Thursday, July 21, 2011

20 Big Ones

To reflect the years I have had with the Beach Boys I decided to present my 20 dearest Beach Boys tracks. Here they are: my favorite Beach Boys songs, original or cover, from the oldest to the newest (approximately).

1. Surfer Girl 
Lovely, lovely... Here is Brian's surf melancholy at its finest. The Beach Boys harmonies resonate right through my (and anyone else's) heart. This is a magical song inspired by When You Wish Upon a Star. The harmonies are simply stunning. Especially with headphones it is an experience like no other. Vocals have always been my favorite instrument and this may be the most attractive, most powerful way to perform them. You can actually feel the harmonies resonating all the way through your body.

2. Catch a Wave 
This song is both extremely cheerful as well as exhilarating. I bet quite a few people decided to try surfing after hearing songs like this.. I have never surfed but it surely is impressive to hear such enthusiasm towards surfing from people who didn't surf either, with the exception of Dennis who did surf. Amazing harmonies, amazing interplay between Mike and Brian, as well as a great arrangement make this a favorite.

3. The Surfer Moon 
Brian's music developed at an incredible speed. In this surf ballad one can already hear his potential. Only a couple of years later would this young man compose, arrange and produce Pet Sounds. Based on The Surfer Moon it doesn't seem impossible at all. There is melancholy, a great string arrangement, and a very memorable composition. Brian's vocals are also gorgeous (be prepared to hear this many times later!).

4. I Do
A song that was given to another band (the Castells) but a Beach Boys vocal version is featured on the Surfer Girl/Shut Down Vol. 2 CD as a bonus track. I wonder why it was given away because it is a wonderful song. As usual, Mike's vocals are solid, Brian performs beautiful falsetto and the rest of the harmony vocals are like strawberry ice cream on a hot summer day. And, yeah, all the handclaps and bells are just great.

5. Don't Worry Baby
I remember hearing this already as a child a long, long time ago. I also remember finding the surf guitars very strange-sounding, almost disturbing. Now I love the guitars, the slow tempo, Brian's extremely pretty vocals and the perfect harmonizing. Even though it is in a way a car song it is one of the most beautiful and comforting songs Brian wrote during this period. “Don't worry baby, everything will turn out all right.” Those are the exact right words, period.

6. Why Do Fools Fall in Love 
Brian is definitely creating his own wall of sound here. There are some really interesting percussions and rhythms in this cover version of the Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers song. What really makes is stand out is Brian's lead vocal: perfection.

7. I Get Around 
A number one hit for the band is indeed a lot of coolness, very much based on an extremely fun, inventive and hook-filled vocal arrangement. The instrumentation is also interesting which surely contributed to the success. No one would probably deny that this was an instant classic – or be able to get it out of their head...

8. Wendy 
A bittersweet Beach Boys song? I think this one fits the description, yet somehow it sounds quite upbeat at the same time... In my opinion, we have exceptionally juicy harmonies here. This song appeals to me probably because of the so very curiously attractive girl-leaves-boy theme – and because it sounds amazing.

9. Please Let Me Wonder
I'm so Young
Kiss Me Baby
She Knows Me too Well
In the Back of My Mind
Yes, this is five individual songs but I wish to include them as a single unit here. I sometimes like call them “miniature Pet Sounds”. Except that they are even more warm, loving, and emotional songs than practically anything on Pet Sounds. Therefore they actually have fewer dimensions. While Pet Sounds is a more comprehensive healing and comforting experience, these five songs are basically the most mouth-watering love ballads Brian ever created (and did a cover version of). There are so many great things to mention that I will just point to Brian's awesome lead vocals, Dennis doing great job in Back of My Mind, and of course the incredible Beach Boys harmonies that will melt your heart.

10. You're So Good to Me 
This song is really catchy and different from everything else Brian did during that time period. I don't think Brian has shown this side of himself all that much – the side that isn't mostly about being wistful and melancholic. Brian actually sounds quite mischievous and playful here. I always love to hear him singing in lower pitch than usual. Also, the lalalalala chorus is pure genius.

11. The Little Girl I Once Knew 
No wonder this one didn't do well on the radio. Still, everything about it is gorgeous. The sophisticated instrumentation, jazzy feel, Carl's vocals, and hooks all around among other things make this a perfect song. I think this is just as good as California Girls.

12. You Still Believe in Me 
Then, something from Pet Sounds... It is impossible to fully explain why Pet Sounds is so good. And it is good in so many ways, not just artistically. Brian was able to arrange music in a way that reminds more of symphonies than your usual rock'n'roll music. Brian chose the exact right instruments and worked until everything in the harmony, sound and rhythm sections sounded perfectly balanced. Then, he arranged complicated four-part harmonies to the music.

The full capacity of this song can be noticed for example when you listen to this song while feeling really sad. Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys make it better in just two and a half minutes. It really works! This song is the ultimate display of everything tender, loving and beautiful. The lyrics say that even though you have failed someone still believes in you. Everyone fails sometimes which is why this song is so important. I would believe anytime that it is actually Brian Wilson who believes in you – he sounds so convincing in what he is saying. There are sounds prettier than anything I have ever heard, the bicycle bell reminds of childhood, then Brian and the Beach Boys chant “I wanna cry.” Too beautiful for a human being like me to comprehend. This song was sent from another world.

13. I'm Waiting for the Day 
One of the most dynamic and attractive arrangements of the entire Pet Sounds. There are mighty drum sounds, beautiful oboe, happy organ, violins... I love the way the mood changes from tender to wildly energetic and back. I have come to notice that the most interesting moods in music are not the extremes but something in between. In this song the “you” character is literally in between sad and happy, just recently broken up with someone but already about to find someone new. Brian's vocals are among the best he has ever performed. The background vocals are also brilliant – which is hardly surprising considering this is Pet Sounds...

14. God Only Knows 
This one is self-explanatory. I can't think of a more beautiful, more magical, more comforting, more spiritually blessed pop song.

15. I Know There's an Answer 
This song was originally called “Hang on to Your Ego”. I love this already because of the tambourine alone... All in all, it is a very vigorous song. And, yes, the drums are also amazing. And I guess I have to mention once again how much I enjoy hearing Brian sing non-falsetto.

16. Darlin' 
Here is a song that I enjoy for a couple of reasons. Darlin' is a very upbeat, danceable, energetic soul pop song with amazing vocals from Carl and excellent horns. I also used to enjoy banging the lovely chords of this song on the keyboard. I wish I had a keyboard of my own...

17. Time to Get Alone 
Oh my! Such warmth from Carl and rest of the boys. There are harmonies everywhere, as usual, covering this song like a warm blanket. There are awesome strings, the melodies are lovely... Brian's vocals in the chorus are one of the best things... ever.

18. Deirdre 
An incredible song sung by Bruce Johnston. His voice has such tenderness and it suits perfectly to this semi-melancholic song. To me this song sounds so... cozy and comfy. Brian's voice in the chorus harmonies again makes this an A+ song – even though the Beach Boys vocal mix here is more democratic than ever.

19. 'Til I Die 
When I first heard this I think it sounded scary, with the title and all... I was used to hearing mostly happy songs from the Beach Boys and then came this. When you think about it, there aren't probably any other Beach Boys songs that are so full of tranquility and desperation at the same time. Something about this song still sounds cold. But I love it nevertheless: a perfect, different melancholy track from Brian – and awesome lyrics.

20. Getcha Back 
I have no idea why I like this so much... Except for that everything about is simply is so catchy. The saxophone has a big role in this song, and so do the big drums. The vocals are obviously cool. I just love hearing the same Beac Boys concept arranged differently in 1980s style!

These were the songs I chose today. They are surely going to be different some other day. Actually, I would rather say that I love the Beach Boys so much that I even enjoy some really crazy stuff... How can I be critical towards my favorite band? I guess there is no need...

On the Beach with the Beach Boys!

After another quite a long break (been out of communications range again...) I am very, very happy to return with a huge mania regarding an old favorite of mine, my favorite band of all times – a favorite that has been with me longer than that one psychedelic power pop band I talk about all the time... Well, I admit being quite illogical in this matter. The truth is that I actually have two #1 favorite bands.

The Beach Boys have been with me since the autumn of 2004. First, I fell in love with the early sound of stuff like I Get Around and Fun, Fun, Fun. Then, I heard Pet Sounds. Since that I haven't been able to say which I enjoy more: the early cheerful rock'n'roll energy or the later orchestrated gorgeousness. These are two worlds quite different from each other, but the four-part harmonies are excellent everywhere. I guess I am just not the kind of person who undermines good-sounding and entertaining stuff just because there is also something more sophisticated available.

I saw the Beach Boys live for the first time in Helsinki in 2006. It was a concert performed by Mike Love, Bruce Johnston and a group of very skilled musicians. Then, I had a similar experience just little over a week ago. Well, it wasn't all that similar, actually. The 2006 concert was arranged at a huge indoor arena in November and this more recent concert on a beach in southwestern Finland by a lake in July. The concert was originally supposed to happen in Yyteri by the sea but was moved to another more outlying place called Eura.

I don't know why this concert wasn't booked to Helsinki. A lot more people would have come... I was a bit worried about the attendance before the concert. But once the band stepped on the stage I couldn't worry anymore. There were lots of people there, dancing like crazy in front of the stage all through the gig.

I soon joined these lovely people and danced through the endless cavalcade of old Beach Boys hits – songs many of which were almost 50 years old but when are we really going to stop needing happy, carefree rock'n'roll songs - and loving especially these ones? The Beach Boys music is still as current as ever because it was written to make people smile and forget about all the bad things at least for a while. Everyone needs to have some fun every now and then... So, why not have fun with one of the most talented rock'n'roll vocal groups that has ever existed?

In the 1960s, and that day, the Beach Boys sung songs about surfing, cool cars (even love songs to cars!), and pretty girls. However, I don't think the songs need to be interpreted literally. Simply said, the Beach Boys music is like a celebration of doing what you enjoy. Enjoying life and all that it can offer! Catching a wave can easily be seen as a symbol of feeling good and mighty in any situation, and succeeding in something you wish to succeed in – to cut a long story short: fulfilling your dreams.

Little things like saying to somebody in music that if I did it then you can do it too, what ever your “do it” might be (Brian Wilson commentary for Friends remastered)

So, the concert was a blast. Mike and Bruce had again very good musicians with them and the four-part harmonies sounded as fresh as ever. I was very impressed by the vocal performances: those guys really seemed to be able to transform into Brian, Carl or Al Jardine! It was a good thing that they had included a few non-hit songs in the set as well (!). I enjoyed everything from Surf City to Getcha Back. Bruce gave a nice performance of God Only Knows. The psychedelic songs (Good Vibrations, Heroes and Villains) sounded really good and also stood out. What a curious feeling to think for yourself (even though you already have listened to it countless times): is this music really from the same band that performed those primitive car songs?! It also became clear that the Beach Boys have recorded many, many great cover versions of popular songs and given them a good Beach Boys treatment. After the concert I got Mike Love's autograph. I bet I don't have an autograph by anyone more famous!

Now, let me tell you about a dream of mine... As you already guessed, I would like to see all living original members of the Beach Boys performing together. In fact, just seeing Brian Wilson would be such a pilgrimage to me. I'd better monitor Brian's tour schedules and if he ever comes to Northern Europe again...

More Beach Boys blabber to come. I'm feeling BB manic.