Brian’s Hidden Beauties CXLIII: What Ever Happened

November 27th, 2016

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Many of the stronger songs on No Pier Pressure have enough Beach Boys on them to persuade you that this is just the follow-up to That’s Why God Made The Radio. What Ever Happened is ft. Al Jardine and David Marks, who are certainly not rap stars, but bona fide Beach Boys.

Regardless of who is on the track, it’s a lovely nostalgic song which reflects on the change happening around us, and in our lives, without being sappy or over-sentimental. It’s definitely a credit to all of Brian, David and Al’s body of work.

Brian’s Hidden Beauties CXLII: Going Home

November 20th, 2016

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The penultimate track on That Lucky Old Sun starts off as a pretty standard rocker, but then has an astonishing acapella break where Brian mentions “at 25 I turned out the light, cause I couldn’t handle the glare in my tired eyes.” Although Brian never really went away in 1968/1969, there is a sense of completion in this wonderful work, where Brian returns to his origins in Southern California and the roots of all the things that made him great.

Still Love And Mercy

November 13th, 2016

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They say that Quentin  Tarantino is directing 2016, but even he surely couldn’t script the absurdity of a year which makes you believe anything is possible, and then kills off so many more realistic dreams. When 1 in 5000 outsiders Leicester won the English Premier League, we believed even the most impossible dreams could become realities -when the Chicago Cubs broke a down 108 year drought, we believed that anything could change -when Bob Dylan won the Nobel Literature Prize, we saw one of the 60s greatest voices move from popular culture to highbrow acceptance.

And yet, as our heroes pass away in quantities that may be actuarially plausible but feel like the worst of Tarantino’s gorefests, the baby boomer generation that defined the 60s counter-culture may still be anti-establishment, but now seem to be voting for walls and division, rather than peace and love. Every major vote this year seems to be for pulling the world further apart, even when conventional wisdom and the reality of the internet age suggest  a world that has to be evermore connected.

This week we mourn the passing of Leonard Cohen and Leon Russell, but that wasn’t anywhere close to the biggest news. A man who seemed to stand for division, for disconnecting America with the world, for inflaming old and new hatreds got the most powerful job in the world. A woman who seemed qualified for the job, and breaking a hoodoo that seemed far easier than the Cubs, just missed out on the job.  Division seems to beat togetherness, irrational emotion trumped rational thinking -and the world, and at least half of America felt more uncertain.

It doesn’t feel like a time for easy answers or false hope. The generation that was supposed to change the world seems to want to change it back to around 1850. A new millennial generation, exposed from their youth to international contact and the notion that people are fundamentally the same are likely to eventually reverse the drift we seem to have from each other. I also understand that those who love Brian Wilson are a broad church and many Brian fans may well have voted Trump and see him as a saviour. So I end by going back to the message that is core of Brian’s shows, the same message that is core of the Gospels of Christ, the message of love and mercy. If we all practice that, surely we can get through these crazy times and move forward.


Brian’s Hidden Beauties CXLI: The Right Time

November 6th, 2016

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In a perfect sane world, this would have been the album’s massive hit. Brian’s ability to write a perfect pop song hasn’t  been diminished by time , and neither has Al Jardine’s voice. Together, they combine on one of the album’s highlights, with a tune that you won’t easily get out of your head, but also with some transcendental moments, especially at the instrumental break at the end.

Brian’s Hidden Beauties CXL: Guess You Had To Be There

November 1st, 2016

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Doing a collaboration with edgy country star, Kacey Musgraves, may not have given No Pier Pressure the hip quotient that it really deserved, but it remains a track which grows on the listener quite a lot -as does much of Musgraves’ music.  The vocal interplay between Wilson and the country belle is quite engaging, masking somewhat what is actually quite a melancholy breakup song.

10 Years On

October 26th, 2016


In the past few days, I’ve just realised that this blog is over 10 years old. The 10th birthday was actually on September 2 as my first post will attest , but it’s taken until today for me to celebrate the 10th anniversary. I started the blog at a time when the excitement around the SMiLE shows and album release was subsiding, and there was a possibility of a quiet, honorable retirement for Brian. However, the last 10 years have brought us Lucky Old Sun, That’s Why God Made The Radio, No Pier Pressure, the 50th anniversary Beach Boys tour and Pet Sounds 50. If the release of SMiLE was an absolution from a long-time burden, the past 10 years have seen Brian both reclaim his status as a Beach Boy (and ensure that the Beach Boys studio album history will probably end with a very good album dominated by Brian rather than a dressed-up Mike Love solo), as well a vital solo artist still able to add classics to his canon. At a personal level, I’ve seen a one-off Brian show in London in 2006, the Lucky Old Sun premiere shows, four Beach Boys 50 shows, two Pet Sounds 50 shows, a Flames reunion and even one Mike Love show in my hometown under the name of the Beach Boys.

Of course, this blog hasn’t been all about the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson. While we seem to be a long way from an era where great music and chart success could be mentioned in the same breath, there is still a lot of great music being made, and some of it has been reviewed on this blog. In this respect, I would like to give a special shout-out to The Explorers Club, who have made three fantastic albums reflecting the best qualities of Brian and the Beach Boys, while still bringing through their own approach to melody and harmony.

Brian’s Hidden Beauties CXXXIX: Sail Away

October 18th, 2016

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As Brian’s American tour ends for 2017, we add to our hidden beauties a song featuring the two former Beach Boys who were an integral part of the tour’s success.

This track could make you believe that we’ve sailed back to the Holland-era Beach Boys , with lead vocals traded between Brian, Al and Blondie Chaplin. It’s another slice of pop perfection, which certainly invokes Sail On, Sailor in more than one way, while still sounding fresh and original. The only injustice is that this wasn’t a big hit (or even a small one).

Mostly About Literature

October 15th, 2016

I Am Brian Wilson.jpg The big music news at the moment has nothing to do with the music itself – it’s all about Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for literature. Whatever you think about the merits of Dylan winning the particular prize, it remains a recognition for the cultural impact that music had on the 60s and beyond. And while Brian Wilson as a lyricist will never win such a high honor, one can never deny the emotional impact of the combination of  his music and his and others lyrics on many people, and indeed also on culture, something Dylan himself as acknowledged.

This has also been the week that Brian Wilson has (re)joined the world of literature himself through his second autobiography, but first outside the influence of Landy. I Am Brian Wilson came out on the 11th, with a wave of publicity and interviews now overshadowed by Dylan’s award.

It’s also the week that the Pet Sounds tour was extended well into 2017 -not quite Dylan’s Never-Ending Tour but one that now goes even past the 50 year anniversary of Smiley Smile. There’s more talk around the rock-and-roll album coming out soon, and no evidence of slowing down in the year Brian turns 75.

Toppermost Of The Poppermost

October 9th, 2016

Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the Beach Boys most significant single release- Good Vibrations, the only song released by the group that topped both the UK and USA charts, and marked the high point of the group’s commercial success. Musically, it was a bridge between Pet Sounds high production values and the modular approach that Brian would follow in attempting to put together SMiLE. We all know that story didn’t end well (at least for another 37 years), but for one shining moment, the Beach Boys were toppermost of the poppermost, with a song that was both ere-defining and timeless.

Brian’s Hidden Beauties CXXXVIII: This Beautiful Day

October 2nd, 2016

It’s time to induct some of No Pier Pressure into the hidden beauties pantheon. Here is what I wrote last year on the opener.

The quiet invocation is a feature of a number of Beach Boys albums, but this is the first time we see one on a Brian Wilson album. In the spirit of Our Prayer, Meant For You or Think About The Days, the overall mood is more important than the lyrics. As with some of Brian’s great work, the feeling of beauty and joy, that elusive moment, is captured by the loveliness of nature.