The Collected Thoughts Of The Chairman
- Clean Up Your Room
- Beach Boys The Capitol Years
- Beach Boys The Warner Years
- A Tribute To Micky Jones
Get Up Off The Floor Of Your LIfe
The last few years have been particularly good for a record hound like myself. The local thrift shops offer up a few choice items every week. The occasional collection always seems like it must be the last one we will ever see. Trips this summer to Billings, Denver and Boulder yielded stacks of unexpected treasures. Prices are good, so it's easy to fill in gaps, and explore new avenues.
The original 16 crates have been with me since the mid 70's. A record shop I worked at used them in the warehouse. I've built 12 more over the years to accommodate the unavoidable growth. In the last couple of years, it seems there is a chronic stack of albums on the floor "to be sorted and filed". There are also boxes of albums in the cupboard. Some are duplicates, and things to sell, but there are some gems that have never been put into the main library. Last week, I attempted to clean up the mess, but gave up after a couple of futile hours.
When I originally laid out the studio, after the big remodel, I left a space between the two columns of crates. It was intended to be some space to hang headphones, but quickly attracted a lot of unused gear, and a few odd records. I finally figured if I moved the left stack over, closer to the piano, I could fit a 20 inch wide stack of crates. 4 crates, 80 inches more shelf space.
The process is pretty simple. The concern is that I don't have transport for a 4' x 8' sheet of plywood. I had to ask a friend for help, when I build two roll around carts for KGLT. I didn't want to impose again. On Sunday, I was determined to attack this problem, but wasn't sure if I could round up the materials. Before I headed to the local Home Despot, I figured I had better take a walk through the garage to see what might be found in the piles of scrap lumber. Eureka! There was still most of a big wooden shipping box I had dismantled. The two 1" x 12" pieces of pine would be enough for the eight end pieces. That was incentive to crawl over the pile of household stuff, to see if there was a sheet of 1/2" ply to be found. I had salvaged one sheet to trim the radio station media carts. Alas, there was still the second sheet from the shipping crate, and it seemed to be in good shape, Nearly every square inch was usable. Another piece of 1/2" wasn't a full sheet, but would help. I now had to put pencil to paper to see exactly what I would need. In the end, I had to cheat on the back pieces a little, but this wouldn't make a big difference to the structural integrity.
I don't consider myself a carpenter of any great skill. I was taught some basics as a kid, and can get by with out looking stupid. It would be fantastic to have a shop, and all the necessary power tools, but I don't. A SkilSaw and two little saw horses are about it. For what I'd be doing today, that is more than enough. In the end, my total expense was $1.08 for a bag 'o nails.
If you want to see how it came out, have a look at the slide show. You can measure the progress. I took some photos of a few of the gems in the collection.
...in the end, it all worked as planned. It is possible to get stuff on and off the shelf. There is plenty of room for growth, and it cleand up the clutter, for now.
Growing up on the West Coast in the 50's and 60's, it wasn't hard to get caught up in the excitement of the Beach Boys. They were singing about the things we did and the places we went to. Brian Wilson and his extended family brought the urban sound of Chuck Berry to those of us in the California suburbs. From the moment I heard them, I was smitten and became a rabid fan from that day on.
Living in the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose had the distinct advantage of two record shops that were walking distance from our house. Stevens Music was where my dad took my older brother and myself to buy our first records. We must have badgered my folks who finally agreed to give us $5 to spend on some singles. My choice was Having A Wild Weekend by the Rockin' Rebels. I also remember buying a Dick And Dee Dee release and something by the Four Seasons.
Stevens Music was primarily an instrument shop, and the record section disappeared with the band explosion in the mid 60's. We still spent plenty of time there checking out the guitars and trying to pick up some pointers from the real musicians who frequented the shop.
Luckily for us we had a second and even better source for records just across the street. Mike Scarpelli had a small storefront next door to the Garden Theater. His family owned Campi's Music out west of down town at the Valley Fair Mall. Mike was the wild member of the family and a real record hound, so he'd been exiled to our neighborhood. As a result, we had a guy who might have been a few years older than us kids, but had the same enthusiasm for music that we did. He would gladly track down our obscure special orders, and he was famous for handing out promo material with every purchase. My brother's friend Jack had some marvelous stand up displays from the first couple of Beatles releases. I still have the Revolver poster that I was given by our local dealer.
In 1964, when the Beatles appeared on the scene, I was torn, being a Beach Boys fan. Of course I loved the Beatles too, but I didn't realize at the time you could like more than one band. I still remember looking at the rack full of Beatles albums and tell Mike Scarpelli "oh man, the Beatles are just a fad. The Beach Boys will be around forever." Mr. Scarpelli nodded in polite agreement.
With in a couple of years, it was the hard to find Yardbirds and Who singles that we were ordering. When I finally saw the Yardbirds live in the summer of '66, I knew I was hearing a new sound a million miles removed from the Beach Boys, and I took off in a different direction. But then Smiley Smile grabbed my by both ears and brought me squarely back to the Beach Boy fold. Jud Cost likes to remind me that the first time we met, I was buying an import copy of The Beach Boys Live In London. This was in the very early 70's when it was generally accepted that being a fan was very "uncool". At least one of my girl friends dismissed them as "a bunch of fat guys with beards".
Unfortunately all through the 70's and 80s most news about the Beach Boys wasn't good. There seemed to be a preoccupation with Brain's mental state than the music they were making. In the 90's the situation had turned around considerably. A new generation of music fans were investigating the music made in the years before they were born. The Beach Boys were effectively over as a creative entity, but they offered a huge catalog of music to the neophyte.
It would seem that for most people The Beach Boys begin and end with Pet Sounds. Then there was the Endless Summer compilation which reintroduced the Beach Boys to a new, younger audience when it was released in 1974. Endless Summer and the follow up Spirit Of America shifted more copies than any of the original releases, and cast the still creative band as an oldies act.
Now here in the 21st Century, much to everyone's surprise, we find Brian Wilson, back out on the road. For a life long Beach Boy fan, this dramatic change of fortune boggles the mind. I've watched with interest as a new audience had discovered the music of The Beach Boys.
For better or worse, the band's 1967 masterpiece, Pet Sounds has become the center of this new Beach Boy universe. There have now been five major PS reissues, beginning with the original remastered CD release in 1990. Since then there has been a box set devoted to the Pet Sounds Sessions, a stereo remix, a Brain Wilson led live album and now a DVD 5.1 Surround Mix. With all this attention to lavished on one album the rest of the Beach Boys sizable catalog has been overlooked, and in many ways misunderstood.
It's nearly impossible to grasp the fact that between November 1962 and May 1966, when Pet Sounds was released the Beach Boys had released a staggering eleven albums. To think that Pet Sounds was the first good album they made is a reckless assumption. Still, it's not surprising that many new fans find the albums that preceded Pet Sounds "corny" or "quaint".
Granted, Surfin' Safari gives little indication of what Brian Wilson was capable of. There are credible covers of Summertime Blues and the Gamblers' instrumental Moon Dawg. Of the nine Wilson-Love-Usher originals at least four are keepers. The ode to root beer, Chug-A-Lug has always been a favorite of mine, and apparently Brain as well. He had this one in mind as the follow up to Surfin'.
The song writing had improved considerably by the time Surfin" USA was released five months later. The title track leaps out of the speakers and sent countless kids on a search for the beach. The album is peppered with five rockin' instrumentals. The original Stoked would seem to have been theinspiration for the Rolling Stones B side, Stoned. Farmer's Daughter and The Lonely Sea are the stand out album tracks.
If Surfin' USA was a big improvement the two albums that followed in quick succession were another quantum leap. Surfer Girl is the first album of all original material. Brian and company manage to get "surf" into five of the titles. By this time the songs had become more sophisticated, yet still stuck close to the formula. The Surfer Moon, Hawaii, Catch A Wave, and In My Room all incorporate and expanded musical palette, with strings, and harp! Your Summer Dream is a real surprise with it's jazzy vocals. This is a direct link to future musical experiments.We were well aware that Brian was now listed as the producer and spent hours studying the arrangements and harmonies.
Little Deuce Coupe was an odd one. It was released only a month after Surfer Girl and reprises four previously released hot rod themed songs. The other eight tracks were recorded in one day. Despite the apparent rush job to ride a new craze, the album holds up well. How can you not love songs like Cherry Cherry Coup and Custom Machine. And Spirit Of America, a tribute to the land speed record holder, Craig Breedlove, classic.
On these first four records several Beach Boy signature sounds were established. If the instrumental break wasn't guitar is was probably a snazzy organ interlude or a blast of boogie woogie piano from Brian. The harmonies were there from the start, but the band had become more comfortable in the studio, and were now double tracking lead and background vocals.
After a generous three months off, the Boys were back in the studio at the beginning of 1964 to commence recording the first of a string of seven classic albums leading up to Pet Sounds. The Beach Boys first release of the year, Fun Fun Fun would be the last record they would release before the Beatles hit the American shores. If the band from Hawthorne was worried, it sure didn't show on the cover of Shut Down Volume 2. They look tough and full of confidence.
The next four studio albums would show Brian, the Beach Boys and their collaborators tapped into the minds of American teenagers like no one had since Chuck Berry. Shut Down Volume 2 keeps one foot in the past with a cover of Louie Louie, the title track, a rockin' instrumental, a fantastic cover of Why Do Fools Fall In Love and three of his best compositions ever: Don't Worry Baby, Warmth Of The Sun, and the lead off single Fun Fun Fun. If this didn't sum up every teens joy and angst, then try In The Parking Lot. A song that on the surface is simply about sitting in your car with a girl waiting for the final bell to ring before class starts. But it's surrounded with a musical arrangement that lifts this song into the realm of unbelievable. The first time I heard this, I just had to sit down, and reconsider everything I had ever thought a rock and roll song might be.
All Summer Long might be the perfect Beach Boys album. A flawless song cycle that was the sound track of our lives that year. Granted, I was only twelve at the time, didn't have a Honda, surf board, or a girl, but that didn't mean I couldn't be a part of it. There are so many musical inventions on this album. Again the albums opens with the latest single, the marvelous I Get Around. From there it's right into the title track. A lot of people have tried to write a "summer song" but nothing beats this little bit of heaven on earth. The quality never lets up. Little Honda could easily been the blueprint for the Who's I Can See For Miles. Wendy is one of the most mysterious songs to come from Brian Wilson. While the subject matter of the album is boy-girl, having fun and Rock And Roll, the music was unlike anything we'd ever heard before.
Collectors Note: Keep an eye out for an original album with the prophetic "Don't Break Down" misprint on the front cover.
What could possible follow up such a great record. Well in the case of the Beach Boys, an even better one. But first there was the live interlude Beach Boys Concert. It's not easy to dismiss this one. It's a very accurate representation of a Beach Boys live show from this era. I saw them two months after it's release, and saw essentially the same show with the addition of several songs from the as yet unreleased Today album.
There was also the Christmas Album, which included a handful of original holiday songs. Little St Nick, Santa's Beard and The Man With All The Toys should not be over look because of their Christmas theme. The original album was expanded for cd release in the early 90's. It saw a second cd release as Ultimate Christmas. This 1998 release added eight songs from an abandon 1977 Christmas album for Warner Brothers.
It's a shame this second holiday album wasn't released at the time. But then considering the state of their career in the 70's it doesn't seem like it would have sold any better than their much heralded proper releases. Child Of Winter had snuck out on 45 a couple of years earlier, becoming an instant collector item.
So after the perfect wave of All Summer Long's sun and fun what next? On the verge of his retirement from touring, Brian goes straight to the head and heart. The albums kicks off with a rousing cover of Do You Wanna Dance with Denny handling the lead vocals. When I Grow Up To Be A Man is the first hint that Brain has been thinking about more than the beach and his car. Things get even more personal with Please Let Me Wonder. Contrary to David Leaf's CD liner notes, these new topics hardly put me off at the time. I found the reflective lyrics to be a revelation. Today is capped off with a song so atypical of rock at the time, In The Back Of My Mind. I could easily connect this to the sophisticated music of Duke Ellington and Frank Sinatra that I'd grown up hearing. Except it was coming from a band that was playing to us, not my parents. After this record, I expected all rock music to show a bit of intelligence.
An out take from the sessions for this album was given to their friend and temporary touring member, Glen Campbell. Guess I'm Dumb would have easily fit into the theme of Today, but maybe it was a little to close to the real emotion for Brian to sing it.
There are some who cite this as the best Beach Boys album, ever. I'd be glad to chair that committee.
It seems that some of the powers weren't so sure. The follow up, Summer Days And Summer Nights seemed like an attempt to recapture the less demanding thoughts of All Summer Long. This isn't a criticism, as the album is the perfect companion to the previous release. Again the music is challenging, full of key changes and detailed production treats. With out a doubt, the introduction to California Girls is one of the greatest moments in popular music. Girl Don't Tell me has emerged as one of the other highlights of this last step towards Pet Sounds. On this track the band cut the song without the help the the Wrecking Crew, and do the Beatles one better.
Why then after such a stunning string of albums full of ground breaking original material and arrangements did the Beach Boys drop one of most unnecessary albums, Beach Boys Party on those of us looking for the next bit of genius? I don't know, but when the anticipated new album appeared, it wasn't what I was waiting for. I was more than a little disappointed. By the time Pet Sounds arrived a few months later, my attention had been grabbed by the new sounds happening all around, and I didn't rush out to buy it the day it was released as I had in the past.
Released at the same time, November 1965, the proper studio track She's Not The Little Girl I Once Knew was released as a single. It sank with out a trace, and was nearly impossible to find until it's appearance as a bonus track on the Today/Summer Days cd. The odd structure of the song, with the long rests (big chunks of silence) scared some radio programmers. This was the first Brian Wilson flop in a couple of years, and the song was quickly forgotten. Too bad, asit has a certain charm and quirkiness that holds up forty years on.
Just because I didn't run out and buy Pet Sounds in May of 1966, it didn't stop it from selling well. The preview single, Sloop John B, added on Al Jardine's suggestion, was a smash hit, and kept the Beach Boys in the public eye. So much has been said about it, and by this time, everyone has a strong opinion. Looking at it now, I think it is Brain's masterpiece. It also is an anomaly in the Beach Boys catalog in the same way the album it prompted Paul McCartney to record, Sgt Peppers, is unique in the Beatles song book. After writing most of the lyrics of the previous two studio albums, Brian has handed most of that responsibility to Tony Asher. The music was completely Brain's creation, with no input from the band, who were on tour at the time the tracks were recorded.
So much has been said about this album in the last few years, that everyone must know about this one. Well how is it? In a word, perfect. It's Brian Wilson's ultimate statement of his post-Phil Spector pop.
Despite a hit single, and coming off the smash, Barbara Ann, Pet Sounds wasn't the big break though it should have been. Quite simply, this was released at the height of the Beatles popularity, and in the US it was a fickle audience. By contrast, it was well received in the UK., where the Beach Boys were given proper recognition. With in a couple of years, Pet Sounds was out of print.
As you know all too well things became even more complicated with the plans for the follow up, Smile. Me, I loved Good Vibrations, which was released only a few months after Pet Sounds. Heroes And Villains was even better. The album that followed was't what was promised, but I find it hard to criticize. In fact I find it to be a most amazing album. Yes, I've heard loads of out takes, both legitimate and otherwise. They are all very good. Some are amazing, but Brian wasn't able to make a coherent album from all the fragments. I'm afraid too many people were caught up in Brian's vision, and when he crashed the magic fell apart, and no one involved could possibly have a impartial view of the situation.
Several of the original Smile songs surfaced on later Beach Boys albums and the Good Vibrations box set dishes up a handful of previously unreleased tracks. More about this fantastic box set in part two.
Since this this article was written, the impossible had become a reality in the form of Brain Wilson Presents SMiLE. The most amazing thing about this modern recreation is how close to completion the Beach Boys version was. To be honest, the Beach Boys versions, even in their incomplete form beat this new version by a nose. Nothing can match the layered voices of the Beach Boys, and the analog organic sounds of the original sessions is hard to beat.
It's clear that Brian Wilson had composed something much more than a new album, this is modern American classical music.
To my ears Smiley Smile is not a grand failure, or a pale shadow of what it could have been, it's simply the most honest album I've ever heard. Other than the single versions of Heroes And Villains and Good Vibrations, the other four Smile songs are new and much different versions. Wonderful and Wind Chimes are transformed from the original complex arrangements to dreamy vocal and keyboard soundscapes. She's Going Bald revisits the Smile theme usually referred to as He Gives Speaches. While many, including the Beach Boys themselves, would disagree, I rate this one as one of their best. This album is also a template for much of the music Brain would do in the future.
The CD reissue adds an extended version of Heroes And Villians, and some ofthe progesss tapes from the many Good Vibrations studio sessions. It's clear that Brain had a head full of ideas, and was recording them all, then fitting the pieces together.
While it may have spelled an end to the Beach Boys as the premier American band, it hardly stopped them from making music. The good news was that Carl Wilson stepped up to fill the void left by the retreat of Brain. Dennis also became an important song writer. The band found a new sound that fit in perfectly with the times, if not anticipating the coming trend of "getting back to our roots". The three albums from this period late 1967 though the release of 20/20 in early 1969 saw the Beach Boys find a new way of presenting their music. With out the pressure to produce three albums a year, and a diminishing audience in the US, they were set free from the forces that drove them to try to top themselves and reach for the impossible. Wild Honey, Friends, and 20/20 are all great records. These three albums also represent a distinct third phase of their career at Capitol.
My brother and I had a band mate who was quick to take up the new sound of the Beach Boys, and would play Wild Honey and the successive releases non stop every time we would gather at his house to listen to records and admire his collection of vintage TV Guide (we would look up to see what bands had been on TV shows like Shindig) and Uncle Scrooge comics.
If Brain had "come apart" during the Smile Sessions, there is little sign that it had effected his prolific song writing, in fact he's credited on all but two of Wild Honey's eleven tracks.The big change is that rather than a collection of tracks recorded by Brian and session men, this one was done by the band at Brain's home studio. A lot of the Smiley Smile production style is present here. The fresh crop of new songs seem like a breath of fresh air after the complexities of Smile and the oozing desperation of Smiley Smile.
The title tracks seems to pick up where Good Vibrations left off. The other stand out track would have to be Darlin'. The album's closing track Mama Says is actually a bit of Smile version of Vegetables, The cover of Stevie Wonder's I Was Made To Love Her is a small surprise and lends to the R&B feel of the album. A clever choice.
Friends is an understated effort. If Wild Honey was an attempt to show the band was back on track after the Smile affair, Friends is possibly the most organic Beach Boy album. It was also one of their "least heard". Too bad, as it's a real treat. Friends, Be There In The Morning, Little Bird, and Busy Doing Nothing are all as good as anything the Beach Boys have ever done.
It was the underground press, Paul Williams's original Crawdaddy, that continued to champion the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson. In recent years these three albums have been recognized as and important turning point in the musical career of the Beach Boys. At the time they were lost in the crush of the guitar dominated late 60's. The Beach Boys relative lack of success was equaled only by the Byrds through this period. Great records, moving beyond their commercially successful sounds, totally ignored by the masses.
20/20 would be the Beach Boy's last album for Capitol. It's a collection of covers recorded for singles, and two more Smile tracks and several new songs. Of the singles released during this period only Do It Again, released in the summer of '68 showed any commercial promise. It made an awful year a little easier to survive. I suppose it's the nature of this release, but there are no new Brian Wilson compositions here. Besides the two smile compositions, I Went To Sleep is a left over from Friends, and Time To Get Alone was intended for Danny Hutton's band Redwood.
Denny steps up with two songs, Be With Me the better of two. Bruce Johnston also contributed, producing two songs. Despite the odds and sods nature of this album, 20/20 holds up remarkably well. The current Capitol 2-fer release adds the wonderful flop 45 Break Away b/w Celebrate The News.
After the sucess of the Concert album, the Beach Boys often made live recordings. Several shows were taped in Michigan in 1966. In August on 1967 a concert in Hawaii was recorded and filmed for release. For this event, Brian returned to the group to lead them through the Pet Sounds and Smile material. A year later, another series of concerts were recorded in London. The Lei'd In Hawaii album was scrapped due to technical problems. In 1968 several concerts were recorded. By this time the band had added a number of backing musicians to better approximate the sound of the records. Live In London didn't appear until 1970, after the band had left Capitol. An American release wasn't offered until after the surprise sucess of Endless Summer. The 1990 CD reissue of Concert and Live In London added a version of Heroes And Villains from the 1967 recordings. Endless Harmony, Hawthorne, CA and the 25 Years Of Good Vibrations box added a few more fragments from the 1699 and 1968 concert recordings. A fantastic version of Good Vibrations was rescued from the abandoned Wally Heider re-recording sessions which were an attempt to salvage the Lei'd In Hawaii concept. Further live recordings from Carnagie Hall 1972 can be found on Endless Harmony.
Before we close the book on the Capitol Years there is one more album in the catalog that is even more baffling than Party. That would be Stack-O-Tracks. Released in August 1968, this album was a collection of Beach Boy's backing tracks, sans vocals. The idea was the listener was meant to gather together his own brothers, cousins and friends to sing along with these instrumental versions. An odd concept indeed. It hardly sold, and became a collectors item a few years down the line. The thing is, it's a great listen. It makes it clear how important the vocals were to the complete arrangement. Not just a vehicle for lyrics but an important musical element. With out vocals it came become a test to identify which tune you're hearing. It's not well known, but this wasn't a new concept to Capitol Records, who had previously released a sing along with Nelson Riddle album.
end of part one.... part two, Warner Brothers And Beyond can be found on the next page
In 1970 the Beach Boys signed to Reprise and embarked on a new path freed from some of the chains of the past. The release schedule was a bit more realistic, but the label's hopes for a Beach Boys revival were high. In fact the album was revised twice before it was finally accepted by the powers at Warners/Reprise.
On the fan front, there was much excitement and it looked like things would turn around for the long suffering band. They were now on a label that actually liked the band, and backed them with the full force of America's most progressive record companies.
Sunflower, the first release on the new contract is still considered by many to be one of the very best Beach Boy albums. While sales didn't match the high expectations and sincere praise, the music in the grooves was wonderful. Under the watchful eye of Lenny Warnorker, the album was completed to everyone's satisfaction. The production is again up to the usual timelss Beach Boys standards.
The albums opens with the great Denny Wilson track, Slip On Through, one of four songs he penned for the album. A fifth was on the short list, but eventually dropped. Brain contributed several killer songs including the original title track Add Some Music To Your Day, and the classic Cool Cool Water.
When Sunflower failed to shift copies as anticipated, some of the old pressures and friction returned to the Beach Boy's camp. The follow up, sometimes referred to as Land Locked, saw the addition of the Smile song Surf's Up at the labels request. This song had only been heard once prior to this release, when Brain played a solo version for a Leonard Bernstien TV special. A cynical, but brilliant move. The appearence of this song on a Beach Boy's album assured that it was going to sell. There were only two other Brain songs on the new album. 'Til I Die showed that he was capible of writing a song equal to the much lauded title track.
Dennis didn't contribute. Carl's songwriting was limited to a scant two songs. That said, Feel Flows is the best song he would give to the Beach Boys. A wonderful slice of West Coast psych. Complex insturmentation and more oozing vocals make this a real high light on this album. Nothing wrong with his other collaboration with Jack Rieley, Long Promised Road. It seemed that everything Carl had to offer up was a gem. Al Jardine and Mike Love teamed up for the album's opener, Don't Go Near The Water, another quirky tune. Al worked with Gary Winfrey on his other two compostions. Take A Load Off Your Feet was a Sunflower left over. Looking At Tomorrow is another stand out track on the album
While record sales hadn't set the world alight, the Beach Boys were once again a major concert attraction. Once again I was treated to the Beach Boys live in concert around this time. Rather than suffer the scorn of my jaded friends, I found myself at a sell out concert at Winterland, Bill Graham's venue on the corner of Post and Steiner. In a moment that still sticks in my mind, Mike Love prefaced the show with the promise "if you all listen to these new songs that we want to play for you, we'll play some of our old hits later". With that, the enlarged Beach Boys Orchestra leapt into a note perfect version of Heroes And Villains. Blondie Chapin and Ricky Fataar were an important part of the band at this time. Dennis spent most of the show playing piano and singing, only moving to the kit for the encores. The sound was not unlike the 1968 Live In London album, or the In Concert album which was recorded in '72 and '73.
By 1972, Brian Wilson's mental state was well known. With every new release, it was hoped that "this would be the one to bring him back". Carl And The Passions "So Tough" apparently didn't convince Reprise, so they added the then out of print Pet Sound to the package to boost sales. The two strongest songs were requesitioned from Denny's first solo album attempt. These orchestra heavy numbers preview the style that would eventually be heard on his only solo release, Pacific Ocean Blue
Thirty years later, it stands up well, but maybe not as strong as the two that preceded it. Brian is only credited for co-writing three of the mere eight songs. At the same time Blondie Chapin and Ricky Fataar emerged as creative members of the band. I had discovered the album by their previous band Flame in the stacks at KSJO, when it was released on Brother Records. On "So Tough" the new memebers blend seemlessly with the now evolving Beach Boy's sound of the 70's.It's a shame that even this relitivly minor album in the Beach Boys catalog was still better than most of what was in the charts at the time. It probably says more about the preception of the band than the music they continuted to produce.
Around this time I had started working in record shops for a living. Right from the start I was introduced to many people who would have an important influence on me some would become life long friends. The manager of the East San Jose Warehouse (now there is a whole story there) was a guy who now goes by the name of Phil Dirt. At the time he was simply Frank. When he learned I was a Beach Boy fan, he mentioned that he had a copy of their first single and he would give it to me if I wanted. For some reason he made game of it when I went over his house to collect this treasure, but he finally handed it over with a smile. On another occasion I was honored with a visit from Ken Barnes, one of the co-conspirators from Bomp! He was in search of the Beach Boys Christmas album, which was difficult to find in the early 70's. He was most grateful that I could fill that hole in his collection.
The drama that accompanied the sessions for Holland again distracted from the fine music the Beach Boys were producing at a rate nearly equal to their mid sixties output. Holland was ultimately a much stronger record, though it probably contains the highest ratio of outside writers ever. Songs like Sail On Sailor and Funky Pretty are both classics. Denny's Steamboat defies description. Along with Feel Flows from Surf's Up, it would have to be the best contribution from a brother. Still very modern sounding...
Mt Vernon & Fairway, Brain's fairy tale was originally included as a bonus EP, and gives an insight into where he really wanted to be at the time. To hear this record now, minus the emotional baggage that surrounded it's release make you wonder why the Beach Boys didn't enjoy a better sales in the early 70's. These four albums have stood the test of time, while much of the chart music of the time has merely become Time-Life fodder.
In the mid 70's the quite unexpected happened. Capitol released a 20 song hits package called Endless Summer. This became a surprise hit, shifting millions of copies to a whole new audience. Suddenly the band was headlining stadium concerts and becoming one of the top live bands in the country. This also meant that the focus of the live shows was now on the oldies aspect of the band. The Beach Boys In Concert album was released by Warners to capitalize on the band's new found fortune. Even this simple effort was not with out the usual Beach Boys hesitations and second guessing. The first album offered to Warners was a single album, with a much different track listing. More concerts were recorded and eventually a 70's standard issue double disc was released. The skimpy details and gernerally lackluster cover design didn't stop this for selling better than any of the other Warners releases. Many will argue that they should have released recordings from 1971 and 1972, when the band was at it's peak as a performing band. With out the distractions of the giant crowds expecting to hear Endless Summer performed live, they were happy to play deep tracks from their catalog. The 1972 recording of Wonderful, which appears on Endless Harmony strongly supports this point of view.
With Brain's failing condition the next two albums had an awful air of desperation surrounding them. Sixteen Big Ones was preceded by a fantastic cover of Chuck Berry's Rock And Roll Music. The music was a hybrid of synth sounds and traditional instruments. This was at the same time that Stevie Wonder was winning Grammies every year for his own ground breaking creations. Half the songs were covers, surrounded by another sturdy set of originals.
The Beach Boys Love You came at a time there seemed to be an effort to push Brian right to the front hoping he would snap back to reality, or at least return to the days of writing hits. This probably wasn't the album the rest of the band and the label were hoping for. What you got was fourteen minimalist songs from Brain, with Al, Mike, and Roger McGuinn each co writing one song. To imagine what this record sounds like is to wonder what an album made by Jonathan Richman and The Young Marble Giants might be. This one has started appearing on peoples favorite list including Peter Buck. Worth the price of admission just for Johnny Carson. These records came at the height of the Endless Summer ground swell. There was an attempt at a "Brain's Back" tour, but more often than not, he was a shadow of himself on stage. The Beach Boys were doing the 70's stadium circuit, which to me didn't seem like the best forum to hear their music. I stayed home.
By 1978, the Beach Boys seemed to have exhausted the fans hope for a major comeback album. With the shows still selling out they were able to soldier on, producing three more "real" albums, a fourth, 1985's Beach Boys suffered from the death of Dennis and heavy handed production. MIU-1978 and L.A. (Light Album)-1979 are ok, but seem a little under ambitious. Al produced MIU and Bruce Johnston returned to handle the chores on L.A. and Keeping The Summer Alive-1980.
Denny sings the best track on MIU, Brian's "My Diane". The balance of the songs are fine, but there is none of the rhythmic intricacies one should expect. Brian only contributed two songs to L.A as did Dennis Wilson. His contributions Love Surround Me and Baby Blue again are the standout tracks.
Keeping The Summer Alive is a real surprise, and the last album recorded by the original line up. The title track revisits the same yearning for simpler times as Do It Again, and is another one of the grossly overlooked Beach Boy classics. For this album, Brain and Mike team up again as the primary song writers. Carl and Randy Bachman (BTO) co-wrote two songs including the fabulous Keeping The Summer Alive. This album is a real pleasure. It would be five more years before there was another Beach Boys album. Producer Steve Levine was brought in to make a contemporary sounding album simply called Beach Boys. While there may be some good songs on this record, the drum machines and Fairlight productions suck all the life out of the music.
By my count, that's 23 studio albums, at least three live records, a Christmas record and Stack O' Tracks. While re-listening to all these in chronological order, I was amazed at the relative consistency of the Beach Boys catalog. They had their vocal chops down from the very start, and the music and production caught up by the second or third album. Even after all these years I discovered a few songs I'd missed which added to the pleasure of playing one album after another. A few were so good they deserved repeated plays.
At the present time, the Beach Boys catalog is all back in print. The CD reissues are almost all two albums on one disc. The original Capitol albums are all supplemented with extra track: essential alternate versions and unreleased recordings. In addition there is the 1981 Glenn A. Baker compiled Brian Wilson/Beach Boys Rarities and the 1983 Capitol Rarities album. There are tracks on both of these that are unique to these releases. Neither have been issued on CD. The Good Vibrations box set from 1991 is a massive hits collection that sports over two dozen unreleased tracks. Of most interest are several original Smile recordings and extended Heroes And Villains session out takes.
The Endless Harmony DVD was accompanied by a soundtrack cd, with another generous helping of unreleased tracks and new stereo mixes. A year later the Hawthorn, CA double cd dished up even more unreleased material, interviews and new mixes. While new stereo mixes, vocal only and instrumental tracks may be for the serious fans only, there is enough new Beach Boy songs on these to make them fairly essential.
Pet Sounds has relieved the most lavish treatment in the form of a four disc box set. This is patterned after the Sea Of Tunes bootlegs, with numerous takes, alternate lyrics, vocal only versions, and the first stereo mix of Pet Sounds. The most interesting of these would have made for essential bonus tracks on the single cd release.
The 2002 release of the 1980 Knewbworth concert titled Good Timin' was a plesant addition to the catalog. Available as both an audio CD and a DVD, this is one of the last times the original members performed together on stage, not the very last time as the notes claim. The band is lead by Carl, and they handle the set that leans towards the oldies side of the song book. Brian makes a brief appearence, and seems pretty lost. Dennis is a horrible drunken mess, but doesn't upset the proceedings. Probably not the best place to start your Beach Boy video collection, but generally worth checking out.
With virtually all the various solo albums currently out of print, with the exception of Brian's recent live outings, they have been come highly sought after. Dennis Pacific Ocean Blue being the most desirable of the lot. In 2008, Pacific Ocean Blue was given a lavish reissue treatment. In addition to the original album, another disc of material recorded for the follow up, Bambu was included.
So what is the best method to approach this extensive catalog of music from America's favorite sons? Having bought them in sequence as they were released myself, these would seem the most logical way to hear the band's development. This would be a huge endeavor and require submersing yourself in the history and popular culture of three decades. Easiest might be to start with Pet Sounds and work your way out in concentric circles. Ultimately every album would be of interest to even a casual Beach Boy fan, and essential to the serious student.
Micky Jones - Pound for pound, the greatest guitar player to walk this earth..
A fan's look at an amazing career
by RS photos by Karen
As some of you know, the Welsh band, Man have been close friends for over thirty years. I was introduced to them by Andrew Lauder, who was running their label, UA at the time. So it's with a heavy heart I have to write this tribute to Micky Jones. A few years ago, Mick was diagnosed with a brain tumor. At the time is was deemed benign, and is was hoped that with surgery, he would make a full recovery. This seemed to be the case. Sadly, at the end of last year, Micky returned to the hospital for further treatment, as the tumors had returned. Despite the efforts to treat Micky, he's been in serious decline. Micky is currently living in a nursing home, where he is well cared for. The most recent reports from his friends and family are not encouraging. Rather than wait for the inevitable end, I thought I say a few words about this wonderful human being, and extraordinary guitarist.
The history of the Manband is well documented, so I won't attempt to retell that complex story here. Not the whole story anyway. In the mid 60's Micky was a member of the Bystanders. They were a harmony group, well into the 4 Seasons and Beach Boys. A long string of singles appeared on the Pye label, with only small success. From what I gather, they were a popular band in Wales, and are still fondly remembered. In 1968, they decided to change direction. Mick and three of the others; Clive John, Jeff Jones, and Ray Williams asked Deke Leonard to join the group. This new band was able to convince label and management to let them try something new.
The two albums recorded for Pye, Revelation and 2 Oz Of Plastic With A Hole In The Middle never sold in big quantities, they did lay the foundations for what was to come over the next eight years. Looking back at them now, they hold up very well, and would fall under the pop/psych umbrella. Their signature tune, Spunk Rock makes it's first of many appearances on 2 Oz's. After the release of the second of these two records, the band began the tradition of the ever shifting line up. For the rest of the band's career Micky was the only constant. Deke left, then returned, Martin Ace came in, then the original rhythm section was fired. Terry Williams took over the drum stool, and over then next two years, what is often considered the "classic band" hit the road and recorded two studio albums and appeared on two amazing live LPs.
Right from the start it was clear Mick was a guitarist of amazing skills and originality. He also possessed a distinctive soulful voice. Micky's father had played Hawaiian lap steel guitar and had inspired the young Michael Jones to pick up the guitar himself. Like most of his generation, Micky was well schooled in American rock and roll. The mid 60's saw a growing interest in West Coast sounds. From talking to Mick, it was clear people like Jerry Garcia, Steve Miller, Cipollina, Zappa, and Zoot Horn Rollo were the big influences. The resulting sound that Micky produced was highly original, fluid, and sometimes aggressive. You could always expect some serious fretboard explorations when he stepped up to solo. The version of Spunk Rock from the Greasy Trucker live album is often cited as one of his landmark performances.
Through a series of coincidences I heard their music, and was put in touch with the UK office of UA records by the legendary Greg Shaw. This resulted in Man coming to the Bay Area in 1974, with Hawkwind. That was the famous 1999 Party Tour. Bill Graham took a liking to them and kept them busy on their next two visits. All this was dream come true for them. The ultimately hooked up with John Cipollina which resulted in a tour and live album.
Right about now, I guess it's a good time to offer up some live examples of Micky's guitar styling with the Manband.
The Welsh Connection (mp3)
Recorded at the Savoy Tivoli, their last night in San Francisco, 10 August 1976. With Phil Ryan back in the band, they were playing some of the most complex music they would perform. This song shows off some of the great ensemble playing they band developed for the album of the same name. Micky's solo is a masterful piece of technique and tone. Phil, Deke and Mick work together very well on this one. The five part harmonies are spot on.
Hard Way To Die (mp3)
Deke wrote this one for the Slow Motion album. It's a showcase for Micky's slide playing. This is the best performance of this song I've heard. Considering the lyrical content, the heavenly solo is a fitting contrast.
After the US tour, things began to unravel for the Manband. With the early rumbling of punk on the horizon, and the inability to move up to the next tier of success, they decided to call it a day.
Deke resurrected his band, Iceberg, recorded an album, and once again hit the road. Micky assembled "The Micky Jones Band" with bassist Al McClane, drummer Steve Dixon, Steve Gurl on keyboards and old pal Tweke Lewis on guitar. By the time I got to London in the summer of '78, Tweke had left the group, but the four piece had a full gig schedule and a solid set of mostly original material. I followed the band around the UK and got to see several great show. The best of the bunch was at the Hope And Anchor. The next two songs are from that show.
Too Hard To Handle (mp3)
I wasn't familiar with this Ike and Tina Turner number before I heard the MJB play it. Despite the stripped down presentation, this, the opening number jumps right in and smokes.
Welsh Boy (mp3)
One of the new numbers is an autobiographical song about Man's visit to Detroit. This has a feel that was typical of most of the material Micky was playing at the time. In the end, this band folded due to lack of label interest. There are no official releases from this band.
Do The Turkey (mp3)
Much to everyone's surprise, Man regrouped in 1983 with Martin returning to the fold, and John "Pugwash" Weathers stepping in as the new drummer. A live document of their appearance at the Marquee was followed by a steady gigging schedule that continues even now. An album was recorded for a German label, which has never been released. A couple of the songs were carried over from the Micky Jones Band set list.
It wasn't until 1993 that they released an album of new material, The Twang Dynasty. The next year Man returned to the US for the first time in nearly 20 years to record an album in Seattle. The photos on this page are from the sessions at Egg Studio, where Call Down The Moon was recorded. Not only did the band perform for the first time in the States since 1976, the album was released here as well. Unfortunately there was never a chance to return to support the record. The logistics of touring had become far too expensive and their 20 year absence from these shores had dissipated the audience needed to support such a venture.
So it was back on the road for another ten years. When Micky was taken ill, his spot in the band was filled by his son, George. This assured the Jones presence in the band. When Micky was able to return to the band, Deke decided it was time to hang up his hat, so Man continued on with father and son taking over the guitar positions. In the end this line up proved to be short lived, when Micky took ill again. In a very curious move, his replacement was Martin's son Josh. A twang dynasty indeed.
There is no shortage of Micky Jones recordings. A dozen albums recorded during between 68 and 76. Three more studio albums from the reformed band, as well as countless live albums, fan club releases, and bootlegs. Surprisingly, outside of the Bystanders and the Manband, there is virtually no other Micky Jones material to be heard.
So where does this leave us. Those of us who spent time with Micky will remember his sly sense of humor and his humble love of life. On a good night, one could expect some great playing. On those rare nights when it was all experimental, it was something to behold. While working on the Call Down The Moon album, Deke and I sat in the booth while Micky worked on guitar solos. We both agreed we could sit there all day listening to Mick try out ideas and explore possibilities. We were almost giddy considering our lucky place in the world as Micky dazzled us with lick after lick. In the end, we both knew there would be a moment when it was perfect. It always reached that point, and we would collapse in tears knowing that we'd just seen a bit of magic conjured up by the most proficient of all the Welsh Wizards. It saddens me to know that that era has now passed us, and there is a good friend I'll never have the chance to share a top shelf drink with again. Cheer Micky Jones....
Micky Jones left us on March 10, 2010