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Archive for the ‘Beach Boys’ Category

Song ID: The Beach Boys – “Breakaway” (1969)

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

breakaway   pontiacbreakaway

This 1969 single written by the unlikely team of Brian Wilson and father Murry (as “Reggie Dunbar”) perhaps should have been a higher charting follow up to “Do It Again” for the Beach Boys (although it did sit rather uncomfortably as part of the 1974 Endless Summer lineup). Why didn’t “Breakaway” do better than its numerologically eye-catching #69 peak position? My theory: the “Breakaway” catchphrase had already been getting tons of airplay with Steve Karmen’s jingle for the 1969 Pontiac.

Beach Boys – “Breakaway” (1969)

Beach Boys – “Celebrate the News” (1969): This was the broody B-side, a Dennis Wilson track that gives the single the yin yang tension familiar to many a Beach Boys observer.

And here’s this:

The Steve Karmen Big Band featuring Jimmy Radcliffe (1968) – “Breakaway Parts I and II”: Side A is Jimmy Radcliffe talking and singing over a troubled, minor key arrangement of Karmen’s theme, while Side B is the major-key instrumental version more familiar from TV and radio ads.

Song ID: The Beach Boys – “Shut Down” (1963)

Monday, December 15th, 2014


Little Deuce Coupe was the first record I ever owned. Dad, a California native, brought it home from a thrift store where he’d been looking for something else. He presented it to me and told me the names of all the band members, who were dressed as though ready for church. As it played, he also explained car culture terminology. To “shut down” a guy was to smoke him in a hot rod race. This was exotic info for a first grader.

The  Beach Boys – “Shut Down” (1963)

The Beach Boys’ Lagoon Gigs

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

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Lagoon is the Farmington, Utah, amusement park that “all the kids dig” in the Beach Boys’ “Salt Lake City.” I’ve just spent some time with Ian Rusten and Jon Stebbins’ new book The Beach Boys in Concert to get the lowdown on how many times they played there:

Sat, 9/7/63: “The audience response was so strong that the group was hastily booked for more Salt Lake shows that December…According to David Marks, Brian and Mike composed the song ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ at the hotel room after this concert.”  The December gigs happened at the Terrace in Salt Lake City.

Fri, 6/12/64 and Sat, 6/13/64: “Over 5,500 fans attended the Saturday show underlining the Beach Boys’ strong popularity in this area.”

Wed, 7/29/64 (with Eddie Hodges, Jimmy Griffin and Lynne Easton, and the Kingsmen) [Jimmy Griffin would certainly visit Salt Lake City many more times in the seventies…will need to wait for someone to write a book called Bread in Concert for details]: “Over 3,500 teenagers attended this show, breaking Lagoon’s weekday attendance record.”

Fri, 9/11/64 and Sat 9/12/64

Sat, 5/29/65 (7:00 pm and 10:00 pm) (with Glen Campbell and Dick and Dee Dee) [This is the tour, I think, where Beach Boy Dennis tried to make the moves on Dee Dee by informing her he’d had a vasectomy. I read about that in her Vinyl Highway. Rock stars…sheesh.]

Fri, 9/10/65 (9:00 pm) and Sat, 9/11/65 (7:00 pm and 9:30 pm): “The Beach Boys…were given the keys to the city by Commissioner Joe L.  Christensen.”

Fri, 9/9/66 (9:00 pm) and Sat, 9/10/65 (7:00 pm)

Sat, 6/15/68 (7:00 pm and 9:30 pm): “A month after the Maharishi fiasco, the Beach Boys headed to Salt Lake City, Utah, where they could always rely on attracting a sizable audience. There the group took part in a photo shoot for Fabulous 208 magazine. Accompanied by writer Cyril Maitland, they took a jeep ride to locations Al Jardine had previously visited and thought would look good in photos. They posed at an old amusement park and pier [Saltair], as well as on the shores of the Great Salt Lake [see below].”  Incidentally, Rusten and Stebbins, I don’t believe the Maharishi was a fiasco for Mike Love.


(KNAK DJ Bill “Daddy-O” Hesterman is the man in orange)

Sat, 9/7/68 (7:00 pm and 9:30 pm) (with the Box Tops)

Fri, 9/5/69 (9:00 pm) and Sat, 9/5/69 (9:00 pm) (with Paul Revere and the Raiders)

Sat, 9/12/70 (9:00 pm): “This was the group’s final appearance at this legendary venue.”

Cruisin’ with The Lost Beach Boy

Monday, May 27th, 2013

lostbeachboyThe resurfacing of David Marks has been one of the many happy developments in the Beach Boys saga. Marks joined the band when he was 13, replacing Al Jardine after the first single and appeared on the first four albums before an altercation with Beach Boy dad and manager Murry Wilson prompted his exit. Marks’s precocious guitar chops were crucial to the band’s early instrumental sound, a fact that gets overshadowed by their celebrated vocals and songwriting. You can read about Marks’s contributions in Jon Stebbins’s book The Lost Beach Boy (2007), which never strikes me as an overstatement of the case. It’s loaded with valid info any Beach Boy fan will appreciate.

Be forewarned, though, that the The Lost Beach Boy is a frustration fest recounting the following: David’s blustery departure from the group; Murry’s possible efforts to blacklist David Marks and the Marksmen from the airwaves; the undeserved commercial failure of his psychedelic group The Moon; the premature replacement of David by Eric Clapton in Delaney and Bonnie’s band; Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour wrecking David’s house; a falling out with buddy Warren Zevon, who thought Marks was having an affair with his wife; David getting off on the wrong foot with Phil Everly after meeting him; drug and alcohol abuse for several lifetimes; financial rollercoasters and more.

Cutting through all of this, though, is the clear sense that Marks takes full ownership of his disappointments and relishes every opportunity to continue associating with the extended Beach Boys family. This is also evident in Marks’s interviews and general demeanor elsewhere (I love this recent series of YouTube videos, for example, in which Marks gives an uber-simpatico clinic on Beach Boys guitar at Hawthorne High). The happiest result of my reading of The Lost Beach Boy, though, was the long stretch I spent with David Marks and the Marksmen’s Ultimate Collectors Edition on repeat in my car. (You’ll have to download it from Amazon – it’s currently not available for an affordable price any other way.) Give a listen to this muddy but eminently cool 1964 B-side and see why it might have that effect.

David Marks and the Marksmen – “Cruisin’” (1964)

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Song ID: The Beach Boys – “Airplane” (1977)

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011


The Beach Boys’ Love You record hides much complexity behind a tossed off, damaged-Brian Wilson veneer: when Wilson sings on it, the group’s guiding light sounds like he’s trying not to cough, and the synth he plays gives it a cost-cutting project-studio aura before everyone started recording that way. But these are beguiling, clever songs. The album’s penultimate one, about buckling into an airplane seat, chatting idly to strangers about loved ones back home, and gazing out the window at the incomprehensibilities of size and distance, has a knowing, elegaiac quality. Its subtle chord changes call for a version on nylon string guitar, which would perhaps sound like a companion piece to Simon and Garfunkel’s “So Long Frank Lloyd Wright.”

The Beach Boys – “Airplane” (1977)

Pocket Pet Sounds

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008


Jim Fusilli, Pet Sounds (2005)

I’d love it even more if they’d do a book about the Osmonds (I actually sent in a proposal once) or Bay City Rollers, but Continuum’s “33 1/3” series of little books about influential albums has still been a lot of fun. Their Pet Sounds volume was written by novelist and Wall Street Journal arts columnist Jim Fusilli, and you’ve got to admire his willingness to take on a subject so many have already written about. He’s got a right to, and that’s pretty much the point of his book, that Pet Sounds is such a deeply personal expression that’s presented in such a universally appealing way that it still has the power, after all these years, to touch individual listeners deeply and make them feel as though it were written just for them. The Pet Sounds of Charles Granata, Kingsley Abbot, David Leaf and Brian Wilson himself is the same album with the same unchangeable history, but its contents are so rich and its influence so expansive that it gives Fusilli and you and me all kinds of room to call it our own and maybe even publish something about why.

The book is definitely a “think piece” – there are no clear reasons why Fusilli’s divided the chapters the way he has, so it ends up feeling like a little book of pocket Pet Sounds meditations that you’re more inclined to dip into rather than read cover to cover. I do wish that the “personal meaning” aspect of his book would have compelled Fusilli to interact with the album even more on a personal level than he does in the book. I really love his introduction, where he talks about growing up in Hoboken and illustrating just how lifeguard-like the Beach Boys were to him as a doggie-paddling 1960s adolescent. It gives the book a Boys of Summer aura, and I, for one, was disappointed that he opted not to continue in such an aggressively first-person fashion. The book really crackles at the all too infrequent points when he does, though. (I think this approach is harder to pull off than it seems, although Ron Schaumburg did an especially fine job with his Growing Up with the Beatles back in the seventies.)

posted by Kim Simpson

Song ID: Linda Ronstadt – “Adios” (1989)

Thursday, October 11th, 2007


This closing track from Ronstadt’s Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind is a stunner featuring three American treasures at the top of their game: Linda’s lead voice, Jimmy Webb’s songwriting, and Brian Wilson’s vocal arrangements. That this track never got proper acknowledgment as a big deal only adds to its heartbreaking aura.

Linda Ronstadt – “Adios” (1989)

Charles L. Granata, Wouldn’t It Be Nice: Brian Wilson and the Making of the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds (2003)

Tuesday, August 7th, 2007


Charles L. Granata’s Wouldn’t It Be Nice is the first of three fairly recent books devoted to Pet Sounds, and if I were Granata, I admit I’d have shied away from the project after having read the very thorough David Leaf booklet that came with the 1997 Pet Sounds Sessions box set. But his book ends up being a worthwhile synthesis of the album’s back story and makes for a more than adequate accounting of the LP’s modern-day canonical status. The author clearly has a deep appreciation for songcraft (this is equally evident in his other writings about Frank Sinatra), and depending on the reader, Granata’s musical analysis – while never completely over the top – will either strengthen or bog down the reading experience. (Only after reading this book, by the way, did I ever see the very specific and now-so-seemingly-obvious influence of Pet Sounds on the Beatles’ “Here, There and Everywhere.”)

Other readers who may find this book a struggle will be folks like myself who endeavor to read every page ever written about the Beach Boys and who will undoubtedly snooze through some of the book’s oft-recycled quotes and anecdotes. My advice to those readers is to stick with it, because there are lots of hidden little gems that will inevitably manifest themselves due to the eyebrow-raising number of authoritative witnesses Granata interviewed. (I like the story of Brian coaxing guitarist Billy Strange, who didn’t own an electric 12-string, to bring along the young son he was babysitting into the studio with him so he could watch his dad lay down the intro to “Sloop John B” on gear that would be provided for him. After laying down the part, Brian sends Strange and Strange Jr. off into the night, saying “don’t forget your guitar and amplifier.”) Wouldn’t It Be Nice is especially recommended for folks who’ve never read anything substantial about the Beach Boys and have little patience for the in-crowd only approach that plenty of rock-crit writing is guilty of.

Sidebar: Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Granata wins a bonus mention and my deepest appreciation for being who I believe is the only Beach Boy author to fully acknowledge the masterful contribution Brian made to Linda Ronstadt’s Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind LP in 1989, the year after his solo debut. He did the vocal arrangement for Jimmy Webb’s “Adios,” which stands among the most beautiful and heartrending tracks he’s ever been associated with. Please indulge me as I revel in Granata’s attention to this criminally overlooked moment:

“Among Brian’s most notable work of the new decade was his 1990 [no, 1989, but you’re forgiven, my son] collaboration with Linda Ronstadt on Jimmy Webb’s ‘Adios.’ Webb marveled at how intact Wilson’s musical acumen was, given the difficulties he’d surmounted. ‘From what I was told, he went in to Skywalker Sound and put on a magic show,’ the songwriter says. ‘It was a real ‘This is how you do a head vocal arrangement‘ demonstration in which he created all of the parts on the spot, laying down one vocal after another. He was in complete control of the situation, and went right through the process from beginning to end. In my estimation, the results were pretty special. I was very happy, and very proud of that meeting, that chance for a brush with greatness. It was a wonderful thing for me and my song.” Well said, Mr. Webb, and well done, Mr. Granata.

posted by Kim Simpson

Album ID: The Beach Boys – Golden Harmonies (1985)

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007


Just found an image of the scarce Golden Harmonies compilation I asked about earlier. I recognize the pic as an outtake not from an 80’s photo session, but a late 60’s Wild Honey-era one I’ve seen other stuff from (Dennis’s orange terrycloth pants are the giveaway). The funny image I had in my head, though, based on Golden’s description in Southern California Pastoral, isn’t too far removed from what’s here. What a strange compilation this Golden Harmonies is, incidentally: two records with four songs on each side with nothing from beyond 1965 except one – the Pet Sounds title track.

John Milward, The Beach Boys: Silver Anniversary (1985)

Monday, April 23rd, 2007


Music journalist John Milward’s The Beach Boys: Silver Anniversary is a coffee table book full of glossy photos which outnumber the pages of large-font text. Notwithstanding this, or the fact that he offers up no new raw material, it’s in the upper echelon of Beach Boys books because he’s managed to string together all the familiar quotes and anecdotes from previous publications with artful, personally invested prose. The mid-80s were a significant checkpoint for the Beach Boys: they turned 25; they had a hit single (“Getcha Back”); they bounced back from Secretary of the Interior James Watts’s 1983 refusal to allow them to play a concert on the Washington DC Mall by returning triumphantly the following year with full support of both the public and the president (Watts ended up losing his job); and a couple of crucial books about the group saw publication – David Leaf’s heartfelt 1985 revision of his Beach Boys and the California Myth and Steven Gaines’s leering tell-all, Heroes and Villains. Milward’s book appropriately walks the middle ground between the two and the result is a highly accessible relic from this era, not only in terms of readability but also availability on library shelves.

This isn’t to say that Milward doesn’t let his own discomfort with elements of the Beach Boys’ then-current state of affairs show. This is evident in the book’s appendices, in which he insists on mapping out his discographical essays according to the jumbled availability of the group’s recordings circa 1985. Even less happily, Milward reveals himself as a Brian cultist who’s more or less given up hope. “The Beach Boys devotee is innocent by nature,” he writes, “and is glad to grab at straws while imagining the band’s return to full glory.” He passes my own personal Friends and Love You tests with flying colors simply because he gives them their due, but he does so in an unmistakably bummed out, straw-grabbing manner. Friends: “A wholly likable record that has aged remarkably well; the seed of its amiability, however, is that it had nothing to do with ambition.” Love You: “Fans of Brian heard their old friend, and if he wasn’t the aural sophisticate he once was, there was a chilling charm to these simple songs.” (Dare you to try playing any of these “simple songs” at the campfire, Mr. Milward.) And I do have to take issue with his understandably Brian-cultist decision to dismiss the Carl and the Passions and Holland albums altogether as “abysmal.” Perhaps most revealing of his discouraged outlook, though, is the picture he paints in the book’s final paragraph, an almost macabre fantasy scenario in which a creatively spent Brian reunites with dead father Murry among monuments to glorious musical achievements of his which, although never to be forgotten, have long since passed. Recommended all the same.

posted by Kim Simpson