Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Little Deuce Coup d'Etat: Brian Wilson 75

Fresh from the 75th birthday tribute of Paul McCartney, let's do an equivalent one for his main 1960s competition from across the pond.
For way back when, Beatle Paul and his mates did some of the best of what they did, as unprecedented as it was, as mere response to what today's honoree was up to thousands of miles away in coastal California.
One of my first memories as a child -- I was born in 1966 -- is of being in the car with my parents and Good Vibrations coming on the radio. I think the sound of the theremin at the end messed up my mind and set me on the path of iniquity upon which I remain to this day.
Everyone knows about the soundshaping effect his Beach Boys had upon our world, so there isn't any need to go into that, is there? Their paradigm shattering LPs like Pet Sounds and SMiLE -- a record so powerful, it didn't even have to be released to become one of the greatest ever made -- are prime inflection points in the maturation process of global popular music.
The architect of a few quantum leaps in production and songwriting, today's birthday Beach Boy has had many challenges which are well documented. That he came through them intact and has lived to be an apparently happy and still very functional senior citizen -- he's just finishing an epic round of tour dates for the 50th anniversary of Pet Sounds -- can't help but inspire.
So today Brian Wilson turns the milestone 75 as surely one of the world's most revered and imitated songwriters, with a decades-long body of work, and among that output several songs and albums that completely altered -- and continue to alter -- the musical landscape of the planet.
Again, for me it goes all the way back to childhood, and the earcandy this guy supplied to my little mind at a young and tender age. I mean, up until my phone died a few days ago, my ringtone was the opening track from SMiLE, a then-unprecedented multitracked vocal fantasia called Our Prayer.
Never released in its time due to its creator suffering a nervous breakdown from the tribulations of making the record, today when you hear it you get the impression of something very beautiful and invaluable being born. His ambition to create a "teenage symphony to God" may have driven him a bit mad, but the album actually more than lives up to that billing even now, 50 years later.
The legend has it that when Brian himself brought The Beatles an acetate of SMiLE, they were so staggered by the contents that they immediately attempted to raise their groundbreaking game in response, eventually producing the Sgt. Pepper's opus upon which so much of their reputation rests. This, after Pet Sounds sent them scurrying into Abbey Road Studios to make the still-astonishing Revolver.
Highly appropriate then for McCartney and Wilson to have been born exactly two days apart, that's for certain anyway. I felt I couldn't blog one without the other, so here we are. They are almost like the two sides of the same melodic coin, on opposite sides of the ocean.
This is a hard one in terms of what archival, unissued gem to share in BW's honor -- most of the best of it has been officially issued many times over -- but I think I have just the thing. Almost 25 years ago in Japan, a CD appeared chronicling a whole boatload of the 1960s singles Brian produced for other artists, some of whom only made one 45RPM platter in their entire careers.
This proved quite the collector's item, with 33 tracks to which the man contributes not just mixing desk prowess but extensive vocal assistance as well. He also wrote the majority of the songs. If you find yourself cruising down the Sunset Strip on a Friday night in a 1961 sky blue Chrysler convertible, this is probably the 73 minutes of music you'll want to have playing on repeat.
Brian Wilson
Still I Dream of You
Rare Works of Brian Wilson

45s from the 1960s

01 Kenny & the Cadets - Barbie
02 Kenny & the Cadets - What is a Young Girl Made Of
03 Rachel & the Revolvers - The Revo-Lution
04 Rachel & the Revolvers - Number One
05 Bob & Sheri - The Surfer Moon
06 Bob & Sheri - Humpty Dumpty
07 Timers - No Go Showboat
08 Sharon Marie - Run-Around Lover
09 The Survivors - Pamela Jean
10 The Castells - I Do
11 Paul Peterson - She Rides with Me
12 Nodeans - Beach Girl
13 The Honeys - He's a Doll
14 Gary Usher - Sacramento
15 Gary Usher - That's Just the Way I Feel
16 Sharon Marie - Thinkin' 'Bout You Baby
17 Sharon Marie - The Story of My Life
18 Hale & the Hushabyes - Yes Sir, That's My Baby
19 Basil Swift & the Seegrams - The Farmer's Daughter
20 Annette Funicello - The Monkey's Uncle
21 Glen Campbell - Guess I'm Dumb
22 The Blossoms - Things Are Changing
23 Bob & Bobby - Twelve-O-Four
24 Bob & Bobby - Baby, What You Want Me to Do
25 Laughing Gravy - Vegetables
26 Ron Wilson - I'll Keep on Loving You
27 Ron Wilson - As Tears Go By
28 Dino, Desi & Billy - Lady Love
29 Kenny & the Cadets - Barbie (Take 2)
30 Dante & His Friends - Miss America
31 Joey & the Continentals - She Rides with Me
32 The Beach Boys - Surfin' Safari (ARIOLA Version)
33 Various Artists - Karen

Total time: 1:13:41

1993 Japanese unauthorized CD of 1960s BW productions, many written and vocally enhanced by him
This CD goes for 75 bucks and up online, and in addition to the rarity it really is an enjoyable set of the caliber of Sixties orchestral pop for which Brian Wilson is best known and most beloved. There's fascinating reworks of '60s standards (As Tears Go By), majestic odes to self-motivation (Things Are Changing), and even a rare European single version of Surfin' Safari by BW's main band of the time. It also closes with an ultra-scarce TV theme written and sung by Brian and friends.
This seemed as appropriate a way as any to celebrate his big day, and like I said would make great cruising tunes on the Santa Monica Freeway, so pull it down and you'll see what all the fuss has been about. And as you do, remember to never forget Brian Wilson, born this Solstice day in 1942 -- how perfect is it that he was born with the season with which his music is so closely associated? --  and still featuring prominently in the Endless Summer of our sonic dreams.--J.

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