It’s time to start inducting tracks from That’s Why God Made The Radio into Brian’s Hidden Beauties, and what better place to start than Brian’s best song for some 40 years. Here’s what I wrote about it just after the album was released.
If the first nine tracks of That’s Why God Made The Radio simply show that the Beach Boys have moved from Summer In Paradise territory to something like Holland, the tenth track takes us to the ultimate highs of Pet Sounds.
In simple terms, From There To Back Again is at least the best Beach Boys song since ‘Til I Die. Indeed it belongs in the same universe as In My Room, Warmth Of The Sun, God Only Knows, Caroline No, Surf’s Up, Break Away and ‘Til I Die- songs that are amongst the greatest creations in any art form, and the reason why Brian Wilson needs to be revered as one of the greatest American artists in any genre.
Late in his seventh decade, almost drowned by a flood of water under the bridge, Brian Wilson has come back and showed his mastery of the pocket symphony and the ability for melody, harmony and words to come together perfectly.Remember this is one of the songs written new for the album.
The last three tracks all have an ineffable yin and yang of beauty and loss in them. From There To Back paints a picture of the beauty of Pacific Coast, a reflection on time gone past, surely tinged with regret, and a longing to reach out and be with someone special. The second section, fittingly sang by Brian himself, seems to reflect on that flood under the bridge, the highs and the lows, with the intriguing line “the consequence of the wine” which could be interpreted as the negative impact of certain substances on people’s lives -even so, the magic of the song is that there are a lot of interpretations and ability to personalise the song.
The final section is wordless but brilliant – a wonderful melodic break with whistling by Al. It seems to reflect some sort of hopeful break, and as with many of those “perfect” Beach Boys songs, leaves one with a positive feeling even when reflecting on a lot of pain.
A word on Al Jardine – it is clear from this year’s reunion that we have missed Al from the Beach Boys (he was pretty much missing on Summer In Paradise). Aside from his solo album getting some exposure and demonstrating Al’s talent, he is key to vocal and musical mix. His vocals on this song have been widely praised, and rightly so.
And finally, a personal reflection. It’s been a time of a lot of personal turbulence for me, and like so much of the music, listening to this song is a healing experience. I may not be in California, and it may be winter here, but driving along the Cape Peninsula Coast, blasting the song out, is a cathartic and wonderful experience. I’ve certainly personalized the beauty and loss in this song, and I know it speaks to many of you as well.