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Alright, get a little closer to the mic, here we go...
October 7, 2013 10:40 PM   Subscribe

First, you might want to listen to the Beach Boys song Sloop John B, just to refresh your memory. Then a look and listen to the video Behind The Sounds: Sloop John B will give you some nice insight into the recording and arranging process and open a window onto the keen production expertise of a young Brian Wilson, directing a roomful of seasoned session pros (none other than the Wrecking Crew). It's how they used to make records, kids!
posted by flapjax at midnite (48 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
cf The John B. Sails and other thoughts. Great tune, before and after.
posted by mwhybark at 10:48 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


This was before they had AutoSanity, also
posted by thelonius at 11:06 PM on October 7, 2013


This was before they had AutoSanity, also

Hey, anybody with a father like Murry Wilson stands a good chance of developing some mental health problems.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:21 PM on October 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yes, what's remarkable is what Brian was able to achieve despite that atmosphere
posted by thelonius at 11:23 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


The great Kingston Trio deserves a nod here. It was their version that gave Al Jardine the idea to make it a Beach Boys song.
posted by grounded at 11:24 PM on October 7, 2013


The great Kingston Trio deserves a nod here. It was their version that gave Al Jardine the idea to make it a Beach Boys song.

That exact anecdote is reported in the linked video, which also informs us that Brian Wilson was originally skeptical, saying "I'm not a big fan of the Kingston Trio".
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:27 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


That exact anecdote is reported in the linked video...

Yes, but the Trio's version wasn't linked, and it's a relevant listen to the development of the Beach Boys' song.
posted by grounded at 12:20 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I knew that Wilson brothers' father basically had pushed them into the music business, but I didn't realize until reading Brian's autobiography what a disturbed individual Murry Wilson really was. The guy was pretty much a monster to his kids.

Presumably, his horrible parenting exacerbated both Brian's mental illness and Dennis' general recklessness. And poor Carl, who seemed relatively well-adjusted next to his brothers, died of cancer way too young - maybe partly as a result of internalized stress?

Anyway, Brian Wilson was/is hugely talented, and his many wasted years are/were a sad missed opportunity. One can't help but wonder what might have been had he been raised in a more loving, genuinely supportive family. Maybe we'd never have heard of him at all, and he'd be happily retired after a career teaching high school band somewhere in southern California. Or maybe he would have written many more hits, collaborated with a much wider variety of musicians and composers, branched out into other forms of music, etc.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 12:56 AM on October 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


cf. Michael Jackson

:(
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:00 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Murray Wilson was a pretty horrible guy. I think the reason that Brian is deaf in one ear is that Murray damaged the ear while beating him.
posted by TrialByMedia at 1:15 AM on October 8, 2013


Yes, but the Trio's version wasn't linked, and it's a relevant listen to the development of the Beach Boys' song.

Oh, absolutely, and make no mistake, my comment wasn't an admonishment, at all. Didn't intend to come off like "yo, dude, that's already in the post", so sorry if it felt tlike that! And thanks for the link. I always welcome relevant links!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:18 AM on October 8, 2013


Hmm. I hope this isn't too much of a derail, but I've never liked the sound of the Beach Boys and so never really looked at the Beach Boys before. They were a pretty paunchy and pasty bunch for a band you might understandably associate with the beach. And the session musicians look like they'd be more comfortable playing for Steve and Eydie. Were the Beach Boys the Republican version of rock and roll?
posted by pracowity at 2:14 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Were the Beach Boys the Republican version of rock and roll?

I'm pretty sure that genre owes a lot more to Ted Nugent.
posted by three blind mice at 2:30 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


pracowity: Brian Wilson has a quote somewheres along the lines of, "We thought we were pretty cool, and then the Beatles came along and we looked like we were
car parkers at an Hawaiian wedding".
posted by Chitownfats at 2:52 AM on October 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


Were the Beach Boys the Republican version of rock and roll?

Mike Love, maybe, but Brian Wilson is some sort of beautiful psychedelic poet. I point to "Surf's Up" as evidence. I suggest listening to it after "Song for Children" and "Child Is Father of the Man".

Better still (in my opinion) listen to how Brian Wilson recreated these songs (plus the glorious "Wonderful") on his version of Smile:

"Wonderful/Song For Children/Child is Father of The Man"
"Surf's Up"

I get choked up listening to it. He had a remarkable grasp of American music - not just rock and pop, but everything. This three (or four if you include Wonderful) song suite is one of the most gorgeous things ever composed.

He never necessarily comes right out and makes a bold political statement - I think with his upbringing, that was impossible for him - but in "Surf's Up," he paints pictures of American aristocracy and asks "are you sleeping?" The old ways are stale, crusty and dead. There's a tidal wave coming and only the children know the way.

Very 60's, not very Republican at all.

So, yeah, if the Beach Boys were playing the oldies circuit at the height of Reagan, that would be the Mike Love led Beach Boys. Among the many reasons people hold a grudge against him. He's also responsible for their recording "Kokomo." Case closed.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:17 AM on October 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


The Beach Boys were popular; but they were never "cool".

Kids bought their records, but nobody was taking their cultural cues of off them.
 
posted by Herodios at 3:56 AM on October 8, 2013


Peter Ames Carlin's biography of Brian Wilson, "Catch A Wave", provides more background. Apparently, the Wrecking Crew were in awe of Wilson's songwriting and production abilities - even though they were trained in conservatories, and he couldn't even read music (and was deaf in one ear).

There's no YouTube link to it that I could find, but I wholeheartedly recommend his version of Buddy Holly's "Listen To Me". He's lost a lot of his voice, but he's lost none of his production chops.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 4:04 AM on October 8, 2013


Apparently, the Wrecking Crew were in awe of Wilson's songwriting and production abilities

Yes, that's one of the reasons I framed the post the way I did, emphasizing how young Wilson was when he did this. And how obviously *by ear* he was directing this group of solid, accomplished (and older) session musicians, so confidently and fearlessly. Wow, that was just so damn impressive.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:18 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Great breakdown of parts. Unfortunately I'll never now not be aware of how gratingly out of tune those flutes are.
posted by iotic at 5:18 AM on October 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Hey, anybody with a father like Murry Wilson yt stands a good chance of developing some mental health problems"

Listened to the whole twelve minutes and fucking yikes and yet the result. I don't know how to feel about this.
posted by vapidave at 5:22 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I could swear I once read that they recorded the vocals to Smile after smoking a pound of hash between them.

That's the Behind The Sounds recording session I'd like to hear.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:53 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


GET ON THE SCHMOOP JOHN B.

Aww, the Beach Boys are concentrated sunshine.
posted by The Whelk at 5:56 AM on October 8, 2013


A link to the goofy video clipped at the end of the FPP, as well as Carl Sandburg's comments on "The John B. Sails".
posted by chavenet at 6:11 AM on October 8, 2013


Go watch all those Behind the Sounds. They're incredible.
posted by Apropos of Something at 6:41 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


even though they were trained in conservatories

I don't think Glen Campbell or Carol Kaye or Hal Blaine went to conservatories. Kaye usually says most of them came out of big bands, although, given the fountain of crazy that her web site became after 9/11, I'm not inclined to believe anything she says.
posted by thelonius at 6:43 AM on October 8, 2013


Another cover of note.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:43 AM on October 8, 2013


Does anybody know what the smoking gun is on the question of whether any of the Beach Boys could or could not surf? It's great music but I really wanna know.
posted by bukvich at 7:12 AM on October 8, 2013


the question of whether any of the Beach Boys could or could not surf?

Jeez, man, ARPANET didn't even go live until 1969.
posted by yoink at 7:18 AM on October 8, 2013


Does anybody know what the smoking gun is on the question of whether any of the Beach Boys could or could not surf? It's great music but I really wanna know.

Pretty sure Dennis was the first and most enthusiastic surfer of the three brothers.
posted by freakazoid at 7:18 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


My favorite cover is Okkervil River's, where Sloop John B becomes a really affecting closing refrain to a song about John Berryman's last days.
posted by jason_steakums at 7:21 AM on October 8, 2013


First, you might want to listen to the Beach Boys song Sloop John B yt , just to refresh your memory.

I will never want to do this.

Call for the captain ashore, let me go home.
posted by maryr at 7:45 AM on October 8, 2013


I was a rabid and exhaustive Beach Boys fan as a small child. I had my dad's old LPs and anything I could buy on cassette and I'd listen to them in my room and pick apart the harmonies.

It wasn't a big surprise that when I went on to study early opera I heard a lot of similarities between Monteverdi and the surf music of my youth. Well, my grandparent's youth.

There's a live performance by Brian Wilson of Heroes and Villains from the Smile tour that I watch every so often when I need to feel some joy.
posted by annathea at 7:51 AM on October 8, 2013


. . . given the fountain of crazy that her web site became after 9/11, I'm not inclined to believe anything [Carol Kaye] says.

Maybe.

She's right about one thing, though. The only person who called them "The Wrecking Crew" before Hal Blaine's movie came out was Hal Blaine.

Sure Hal, and all your friends call you "Ace".
 
posted by Herodios at 7:58 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Were the Beach Boys the Republican version of rock and roll?

That was always my take on them. To be honest, I don't even consider them rock and roll, they're a pop group. I don't consider Pat Boone, Neil Sedaka, or Dion to be rock and roll either. Let me be clear: There's no denying Brian Wilson's tremendous talent, but there's none of the sex or danger in their music that, to me, are an integral part of rock 'n' roll. They're just too pretty and too schticky to be rock 'n' roll.

He's also responsible for their recording "Kokomo." Case closed.

Let us not forget he also unleashed the Stamos.

Pretty sure Dennis was the first and most enthusiastic surfer of the three brothers.

Only, I'm pretty sure. And he drowned.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:12 AM on October 8, 2013


Too pretty?
posted by gnuhavenpier at 8:52 AM on October 8, 2013


"Great breakdown of parts. Unfortunately I'll never now not be aware of how gratingly out of tune those flutes are."

Yeah- I always though there were intonation issues with "Sloop John B", even in the vocals. It always seemed like the most thrown-together and least polished track on Pet Sounds. I think Brian spent more energy on his own compositions, getting everything gorgeously perfect.
posted by jetsetsc at 8:56 AM on October 8, 2013


Too pretty?

I'm not sure what the question is here. The Beach Boys are nearly universally regarded for having gorgeous, nearly perfect harmonies and melodies. Rock 'n' roll is often described as having rough edges, distortion, dissonance, amateurish or primitive musicianship. Well, until they invented ProTools and Autotune, I guess. I like a lot of pretty music, but I don't consider it rock and roll.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:03 AM on October 8, 2013


Wow, I didn't know that one of my favorite a cappella breaks of all time was added during mixing. In retrospect the instruments all cut out awfully suddenly.
posted by dfan at 10:02 AM on October 8, 2013


I get you entropicamericana. I was more joking about their appearance. The Beach Boys are one of my favourite bands but (apart from Dennis) they weren't a bonnie bunch of guys.
posted by gnuhavenpier at 10:19 AM on October 8, 2013


Sorry, I can't subscribe to any definition of rock 'n' roll that shuts out the Beach Boys and Roy Orbison, but lets in KISS and Warrant.

Also, this thread inspired me to get a Greatest Hits collection. Included "Kokomo" but not "In My Room." I bet that Mike Love was responsible for that decision.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:57 AM on October 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I bet Mike Love wasn't ever allowed in Brian Wilson's room
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:53 PM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


entropicamericana:
Rock 'n' roll is often described as having rough edges, distortion, dissonance, amateurish or primitive musicianship. Well, until they invented ProTools and Autotune, I guess. I like a lot of pretty music, but I don't consider it rock and roll.
There is so much "rock and roll" that lacks many (if not all) of those attributes. The wiki article on "rock and roll" lists many groups that have a significant amount of music that wouldn't be described that way.

If you're not using "rock and roll" as subset of the larger genre of "rock", I guess that "progressive rock" (love it or hate it), either modern (Liquid Tension Experiment) or earlier (Yes, King Crimson) is going to be far from "amateurish or primitive musicianship", so it doesn't belong under the "rock genre umbrella" either?

Maybe your "rock and roll" is simply a much smaller subset of the "rock" genre that would defined as "arena rock", "hard rock" or "hair metal"?
posted by Brian Puccio at 3:47 PM on October 8, 2013


Great breakdown of parts. Unfortunately I'll never now not be aware of how gratingly out of tune those flutes are.
posted by iotic at 8:18 AM on October 8 [2 favorites −]


You probably don't want to watch that related two parter for "God only knows" then. Spoiler; that french horn got more clams than a sea otter.

(Still worth watching though, IMO, if for nothing else the keyboardist doodling around with the dun, dun dun dun line at the end of the verse and turning into "No Satisfaction" right near the end of the first video. The little glimpses we get of this sort of sausage making takes me right back to band class.)
posted by mcrandello at 6:16 PM on October 8, 2013


Maybe your "rock and roll" is simply a much smaller subset of the "rock" genre that would defined as "arena rock", "hard rock" or "hair metal"?

I don't think you're being charitable. I don't want to feed the derail, but I'd be happy to explain to you in great detail just how wrong you are via MeMail if you want.
posted by entropicamericana at 6:45 PM on October 8, 2013


"Great breakdown of parts. Unfortunately I'll never now not be aware of how gratingly out of tune those flutes are."
Now you will also never now not be aware of how out of tune that first Gm chord of "Roxanne" is. Sorry.

•Billy Strange's part isolated sounds like it could easiy have been the inspiration for the guitar intro to "Everybody wants To Rule The World"

•I thought this song was famous for being one of the few to have an ultra-rtare bass harmonice track. Did I miss mention of it?

•Danny Elfman had to work this way when he started doing movie soundtracks but work through a translator for the orchestral musicians. If something was too high, then too low, he'd ask them to take it down "just half an octave".

•No Glenn Campbell on this one? Huh.

•Upright bassist Lyle Ritz was also a virtuosic ukulele player. A jazz ukulele player. I have that album.

•Somewhere I have a pic of me getting a hug from Carol Kaye. I should print it and frame it someday.
posted by sourwookie at 7:40 PM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does anybody know what the smoking gun is on the question of whether any of the Beach Boys could or could not surf? It's great music but I really wanna know.

Mike Love claims to have come up with 'Do It Again' while surfing.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 6:30 PM on October 9, 2013


Delighted that this thread turned into a THAT's NOT ROCK AND ROLL thread. Especially seing as how the whole premise of it was THE BEACH BOYS ARE ROCK AND ROLL!

wait
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:49 PM on October 9, 2013


Ask Ian Shoales . . . it's all rock'n'roll to him!
 
posted by Herodios at 4:21 AM on October 10, 2013


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