Tag Archives: Beach Boys

Up Fanno Creek with a Paddle – A Band on Its Way

3 Feb

Fanno Creek

One of the definitions of the word monument is “something venerated for its enduring significance.” It is also the title of Portland Indie-Rock staple Fanno Creek’s new album, and one listen to the band’s music proves the definition apt. A beloved sing-along band in the city of roses, Fanno Creek is ready to spread its arms and fly over the musical waves of all 50 states and beyond … and maybe soon become a monument. While I am admittedly overwhelmingly kind on the Music Court, I reserve the 50-state praise for the bands I feel are ready to spread rapidly, and this trio consisting of Quinn Mulligan, Evan Hailstone, Dane Brist is more than ready.

Bands that depend on harmonies need to maintain a closeness that other bands may get away with lacking. Fellow Northwestern harmony-kings Fleet Foxes formed by way of two long-time friends. Fanno Creek shares a similar tale. Evan Hailstone and Quinn Mulligan knew each other in diapers and started making music together in their mid-teens. In college, the duo expanded to include drummer Dane Brist, and after several incarnations formed Fanno Creek in 2009. Since then, the band has toured the local circuit, forming a loyal following of music lovers who know good tunes when they hear them. With Monuments, it is time that the word spread.

“On My Way” is a quintessential example of why I cannot stop listening to Fanno Creek. The song starts with an infectious harmony pasted over a pounding singular drum. The vocals are intricate. The incipient harmony leads into a pure layered vocal over a gospel clap, an element slightly unconventional to Indie/folk music but quite refreshing and unique. Brist’s drum is not far behind, and it crashes into a culmination of symphonic sounds and this majesty diapason of harmonies and electronics. It is a wave of sound. It’s just really damn impressive!

“Trilithon” is my second favorite track on the album, and while ostensibly it expresses similar qualities to “On My Way,” the reverberating drum and swooning harmonies (and soft vocal howls) almost sound Beach Boys-esque, and this adds a whole new element to the music.

So … you know what to do; spread the word of Fanno Creek to all of your friends!

Check out the rest of the album at Fanno Creek’s Bandcamp. You can follow the band on its Facebook and Twitter.

The Beach Boys Are On Top of the World

25 Jun

The Beach Boys 50th Anniversary Tour at Jones Beach in New York last night

It was 47 years ago when everything changed for the Beach Boys. Before that year, the original boys of summer were founded by a 16-year-old music obsessed Brian Wilson who urged his two brothers Dennis and Carl to practice background harmonies with him in an attempt to emulate some of the vocal groups that were on the charts in 1961. The band originally consisted of the brothers, their cousin Mike Love, and Al Jardine, a friend of Brian’s. In 1962, the band added 13-year-old David Marks for two years.

Before 1965, only one other individual played in the band and that was the rhinestone cowboy himself, Mr. Glen Campbell, who joined the band in 1964 and played with them for a year as a tour replacement for Brian Wilson. Last night, as the Beach Boys hit Jones Beach on the way to several more 50th anniversary shows, 76-year-old Glen Campbell said farewell at the Hollywood Bowl, performing what was billed as his last show. Campbell revealed that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2011. It is truly strange how these things work out.

In the first few years of their creation, The Beach Boys were heavily influenced by Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound and Chuck Berry’s ubiquitous guitar riff, so much so that a couple of their songs were variations of Chuck Berry’s material (most notably “Surfing USA” compared with “Sweet Little Sixteen”). The music was quick and catchy. The harmonies perfect. The Beach Boys reached a level of immense success from their juvenile endeavors. Across the pond, a band named the Beatles were doing something similar. In 1964, the Beatles stepped on American soil, albeit on the other side of the United States in New York, but this symbolically and literally meant that the Beatles had crossed over onto the turf of the Beach Boys.

In 1965, 47 years ago, The Beatles released Rubber Soul, an album that inspired Brian Wilson to quite literally go straight to the piano and bang out “God Only Knows” which Paul McCartney has said is the greatest song ever written. Pet Sounds was released in 1966. The Beach Boys now had a new key member, Bruce Johnston, who joined the band in 1965. Pet Sounds is usually rated as the second greatest album of all time. Some view it as number one and the case can certainly be made for that ranking. What is ranked number one? The Beatles’ follow-up to Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which when it was released in 1967 combined with Pet Sounds to prove to musicians everywhere that anything is possible. These are arguably the two most influential albums ever. Brian Wilson then attempted to one-up Sgt. Peppers and, in many ways he was far too advanced for his time. If you listen to Smile, Brian Wilson’s masterpiece that took him more than 40 years and full mental breakdown to complete, the music is doused in complex harmonies, intricate and excentric melodies, and, as Mike Love put it in a recent interview, what he thought were “obtuse” lyrics. I think they are genius. The album, though, could never match with Sgt. Pepper’s because it wasn’t completed.

Why did Brian Wilson snap? He was an incredibly hard worker and eager drug taker. Generally those two do not mix well for long. He certainly may have driven himself to insanity. Many individuals, though, believe that this was just one factor. The Wilson father, Murry, was the band’s manager, and while he pushed the band to improve, he was verbally abusive and controlling. Brian Wilson has come out and said that his fear of his father hung around his head. Unquestionably, a lot of factors combined, and thankfully Brian Wilson is currently doing alright and seems to be having a good time on stage with his band mates.

One of the only tastes that people got from Smile was Brian Wilson’s pocket symphony called “Good Vibrations,” which only topped both the British and American charts when it was released as a single prior to Sgt. Pepper’s in 1966.

Wow. That is around 600 words and I haven’t even gotten to the concert review yet. To celebrate 50 years, the Beach Boys reunited and have been touring this year to sold-out crowds across the country. Brian Wilson is joined by Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, and even David Marks. Behind them stands a full ensemble that help create the full-on wall-of-sound. Jeff Foskett most notably sings the famous Beach Boys falsetto and did so throughout the show last night.

Why did I mention the number 47? Well, the Beach Boys performed 47 songs last night at Jones Beach. Yes, many of them are surf dittys, but please do keep in mind we are not talking about 35-year-old musicians here. Love, Wilson, Johnston, and Jardine are either already 70-71 or 69. Whoever said age is just a number is absolutely correct in the case of the Beach Boys. The show they put on was energetic, vivacious, and fun, fun, fun. I’ll try not to make any more song name puns in this review.

The concert was understandably absolutely sold out and the crowd was an excellent mixture of original Beach Boys fans and the new generation of Beach Boys fans (myself). Jones Beach Theater (as one can imagine) is on the water, which is a perfect setting for a Beach Boys concert. I’ve never seen a concert so relaxed. Several beach balls were blown up and dispersed throughout the crowd and while the ushers usually put an end to the balls pretty quickly, I was convinced that they were actually blowing the balls up themselves. Now, of course, with the cross wind, most of the balls ended up in the water, but the ushers were retrieving the balls in the aisles and throwing them back into the crowd. 

The Beach Boys opened with a string of short pieces like “Catch a Wave” and “Surfin Safari.” From the beginning of the concert, the band was on target with their harmonies and moving around the stage like kids. Brian Wilson remained at the piano for most of the show. Think of the most recent Beach Boys line-ups prior to this show and the semi-novelty acts that they have put on and combine that with like 50x the enthusiasm. They seemed like they just couldn’t wait to show the crowd what they had next and the crowd ate it all up.

One of the best things about the Beach Boys is you do not have to be a big fanatic to have a good time at the show. Yes, this is the same with most bands, but with the Beach Boys it is a little different. Even if you do not know all of the songs, you know a few. You’ve heard “Wouldn’t it Be Nice” and “Surfer Girl” before. The music puts a smile on your face.

The first set ended with a five-song hit-parade beginning with track 20 of the night, “Be True to Your School” and followed by “Don’t Worry Baby,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” “409,” “Shut Down,” and “I Get Around.” I found a video of this set starting from “Little Deuce Coupe” on Youtube. This was around where I was sitting (up and to the left). Take a listen.

See the big beach ball? I hit that around this song. I’m sure you all care so much. Just listen to this. How great do they sound? The best part is the mass sing-along during “I Get Around” which pretty much drowns out the performance. This is how it was for a lot of the night. I must continue to give credit to Jeff Foskett who carried a difficult falsetto through the entire performance. He also looks like a combination between Jon Lovitz and Ted from Scrubs (Sam Lloyd).

After a well-deserved intermission, the Boys came out with an intimate version of “Add Some Music to Your Day” where they all huddled around Brian Wilson’s piano (like old times) and supported him throughout the song.

One of my favorite songs of the night was “Heroes and Villains,” which was supposed to appear on Smile. This song, which sounds like no other, was co-written by Van Dyke Parks. Here is Brian Wilson performing this song recently solo.

Couple of things to keep in mind. The song is incredibly intricate. Brian Wilson may be the unparalleled master of vocal layering. The music is also eerie. It swoons and changes so many times that in a Broadway-esque fashion you do not know what to expect. Wilson played with a string section, several pianos, and horns to create this song. The song was also created in 1967. It is even beyond the progressive rock that it had a part in inspiring. It’s not just a song. It is a work of art, and it was awesome hearing it live.

Towards the end of the show, the band put together two songs back-to-back to honor Dennis and Carl Wilson who have both passed away – Dennis drowned in 1983 at Marina Del Rey (he had been drinking all day and had major issues with alcohol abuse) and Carl died in 1998 from cancer. The way they did this was pretty awesome. For Dennis they put up a video of him singing “Forever” and harmonized with him like he was there, and they did the same with Carl singing my favorite Beach Boys song (and Paul McCartney’s) “God Only Knows.”

After “God Only Knows” the Beach Boys went into one of their lesser known songs, “Good Vibrations,” (haha) and, well, it was incredible. What else can I say. We hit some “Help me Rhonda” and “Surfin USA” and then the encore rolled around and we had this:

You may hear some louder-than-usual cheers during the song. That are the ladies in the audience screaming at John Stamos who is playing with the Beach Boys during their tour (he was in the “Kokomo” video if you remember). He is on stage playing bongos. The audio was strangely low for the song. It turned up for the song #46 “Barbara Ann,” which I actually think was the best performed song of the night – at #46. They ended with “Fun, Fun, Fun” and isn’t that fitting. It describes the concert better than any of my words can!

March Madness is Back! 16 vs. 1 and an Introduction – Welcome to 1966

13 Mar

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year...1966

One year ago yesterday, I excitedly posted about an idea I had to celebrate March Madness. 16 albums. One year. One winner. What was the best album released in one of the greatest years for music – 1967. We did it like a region of the March Madness bracket. 16 vs. 1, 15 vs. 2, 14 vs. 3 and et cetera until we got down to our final match where the 1-seed, Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, took home the grand prize. You can read the finale post here. The entire Music Court event was extremely fun. Do you know why? Because you all voted and made it awesome. We had several votes per poll and therefore received close battles and true blowouts (which you will also see during the March Madness tournament itself. And guess what?

We are doing it again! We are traveling back in time one year and exploring what was the best album released in 1966. Did you know that Texas Western won the NCAA men’s tournament that year. It was actually a very memorable tournament. The all-black starting five of Texas Western defeated an all-white starting five for Kentucky in the championship game and continued to open up possibilities of black athletes everywhere.

During the same year two bands from California released two influential albums. One was released by a couple of simple surfer boys turned complex musical composers – their 11th album. The other, a debut, featured protest, protest, and protest. Before we get to a preview of round #1 let’s go over some of the rules. Yes, I am copying this from my post last year!

I have ranked 16 albums from 1 (meaning the best) to 16 (meaning the 16th best on our list). Yes, 1-16 will have tremendous albums and your favorite may not be included. Many albums were released in 1966 and it is very hard to choose the best (1-16) but I am trying. There is no genre discrimination. If I feel that the album was the best, it will be on our list.

The tournament will see four match-ups in the form of polls two days a week. So, today, below, you see the one seed vs. the sixteen seed. It is a little taste of the tourny. Tomorrow we will do three more match-ups. You vote for your favorite. You have until the end of the first round (March 21 ) to vote. After the first round I will tally the votes and we will move onto the elite eight and then the final four and then the finals. Here are the rough dates of when everything will be posted.

March 14 (Tomorrow: 2 vs. 15, 3 vs. 14, 4 vs. 13)

March 19: (5 vs. 12, 6 vs. 11, 7 vs. 10, 8 vs. 9)

March 23: Elite Eight (First two matches)

March 26: Elite Eight (Last two matches) Voting for Elite Eight ends April 2

April 2: Final Four – Voting for Final Four ends April 9

April 9: Finals – Voting ends April 15 and winner is crowned.


ROUND 1 Preview

#1: Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys vs. #16: Buffalo Springfield by Buffalo Springfield

It is not an easy choice. While Pet Sounds is widely considered as one of the most impactful psychedelic explorations ever (ranked #2 of 500 albums in Rolling Stone’s Top Albums Ever), Buffalo Springfield’s eponymous first album did feature Neil Young and Stephen Stills rocking out together for the first time (even though they were unhappy with the release). So will we have a rare first round upset or will Michigan State beat LIU (oh I mean Pet Sounds vs. Buffalo Springfield). It’s time to make your voices heard. Vote!

Progressive Music from The Hague – Groep 1850

21 Feb

Packed with an awkward family photo

Three months in 1966 sparked the progressive rock movement that flourished in the early 70s and gradually fizzled away (it has been revitalized recently by bands like Dream Theater). Obviously, this statement is completely subjective, so take my opinion for what it is. I also love how the founding year is 1966, and, as you know if you read the blog last week, I will be bringing back Music Court March Madness and we will all vote on the best album released in 1966 in a few weeks.

In May of 1966, The Beach Boys released Pet Sounds, and while this album is an early favorite (and a top seed) in the March Madness poll, it also was one of the first (if not first) Progressive Rock albums ever released.

Progressive Rock features creative arrangements, unusual blends of genres (like Jazz/Rock), eclectic (almost baroque) instrumentation, and classical constructions. The songs tend to be long, drawn out, and excellent if you have the time to lie on your floor, stare at the ceiling, and allow music to seep through your skin.

After the release of Pet Sounds (which most definitely pushed the Beatles even harder with their 1967 release about a pepper or something), Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention dropped Freak Out in June of 1966. This simply added onto Brian Wilson’s masterpiece. Then, in July, The Left Banke, a French-inspired New York baroque pop band, asked Renee to walk away (and a few months later they had a date with a pretty ballerina). The three months represented the inception of this new genre and it allowed a whole new stock of bands to flourish, including a mid-60s act from The Hague. A group of musicians who, while being one of the first progressive rock acts, is widely forgotten – until now!

Wait. A grand orchestral piece based on “Frere Jacques,” the old French lullaby. Back up.

Groep 1850 was formed in the Netherlands in 1964 as Klits. I think you can add them to the list of most influential Dutch musicians. A few others immediately come to mind. Golden Earring and Shocking Blue – you know, the band with the lead singer who proclaimed that she was your “pen” *cough* I mean “Venus!”

The original incarnation of the band is not important because they released their first single in 1966 with these members:  Peter Sjardin (vocals, flute, organ), Ruud van Buuren (bass), Daniel van Bergen (guitar & piano), Beer Klaasse (drums) & Rob de Rijke (bass, flute).  Yes, the drummer’s name was Beer. This line-up would change again in 1968, after the band went on hiatus for a year. Sjardin and Bergen remained, but they were now joined by Dave Duba, Dolf Geldof (bass), and Martin van Duynhoven (drums).

Peter Sjardin was of the first line-up and Daniel van Bergen the second. They can be viewed as constants. Let’s get to the music. The band started playing gigs in ’66 and became an underground sensation, even opening for The Mothers of Invention in 1967. In 1968, the band released their first full-length Agemo’s Trip to Mother Earth (picture above). The album cover actually had a 3-D sleeve and it included 3-D glasses (hence why it is today a tough find and BIG LP sell).

“Mother No-Head,” the esoteric piece above, is on that album. It was also released as the A-side of a single in 1967. In every sense of the word, the song is weird. After beginning with a drum beat straight out of Jazzy big band, and a bass/guitar riff from a spaghetti western, a chorus of monks provide background to a deep, unclear incantation. It’s a Dutch Western. Then a flute introduces something straight out of a cheeky British movie soundtrack before more odd vocalization. At around 1:15, I realized that the monks were humming the French lullaby and this made me smile. Then when a twangy guitar plucked the notes of the lullaby I was just flat-out grinning. This is just great! We get some nice keys before we fall back into the beginning (the fleeting flute still there). Why is the progressive? The flute, creative drumming, intricate track layering, and monk chanting.

Here’s another one from the band. “Misty Night” was the B-side of the band’s first single, released in 1966. This certainly feels more psychedelic (even garage) at the start. We get a reverberating (like SERIOUS reverb) guitar at the outset. I kind of like the vocal – despite the fact it is grunt singing at the start. The song then falls into a lull with the relaxed bass and humming.

Here is some more information about them. Click here.

The Best Back To School Song: “Be True To Your School” by The Beach Boys

28 Jan



Hey! Put that surfboard away!

“When some loud braggart tries to put me down
And says his school is great
I tell him right away
“Now what’s the matter buddy
Ain’t you heard of my school
It’s number one in the state”

The Beach Boys win purely on their ability to use braggart in their lyric. End of story. But seriously, “Be True to Your School” won the poll for best back to school song and this title is well deserved. Their overly corny, early 60’s, nauseating school pride anthem is so utterly ensconced in the education system that it might as well be sung after the pledge of allegiance. I pledge allegiance to Brian Wilson and the plaid shirt wearing members of his surf music band.


Don't these look like law abiding citizens

This 1963 ode to pep rallies and Hawthorne High School, the Wilson’s school in California, is cheery and so supremely hokey it kind of needed to win. Seriously, the song is so early 60’s Beach Boys mouthwash that it practically is most of their other songs in the same key. Not much ingenuity there. But the harmonies are great and the lyric is class.

It wins because of these reasons. That are not many songs that can inspire someone to want to go back to school. Most inspire young people to long for school’s end. The Beach Boys try to get you in the classroom with the lure of pride. So get your letterman jacket on and be true to your school.

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