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Low Tide: The Beach Boys hit rock bottom in 1992 with ‘Summer in Paradise’
10:53 am

Pop Culture

Beach Boys
Terry Melcher

Summer in Paradise album cover
In 1989 The Beach Boys were riding a huge wave success, “Kokomo” had just become their first number one U.S. hit in 22 years. The success of “Kokomo” was largely due in part by producer Terry Melcher, who co-wrote and sang vocals on the track that was certified gold and sold over a million copies worldwide. The only child of singer Doris Day, Melcher is perhaps more famously known for being the target of the Manson family murders which were carried out at his former residence at 10050 Cielo Drive.

In 1991 all living original Beach Boys members (except Brian Wilson, still under the care of his abusive psychologist Gene Landy) returned to the studio with Terry Melcher to record their follow-up to “Kokomo” with the album Summer in Paradise. This marked the first and only Beach Boys studio album that Brian Wilson had no participation in whatsoever. Produced entirely on a Macintosh Quadra computer, Summer in Paradise was recorded using a Beta version of Pro Tools with a rhythm section that was almost entirely synthesized. Despite its effort to be “the quintessential soundtrack of summer” the album quickly turned into an unmitigated disaster: musically, lyrically, and commercially. Al Jardine was suspended from the band in the early stages of the recording due to a “severe attitude problem,” however he was reinstated in final weeks leading up to the completion the project.

From the albums very first track, a cover of Sly & the Family Stone’s “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” followed by a re-recording of the Beach Boys first ever single “Surfin’,” it is immediately brought to any listeners attention that something isn’t quite right. The bands signature sound has become overwhelmingly saturated with treble and reverb, and The Wrecking Crew‘s musical instrumentation heard on previous recordings has been replaced with programmed keyboards and drum machines.

The albums third track finally gets into some new and original material with the quasi-rap number “Summer of Love”, originally intended to be a duet between Mike Love and Bart Simpson for a planned Simpsons movie. John Tobler, author of The Complete Guide to the Music of The Beach Boys called “Summer of Love” quite possibly the worst set of lyrics Mike Love has ever concocted. “We’ll be bay watchin’ everyday, just off the Malibu surfin’ U. S. A.” The track appropriately turned up in a 1995 episode of Baywatch. The Beach Boys fearlessly reference the shit out of their dozen gold albums that came before: in fact the album’s titular song Summer in Paradise references not one, not two, but three Beach Boys song titles (“Fun Fun Fun,” “Help Me Rhonda,” and “Barbara Ann”) all in the very first verse.

More fun, fun, fun with the Beach Boys, after the jump…

Posted by Doug Jones | Leave a comment
The Beach Boys’ eleven-minute disco atrocity from 1979 will take you straight to Hell
08:24 am


Beach Boys

While Brian Wilson and Al Jardine are touring the world in celebration of Pet Sounds’ 50th anniversary, it might be instructive to compare the Beach Boys’ masterpiece, not with their contemporaries’ achievements, but with the band’s own creative nadir.

Of course I’m talking about 1979’s interminable disco odyssey “Here Comes the Night.” If only an actual sunset lasted so long. Not to be confused with Bert Berns’ “Here Comes the Night,” made famous by Them and covered on Bowie’s Pin Ups, the Beach Boys’ “Here Comes the Night” first appeared on 1967’s “white soul” album Wild Honey. The three-minute original remains a lovely, if minor, Brian Wilson composition, its chords marked by the uncanny stink of divinity.

For their 1979 debut on Caribou Records, the Beach Boys took a page out of their former collaborator Charles Manson’s book, dismembering the song, painting the walls with its blood and sticking a fork in its belly. If you think I’m exaggerating, go ahead and push “play” at the bottom of the post. Sure you’re tough enough? It’s real witchy.

(This shocking atrocity proves that, of all the songs in the catalog, only “Never Learn Not to Love” should have been considered for the disco treatment. The merciless beat would have lent itself to Manson’s pro-orgy, anti-person message. And imagine if the ‘X’ on the forehead had become part of the “disco lifestyle”!)

At the Reagan White House, 1983
It seemed that Brian Wilson had come back into full possession of his gifts on 1977’s The Beach Boys Love You, but he, or they, had gone fishin’ when the time came to work on L.A. (Light Album). Deprived of Brian’s genius, the Boys and producer Bob Esty had only their cruelty to guide them in the studio, and the result is the most punishing eleven minutes in the history of recorded music. Not that anyone noticed, if the book The Beach Boys FAQ is to be believed:

CBS and the Beach Boys ate dirt when the disco single not only failed to make the Top Forty, but the album failed to make the Top Ninety-Nine!

Hitmaker Esty was responsible for Andy Williams’ disco remake of “Love Story,” also released in ‘79, and he let it be known that he would only disco-fy songs by artists of real class. He sharply criticized Lawrence Welk accordionist Myron Floren’s Disco Polka in Billboard later that year, explaining that not just anyone could have a crossover hit. What I’m saying is, he really put Lawrence Welk accordionist Myron Floren in his place.

Duty compels me to suggest that you read up on the buddy system and safewords before listening to this recording. This is the exactly the kind of thing Tipper Gore and the PMRC should have been looking into—except the PMRC was funded by Beach Boy Mike Love (who I’ve heard is a super nice guy and whose own band knew a couple fuckwords). Could he have been paying them not to look into his past?

Listen to this four-on-the-floor Beach Boys atrocity after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Hear the Beach Boys sing ‘Good Vibrations’ without the music
05:56 pm


Beach Boys


“Wilson’s instinctive talents for mixing sounds could most nearly equate to those of the old painters whose special secret was in the blending of their oils. And what is most amazing about all outstanding creative artists is that they are using only those basic materials which are freely available to everyone else.”—Derek Taylor, music business publicist

Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations,” reportedly cost somewhere between $50,000 and $75,000 in mid-60s dollars (That would be between $360,000 and $550,000 today). Laid down with the finest studio musicians in Hollywood—known, of course, as the Wrecking Crew—the sessions used over 90 hours of magnetic recording tape. It was at the time the largest sum of money ever spent on a single song. The whole of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album had cost $70,000 ($510,000 in today’s terms), which itself was considered an unusually high cost for a longplayer.

Although I was planning to write up something about the recording history of the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations,” after getting lost in the weeds of the incredibly authoritative and detailed Wikipedia page—which I highly recommend—I decided that this just wasn’t possible. I’ll simply send you there for the exhaustive history. No point in giving the making of a masterpiece short shrift. I did notice a few bits of minutiae in the entry however, which might prove of interest to our readers who like the Beach Boys but who are not absolute Beach Boys fanatics, because they will already know this stuff.

First off, there was no “proper” stereo version of “Good Vibrations.” The reason for this is was the loss of the multitrack tapes of the vocals, which were probably tossed out by Capitol Records. In 2012 a stereo/mono release of Smiley Smile included a Brian Wilson-approved stereo mix for the first time, when a technology invented by Irish engineer Dr. Derry Fitzgerald was used to separate each instrument and each voice, allowing for a “stereo extraction” remix for the first time from the mono master. (You can watch a video about Dr. Fitzgerald’s work on “Good Vibrations” here.)

Here is that 2012 stereo mix. I’d never heard it before. It’s pretty neat.

And then I found THIS:

You feel privileged for having heard that, now don’t you? I know I sure do.

Second, in the part about the marketing of the single, it describes the various promotional films relating to “Good Vibrations” made in 1966, like the Monkees-esque romp shot in a Los Angeles fire house by future famed cinematographer Caleb Deschanel.

Read more after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Get some sunshine with The Honeys, Brian Wilson’s all-girl answer to the Beach Boys
03:22 pm


Beach Boys

With Seasonal Affective Disorder slowly crushing my soul into oblivion, I have been absolutely starved for some aural “sunshine.” The Beach Boys are the obvious choice, but a little too obvious, don’t you think? Enter The Honeys, the beachy girl-group that boasted Brian Wilson himself serving as songwriter and producer. You got your surfing anthems, your boy-crazy ballads and all the shimmering, girly harmonies you’ll need until spring.

The Honeys with Brian Wilson
The Honeys actually formed after sisters Marilyn and Diane Rovell saw the Beach Boys perform. Brian Wilson took to courting high-schooler Marilyn (the foxy brunette on the far left), and after the addition of the Rovells’ cousin Ginger Blake, Wilson took them into the studio to record some pop music gold, though most people would more likely recognize them on Jan and Dean’s “Dead Man’s Curve” and “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” or cheering on The Beach Boys’ “Be True To Your School.”

The Honeys never really blew up. Surf music faded, Marilyn Rovell became Marilyn Wilson and had daughters Carnie and Wendy (yes, that Carnie and Wendy), but oddly enough, the girls attempted a very weird comeback in the 80s before embracing the nostalgia of their earlier work and releasing a box set. In addition to some of their earlier work, I’ve included (as a “bonus”) their 1983 album Ecstasy—it is very… 1983. 


More of The Honeys after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Think ‘Kokomo’ is the Beach Boys’ worst single? THINK AGAIN.
10:59 am


Beach Boys

It was really only a couple of years, from the zeitgeist-altering success of Saturday Night Fever to the notorious Comiskey Park Disco Demolition‘s galvanizing of backlash, that disco was overwhelmingly pre-eminent in pop culture, but for those two years, my god, it was assertive. It seemed like pretty much every above-ground musical and nonmusical artist had to somehow nod to disco, whether or not that artist had even the slightest prior obeisance to the dance floor. Popular artists of all stripes, from punk prime movers Blondie, to blues-steeped British Invasion-era stalwarts like the Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart, to country rockers the Eagles, to metal’s most brazen buck-chasers Kiss, all released disco songs, or at least adopted disco’s production strategies. And then by 1980 it was like it never happened, though of course, if there was ever indeed a “battle” for the charts between disco and rock, rock’s “victory” was definitely pyrrhic, as today’s pop radio norms are much deeper in disco’s debt.

That resolute fad had plenty of absurd expressions, some of them actually really funny in hindsight. One truly baffling example was when, in 1979, the goddamn BEACH BOYS of all bands capitulated, releasing the shamelessly pandering 12” single “Here Comes The Night (Remix).” Produced by band member Bruce Johnston for their preposterous last-ditch attempt at late ‘70s relevance L.A. (Light Album), it clocks in at over ten minutes. To be exact, it’s a 10:42 litany of unexceptional four-to-the-floor beats and kitchen-sinked disco tropes that have almost nothing to do with the original song, which appeared on the Beach Boys’ middling 1967 album Wild Honey. Here’s that original:

FAR from their best work, but not utterly terrible. Like its predecessor Smiley Smile, Wild Honey was conceived and released in the immediate aftermath of the implosion of SMiLE, and though it’s enjoyable enough, the band’s failure to follow up Pet Sounds with anything of like quality left their rep in the crapper, so sales were poor. One can only guess as to why “Night” was the song they decided to disco up. Maybe it was because the let’s-fuck lyrical content fit with disco’s hedonistic character? It just seems like it would have made more sense, since they were pandering for sales anyway, to remix a song that had been popular in the first place. It didn’t even work. L.A. was poorly received, and from there the Beach Boys began their descent into Mike Love’s traveling no$talgia act. I will say this for “Night,” though: it may be the one Beach Boys song to feature a vocoder, and of that, I vigorously approve.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
‘The Ethel Merman Disco Album’
Disco-tastic Italian Beatles medley from 1978 will melt your brain!
Worst Led Zeppelin cover of all time? Disco duo Blonde On Blonde cover ‘Whole Lotta Love,’ 1979

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Charlie don’t surf: Charles Manson meets the Beach Boys
12:58 pm


Charles Manson
Beach Boys

Although Charles Manson didn’t actually write “Never Learn Not To Love” for the Beach Boys, he did in fact, write a number titled “Cease to Exist” that drummer Dennis Wilson—a friend of Manson’s in the late 1960s—convinced his cleancut brethren to record for their 20/20 album

Dennis even arranged for Manson to get some studio time in Brian Wilson’s home studio and let him and his entourage crash in his mansion for a while.

Manson’s original “Cease to Exist” lyrics go like this

Pretty girl, pretty, pretty girl
Cease to Exist
Just come and say you love me
Give up your world
C’mon you can see
I’m your kind, I’m your kind
You can see
Walk on, walk on
I love you pretty girl
My life is yours and
You can have my world
Never had a lesson
I ever learned
But I know we all get our turn
I love you
Submission is a gift
Go on, give it to your brother
Love and understanding is for one another
I’m your kind, I’m your kind
I’m your mind
I’m your brother
I never had a lesson I ever learned
But I know we all get our turn
And I love you
Never learned not to love you
I never learned

“I’m your mind”>? “Submission is a gift”? Well, isn’t that special?

Freeway Jam writes at Lost in the Grooves:

The Beach Boys’ version changed the key phrase to “cease to resist,” but otherwise left the lyrics and melody essentially unchanged. Dennis Wilson sings lead vocal, a rarity, and the Beach Boys supply their famous group harmonies and dense production. There’s an ominous intensity to the recording; even divorced from Manson, it conveys a vaguely sinister edge, with its tribal rhythm and hypnotic chants.

“Never Learn Not To Love” was originally released as the B-side to the “Bluebirds Over The Mountain” single in November of 1968, but was credited solely to Dennis Wilson who Manson owed money to. The story goes that when Manson heard the song, with the lyrics altered, he threw a fit and went to Wilson’s house with a loaded gun. When he found out the Wilson wasn’t there, he took a bullet from the gun and told his housekeeper to give it to Dennis with a cryptic message.

Dennis WIlson wasn’t the only one impressed with Manson. None other than Neil Young said of him:

“He had this kind of music that nobody else was doing. He would sit down with a guitar and start playing and making up stuff, different every time. It just kept comin’ out, comin’ out. Then he would stop and you would never hear that one again. Musically, I thought he was very unique. I thought he had something crazy, something great. He was like a living poet.”

Young even gave Manson a motorcycle!

Here are the Beach Boys performing the song on The Mike Douglas Show:

More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘My World Fell Down’: The oddest song The Beach Boys never recorded

Yesterday I was listening to a Glen Campbell greatest hits collection (The Capitol Years 1965-77, the one compiled by Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs, it’s excellent) and in the liner notes, it mentions that Campbell sang and played guitar on a Gary Usher-produced single called “My World Fell Down” by Sagittarius, that was included on Jac Holzman and Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets collection, which I have, so I checked it out. It’s odd that I had this song in my possession—I’ve played the Nuggets box set many, many times all the way through—but never took much note. How could I have missed it?

A be-quiffed Glen Campbell backstage at the Grammy awards with the Beach Boys
“My World Fell Down” is the closest thing we’ll ever get to “Good Vibrations”-era Beach Boys meets LSD-soaked psych rock. Sagittarius was basically a supergroup of session musicians under the direction of Gary Usher, a staff producer at Columbia who had also “discovered” The Firesign Theatre and produced The Byrds. Aside from Campbell, who was, of course, briefly in the Beach Boys himself, the secondary vocalist on the track is none other than Beach Boy Bruce Johnston. Also worth pointing out is that Usher had written several songs with Brian Wilson (”409” and “In My Room” among them) and included in the backing group were powerhouse session players Hal Blaine and Carol Kaye, who had both recorded with the Beach Boys. If someone played this for you and told you it was an unreleased—and especially odd—Beach Boys demo, you’d believe them, no problem.

Gary Usher
Dig the musique concrète bridge section of carnival (bullfight?) noises and a slamming door. This part sounds like something straight off of Their Satanic Majesties Request, the Rolling Stones album that came out the same year, 1967, but is not included in the album version.

When “My World Fell Down” got to #70 on the Billboard chart, the label wanted Sagittarius to tour, at which point he revealed that Sagittarius didn’t actually exist as a real group and that it was his song, too. Usher moved forward with Sagittarius and recorded a full album leaning heavily on the talents of a young Curt Boettcher. Prior to the release of that record, Present Tense, in 1968, Usher and co. released a second Sagittarius single titled “Hotel Indiscreet” that had another musique concrète bridge section that utilized Peter Bergman of the Firesign Theatre ranting about… something:

“What for and how long my children? How long will we be made to suffer the utter degradation of everything we hold sacred? My fellow flowers, the time is upon us to open the door and purify the foul and pestilent air within, standing naked before the eternal judge and proclaiming we are all hip! Two three four… Hip! Two three four… zwei drei vier… Sieg Heil! SIEG HEIL!”

That bit was only on the mono version of the song, on the single. Clive Davis didn’t like the weirdo breaks in “My World Fell Down” and “Hotel Indiscreet” so he had Usher cut them out for Present Tense.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Happy Birthday Brian Wilson!
01:03 pm


Beach Boys
Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks in the studio, 1966

The great Brian Wilson turns 71 today!

At what point does he get to become a Beach Man?

Above, Brian Wilson debuts “Surf’s Up” on the Leonard Bernstein’s CBS-TV documentary special, Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution in 1967.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
John Belushi & Dan Aykroyd take Brian Wilson surfing, 1976


“C’mon Mr. Wilson. Let’s go surfin’ now.”

“Everybody’s learning how.”

California Highway Patrolmen John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd force Brian Wilson to get out of bed and on his board after issuing him a citation for failing to surf in one of the more iconic music/comedy crossovers of the 1970s. From the Lorne Michaels produced Beach Boys TV special, It’s OK.

Mike Love… he sure do look flamboyant here, don’t he?

Thank you Chris Campion of Los Angeles, CA!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The rarest Brian Wilson song of all: ‘Living Doll (Barbie)’?
01:06 pm


Beach Boys
Brian Wilson

Forget about Smile, this 5-inch Eva-Tone flexi-disc record was included in the box with purchases of the “California Dream Barbie” doll in 1987/88. The tune was co-written by Brian Wilson, his controversial psychiatrist Dr. Eugene Landy and Landy’s then girlfriend, later his wife, Alexandra Morgan.

Although credited to The Beach Boys, I don’t think the rest of them had anything to do with this turkey.

“Living Doll (Barbie)” is an adaptation of “Christine,” an outtake from Wilson’s self-titled solo album. Don’t expect to see this one, ever, on any Brian Wilson rarities box set! (It does appear on the Sweet Insanity Sessions Vol. 1 bootleg).

More about the song here.


Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Good Vibrations: Paul Tanner inventor of the Electro-Theremin, R.I.P.
05:40 pm


Beach Boys
Paul Tanner

Paul Tanner and the Electro-Theremin.
The signature theremin sound in “Good Vibrations” was produced not by a traditional theremin but by an invention created in the late 1950s by big band trombonist Paul Tanner and actor Bob Whitsell. They called it the Electro-Theremin. It created a sound similar to the theremin, but was easier to play. Instead of passing your hands over two antennae (which required a lot of practice to get right), you would mechanically control an audio oscillator. A simpler process, but far less beguiling to watch than the traditional method of playing the theremin.

Mr. Tanner died this past week at the age of 91.

In addition to “Good Vibrations,” Tanner played his Electro-Theremin on The Beach Boys’ “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” and “Wild Honey,” as well as on the soundtracks of movies and TV shows (My Favorite Martian). He also recorded two albums of Electro-Theremin music: Music from Heavenly Bodies and Music from Outer Space.
Tanner’s proto-type was the only authentic Electro-Theremin ever made. He didn’t see much of a future for his instrument. He correctly read the writing on the wall: synthesizers. Therevox created a variation on Tanner’s invention that worked using the same basic principals.

To hear Paul Tanner playing the Electro-Theremin click here.

In the video below, Mike Love is playing a Moog ribbon controller, an instrument developed for the Beach Boys for the sole purpose of simulating the sound of Tanner’s invention.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Legendary footage of Brian Wilson performing ‘Surf’s Up,’ 1966

Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks in the studio, 1966

Beach Boy Brian Wilson performing “Surf’s Up” (for my money, his single greatest song) from the then “upcoming” Smile album in 1966. If you’re a big Beach Boys fan, this clip might bring tears to your eyes.

This is an excerpt from Leonard Bernstein’s landmark CBS-TV documentary special, Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution, which aired the following year on April 25, 1967. Bernstein’s film also featured Graham Nash and Frank Zappa and was one of the very first serious documentaries about rock music—Bernstein took the then-unusual approach of treating pop as a legitimate art form—produced for American television.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The Beach Boys’ ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ re-imagined in Kinetic typography

Delightful video made by Joe Humpay for his girlfriend. I like the Beach Boys A LOT and I really like this video, too. I just wished he would have used the a cappella version instead, but that’s a small complaint, of course, for such goodness.


Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
The T.A.M.I. Show

Today marks the first time The T.A.M.I. Show has seen a proper release since it was in theaters over 40 years ago, although bootlegs have been easy to come by since the late 80s. James Brown’s inspired performance—perhaps the finest moment of his entire career—will knock your socks off.

Filmed at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, October 29, 1964, the performers also included Chuck Berry, Gerry And The Pacemakers, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Lesley Gore, Jan & Dean, Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas, The Supremes, The Barbarians and The Rolling Stones. The DVD, put out by the mighty Shout Factory contains restored footage of the Beach Boys performance which was cut from the theatrical release.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Brian Wilson’s Lost Masterpiece Smile: A “New” Old Version
11:01 am


Beach Boys
Brian Wilson



Although over the years there have been many, many fan made “reconstructed” (bootleg) versions of what Brian Wilson really intended to do with his lost Beach Boys masterpiece Smile, in 2004 his Brian Wilson Presents Smile album and tour pretty much set the record straight. And if this wasn’t exactly what Wilson had intended back in 1967 (before Mike Love, new fatherhood, mental illness and various other factors buried the project) then at the very least it’s Wilson’s final word on the piece, what he once called his “teenage symphony to God.”

Wilson’s ill-fated Smile, of course, became legendary amongst rock snobs. In 1993 Beach Boys fans discovered just how far along Wilson’s unfinished project got. On the Beach Boys box set, Good Vibrations, author and filmmaker, David Leaf (The Beach Boys and The California Myth, 1978) sequenced a stunning 30 minute selection of Smile outtakes. I can tell you for sure, it was a mind-blowing thing to hear. Elvis Costello described hearing Brian Wilson’s original demo for “Surf’s Up” as like discovering a lost recording of Mozart and I must agree.

What we have here, though, is the so-called “Smile [Purple Chick bootleg]” put together by some Beach Boys fans using mostly original stereo Beach Boys recordings—using Wilson’s 2004 album as a guide—to step by step recreate Smile with these vintage sources. It’s fantastic! They re-edited, pitch shifted and used a few moments from Wilson’s BWPS album to connect the tracks and the results are quite good, a revelation even. Although I am not sold on their remake of Good Vibrations (my brain just refuses to accept it) I have to say that it’s entirely valid. After all it’s what Wilson did himself. Still, I swapped that track out on the CD I made for the car (and you might want to also).

A Good Smile Bootleg

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment