes a fully realised vocal track called On A Holiday. The “pirate” lyrics gave the track and album a certain coolness, and there was speculation whether the pirates referred back to the abovementioned collectors. Nick Walusko did his pirate rap and overall, this was one of the fun moments on SMiLE.

Things get a bit more serious at the end with the beautiful “long long ago” and the “whispering winds” section leading into the next part of the “elements”…