Tuesday 22nd May
Barenaked Ladies – just one album Stunt. This was a Canadian band from the Nineties. I don’t know that much more about them really. They are certainly quirky, and not only the name; the songs are quite different, often short and very poppy, complex and quickly sung words. The lead singer has a very nice voice though. But for reasons too difficult to understand one record was enough. Maybe they simply didn’t have enough ‘bottom;, enough serious musicality. But as ever, listening again, they aren’t at all bad.
The Beach Boys -were a part of the soundtrack of my growing up, my early teen years – the most important of times. They hailed from California, and though that was just a name on the huge land mass of America, I heard them. They started out as a surf group, a sub-genre of early Sixties rock and roll, singing happy songs about surfing. I really had no idea what surfing was, we had tired out laying on thin plywood sheets in the bitterly cold North Sea. But when we got television we saw these incredible surfers riding momentous waves. I have never learnt to surf – another wasted career. But their music hooked me from the start. Poppy and happy, it was a counterpoint to Beat music, coming from sunshine, where the Mersey sound came from the rainy North. First up is one of the many Greatest hits, 20 Golden Greats – all the big hits are here from little Deuce Coupe to Heroes and Villains. This brigs back so many memories of warm carefree summers and the ever evolving, ever improving music of the Sixties. And the Sixties were the time of our lives, and the time of the Wilson brothers, Carl, Brian and Dennis, cousin mike Love and friend Al Jardine. Great tunes, mostly written by musical genius Brian, and beautiful harmonies. And the hits kept on coming…Fun Fun Fun, I Get Around, Help Me Rhonda, California Girls, Barbara Ann, Sloop John B, God Only Knows and my favourite Good Vibrations, which seemed almost single-handedly to herald the coming of the Summer of Love. What none of us knew at the time was the mental struggle Brian was suffering. The constant demand for hits, the touring, the pressure. And he cracked. But not before their first masterpiece…Pet Sounds.. Well, that was what everyone said; it is even reported that Paul McCartney, on hearing Pet Sounds, determined to make an even better album – Sgt. Pepper. I have listened and listened, and I am afraid, I don’t get it. The album is okay, quite good even – but a masterpiece? Anyway I always considered The Beach Boys were a singles band; with singles they hardly ever put a foot wrong…but albums, not really their scene. Best songs are the singles ‘Sloop John B’ and ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’, a couple of other songs are good too. So, I rarely bought their albums.
Until Surf’s Up, which I had on Vinyl but struggled to later find on CD; it only seemed available teamed up with Sunflower, released a year earlier. So, Sunflower, again a pleasant enough record but nothing leaps out and says this is a great record. Surf’s Up on the other hand is a real gem. Brian by now was barely functioning at all, and songwriting fell to other members of the band. They had a new record company and a new manager, Jack Reiley, who had heard a bootleg of the title track, which Brian had refused to release (from the famed Smile album which was also shelved). Anyway with Reiiey’s influence they embarked on Surf’s Up (1971). And it just makes you wake up and realise what a great band they could have been. The sound is totally different, the voices seem much higher up in the mix, gone are the gentle harmonies, here are strong voices and great melodies. I simply love the record; ‘Long Promised Road’, the gentle ‘Disney Girls’, the (ripped off) protest song ‘Student Demonstration Time’, ‘Feel Flows’ with it’s beautiful melody and harmonies, and the majestic title song as a closer. What a record, what a revelation, what a pity they barely ever repeated the triumph. Next up was Carl and the Passion, So Tough. Again, I only got this album as it was paired with another favourite I once had on vinyl, Holland. The record is okay, but not outstanding – they seem to have fallen between two stools, neither their old poppy sound or their newer more progressive music they made on Surf’s Up.
So Holland; the boys decamped for a few months to Holland; they recruited two new members Ricky Fataar and Blondie Chaplin, they rehearsed and wrote new songs. And they created another masterpiece. The record is simply brilliant, I never tire of it. From opener Sail On Sailor to closer Funky Pretty the album is a revelation. The best bit is the California trilogy, one of the songs written by Brian, who by now was definitely not in the band anymore. After this, for whatever perverse reason the Beach Boys reverted to theur old sound and simply became yet another Beach Boy tribute band (maybe the best there was).