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…