That’s Why God Made The Radio…



EDIT 23/04 video replaced with official copy

The video above leaked a while ago — a promo for the Beach Boys’ new single (the first in twenty years), with the band being interviewed over the track.

Thoughts:

It’s *deeply* unimpressive, at least at first listen. Not terrible, but there’s no ‘there’ there. And hugely derivative — it’s Keep An Eye On Your Summer Dream, Midnight Cowboy, Because You Only Live Twice. If this is the song everyone’s been raving about, then the rest of the album is going to be pretty poor.

That’s Jeff Foskett doubling Brian on the verses. It’s done subtly, but it still sounds odd to me, like a Frankenbrian. It works — it’s what they did on a couple of tracks on Smile, too — but it confuses my ears as they try to decode which of them is singing. Doubt that’ll be a problem for the average listener, though.

Harmonies are nice, but there’s a *LOT* of Foskett in there and very little of anyone else. This could have been put out as a Brian Wilson solo track and from the evidence we’ve got here no-one would know any different (actually I *strongly* suspect there’s a middle eight that’s been cut out for this video, I’d guess with a Mike Love lead). In fact, from this I can’t pick out a single Beach Boy on vocals other than Brian, just a Wall O’ Fosketts. But I quite like Jeff Foskett’s voice, unlike many…

The production sounds like Brian rather than Joe Thomas, which can only be a good thing. No acoustic guitars with pickups, no horrible snare sound and ‘sonic power’. It’s the best *sounding* thing released under the Beach Boys’ name since at least 1979.

So, the glass is half-full. I just won’t know what it’s half-full *of* until the single’s actually out, some time in the next few days…

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35 Responses to That’s Why God Made The Radio…

  1. I still haven’t persuaded myself to buy Brian’s Disney album. I think that hearing this clip means that I’ll never be able to persuade myself to buy the new Beach Boys’ album. It’s sad. And you hit the sources for this song perfectly.

    Apropos of nothing: is there something Cagney-like about Bruce Johnston in profile (1:05)?

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      The Disney album is… OK. It grew on me, after I didn’t like it at all on first listen. The arrangement on The Bare Necessities is really nice (banjo and marimba), and there’s a couple of other decent moments, but too much of it is covers of bad 90s songs I’d never heard before and never want to hear again, often by Elton John.

      I’m going to buy the album anyway — I own copies of all the Beach Boys’ albums, and there’ve been enough hints that there’s interesting stuff on the album that I can still hope — but to say the least this is not to my personal taste.

      And yes, I’d never noticed it before, but there is something vaguely Cagneyesque about Bruce, though I still think he looks more like a lost member of the Kennedy family.

    • Larry (L.V.A.) says:

      If you like The Beach Boys and/or Brian Wilson’s music—You “WILL” find out, sooner or later, that it is much better than anyone who has never listened to it can imagine. I bought it only because it was from Brian Wilson and was more than “PLEASANTLY SURPRISED”—But that’s just me—and many others. Don’t take my word about it, or anyone else’s. Check out the whole album yourself on YouTube.

  2. Jay says:

    Hey Andrew,

    I am a Graphic Design Student at Mississippi State University and I am currently working on a project where I recreate an LP album cover. I chose Something Else by the Kinks and I was wondering if I could have your permission to use pieces of your review as makeshift liner notes seeing as you have the best review on the web. Thank you for your time and I look forward to exploring your awesome blog even more.

    Jason

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Thanks very much!
      If it’s a non-commercial thing just for your university, feel free to excerpt anything you want, though obviously I’d like to be credited. If it’s going to be exhibited or anything, I’d like the credit to be “from the forthcoming book The Kinks’ Music, by Andrew Hickey”, as I turn these reviews into books later, but if it’s not going to be public then I don’t mind what you do really.
      Glad you like the blog, and good luck with the project.

  3. TAD says:

    I guess we differ on this song (from what I’ve heard of it so far). I like it a lot, and I’m excited to hear more. I agree, TWGMTR brings to mind some previous Beach Boys songs (Keep an Eye on Summer), but that doesn’t bother me. The sentiment feels honest, and that’s what’s important. I’d rate this song the equal of any of Brian’s best recent stuff (Midnight’s Another Day, I’ve Got a Crush on You being two of my recent favorites).

  4. John says:

    Bearing in mind they all turn or in Mike’s case, have already turned 70 this year, is it any wonder they’ve had to tinker with the vocals? Jeff Foskett’s been playing with them for around 30 years so although not an original member, he’s hardly been smuggled on board to bolster the vocals has he? His presence is perfectly acceptable to most BB fans and from what I can hear, they sound sensational all things considered. Did people really expect to hear a groundbreaking Beach Boys Today or Pet Sounds. Get real please and just enjoy hearing those vocal blends again, for what almost certainly will be the last time. Love it.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Saying there was a lot of Foskett on there wasn’t a complaint. I have no problem with Jeff Foskett either as a vocalist (I enjoy his singing and have a couple of his solo albums) or as a person (I’ve met him twice, both times he was very friendly).

      • John says:

        No you’re right Andrew, you did say you liked JF’s voice to be fair. But your review is a bit contradictory. You say at the beginning that you think it’s “deeply unimpressive”, but then at the end you say it’s their best sounding thing since at least 1979. From which I can only assume you thought that every track released post LA Light album including Kokomo, was less than deeply unimpressive, which I don’t agree with? Well that’s taste for you. Everyone’s is different. I suppose someone somewhere likes Love is a Woman? Anyway, we won’t have long to wait to hear the whole thing when we can be more objective with our reviews. Maybe I’ll hate it when I hear it in full. Bu tI doubt it. The clips on here (for which I thankyou Andrew) sound gorgeous to these ears. It’s available over here in the UK for download from Play.com from the 26th. This Thursday! Agree a middle 8 has probably been cut out for the video.

        • Andrew Hickey says:

          That’s my fault, not making clear the distinction between production and songwriting. The song, to my ears, is pretty poor — I think I’ve written better myself, and that’s not a reflection of any great songwriting talent on my part. But the production and arrangement, while not stellar, are better than anything they’ve done as a band since LA.

          I think they’ve released a handful of good songs since LA (as a band — Brian’s done a lot of good solo stuff), though I don’t like Kokomo, but She Believes In Love Again, Where I Belong, Somewhere Near Japan and Getcha Back are all at least decent songs. As records, though, they’re marred by an overreliance on synths, a *horrible* drum sound, and backing vocals which have been put together on a computer rather than recorded by human beings. I don’t think this song as a song is as good as any of those I’ve named (and even those would only be average tracks on any album from 1965 through 1976) but as a record it’s better.

          • John says:

            That now makes sense. Not expecting too much from the album to be honest but at least from this snippet it seems like Brian’s stopped shouting. The last time that was the case was on Imagination which of course had Mr Thomas’s hands on it. So maybe his influence has been bought to bear on this new effort?

    • Scott Young says:

      I agree John :) (Scott from the UK)

  5. adithya says:

    I feel that it is going to be a decent single..Nothing path breaking like the songs in Pet Sounds or Sunflower,but given the brief preview I have a feeling that it is going to be a feel good,nice album..Give credit to these guys they are all in their late 60’s and still they are coming up with a new album..That itself is commendable..

  6. shootingstar says:

    It’s funny how everyone thinks Jeff sings Brian’s parts. Not true. Yes Jeff sings but Brian sings all his parts and does an amazing job. Trust me people I have seen it firsthand.

  7. Stephen Bray says:

    Andy,

    I had a look at this ‘cos I was interested in what you might have made of it. I can see why you’d be disappointed, but as a casual (very casual) fan, I was actually quite impressed. The start of it horrified me, to be honest – all bad synths and drum machines (and if they weren’t machines, they certainly sounded like them), and some banal and trite lyrics and rhymes (but hey, a lot of the good Beach Boys songs’ lyrics fall into that category!) but then it hits the chorus…which is absolutely beautiful and wiped away my cynicism. Hearing those voices (and I don’t know quite who’s singing on this and in what order – like I said, a *very* casual fan) cascading over each other and creating some beautiful harmonies was far better than I’d expected. The song’s still in my head, which can be no bad thing. So yeah, colour me quietly impressed. Looking at their contemporaries, it’s better than almost all of the last Macca album…although I doubt it’ll be a match for the next Three Bonzos and a Piano album :)

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Problem is, while it’s better than anything that McCartney or Ray Davies or whoever are doing now, it’s *not* as good as some of the stuff on Brian Wilson’s last couple of solo albums. It’s less than what he’s capable of at the moment.

      • Anthony says:

        There must be about 10 songs better than this on Ray Davies’ most recent ‘proper’ album, ‘Working Man’s Cafe’. Agree about McCartney though…

        • Andrew Hickey says:

          Actually, there are a couple of better songs on some of McCartney’s recent albums, too (there’s some nice stuff on the most recent Fireman album, and Mr Bellamy off Memory Almost Full is one of his best solo tracks). But yes, the song’s actually not up to the standards being set by some of the Beach Boys’ contemporaries.

  8. Stephen Bray says:

    You think it regresses too much to what people might expect a traditional Beach Boys sound to be, perhaps? I haven’t heard much (any?) recent Brian Wilson, so can’t really comment on that, but I was pleasantly surprised by this. Or is it the case that Brian is merely the sum of his collaborators these days, and whatever fan-boy whizz-kids he’s been working with solo are producing something different to what the aged Messers Love, Jardine, Johnston etc. are coaxing about of him in the studio…?

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Not really either of those. Wilson’s most recent album of new material, That Lucky Old Sun from 2008, is sonically very similar to this, but is inventive, and funny, and clever, while still sounding very much ‘traditional Beach Boys’.
      This, by contrast, is not even a Brian Wilson song. Wilson has one of the four writing credits, true, but a song of the same name was written by the other three co-writers (the ‘best’ of whom is Jim Peterik, who wrote Eye Of The Tiger) for the Beach Boys in the mid-90s but not recorded then. And it’s just painfully obviously stitched together out of bits of other songs — the verse is essentially the melody to Your Summer Dream sung over the chords to Keep an Eye On Summer (two songs I never really liked very much anyway), while the chorus is warmed over John Barry – it’s a reworking of bits of the Midnight Cowboy theme and You Only Live Twice.

      Bluntly, it’s the kind of thing I would write if someone asked me to write something that sounded like a 1964 Beach Boys album track, except I’d write less banal lyrics.

      The vocal arrangement is the only saving grace, and that’s the thing that sounds most like solo Brian, because it’s full of him and Jeff Foskett (though listening to the full track you can definitely hear the others on there).

    • John says:

      I think it’s a bit late for the Beach Boys to be reinventing themselves. The last time they did that back in the early 70’s they produced 3 of their better albums ever, which were largely ignored by the buying public and they were arguably at their prime then. Plus they had Carl & Dennis actively contributing. So to think they’d be thinking of progressing onto something else at their age, bearing in mind that the core of the remaining members are either 70 already (Mike) or 70 this year (Brian, Bruce & Alan), is being optimistic in the extreme. In fact with their age in mind, I think it’s a remarkable sound they’ve produced on this cut. I absolutely love it. I can’t get th echorus out of my head. The last time one stuck so well was Carl’s vocal on the Kokomo chorus. And Andrew, the middle 8 turned out to be Brian!

      • Andrew Hickey says:

        I’m not expecting — or even really hoping — for them to reinvent themselves. I *was*, though, hoping for something as inventive and enjoyable as Brian’s last proper album, That Lucky Old Sun. As it is, it sounds like the weaker tracks from Al’s solo album.

  9. dan says:

    hope it’s as good as ‘Lucky Old Sun’

  10. Jim Wagner says:

    You’re sharp Andrew. The Capitol Music Group obviously gave permission to use the same instrumental riff in “You Only Live Twice” and “Midnight Cowboy” which is the essence of the title hook phrase “that’s why God made the radio.” It is clear that Capitol/EMI owns “You Only Live Twice” and gave permission to use the instrumental riff as the title hook phrase sung six times. While legal since it is owned by the releasing company, the fact remains that the melody of the phrase “that’s why God made the radio” is copied. And therefore I am unimpressed. Brian Wilson is capable of writing his own music. That did not happen here.

  11. Jim Wagner says:

    Does anyone understand what I am saying? LIsten to the instrumental opening of “You Only Live Twice,”
    a James Bond theme song. And listen to “MIdnight Cowboy.” Then listen to the melody of the title hook phrase “that’s why God made the radio.” It’s not a reworking of “bits” of the two songs as you stated Andrew.
    The two songs were copied note for note. It makes no difference that “You Only Live Twice” has a few less important notes that were not copied. The entire essence was copied note for note.

  12. richie says:

    joining the conversation….

    i watched their performance on fallon and kinda liked the song but had the feeling the main chorus was ‘borrowed” from another song. after about the 3rd listen, it hit me: “you only live twice!” once i realized the best part of the new song was just the best part from the old song, it kinda deflated it all for me. all the other musical “borrowing’ cited was spot on, too. but the main chorus is definitely stolen from bond, and that is sad for something that is being referred to as new [brian wilson/beach boys]. as one poster wrote, the man can write original music, so why’d they let him “borrow” this?

  13. Jim Wagner says:

    Exactly Richie. You got it. The chorus is from Bond, “You Only Live Twice” as well as “Midnight Cowboy” both written by the same songwriter.

    I do not approve of copying. Tom Petty heard and copied one of my songs having a hit song, hit album and national tour. It is very painful to be copied without permission.

    google / tom petty jim wagner lawsuit

  14. Jim Wagner says:

    Someone needs to start a new thread with this title:

    Does “That Why God Made the Radio” copy “You Only Live Twice” and “Midnight Cowboy?”

    And then let the public voice their opinions . . .

  15. Jim Wagner says:

    Andrew started this thread stating the song is “hugely derivative” citing the prior songs “You Only Live Twice” and “Midnight Cowboy.” Ritchie was more correct in stating “the main chorus is definately stolen from Bond” in the song “You Only Live Twice.” Both of you are right. The truth is that the title hook phrase “that’s why God made the radio” copies the melody of “You Only Live Twice” and “MIdnight Cowboy” by John Barry.

    There’s nothing legally that can be done against the truth. Listen closely to all three songs on you tube and speak out on this thread. It amazes me that people are not commenting on the copying that took place whether conscious or sub-conscious. It’s so obvious. Just listen.

  16. Jim Wagner says:

    LAST COMMENT FROM A PRO MUSICIAN WHO SUED TOM PETTY

    Andrew started this site stating the song is “hugely derivative” citing “You Only Live Twice” and “Midnight Cowboy.” Why are you not commenting on what I’m saying? Are you afraid to speak the truth on a site you started? “Hugely derivative” scratches the surface on the copying that took place. THE TITLE HOOK PHRASE IS COPIED NOTE FOR NOTE FROM BOTH SONGS YOU CITED. PERIOD.

    If permission was granted, it’s legal. If permission was not granted, it’s copyright infringement.

    If any of you are reading my comments, man up . . . listen to all three songs and say something.

    Or are you too afraid? I wasn’t afraid of Tom Petty and came out with articles read around the world. Did they sue me? No . . . because I spoke the truth.

    All comments made about this song are IRRELEVANT if the song was copied in the first place. Does anyone have the courage to listen CLOSELY to all three songs and comment on the copying that took place?

    Do you have courage like Richie to speak the truth? Yes or no? How about you Andrew? Do you have the courage to go beyond “hugely derivative?”

    Richie got it. How about the rest of you? There should be thousands of comments on this and other sites about the copying that took place. This is America. Are you going to let this happen without saying something? Fear not.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      I’ve not been commenting because I don’t know exactly what does and does not count as copyright infringement under US law. Yes, several bars of melody are either identical or substantially similar to those songs, but I’ve heard of closer resemblances (the lawsuit over Mick Jagger’s Just Another Night, for example, where both lyrics and melody were identical) getting thrown out of court. I don’t have an opinion on the legality of it, and frankly I don’t need to — if what’s been done with this song is illegal, given that the songs that have been ripped off are not exactly unknown, no doubt it will get settled in court one way or another. My criticism is purely aesthetic. I don’t want to hear a patchwork of bits of old John Barry film themes and bits of songs from 1964 — I want to hear an actual new, coherent, song.

      As for your comment that “this is America”, well no, it isn’t. It’s the internet.YOU might be in America, but I’m not and nor are many of the other commenters here. As my American wife just said to me “I wish your blog *was* America — it’d be much easier to visit than tI thought if it was”.

  17. Jim Wagner says:

    Thanks for responding Andrew. This will not necessarily be settled in court as you said. The matter can be settled out of court before a lawsuit is filed.

    I will briefly explain U.S. copyright law:

    Copyright infringement goes to “access” and “substantial similarity.”

    1) The Beach Boys had a “high” degree of access to “You Only Live Twice” and “Midnight Cowboy,” two major films with theme songs of the same name written by John Barry.

    2) There is a “high” degree of substantial similarity with the instrumental melody of the prior works copied note for note in the title hook phrase “that’s why God made the radio.” There are a few extra notes in “You Only Live Twice” that were not copied. An infringer is liable for what was copied and is not excused from liability for notes not copied. Substantial similarity goes to the “artistic expression” of the first work copied in a subsequent work. The artistic expression of John Barry’s two theme songs was clearly copied note for note. A piano demonstration in court would show the identical melody in all three songs. An infringer is liable for copyright infringement whether the copying was conscious or sub-conscious (as in the case of George Harrison “My Sweet Lord” / “He’s So Fine.”)

    As stated, The Beach Boys may have attained permission to copy since the owner of “You Only Live Twice” is the Capitiol Music Group and the releasing record company is Capitol / EMI. I am like you wanting new music and not a replication of prior music.

    If they had permission, then copying is not illegal. But no one should believe that this song is original.
    It is not original. The instrumental melody of the two prior songs is identical to the title hook phrase “that’s why God made the radio.” It makes no difference if all the notes in “You Only LIve Twice” were not copied as I explained earlier.

    Andrew, I would sincerely like you to ask those on this site to listen to all three songs on you tube and then comment on the similarity. It may be better to start a new site asking for comments on the similarity.

    Please ask them to do this:

    1) go to you tube and listen to the instrumental opening of “You Only LIve Twice”

    2) go to you tube and listen to the repeated instrumental phrase in “Midnight Cowboy”

    3) go to you tube and listen to the title hook phrase “that’s why God made the radio” at all locations of the song including the end in which the similarity is even more pronounced

    And then ask for their opinion as to whether the song copies the two prior songs.

    I see this as more than “aesthetic.” If they copied two prior songs, the public should know it.

    I hear “striking similarity” in all three songs. Please ask for comments from people around the world . . .

    jw

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Rather than repeatedly badgering me to turn into some kind of internet activist and spend my time repeatedly pointing out the obvious — that this song sounds very similar to several other songs, something *every single person who has heard the song can tell straight away* — why not just do it yourself?
      I heard the resemblance as soon as I heard the song. Almost everyone who hears this song will have heard one or both of the John Barry pieces. I mentioned the resemblance because I sometimes write about the Beach Boys on this blog, and some of the people here wanted to know what I thought of the song — and that was what I thought. That’s really the end of my interest in the matter.
      If you want to raise some sort of worldwide outcry over the fact that a not-very-good single by an otherwise-good band, written by a committee comprising mostly of hacks, is derivative of a more famous and better piece of music, by all means go ahead. And while you’re at it, why not shout to the rooftops about how the intro to Fun Fun Fun is identical to that of Johnny B Goode, in case someone hasn’t noticed that?
      But this is my blog, I write about what interests me, and as far as I’m concerned the similarity is so *un*interesting that it’s not worth talking about. I’ll probably mention it again when I review the full album, but that’ll be it.

  18. Jim Wagner says:

    Clearly you want to talk about likes and dislikes. Every comment about likes and dislikes is irrelevant if their first single in years copies the melody of two prior songs. You could write in depth about the vocal harmonies. You could write about doubling vocals. You could write about the key changes. You could write about the production. You could write about the engineering. You could write about sound quality. You could write about what you think is better or worse compared to what they did before.

    As I said, if the song was copied in the first place, everything else is irrelevant in my opinion. This to me is like a teacher grading a paper based on content rather than seeing that the paper was copied from Cliff Notes from at a local store. I’m out and have no time for such things when the first single from this band in years copies the melody of two prior songs. You are approaching this as a fan who likes or dislikes elements of what they’ve done in the song.

    Feel free to keep writing about what you like or dislike. It trivializes the copying that took place. And I assure you, if this matter ever went to negotiations or even court, there would not be one single comment on likes or dislikes from either side. None.

    Thanks for mentioning the similarity. I’m out.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      It is impossible to trivialise the already trivial. And I don’t care one iota what is or isn’t irrelevant in your opinion. This blog is where I talk about whatever interests me, trivial or otherwise, and doesn’t exist to be twisted to others’ agendas. If you think this is worth kicking up a fuss about, go and start your own site about it, rather than pestering someone who doesn’t care.

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