Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Life Of Brian


I've been listening to a lot of old Beach Boys stuff this week, I suppose for two main reasons (besides that I love it): 1) that new album, which I don't yet have, but have been streaming off the internets...the last three songs a beautiful mini-suite I hope in a way is the last thing Brian Wilson ever writes for them, it's so perfect 2) reading Fuel-Injected Dreams, a gift from Drew, which references that era, the pre-Beatles US pop period of surf songs and Spector and Brian.

Digging out an old/not-so-old Wilson solo album from the late 90s I hardly ever play and listening to it again, one song especially leapt out at me.

I looked the record up. And should have know this was an old song, one he'd noodled about with many times over the years but never officially released (massive shout out/acknowledgements here to Wanarkey's Beach Boys Blog whence the older tracks are sourced).

Here it is at an early stage - mostly the instrumental track but a work in progress with vocal parts being overdubbed...

The Beach Boys - 'Sandy (2nd vocal overdub)' (1965)

Here it is in 1976, the 15 Big Ones period, raggedy but kind of complete, with new lyrics and the girl's name changed, again not released...

The Beach Boys - 'Sherry She Needs Me' (1976)

And here from Imagination, with another new title and some big production that has just enough of the classic era sound to cut it...

Brian Wilson - 'She Says That She Needs Me' (1998)

There are lots of Brian Wilson songs like this...worked on, abandoned, revisited, worked on again through the years.

It tells us a lot, I think: that he comes back to things because he still hears them in his head and wants to get them 'out there'; that almost back on the sort of treadmill in the late 80s/90s that proved so disastrous to his mental health in the mid 60s, there was pressure like the old pressure to come up with material, but with the creative juices not flowing as easily, it proved pragmatic to dig out old stuff; but mostly that back then so much was flowing that even songs other people would sweat blood to create were left lying around - with always another elusive tune to chase, always another musical wave crashing on the shore.

16 comments:

  1. Best piece you've done for a very long time. *raises glass (cup of tea)*

    Lovely work Davy boy.

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  2. Thanks! Sort of came tumbling out.

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  3. In my experience the best ones always do. Plan too much the words get bored and look around for something else to do.

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  4. Oh yes, there's never any planning around here. As I'm sure is obvious.

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  5. the beach boys remain baffling here - i've never managed to get a grip. is there a good way to try and ease in. or something that will astound them into my ears. i mean i know god only knows is so perfect it's almost impossible to listen to without bursting but oh you know what about all the rest?
    i shall be having a good old go on this lot obviously
    x

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  6. Capitol wanted LPs to come thick and fast to sell singles in the early-mid 60s, and poor Brian was forced to knock them out at a frightening rate (two or three a year sometimes) - album quality suffers big time. Until the mid-late 60s/early 70s I don't really think of them as an 'album band' at all. There are sublime individual tracks - beautiful Brian ballads to have you 'bursting' again (In My Room, Surfer Girl, Warmth Of The Sun, Don't Worry Baby) and timeless pop classics, not all of them singles - on all the early releases though.

    Just as we start to get semi-proper albums, then 'Pet Sounds' (and its famous foreshadowing on the melancholy 2nd side of 'Beach Boys Today'), it all goes horribly wrong as BW goes into serious meltdown, 'Smile' is shelved, and he's then in and out of the picture for the next ten years.

    On the other hand with Brian 'indisposed' and contributing songs/producing only sporadically, the other BBs, especially brothers Carl & Dennis, start coming into their own as songwriters and contribute lovely things to albums like 'Sunflower' (1970) (some beautiful, beautiful Dennis songs like 'Forever') 'Surf's Up' (1971) (title track left over from 'Smile', Brian's masterful 'Till I Die', Carl's 'Feel Flows' & 'Long Promised Road' and even Bruce 'I Write The Songs' Johnston's 'Disney Girls (1957)') and, a big personal fave of mine, 'Holland' (1973). '20/20' from 1969 is a sort of Beach Boys 'Hatful Of Hollow'.

    After 'Holland' there are less than a handful of good things, and they are very thinly spread indeed.

    I would happily send you some sort of comp or playlist if you'd like my dear x

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  7. you are a wonderful jewel packed mine old thing. if you've got a mo and fancy cobbling together some songs that'd be glorious. if it's not too much trouble and all. ta ever so
    x

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  8. I'll get right on it. I know you don't like shiny silver discs so I'll try to do it all modern and zip file.

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  9. Except dagnabbit just tried - file too big to upload. Er...leave it with me.

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  10. http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/entertainment/articles/playlists/the-beach-boys-classics-selected-by-brian-wilson
    is a good introduction if you can bear to buy a shiny cd Ally. I don't read GQ by the way, it was the only page that wasn't blocked trying to link this while at work.

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  11. That is a good one, that, and I was minded to mention it meself.

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  12. Top work young Davy. I've never heard those older versions.

    Slightly off topic - in the same way you sort of hope the new mini-suite is the last thing Brian writes for the Beach Boys I often think it would have been perfect if Bowie had retired after Ashes To Ashes and the Scary Monsters LP. Of course we would have been denied the genius of 'Tonight' and 'Never Let Me Down' but it seemed such a perfect career closer.

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  13. That BB blog I mentioned looks worth a trawl Mick - lots of rare stuff there.

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  14. Postscript: Brian is 70 today. Happy Birthday Brian. Thank you for the music.

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