Hidden Beach Boys

Spotify playlist: https://spoti.fi/3yTqJmz


Blue Cheer was not the only group that covered the 1958 Eddie Cochran hit.


Since Mike Love was the frontman, most people thought he sang lead on every song, but this was untrue. “Farmer’s Daughter” is one of my favorite Beach Boys tracks, it takes a trope used in jokes and makes a sentimental story and it’s all glued together by Brian Wilson’s falsetto vocal, never mind the humming in the middle. It doesn’t have to be complicated to be good, “Farmer’s Daughter” is so simple yet so right.


There was no internet, only transistor radios, you could be alone on the beach looking into the endless distance, especially on the west coast, where the next stop was Hawaii, and then Japan. That feeling of contemplation, it’s been lost in our fast-paced, connected society.


Another track with Brian Wilson’s falsetto.


Forget the lyrics, which could be accepted without irony in the early sixties, check out the changes. There are more in this nearly sixty year old track than in a whole host of today’s number ones.

At this point, 1963, most people did not buy albums, which were seen as singles with filler, and therefore most people only know the hits from that era. But after buying “The Beach Boys Today!” and “Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!)” I went back and bought “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” I was always an album guy and knew and still know it by heart. So the above three songs mean so much to me.


“Catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world”

Need to know any more? The best description of a sport in any song ever! And you wonder why we were so surf-crazy, even those in landlocked states. And how about that harp?

“Baby that’s’a all there is to the coastline craze”


Never forget that “409” was on “Surfin’ Safari,” the Beach Boys’ first LP. In other words, cars and surfing coexisted, even though it’s conventionally thought that at first songs were about surfing and then cars.

Most people had no idea what a car club was until “American Graffiti,” when cruising the boulevard was brought to the masses.


A track on the “Little Deuce Coupe” album that most people never heard until it was released in 1975 as the title track of the double album hits compilation “Spirit of America” that followed up the smash double LP hits compilation “Endless Summer” released the year before.


It was hard to understand the words on the primitive playback systems we employed, “run, kick or pass”? I always heard that with profanity, I didn’t catch the football references. This was back when having school spirit was still cool, you wanted to be popular, you wanted to wear a letterman’s sweater, this was all turned on its head by Frank Zappa and the advent of the late sixties. Ever hear Frank’s “Status Back Baby”?


Sounds like a hit, but it wasn’t, just an album track. The sound hearkens back to what came before as opposed to what was to come in the future. I heard this on Sirius the other day, it brought me back to a simpler era, when summer wasn’t commercialized, but a two month era of freedom, that never ended before Labor Day.


Yes, the title track of the 1964 album, but most people weren’t exposed to it until it closed the aforementioned “American Graffiti” ten years later.


Yes, a Beach Boys original that was covered by the Hondells shortly thereafter and turned into a magnificent, magical hit. Interestingly, the Hondells were a studio group concocted by Beach Boys songwriting partner Gary Usher, although Usher was not involved in the writing of this song.

Yes, Honda was a motorcycle company first, and its scooters were a mania in the early sixties. The Navarette girls across the street had a red one. My mother let me ride on the back of it with one of the sisters once, I remember having to help push it up the hill, it lacked power, and no, I was not wearing a helmet.


The title song for the beach party movie released in ’65 within which the Beach Boys appeared playing around a campfire, I saw it on Steel Pier in Atlantic City.


My college roommate Lyndon used to play it to psyche himself up for the drive to Maine to go surfing.


The opening cut of “Today!” was a cover of the Bobby Freeman song “Do You Wanna Dance?” sung by Dennis Wilson and it was a hit in the summer of 1965. I dropped the needle on it at the social at Camp Laurelwood and I strode out on the floor in my clam diggers and busted a move and promptly stole Jill from her boyfriend Jimmy.

“Good to My Baby” followed up “Do You Wanna Dance?” and couldn’t have sounded more different, you either lifted the needle and dropped it on the opening cut once again or let the album play and learned to love “Good to My Baby,” like me.


I always thought of my younger sister Wendy when I heard this, although she was only ten, not a teenager, at the time.


The first side of “Today!” was upbeat, the rockers, and the second side was the ballads. This was the b-side of the “Do You Wanna Dance?” single and respected today but it didn’t get much mindshare back then.


And now I’m so old. They were always talking about getting married and having children, that was never my dream.


“Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!)” is the apotheosis, my favorite Beach Boys album. “Good Vibrations” gets all the ink, but do you know what it was like to hear “California Girls” on the radio in the summer of ’65? Beatlemania was raging, music was everything, but the U.K. sound was darker, the acts wore suits, the Beach Boys seemed to be stuck in the past and then came “California Girls,” with a lengthy instrumental intro that all stations played, and lyrics glorifying California girls, but the truth is the entire track is a tribute to the Golden State and after hearing it there was no doubt in my mind that that’s where my heart lay.

“The Girl from New York City” was the album opener. Why? Maybe because “Do You Wanna Dance?” had opened and hit from “Today!”? Superfluous, a shadow of the Ad-Libs ubiquitous hit, I’ve heard it more than the original because that’s how much I love “Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!)”


Back before they were called “theme parks,” when the only theme was FUN! They had a roller coaster and the Wild Mouse and junk food and you begged your parents to go, if you were older you went and hung out unsupervised with other teens. But forget the subject matter, this is just a fantastic track, I love it.


Once again, like with “The Girl From New York City,” the sexes are reversed, but this one works much better because of Al Jardine’s full-throated vocal.


This was back before air travel was cheap, when most people had never been anywhere, that was one of the perks of being a musician, you went places, even though Brian Wilson burned out on the grind. But you listen to Mike sing about the Lagoon and…he makes it sound better than it actually was, I know, I ultimately lived there.


My favorite Beach Boys track, for the last few decades anyway. The deal is sealed by Carl Wilson’s vocal. And the story of summer love, I understand that, see Jill above.


Must be included for the intro verse if nothing else, the exquisite sound of Brian’s vocal and the instruments.


Brian sans falsetto…until the magical chorus.


You don’t need lyrics to set your mind free. Brian was not just a pop star, he was a COMPOSER!


Before we knew all the drama with Murry, it was just seen as a throwaway about teen culture.


Never underestimate the power of a cappella, which has finally gotten its due on TV but never forget the Eagles open their show with their a cappella version of Steve Young’s “Seven Bridges Road,” it sets the bar so high, who else can do this?


The original version, from “Smiley Smile,” so simple, nearly completely a cappella this was back before vegetables were cool, when the closest teens got was the fries at McDonald’s. Yes, Brian ultimately cut “Smile” decades later, but this is the version you want to listen to.


Like “Vegetables,” the original is better than the subsequent rerecording and you’ve got the benefit of Carl’s sweet voice.


The song is known today, but was completely unknown back then, there was a backlash against “Smiley Smile” despite its two hits, “Good Vibrations” and “Heroes and Villains,” the Beach Boys were seen as has-beens, and as a matter of fact “Wild Honey” was released just three months later.


Stunningly the Beach Boys had another hit, with “Darlin’,” but the truth is music had changed and AM was no longer seen as cool, all the action was on the FM band, exploration as opposed to ditties. However, you must listen to this cover of the Stevie Wonder hit because of Carl’s amazing vocal.


And then they had another hit, with the retro “Do It Again,” looking backward as opposed to forward as the sixties were explding. Then again, Brian was partaking of the “lifestyle” and his involvement was limited, there was a cover of “Bluebirds over the Mountain” but “Cotton Fields” is superior because of Al Jardine’s vocal.


“Sunflower” was the group’s first album on Warner Brothers and even though it lacked a hit it was a complete return to form, at least in quality, because the sound was more modern and with the retreat of Brian the other members started to spread their wings, most notably Dennis Wilson, this opener is a tour-de-force, despite being ignored.


The sound was a giant leap forward. A Brian composition that was brought over the top by Carl’s swirling, meaningful vocal.


My favorite song on “Sunflower,” it’s a dash through the life of an artist that ends up on a positive note that bursts with energy, never mind the delicious slow breakdown in the middle. It was written by Dennis but it’s got a Carl vocal, as he was becoming the dominant, controlling member of the act.

“I used to be a famous artist

Proud as I could be

Struggling to express myself

For the whole world to see

I used to blow my mind sky high

Searching for the lost elation

Little did I know the joy I was to find

In knowing I am only me”

Become uber-successful and the game changes, formula no longer works, it’s got no meaning, everybody wants you to be who you were but you’re not that person anymore. Now that you’ve got cash and sex, the trappings, you realize how worthless they are and you start to wonder who you are, you start exploring, which is what musicians of yore did before they all became brands, and the billionaires are still clueless, they think it’s all about commerce, but it’s about art. Go to an exclusive party…people will be lining up to talk to the famous musicians, not the billionaires.


Bruce Johnston was given landscape and delivered with this and “Tears in the Morning.”


The sleeper that got absolutely no traction upon “Sunflower”‘s release but got recognized when John Stamos covered it on “Full House” multiple times. It’s a genius song from back when Dennis could not only write, but before his voice got so tattered and gruff.


Yes, topical, ecological, but catchy nonetheless, with the harmonies on the chorus sealing the deal, Brian sang on it but had no hand in writing it.

“Toothpaste and soap will make our oceans a bubble bath

So let’s avoid an ecological aftermath

Beginning with me

Beginning with you”

As relevant now as it was then. I wonder what Mike Love thinks about global warming, never mind student wokeness, he did sing “Student Demonstration Time” on “Surf’s Up.”


The notes going up the scale and Carl’s vocal put this over the top.


Used to be my favorite Beach Boys song, I thought I was the only one who knew it, and then Don Was featured it in his Brian Wilson documentary and…that was back in ’95, more than a quarter century past, time is slipping through our fingers.


The Beach Boys have success with the “Surf’s Up” album and then follow it up with the dud “Carl and the Passions – ‘So Tough,'” which was paired with “Pet Sounds” in a double album and promptly ignored. This was the beginning of the nostalgia era, the Beach Boys started touring to big numbers but it was all based on the past, not the present, except here was this song “Marcella” at the end of the first side, as great as anything the band had done in the sixties, with Carl Wilson’s vocal, but it was really the waterfall of sound that sealed the deal.

“One arm over my shoulder

Sandals dance at my feet

Eyes that’ll knock you right over

Ooo Marcella’s s sweet”

Hear it once and you’ve got to hear it again and again, but very few did.


So “Holland” opens with the great, mid-chart hit “Sail On, Sailor” sung by previous Flame member Blondie Chaplin, but other than that Brian Wilson’s involvement was minimal, except for the attached, disappointing bonus EP “Mount Vernon and Fairway.” And the first side had the disappointing “California Saga,” but the second side opened with this. “The Trader” is put over the top by Carl Wilson’s high vocal in the chorus and the indelible change, the transition to something smooth, like catching the wave and riding it to heaven.


Brian was one of three writers on “Funky Pretty” but it’s put over the top by Carl’s vocal, especially in the repetition of the title starting at 2:40.


Brian was back, only he wasn’t, except in this song. A lot of “15 Big Ones” was covers of classic hits of the sixties, but this original was a full-throated evocation of the sound of the sixties, but by this point no one cared and FM didn’t play stuff like this and AM meant little anyway so we had the great Belushi/Aykroyd special, a lot of press and ultimately no hits other than a lame cover of Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music.”


And now it was 1977, a year later, and Brian was REALLY BACK! And it turned out he shouldn’t have been. “Love You” was a curio that didn’t deserve the press, Brian’s quirkiness was evidenced, but it demonstrated he wasn’t quite ready for prime time. Ergo this number, back when Johnny Carson was not cool. The end result was something that sounded like an outtake from “Smiley Smile”…interesting subject matter, not ready for radio play ANYWHERE! As for home play…for diehards a few times.


Much better, but basically a redo (predo?) of an American Spring song from 1972. 


“The M.I.U. Album” was listenable, only disposable, but this remake of the Del-Vikings hit is great, primarily because of Al Jardine’s vocal.


“L.A. (Light Album)” was much better than “The M.I.U. Album,” but it was hobbled by the almost eleven minute disco remake of “Here Comes the Night” on side two. But not only was the opening cut “Good Timin'” a complete return to form, a genuine hit, had it still been the sixties, there were other gems on the album, like this, cowritten by Carl and Geoffrey Cushing-Murray.


Even better is this, also written by Carl and Carl Geoffrey Cushing-Murray. “Angel Come Home” is my favorite on the album, at this point my second favorite Beach Boys track even though most people still have not heard it. Dennis sings it and his voice is just starting to become rough and his vocal is so heartfelt and meaningful, you can see, hear, feel him begging for her to come home. This is the kind of stuff they played on FM radio…before it was all programmed by Lee Abrams into hits only Superstars format. I’ve never heard “Angel Come Home” on the radio, but if you hear it and are open to it you will never forget it, it will play in your brain at the strangest times, it will become one of your treasured listening possessions.


Not only do we have the magic of Carl, but Dennis on vocals too. Very quiet, the opposite of in-your-face, but it definitely parks itself in your brain. It’s beautiful… Forget commercial success, this is what we want from music. This is the opposite of mindless dance music, the opposite of posturing, this is honest emotion that stops you in your tracks and sets you a-thinking.


And then it was basically over. There were a couple more albums on Caribou that weren’t listening to, and ultimately the Mike Love-led remainders had a hit with “Kokomo,” but Brian had gone his separate way and then Carl died and the dream was over, until…

It was 2012, the fiftieth anniversary of the group, and there was an album and a tour and then discord and separate tours once again.

And all the criticism of “That’s Why God Made the Radio” was about the use of Auto-Tune, but once again Joe Thomas was involved, who was at the helm for Brian Wilson’s best solo album, “Imagination,” and…the truth is times had changed, no one wanted to listen to new music by the Beach Boys, they just wanted nostalgia, but listen to this…

“Sometimes I realize my days are getting on

Sometimes I realize it’s time to move along

And I wanna go home

Sunlight’s fading and there’s not much left to say

My life, I’m better off alone

My life, I’m better on my own

Driving down Pacific Coast, out on Highway One

The setting sun


This is what it’s all about. The Beach Boys made baby boomer music, and the boomers are old and dying and they’re laden with memories and if you live out here and drive on PCH on a weekday, or any day as the sun starts to go down, you’ll get this feeling, a connection to what once was and will never return, but if you listen to the music you’re twelve years old again, your body is healthy, the world is at your fingertips, you’re optimistic and then the song ends and…

You come back to reality.

This is not what anybody is selling anymore, but Brian and the boys nail it here and it resonates, this is the only place you can get it and they deliver the original article.


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