Archives for posts with tag: Beach Boys

With the Moody Blues touring and playing their 1967 landmark album “Days of Future Passed”, I’m returning to the archives for the first four parts of a summer-long series from 2013.  Eventually I’ll add pieces and bring us to the present…whether you like it or not.

 

1966 was an incredible year in music. The Beatles released their highly regarded Revolver while the Rolling Stones were spinning out singles like “19th Nervous Breakdown” and groups like Cream and the Jefferson Airplane were beginning to take flight.  Meanwhile, the Moody Blues were on their way to becoming insignificant one-hit wonders (GO NOW!, #1, 1965)–about to be devoured by the law of diminishing returns.  To add to their drifting into oblivion…the Moodies lost their rudder and sail as lead singer Denny Laine and bassist Clint Warwick fled the sinking ship.  As a last gasp the remaining trio reached into their past and future.

John Lodge had originally left the Moodies to attend technical college…but rejoined at this time as fill-in Rodney Clarke didn’t last long enough to merit a Wikipedia entry.  Lodge’s voice and songwriting would be an unexpected bonus to his bass playing:  he’d create and deliver band-defining songs from “Ride My See-Saw” to “Isn’t Live Strange”.  For a new lead guitarist, the band picked up a hand me down from the Animals:  Eric Burdon handed Mike Pinder a letter and demo from 20-year old Justin Hayward.  The sandy blonde songwriter had previously been a part of the “Wilde Three” and had done some solo work…and would go on to become the face and voice of the Moodies during their peak era of 1967-72.

Armed with two singer/songwriters, the band refined its sound.  R&B knockoffs wouldn’t work any more in a changing musical landscape.  The quintet grew together playing in Belgium–now focused on their own material.  The first fruit of their cross-pollination would be one step forward with “Fly Me High”…a Justin Hayward song that drives though the verses steadily before relying on John Lodge’s falsetto harmony in the bridges.  The kind of song where you enjoy the entire ride and are bummed when it’s over… thinking for sure you had one more verse to enjoy.  The B side would be a leftover from the Laine/Warwick days, “I Really Haven’t Got the Time”.  A song that feels like a Gerry and the Pacemakers derivative…only not as good. Thankfully, Mike Pinder’s next effort wouldn’t only be much better, but also feature a new instrument that would define the band.

“Love and Beauty” was the band’s next single…and in addition to featuring interwoven harmonies Mike Pinder swapped out his piano for the Mellotron. He discovered the instrument while an employee of Streetly Electronics. This keyboard instrument plays tape loops and gave bands the feel of an orchestra at times. It provided the perfect vessel for the band to take their listeners on seven remarkable journeys.


Coming up Next: One Incredible Day.

Love & Mercy premieres Friday with an in-depth look at the Beach Boys Brian Wilson.  Actually–two looks: Paul Dano plays the Wilson of the 60’s that’s about to lose himself thanks to LSD and John Cusack plays the shattered Wilson of the 80’s. The Beach Boys began as a teenage collection of three brothers, one cousin and a high school buddy catching a ride on the surfing music wave but became so much more…and then so much less.

Five Songs that capture the band’s highs and lows…:

“I Get Around”– the perfect marriage of Mike Love on the verses and Brian Wilson on the choruses.  The energy whips you through 2 minutes and 12 seconds of making every light and changing lanes at just the right time.  You’re left wanting to hear the same song–again and again.  No wonder this was the group’s first #1 hit.

“In My Room”– fantastic harmonies about being isolated.  Brian paints a fantastic picture of isolation.  Despite having a tight circle of family and friends…he often felt the need for solitude and the eventual alienation it resulted in  He often knew he was out of step (“I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” from Pet Sounds)…and here he shuts the door for his own comfort.

“When I Grow Up to Be a Man”– instead of driving fast cars or catching faster waves, the no-longer teenagers focus on “what’s next”.  How will they adjust to the demands of adulthood?  No answers are offered, only more questions (“will my kids be proud or think their old man’s really a square?”).  Brian wrote background vocals that from the second verse on count up “14,15…” through the rest of the song, reaching “30, 31…” in the fade-out.  If only we could get back to “30, 31…”

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice”– it wasn’t a #1 hit like “Good Vibrations”…nor was it revered like “God Only Knows”.  But the first track of Pet Sounds set the bar high for the group’s most-famous LP…who else could get away with the lyric “happy times together we’d be spending”?  The Beach Boys at their best were all about possibilities—and this song has Brian on the threshold of happiness.  Even if he never got there, the idea that he could—was pretty nice.

“Kokomo”– hey.  Jefferson Airplane/Starship has their “We Built this City”.  Reduced to a nostalgia act and minus Brian (still under the spell of Eugene Landy) and middle Wilson brother Dennis (the drummer drowned in December 1983), Mike Love combined with a who’s who of 60’s acts (Mamas and the Papas John Phillips, Byrds producer Terry Melcher and “Going to San Francisco” singer Scott McKenzie) to write an insipid tune.  “Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya–Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama”.  They even had Full House actor John Stamos playing bongos in the video.  Instead of rightfully vanishing, the tune stuck and was in the movie “Cocktail”.  Reached number 1.  Brian didn’t sing on the song– although he did contribute vocals to the Spanish-language version.  Even better…