Wednesday, 23 May 2012
The Beach Boys - Love You
The Beach Boys
To mark the occasion of The Beach Boys new album release ‘That’s Why God Made The Radio’ (coming soon in June) I thought it would be worthwhile to take a closer look and shine a light upon a true lost classic in the Brian Wilson cannon, titled ‘LOVE YOU’.
The post ‘Pet Sounds’ late 1960’s and early 1970’s weren’t strong commercially for The Beach Boys with their releases only very rarely cracking the top 100, which if you think about their run of high end monster hits in the mid 60’s is quite a drop in status. The material was still great on albums such as ‘Friends’ (1968), ‘20/20’ (1969), ‘Sunflower’ (1970) and the exceptional ‘Surfs Up’ (1971) although the sentiment of love and peace seemed out of place after Altamont and while everyone else was playing loud fuzz guitars and throwing anti-War/Nixon sentiment slogans across their work The Beach Boys were still trying to shake the tag of ‘all American surfer boys’. Around this time the group actually considered changing their name to simply ‘Beach’, they reconsidered at the final hour perhaps realising that their fans would be their backbone in the oncoming years and re-inventing the wheel this late in the day might not be the best idea for all involved.
One of the main reasons for the lack of direction within the group was the fact that leader and producer of the group Brian Wilson had suffered a drug induced nervous breakdown and wasn’t in any shape to crack the whip in the studio and create magic anymore. Whilst the band were left to their own devices they all brought their own influences and input into the group but without a guiding spirit leading the way, too often they only managed to produce a muddled collection of tracks with the occasional gem hidden within.
Throughout this period the group tried many different tactics to get Wilson firing on all cylinders again and even built a studio in his house where they would convene daily to record and write. He sometimes came to the studio if he heard something that he felt he could improve or had an idea for, otherwise he’d hide in his room and wait until they left before walking around the studio like a museum of days gone by and imagining ghosts from the past surrounding him.
After the success of the greatest hits package ‘Endless Summer’ (1974) the group got a definite second wind in popularity due to the fact that a new generation of kids had appeared at their shows and could appreciate their sixties songs as ‘new’ material. This release apart from fulfilling contractual obligations also helped the group bounce back from another failure, the lacklustre ‘Holland’ (1973) album. The ‘Holland’ album was refused upon its completion by the record company until Brian was almost forced into a room and completed the song ‘Sail on Sailor’ (with ‘SMiLE’ collaborator Van Dyke Parks) which was hastily added as track one as it was clearly the only high point on a below par collection of songs.
On the wave of the success of the greatest hits tour the band felt the need to make another new album and after the false start of ’15 Big Ones’ (1976), and another critical hammering, Brian (who was beginning the early stages of therapy) started writing demos almost as a mental exercise and for what would be his own solo album. It had taken almost ten years between the aborted ‘SMiLE’ sessions and 1976 but it seemed that the group and management were finally going to let Brian actually write, produce the music that he wanted to and hand the creative reigns back to him after spending the previous four or five desperately trying to pull them away from him at all costs. It was this creative freedom that helped unlock the now dormant magic and for him to create one of their strongest albums. As usual in the face of punk and disco the album sunk without a trace although time has been much nicer to this album then many others and certainly it has lasted longer than many of the flavour of the month disco groups that outsold it. The album also included more audio experimentation and new sonic boundary pushing with extensive use of new synthesizers and Moog keyboards throughout.
The album is laid out in contrasting sides with the opener Side A being more upbeat, fast songs with the flip side concentrating more on slow, melancholy (a genre Brian Wilson has always excelled in). Some of my favourite moments on this record include the almost childlike ‘Solar System’ which sounds like a soundtrack to a grade school science documentary about the milky way but has so much genuine feeling and happiness in it you can’t help but feel cradled by the chords and repeating harmonies as they flow and repeat throughout. The standout track of the album that showed that they were still yet to be a spent force as a group is the excellent ‘The Night Was So Young’ which includes vocals from the whole group and is the most contemporary moment here. The Moog Synthesizer is used throughout as both keyboard effect and bass, this is shown to great use on ‘I Bet He’s Nice’ which includes a low register Bass line played on it and shows that even though everyone else may have pigeon holed Wilson as a sixties relic he was still on the cutting edge and creativity. ‘Mona’ has been quoted as being one of Brian Wilson’s favourite songs he’s written as well as being his favourite on the album itself. It is an old fashioned song and ‘musical compliment’ to Wilson’s musical hero Phil Spector (naming his songs throughout) wrapped up in a sixties rolling doo-wop arrangement sung by Dennis Wilson (who by this time was battling his own drink and drugs demons and whose voice was almost as shot and raspy as brother Brian’s).
There are tracks that fall over the line and sound too much like half ideas and demos but some of these, including the single line, 57 seconds long, ‘Ding Dang’ (which amazingly took two people to create) is silly although has a certain charm.
One of the tracks presented here that shows the deeply personal nature of the songs has to be ‘Lets put our Hearts Together’, a duet sung by Brian and his then wife (although soon to be divorced) and mother of his two children Marilyn Wilson. Her voice throughout isn’t perfect although she was far from being a novice as she had already had records released as part of the group The Honeys (produced by Brian in the mid 60’s to flex his Phil Spector aspirations). The song itself is more about the sentiment rather than execution of the vocalist and combined with Brian’s cocaine and cigarette husky tenor it works well. The message of the song is clear upon first glance although on repeat listens it does give the listener the idea that maybe you’re listening to a man completely delusional about his marriage while it collapses around him.
The history of The Beach Boys will always be crowned with their string of hit singles in the 1960’s as well has having the album jewel of ‘Pet Sounds’ as the centrepiece but for casual fans and new comers alike ‘Love You’ is an album for those looking for something a little different, as I fear you won’t get it from their new Mike Love helmed release.
Posted by Chris Lancaster at 14:28