Tag Archives: Pet Sounds

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!

1966 Revolves around Revolver

16 Apr


#3 Seed: Revolver

Take the Rolling Stones top 500 albums list for what it is – a subjective list of “game-changing” albums culminating (like most all-time album charts) with Sgt. Peppers at top – but prior to discussing how a 3-seed defeated #1-seeded Pet Sounds handily in the finals, I want to talk briefly about the Rolling Stones list. After Sgt. Peppers, the list goes Pet Sounds (2) and Revolver (3). First, isn’t it extraordinary that three of the greatest rock albums ever released hit record stores in around a 13-month span of time? Secondly, perhaps I misjudged Revolver. I recognized it as an inspirational album that, like Pet Sounds, revolutionized the sound of rock n’ roll music and helped introduce a generation to psychedelic music, but perhaps I underestimated its true force and influence.

Revolver may be #3 on the Rolling Stone list, but, according to our poll’s small sample, the top two albums ever released should maybe go Sgt. Peppers followed by Revolver, which would be representative of how incomprehensibly talented the Beatles were. In 10 months the band released two of the greatest albums ever. This is unparalleled in music and it is tough to find an equivalent in any form of talent, creativity, or sport. Mozart in his prime. There is one!

I voted for Pet Sounds. So did three others. The Beatles won 8-4 after sliding through the entire competition. This means that they, according to Music Court viewers, released the best album in 1966 and 1967. So how did this 3-seed take down the uber-talented Beach Boys and their Pet Sounds. Both bands were experimenting with tape delays, creative instrumentation and recording techniques, manipulated vocals, and drugs. Both bands tapped into the minds of all band members to create a unified sound that translated into excellent music. What was the difference besides the roots of the bands (surf vs. bluesy beat)?

The answer is simple. Nothing. Yes, the songs do sound different because the two bands are, well, clearly different, but as for impact and experimentation, there is really no difference. Revolver and Pet Sounds are near perfect albums (I reserve the title of perfect for two albums – Sgt. Peppers and Dark Side of the Moon). The Beatles are more popular so they may have won because of that, but, supposing that is not the reason, I want to look at two songs that may have helped propel Revolver to victory.

“Eleanor Rigby”

“Eleanor Rigby” is one of the most known and popular Beatles songs ever released and I think one of the reasons for this (besides the fact that it is just an excellent song) is it is so different. The song is carried by the staccato rhythm of a backing orchestra that sounds like it is narrating a tense scene in a horror movie (at times – the orchestra was inspired by the compositions of Bernard Herrmann – “Psycho”). Besides this, the song is just Paul McCartney singing with the occasional harmony. The lyric, which was created in a conjoined band effort, is just perfect. It paints a sad and simple image of the “lonely” Eleanor Rigby and her life and death. It is an untraditional rock song, not featuring any other instrumentation, yet it is wonderfully melodic and incredibly popular. The Beatles were changing the ears of a listening populace.

“Tomorrow Never Knows”

This song is not anywhere near simple. “Tomorrow Never Knows” is an Indian-inspired composition that features several psychedelic effects like tape delay, oddly patterned drumming, reversed guitar, and droning vocals. The song features the psychedelic works. It is an LSD-influenced dreamy ending that leads right into Sgt. Peppers, an album that features even more of this musical experimentation (which is pretty much what this song is). But, because this is the Beatles, the song is excellent and highly listenable.

So what do you think? Does Revolver deserve the title? Do you want to see this game played next year (and with what year?) I’m eager to hear your opinions. Thanks for playing!

The Final Four – Beach Boys, Beatles, Dylan, Zappa

2 Apr

A poorly doctored image for our tournament needs

Why go all the way to New Orleans when you can just stay online and vote for the best album released in 1966? Oh, because March Madness and this Music Court tournament have nothing in common despite the intentional name and date similarities and the college basketball finals are enticing? Okay, I guess I understand. But wait! You can do both. So before the National Title game commences tonight at the unfairly late hour of 9:25 p.m. ET (seriously! I go to sleep at 10 p.m.), vote in the two Final Four matchups below!

#1-seed Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys vs. #4-seed Freak Out by The Mothers of Invention.

For the second straight year, the March Madness album pool has gone chalk. That does not mean that match-ups cannot be close. In a big surprise, Simon and Garfunkel’s Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme did not only give top-seeded Pet Sounds a run for their money, but also almost beat them. The two albums were only separated by two votes. This was not the case for Freak Out which took care of the Mamas and Papas with ease. Because of this, I am not ready to sail Pet Sounds into the finals just yet. There is a chance that Freak Out might pull off a Final Four update and compete for the title of best album of 1966.

#2-seed:Revolver by The Beatles vs. #3-seed: Blonde on Blondeby Bob Dylan

Revolver has blown out every opponent it has faced since the first round. Blonde on Blonde has pretty much done the same (with the small exception of the Rolling Stones’ Aftermath which it beat by three votes.) Both albums are looking quite strong and, well, are excellent albums. The winner gets the finals and, for the Beatles, a chance to win best album titles for 1967 and 1966.

The Elite Eight: Beatles vs. Simon and Garfunkel and The Mothers of Invention vs. The Mamas and the Papas

23 Mar

Well I guess I should have expected this. A tie. The 5 vs. 12 matchup featuring the Mamas and the Papas debut album vs. The Byrds’ Fifth Dimension was shaping up to be a close Mamas and the Papas victory, but, with a few minutes to spare, the match became tied and stayed tied at 2:30 p.m., when I officially closed the poll (at least in my mind because you can technically still vote). Overtime. I never established how overtime works but I made a call earlier this month that if a match-up was tied I’d bring it down to where the album charted in their respective category using U.S. Billboard rankings (pretty neutral). If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears by The Mamas and the Papas reached the #1 spot on the U.S. Billboard Pop charts. The Byrds reached #24 on the Top LP charts. Yes, not a very accurate way of making this decision, but for the sake of this competition, the five-seed moves on to face another mother in the second Elite Eight match-up.

Before we go on to that, the #1-seed Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys, coming off of its commanding victory against Buffalo Springfield, will take on Simon and Garfunkel’s Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme, which pulled off a narrow victory against John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, Eric Clapton infused album. These two albums go neck-and-neck in the first match.

#1 Seed: Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys vs. #8 seed: Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme

Can Simon and Garfunkel pull off an upset? If this was Bookends, maybe. While Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme is an excellent album that features some classic Simon and Garfunkel folk, Pet Sounds is true tour de force, an inspirational album that saw a band transform into quasi-psychedelic and master it. I predict another easy victory for the 1-seed and a spot in the final four to face the winner of our next match.

#4 seed: Freak Out by the Mothers of Invention vs. #5 seed: If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears by The Mamas and the Papas

This one is tougher to predict. It would seem correct to say that Freak Out should take this one easily since it beat it’s 13-seeded opponent The Soul Album by Otis Redding quite handily. But some might argue that The Mamas and the Papas had a more difficult path with the experienced Byrds and 5D. Interestingly, both albums are debuts. The winner gets this poll’s Kentucky (Pet Sounds) in the next round which will most definitely be a difficult match-up. You have the choice to send one of them there.

The First Round Continues – March 1966 Madness – 2 vs. 15, 3 vs. 14, 4 vs. 13

15 Mar

Thus begins the true first round of March Madness: 1966 Album Edition. If you are new to the game, let me do a quick sentence reminder of what this is. Over the next few weeks we are going to do a March Madness-style poll game that will narrow down the best album released in 1966 in a time span concurrent with the NCAA March Madness tournaments. Easy enough. All you have to do is vote and have fun. A few days I go I did the premiere post of this year’s competition that saw the #1 seed Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys vs. Buffalo Springfield by Buffalo Springfield. Both good albums, of course, but I think Neil Young would even vote for Pet Sounds, though. It seems that the majority of readers agree. Pet Sounds is winning 5 to 2 currently. Buffalo Springfieldis putting up a deserved fight, though. It is an excellent album featuring some musical superstars. Vote for The Beach Boys or Buffalo Springfield here

Keep voting! Remember, the only way this works is if we receive a whole bunch of votes. Let me thank John Phillips over at http://joebeans2002.wordpress.com/ for re-blogging the first March Madness poll. Do check out his blogs. I am grateful to all of you if you spread this along to others. Let’s make this years March Madness even more exciting than last’s.

On to the match-ups!

#2 seed: Revolver by The Beatles vs. #15 seed:The Young Rascalsby The Young Rascals


The Beatles were on last year’s 1967 list twice. They occupy a #2 seed this time around. The Beatles are Duke. They must have been a pretty good band. It is actually striking just how industrious and talented the fab four actually were. Many consider Revolver to be their first deep dive into musical diversity and psychedelics (and it makes sense considering their next two releases). It features hits like “Eleanor Rigbey,” “Got to Get You Into My Life,” and “And Your Bird Can Sing.” It goes up against the debut album from the Young Rascals. The album features their versions of “Mustang Sally,” “In The Midnight Hour,” and a little-known song named “Good Lovin” that went on to be one of the Young Rascals most beloved songs. Is this an easy match-up for Revolver? I think Revolver has too many strengths to lose. It is multi-faceted and classic. Up to you all, though!

#3 seed: Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan vs. #14 seed: A Quick One by The Who


Blonde on Blonde was released a year after Highway 61 Revisited which is my favorite Dylan album. It is nowhere near a slouch though. Many consider Blonde on Blonde to be Dylan’s most advanced album. The opening track is “Rainy Day Women #12 & #35!” The album also features “Just Like a Woman” and “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again.” It is bluesy and folky and if it wasn’t for the fact that two of the best albums ever released ever were ahead of it, it may be a #1 seed. It goes up against a Who album that is no Spring chicken – even though it was the second album released by the band. The album, which originally was called Happy Jack because of the title’s lewd aspirations, features a few great pieces, but mainly a band that would develop into one of the best of the generation. This may be closer than you think.

#4 Seed: Freak Out  by The Mothers of Invention vs. #13 Seed: The Soul Album by Otis Redding

This is a good battle between two bands that seem like they are absolutely nothing alike, but are more alike than it seems. The Mothers, led by Frank Zappa’s keen musical nature, blended doo-wop, blues, and rock, that together formed the experimental rock collage the album was. The Soul Album (features bluesy soul – obviously) was Otis Redding and members of Booker T & The MG’s (STAX Records house band). The album just couldn’t be bad. Will we have a 13-4 upset?

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