Amazing A Capella by the Beach Boys
August 16, 2017 1:44 PM   Subscribe

Just the vocals of "Wouldn't It Be Nice," showcasing the sophistication of Brian Wilson. There's a lot of info here about the actual construction of the song and the harmonies and the advanced musical methodology used. I've been listening to this song for 40 years or so and was astonished at this a capella version.
posted by MovableBookLady (33 comments total) 79 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you like this, run out* and buy The Pet Sounds Sessions box set, which has vocals-only for each track. Here's "God Only Knows."

They also showcase the lost art of double-tracking vocals to make them sound fuller. These guys were pros, singing with themselves in almost perfect synchrony.

*figuratively speaking
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:53 PM on August 16, 2017 [16 favorites]


If you're going to listen to any other Brian vox today, let it be this one.
posted by Krazor at 1:57 PM on August 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


The vocals-only version of Sloop John B, which I found having clicked on Johnny Wallflower's link above, is INCREDIBLE. I know precisely zero about the technicalities of music, but their genius is obvious.
posted by Ziggy500 at 1:59 PM on August 16, 2017 [5 favorites]


I never noticed the bitonality before -- looking at the wiki page, I guess there's a section where the bass player is playing something in D major while the rest of the parts are in F. I'm not sure that my ear is good enough to spot where it happens, but I am listening to the song now with more attention on the bass part, and man is that a good bass part.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:09 PM on August 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


Thank you... it would be nice.
posted by Rash at 2:26 PM on August 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


I was in a chorus that did all types of classic parts songs, opera and all manner of shit... once or twice we tried some A Capella Beach Boys... it was really hard to not sound like shit.
posted by French Fry at 2:46 PM on August 16, 2017 [5 favorites]


This docu about the Wrecking Crew has some very cool footage of the Pet Sounds sessions if I'm not mistaken. Including the appearance of (and interview with) the utterly awesome Carol Kaye, bassplayer of the band.

There's so much to say about the Beach Boys. I'm also totally a noob concerning music theory but still, you know you're hearing some next level stuff when listening to Brian Wilson produced tracks from that certain period.

The weirdness of that time, his dad, Mike Love, the record company, mental illness (or at least mental difficulties) and still producing some of the best music of all time. It truly boggles the mind.
posted by Kosmob0t at 2:51 PM on August 16, 2017 [7 favorites]




My a cappella group used to do Sloop John B until we just got tired of it after about 10 years. Now I think we need to look for another Beach Boys tune to take its place. These recordings are marvelous!
posted by blurker at 3:27 PM on August 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


The vocals-only version of Sloop John B yt , which I found having clicked on Johnny Wallflower's link above, is INCREDIBLE. I know precisely zero about the technicalities of music, but their genius is obvious.

In grade school we had a songbook with Sloop John B in it. Our teacher had us sing it as a round. It was pretty fun.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:28 PM on August 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


the utterly awesome Carol Kaye, bassplayer of the band.

Carol Kaye is indeed awesome, but it looks like the bass on "Wouldn't It Be Nice" was played by Lyle Ritz.
posted by thelonius at 4:33 PM on August 16, 2017


The arrangements and recording are of course pure genius, but as someone who also grew up singing harmony with family I can vouch that there's nothing quite like it. It's like sharing a voice, an ear, and an eye with four other people at the same time. It takes a lot of work to get that kind of ensemble with strangers.

blurker, my high school group used to do an arrangement of "In My Room," but damned if I can remember the arranger.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:48 PM on August 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


The weirdness of that time, his dad, Mike Love, the record company, mental illness (or at least mental difficulties) and still producing some of the best music of all time. It truly boggles the mind.

Not to mention being deaf in one ear and having auditory hallucinations.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:54 PM on August 16, 2017 [9 favorites]


Once (and only once) my wife had the temerity to question the place of Pet Sounds on my iPod in the middle of an otherwise uneventful road trip. As a child raised on four part harmony in gospel and counterpoint in folk music I had to play God Only Knows several times over while singing each separate part and demonstrating each as a small part of the grand genius that is the whole. Long story short, she doesn't question me on vocal things (unless she feels like impressing a guest by forcing me to dissect bluegrass which is my sole party trick). Also she knows better than to speak ill of any Wilson Brother in front of me, ever again.

That said: Sloop John B, forever. Amen.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 5:38 PM on August 16, 2017 [10 favorites]


I had to play God Only Knows several times over while singing each separate part and demonstrating each as a small part of the grand genius that is the whole.

RIP Carl Wilson.
posted by Talez at 5:46 PM on August 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


Also pour one out for Pacific Ocean Blue. Truth.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 5:51 PM on August 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


I was gonna do the direct link but I wanted to get that blurb from Twisted Sifter in there to do some explaining right up front. Thanks for providing it, intermod.
posted by MovableBookLady at 6:45 PM on August 16, 2017


Found the Wrecking Crew Documentary complete on youtube. Enjoy.
posted by MovableBookLady at 6:51 PM on August 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


Whoa. As someone who never got into the Beach Boys, listening to the links here is making me wonder what I've been missing out on. God Only Knows just like, massages the pleasure centers in my brain. It's like listening to a struck crystalline bell vibrating through the celestial firmament or something, I don't even know.
posted by the thought-fox at 9:04 PM on August 16, 2017 [15 favorites]


Obligatory Doonesbury.
posted by bryon at 9:49 PM on August 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


This is pretty great, thanks! Although to be completely honest, I do miss the big snare hit right at the start... (BAM!)

I'm also not sure what bitonality they're talking about, unless it's the unexpected Cm during the pre-chorus? Which to me is more like a brief excursion from the key of F to Bb and back again.

But, yeah, that section is a great example of Brian's amazing bass lines. So often he has whole sections where all the chords are inverted, and if you were to look at the bass on its own, you'd think it was borrowed from a much simpler song in a slightly different key. (The verse of "Caroline No" is a longer example.) Somehow it all hangs together, maybe because the bass itself doesn't make any weird jumps?

I also love how the little intro melody shows up all over the song, with three(!) different sets of chords under it! (A-F#m7-Bm7-E7 in the intro, then Dmaj9-Gmaj7 in the first part of the bridge, then F#m7-Bm7 in the second part of the bridge)
posted by equalpants at 10:30 PM on August 16, 2017 [4 favorites]


There is a lovely thing that happens right at the end of the film "Love And Mercy", that biopic about Brian Wilson that examines both the PET SOUNDS era and the end of the Eugene Landy era (it is an AMAZING film, if you haven't seen it). now and then, throughout the movie, the sound design plays with the audio to give us a taste of "how Brian might hear things" - the slightly-muffled tones as a result of his being deaf in one ear, the cacophony in the recording studio, some auditory hallucinations as his mental illness started, etc.

The Landy part of the film covers how Melinda Ledbetter helped get him free of Landy's influence, but then suggests she stepped back for several months to let him recover, and even considered themselves to have broken up as a couple so he wouldn't feel beholden to her or something - but at the very end, Brian reconnects with her. And at the very end of the film - as the two start to have the unheard-to-us conversation that rekindles their relationship, the soundtrack starts up with playing "Wouldn't It Be Nice". After several seconds, though, the sound starts to blur a bit - the words muffle some, the distinct instruments merge - as the picture fades. But the sound never becomes dissonant or loses volume - it just gradually blends into a sustained, ethereal, harmonious chord that hovers for the few last seconds that the picture is fading out, before the credits start.

After having the sound design emphasize "How Brian Hears Things Differently" throughout the film, it left me with the feeling that "this is the sound of Brian Wilson finally being happy."

I'm on a crappy tablet now, and can't find if a link is up - but will look later. The film also delves into Brian in the studio a lot and may really be of interest.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:38 AM on August 17, 2017 [9 favorites]


I haven't really listened to the Beach Boys since some times when I was a little kid with my parents. I think this needs to change. Lovely.
posted by Peter B-S at 3:15 AM on August 17, 2017


One of the high points of my concert-going history was the recent Pet Sounds tour.
posted by mikelieman at 3:24 AM on August 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


Argh; I can't find a link to that specific moment in LOVE AND MERCY.

Just go watch it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:21 AM on August 17, 2017 [3 favorites]


One of the high points of my concert-going history was the recent Pet Sounds tour.
posted by mikelieman


I agree! It was such a great mix of kickass music (even if BW couldn't hit the high notes any more) and just the emotional warmth of an entire theater full of people projecting warmth and appreciation onto Brian Wilson. I've never been to a show quite like that.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 9:27 AM on August 17, 2017


I post I made about four years back did a visualization of "You Still Believe in Me" in a way that feels relevant here.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:36 AM on August 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


Obligatory Doonesbury.

Yeah, if the divine does exist, it would be easy to imagine the voice that calls you into the light sounding like Brian's falsetto.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:07 AM on August 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


The Beach Boys are one of my fav groups and not enough can be said about Brian Wilson. I personally think God Only Knows is one of the greatest songs of all time in the history of all music.
posted by gucci mane at 11:10 AM on August 17, 2017 [2 favorites]


My girlfriend and I were talking with my dad about our favorite Beach Boys songs, and she said hers was "God Only Knows." It's such a good song. My dad's was "Wouldn't It Be Nice" (he said it was because hearing it as a sad teenager gave him hope for the future). Mine was "Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder." Finally, we had to revise the terms of the conversation to be about our favorite songs that aren't on Pet Sounds, since it was kind of a given that everyone would pick something off that album.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:49 AM on August 17, 2017 [3 favorites]


Sorry about that link to the Wrecking Crew doc. They suck you in for about five minutes, then invite you to pay $4 for the whole movie. Ah well.
posted by MovableBookLady at 4:10 PM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]


> God Only Knows just like, massages the pleasure centers in my brain. It's like listening to a struck crystalline bell vibrating through the celestial firmament or something, I don't even know.

Yeah, I don't know if the Beach Boys are to my taste exactly, but I know that hearing them during preschool lay-on-your-mat naptime in 1984 hardwired something in the old melon to feel exactly as you describe.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:15 PM on August 17, 2017 [3 favorites]


My favorite part of that Pet Sounds Sessions box is the session track from the recording of "Wouldn't It Be Nice?" where Brian Wilson is explaining to the session players about the brief pause then the BOOM drum hit for the beginning. It's delightful.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:23 AM on August 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


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