And here we come to the last album that will be dealt with in this volume. The story that’s played out over the thirteen years covered in this book is of the battle between two factions of the Beach Boys — on the one hand Carl and Dennis Wilson, pushing for greater artistic progress, and on the other Mike Love and Al Jardine, allied more by their dislike of the Wilsons’ drug- and alcohol-fuelled lifestyles than anything else. Each faction was trying to gain influence over Brian Wilson, and each had allies, but the two factions had been balanced for most of that time, though by this point things were shifting as Carl Wilson had cleaned up the worst excesses of his lifestyle.
Youngblood, Carl Wilson’s second solo album, came out in February 1983, and was the last album to be released before that balance shifted, horribly, with the death by drowning of Dennis Wilson in December that year.
From that point on, the Beach Boys would be following, pretty much exclusively, the vision of Mike Love. Some interesting things have resulted, as we will see in volume three, but the tension between the two factions of the band was over, for good.
So Youngblood is the last album to have been created when the Beach Boys were still the band dealt with in this volume, and it’s a strange one. It’s almost as mediocre as Carl Wilson, but not quite — if nothing else, it’s better sequenced, and the addition of a handful of cover versions gives the album some much-needed energy.
But also, the album benefits from the production of Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, and the combination of Wilson’s live band (who had toured with him during his solo tour in 1981, though he was now back with the Beach Boys) with the session musicians, like Nicky Hopkins and Vinnie Colaiuta, who Baxter was used to working with.
The result is an album that is far more listenable than its predecessor, but is still lacking in ambition — a bunch of very talented people making music that is, ultimately, pointless.
All songs by Carl Wilson and Myrna Smith-Schilling except where noted.
What More Can I Say?
And the album starts as it means to go on, with a song that is essentially as unimaginative as any of those on Carl Wilson, but performed with far more energy and enthusiasm than any of the tracks on that album. The track speeds through as fast as possible, distracting the listener with the rush of the tempo and Baxter’s twiddly, ultra-fast guitar playing, but the production — which is much, much better than anything on the previous album — doesn’t cover up the dullness of the underlying material.
This is, frankly, the most unpleasant thing ever recorded by a member of the Beach Boys. The lyrics are misogynist as hell — “Don’t ask her she’s mine/She’ll tell you different but she ain’t free”, while the backing track is horrible 80s AOR that could be Survivor, Journey or a million other terrible bands.
The lowpoint — not just of the song, but of Carl Wilson’s entire career — is the second chorus, where he sings — of someone who is supposed to be his girlfriend, mark you, and of whom he’s said earlier “let me supply all the love she needs” — “that bitch can’t help it if she can’t be true”.
No more need be said really. This is a song from the point-of-view of a controlling, dominating man who thinks his partner is a “bitch”. Not sung with any Randy Newman style ironic unreliable narration, but with a cock-rocking swagger.
Givin’ You Up
Songwriters: Carl Wilson, Myrna Smith-Schilling and Jerry Schilling
Jerry Schilling gets a co-writing credit for this, according to Billy Hinsche’s liner notes for the 2010 CD reissue, because he suggested to Carl the idea of “a love affair unselfishly ending and nobody is to blame”. Myrna Smith-Schilling wrote the lyrics, and was apparently unaware that she was writing about the end of her own marriage with Schilling.
In fact, while Schilling’s original idea was to have the affair end “unselfishly”, it’s hard to imagine a more revoltingly egocentric, self-serving song than this — “I gotta admit you were there when I needed, still there’s something I gotta find”, “I’ve outgrown your love”, “In order to find me I’m givin’ you up”. Possibly it’s just the context, coming after the last song, but this sounds almost psychopathically narcissistic.
That said, Wilson sings the song as well as ever.
This was released in a slightly different edit as the B-side to What You Do To Me, and the single edit is a bonus track on the CD reissue.
One More Night Alone
Songwriter: Billy Hinsche
Easily the best track on the album, this was written by Carl’s ex-brother-in-law Billy Hinsche, the Beach Boys’ touring keyboardist.
A slow “big ballad”, it’s based around Hinsche’s electric piano part, and like many piano composers he uses a much richer harmonic vocabulary than guitarists, so the first line of the song has the progression C-Fmaj7-Dm7-Bm7/E-E7/G# — a descending pattern where each chord removes the highest note from the one before while adding notes on the bottom — and then the second line (Am-Am7/G-Fmaj7-F6) does more or less the same in the relative minor. This isn’t particularly clever or original, but it is more interesting than the bulk of the album.
And given decent material, Carl Wilson really shines, turning in his best vocal on the album, starting with an almost-whispered first verse, singing the second in full voice, and straining at the emotional peak on the middle eight.
The song’s far from perfect — the lyrics show signs of rhyming dictionary abuse, the middle eight’s not very well thought out, and there’s a lounge sax solo — but compared to everything before it on the album, this is revelatory. This is what should have been the minimum standard for a Carl Wilson solo album, and it’s pretty shameful it took until the fourth song to reach that standard, but we’re there now.
Billy Hinsche later released a solo version of this on his live CD Bay Of Plenty.
Rockin’ All Over The World
Songwriter: John Fogerty
A straight cover of the Creedence Clearwater Revival original, this adds nothing to what was never an especially original song. If you like three-chord rock songs about rockin’, that rock, then you’ll like this. I don’t, although Nicky Hopkins’ piano solo lifts the track slightly.
What You Do To Me
Songwriters: John and Johanna Hall
This track was the only single from the album, and is a note-for-note cover version of a vaguely Latin-flavoured track from the John Hall Band (led by John Hall, a former member of rock band Orleans, and a Democratic Congressman from 2006 to 2011). The backing track is so similar, in fact, that it sounds closer to a different mix of the same track than to a new recording, though it isn’t.
While there’s nothing of substance to the song, which is just three chords and lyrics like “What you do to me/Feels so heavenly”, the track has an energy to it, though it’s not wonderfully suited to Wilson’s voice.
The single reached number 72 on the US charts, and number 20 in the Adult Contemporary Billboard charts, and stayed in the Beach Boys’ live set for a short while.
Songwriters: Doc Pomus, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
One of the most interesting tracks on the album, this is a cover version of an old R&B hit by the Coasters, which had also been recorded by, among others, the Beatles and Leon Russel.
However, while the Coasters’ original plays the song for laughs, here Wilson teases out the creepy, stalkerish undertone of the lyrics — something that isn’t hard to do with lines like “I tried to follow her all the way home/Then things were bad, I met her dad/He said ‘You’d better leave my daughter alone’”. But slowing down the track and emphasising the horns gives it a sinister edge, and then adding in the voice of Barbara Reilly, treated to sound like she’s on the telephone, saying “Who is this?” and getting no response, gives the song a whole different feeling.
Easily the best actual song on the album, this is also the one that has had the most thought given it by far.
Of The Times
This is just nasty. A galumphing AOR track that wouldn’t have been out of place as an album track by Survivor or Foreigner, this is an utterly mediocre song with a straight quiet verse/loud bombastic chorus, along with a screeching solo by Jeff “Skunk” Baxter instead of a middle eight, but what kills it are the lyrics.
This is an attempt at non-specific social comment, and as with all non-specific social comment by big 80s rock stars, its message is ultimately inhuman. The verses talk to someone who is concerned about “the state that the world is in” and that “the dollar won’t buy all the things you need”, but then the choruses say “But who else can you blame for the state of your mentality/If you’re just a part of the times?”
The last couple of verses offer newage (not a typo, rhymes with sewage) platitudes about how positive thinking will allow you to change the future, but fundamentally this is a vile bit of victim-blaming. If someone’s struggling with poverty, then being told by a multi-millionaire that it’s their own fault and that it’d get better if they just think positive thoughts really doesn’t help.
Too Early To Tell
Songwriters: Carl Wilson, Myrna Smith-Schilling and John Daly
More utterly generic rawk, this time a track written as the show opener for Wilson’s solo shows. A duet with Smith-Schilling, there is literally nothing notable about this track, which has lyrics like “It’s time to rock and roll and let it all come out, that’s what it’s all about”. Lots of twiddly fast guitar attempts to cover up a lack of an interesting song.
Even though I’ve only written three sentences about this track, I’ve probably still spent more time writing about it than its composers did writing it.
If I Could Talk To Love
Easily the best of the originals on the album, this is a gentle ballad which unfortunately turns into a power ballad half-way through, but it has more harmonic imagination than any of the other originals on the album, with some nice playing around with major and minor versions of the same chords giving the song a harmonic ambiguity lacking in any of the other originals on either of Wilson’s two solo albums.
The song shows off his voice to better effect than anything else on the album, has a relatively restrained arrangement (at least until the drums kick in at 2:18, bringing 80s ‘sonic power’ along with them), and a very nice, understated, flugelhorn solo by Lee Thomberg that’s far more effective than any of the squealy, twiddly, Skunk Baxter solos on previous tracks.
One might also wonder if, given that this album was written and recorded around the time that Carl Wilson resigned himself to the Beach Boys grinding out the hits and being a nostalgia band, there might be a not-especially-well-hidden subtext in lines like “I put myself into your hands/From this moment on, I make no demands/And if one could talk to love, I’d say/Have it your way, love, have it your way”…
Not the same song as Dennis’ solo song of the same name, this is a three-chord chugging boogie that Billy Hinsche compares, in the liner notes to the CD reissue, to Status Quo. It’s an accurate comparison, but he sees it as a good thing whereas I don’t. After the slow intro, It’s all fast quaver chords on the piano in a rough approximation of Jerry Lee Lewis, but without any of the excitement or danger that one would find in Lewis’ music. A mediocre, forgettable end to a mediocre, forgettable album.
Various bits of life stuff are getting in the way at the moment. Normal service will resume over the weekend with a bit of luck.
I’ve discovered that a friend of mine is planning a similar book on Nilsson to the one I was thinking of writing, so I won’t be Kickstarting that next month — I’m waiting to see what he does with that, now, so I don’t tread on his toes. That being said, there was enough interest that I might well still put up a Kickstarter for some other music books — I’ve talked about solo George Harrison, David Bowie and Roy Wood, anyone have any other ideas about musicians they’d like me to write about (enough to pay me)?
Just to say that for the last four nights straight I’ve had less than five hours’ ‘sleep’ (that’s my sleep, which is interrupted by by inability to breathe every six minutes anyway), thanks to all sorts of bizarre things up to and including tropical birds in our garden making ray-gun noises.
Assuming I manage to get some sleep tonight, the Youngblood post will be up tomorrow, and I’ll be resuming the Fifty Stories posts on Friday, and FINALLY getting some book reviews up over the weekend.
The important bit of the description:
Made In California’s previously unreleased and long sought-after recordings include ‘Goin’ To The Beach,’ ‘California Feelin’,’ ‘Soul Searchin’,’ ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,’ and ‘You’re Still A Mystery,’ among others. The set also debuts 17 unreleased live recordings, including ‘Runaway’ (1965), ‘Friends’ and ‘Little Bird’ (1968), ‘Wild Honey’ (1972), ‘It’s About Time’ (1973), ‘Wonderful’ and ‘Vegetables’ from The Beach Boys’ legendary 1993 acoustic tour, and a 1995 rendition of ‘Sail On, Sailor’ featuring a soulful lead vocal by the late Carl Wilson. The greatly missed talents of Carl and Dennis Wilson are also celebrated with rare and previously unreleased recordings including Dennis’ ‘(Wouldn’t It Be Nice To) Live Again,’ ‘Barnyard Blues’ and ‘My Love Lives On,’ Carl’s lead vocals on ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’ and ‘Soul Searchin’,’ and Carl’s shared lead with Bruce and Brian on ‘California Feelin’.’
The set also features a special ‘From The Vaults’ disc of rarities selected by the band and the producers with longtime Beach Boys fans in mind. Among the disc’s highlights are a cappella mixes of standout vocal recordings for songs including ‘This Whole World’ and ‘Slip On Through,’ alternate versions of ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ and other Beach Boys classics, session highlights and instrumental tracks, plus newly-discovered BBC Radio live recordings from 1964 of ‘Wendy,’ ‘When I Grow Up (To Be A Man),’ and ‘Hushabye.’
And the full tracklist:
1. Home Recordings / “Surfin’” Rehearsal Highlights (2012 Edit – Mono)
2. Surfin’ (with Session Intro – Mono)
3. Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring (Demo – Mono)
4. Surfin’ Safari (Original Mono Long Version)
5. 409 (Original Mono Long Version)
6. Lonely Sea (Original Mono Mix)
7. Surfin’ U.S.A.
8. Shut Down (2003 Stereo Mix)
9. Surfer Girl
10. Little Deuce Coupe
11. Catch A Wave
12. Our Car Club
13. Surfers Rule (with Session Intro)
14. In My Room
15. Back Home
16. Be True To Your School (Mono Single Version)
17. Ballad Of Ole’ Betsy
18. Little Saint Nick (Stereo Single Version)
19. Fun, Fun, Fun (Mono Single Version)
20. Little Honda
21. Don’t Worry Baby (2009 Stereo Mix)
22. Why Do Fools Fall In Love (2009 Stereo Mix)
23. The Warmth Of The Sun
24. I Get Around (with Session Intro – Mono)
25. Wendy (2007 Stereo Mix)
26. All Summer Long (2007 Stereo Mix)
27. Girls On The Beach
28. Don’t Back Down
29. When I Grow Up (To Be A Man) (2012 Stereo Mix)
30. All Dressed Up For School (Mono)
31. Please Let Me Wonder (2007 Stereo Mix)
32. Kiss Me, Baby (2000 Stereo Mix)
33. In The Back of My Mind (2012 Stereo Mix)
34. Dance, Dance, Dance (2003 Stereo Mix)
1. Do You Wanna Dance (2012 Stereo Mix)
2. Help Me, Rhonda (Mono Single Version)
3. California Girls (2002 Stereo Mix)
4. Amusement Parks USA (Early Version)
5. Salt Lake City (2001 Stereo Mix)
6. Let Him Run Wild (2007 Stereo Mix)
7. Graduation Day (Session Excerpt and Master Take, 2012 Mix)
8. The Little Girl I Once Knew (Mono)
9. There’s No Other (Like My Baby) (2012 “Unplugged” Mix with Party Session Intro)
10. Barbara Ann (2012 Stereo Mix)
11. Radio Spot “Wonderful KYA” (Mono)
12. Sloop John B (1996 Stereo Mix)
13. Wouldn’t It Be Nice (2001 Stereo Mix)
14. God Only Knows (1996 Stereo Mix)
15. I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times (1996 Stereo Mix)
16. Caroline No (1996 Stereo Mix)
17. Good Vibrations (Mono)
18. Our Prayer (2012 “Smile Sessions” Stereo Mix)
19. Heroes And Villains: Part 1 (“Smile Sessions” Mix – Mono)
20. Heroes And Villains: Part 2 (“Smile Sessions” Mix – Mono)
21. Vega-Tables (“Smile Sessions” Stereo Mix)
22. Wind Chimes (“Smile Sessions” Stereo Mix)
23. The Elements: Fire (Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow) (“Smile Sessions” Mix – Mono)
24. Cabin Essence (“Smile Sessions” Mix – Mono)
25. Heroes And Villains (2012 Stereo Mix)
26. Wonderful (2012 Stereo Mix)
27. Country Air (2012 Stereo Mix)
28. Wild Honey (2012 Stereo Mix)
1. Darlin’ (2012 Stereo Mix)
2. Let The Wind Blow (2001 Stereo Mix)
3. Meant For You (Alternate Version)
5. Little Bird
6. Busy Doin’ Nothin’
7. Sail Plane Song (2012 Stereo Mix)
8. We’re Together Again (2012 Stereo Mix)
9. Radio Spot “Murray The K” (Mono)
10. Do It Again (2012 Stereo Mix)
11. Old Man River (Vocal Section)
12. Be With Me
13. I Can Hear Music
14. Time To Get Alone
15. I Went To Sleep
16. Can’t Wait Too Long (A Cappella)
17. Break Away (Alternate Version)
18. Celebrate The News
19. Cotton Fields (The Cotton Song) (Single Version, 2001 Stereo Mix)
20. Susie Cincinnati (2012 Mix)
21. Good Time
22. Slip On Through
23. Add Some Music To Your Day
24. This Whole World
26. It’s About Time
27. Soulful Old Man Sunshine
28. Fallin’ In Love (2009 Stereo Mix)
29. Sound Of Free (Mono Single Version)
30. ‘Til I Die
31. Surf’s Up
1. Don’t Go Near The Water
2. Disney Girls (1957)
3. Feel Flows
4. (Wouldn’t It Be Nice To) Live Again
6. All This Is That
7. Sail On Sailor
8. The Trader
9. California Saga (On My Way To Sunny Californ-I-A)
10. Rock And Roll Music (2012 Mix w/Extra Verse)
11. It’s OK (Alternate Mix)
12. Had To Phone Ya
13. Let Us Go On This Way
14. I’ll Bet He’s Nice
15. Solar System
16. The Night Was So Young
17. It’s Over Now (Alternate Mix)
18. Come Go With Me
19. California Feelin’
20. Brian’s Back (Alternate Mix)
21. Good Timin’
22. Angel Come Home
23. Baby Blue
24. It’s A Beautiful Day (Single Edit) (2012 Mix)
25. Goin’ To The Beach
1. Goin’ On
2. Why Don’t They Let Us Fall In Love
3. Da Doo Ron Ron
4. Getcha Back
5. California Dreamin’
7. Soul Searchin’
8. You’re Still A Mystery
9. That’s Why God Made The Radio
10. Isn’t It Time (Single Version)
THE BEACH BOYS LIVE:
11. Runaway (Chicago 1965 — w/Concert Promo Intro – Mono)
12. You’re So Good To Me (Paris 1966 – Mono)
13. The Letter (Hawaii Rehearsal 1967)
14. Friends (Chicago 1968 – Mono)
15. Little Bird (Chicago 1968 – Mono)
16. All I Want To Do (London 1968)
17. Help Me, Rhonda (New Jersey 1972)
18. Wild Honey (New Jersey 1972)
19. Only With You (New York 1972)
20. It’s About Time (Chicago 1973)
21. I Can Hear Music (Maryland 1975)
22. Vegetables (New York 1993)
23. Wonderful (New York 1993)
24. Sail On Sailor (Louisville 1995)
25. Summer In Paradise (Wembley 1993)
FROM THE VAULTS:
1. Radio Spot (1966 — Mono)
2. Slip On Through (A Cappella Mix)
3. Don’t Worry Baby (Stereo Session Outtake w/ Alternate Lead Vocal)
4. Pom Pom Play Girl (Vocal Session Highlight)
5. Guess I’m Dumb (Instrumental Track w/Background Vocals)
6. Sherry She Needs Me (1965 Track w/1976 Vocal)
7. Mona Kana (Instrumental Track)
8. This Whole World (A Cappella)
9. Where Is She?
10. Had To Phone Ya (Instrumental Track)
11. SMiLE Backing Vocals Montage (from “The Smile Sessions”)
12. Good Vibrations (Stereo Track Sections)
13. Be With Me (Demo)
14. I Believe In Miracles (Vocal Section)
15. Why (Instrumental Track)
16. Barnyard Blues
17. Don’t Go Near The Water (Instrumental Track)
18. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling
19. Transcendental Meditation (Instrumental Track)
20. Our Sweet Love (Vocals w/Strings)
21. Back Home (1970 Version)
22. California Feelin’ (Original Demo)
23. California Girls (“Lei’d In Hawaii” Studio Version)
24. Help You, Rhonda (“Lei’d In Hawaii” Studio Version)
25. Surf’s Up (1967 Version) (2012 Mix)
26. My Love Lives On
27. Radio Spot (1964 – Mono)
28. Wendy (BBC — Live in the Studio 1964 – Mono)
29. When I Grow Up (To Be A Man) (BBC — Live in the Studio 1964 – Mono)
30. Hushabye (BBC — Live in the Studio 1964 – Mono)
31. Carl Wilson: Coda (2013 Edit)
This looks almost perfect. There are niggles, but the only thing I’d have *definitely* done differently is add in a few tracks from Adult Child. Other than that, this looks exquisite.