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Archive for November, 2011

This turned up in the post today:

If I am to understand the enigma of Mike Love, this may be a great help.

An Amazon reviewer says ‘Enjoyable if you like Wilson’. Ah. OK. Also:

I found this book to be interesting and objective. The author is quite clearly a fan of the Beach boys and Wilson himself and chose to analyse many songs and albums. That did not interest me but did not make me throw away the book either. My favourite part is that mike comes out looking like a proper tight git.

I am assuming the latter is corroborated by fact rather than conjecture. We’ll see.

And then, found at local market:

The Beach Boys Annual, with dustjacket intact! A handy replacement for the well-worn copy mentioned here. Two quid. See how David Marks on the front morphs into Al Jardine on the back:

From the same stall, for half the price, and of much greater significance:

I cannot believe that I have written all of this so far without Back To The Beach. Damn I feel so ignorant.

But not as ignorant as the dolts that put this together:

which features Maximum Brian Wilson & the Beach Boys, ‘a CD audio-biog’ (running time 55mins, and available separately – a reviewer says ‘I’d rate it NO STARS if the system would allow it, fans avoid and pass the word on‘). It ‘includes the true story of the original Smile album‘. This ‘true story’ regurgitates all the same bollocks, delivered by some disengaged female voiceover artist…what are CDs like this for? Who are they for? The blind? Narrative is written by a Tim Footman, who is a worthless fucking hack prolific popular music biographer. The musical accompaniment throughout is some fake french 60s Library Music. No Beach Boys – but it does have a free poster of the band. I must find some space for it.

The poster would be of no use to its partially-sighted purchaser – who may already have slit their own throat after a hour of the above shite…but wait, there is another disc, featuring ‘over an hour of interviews’ – it’s all audio pilfered from other sources, including 11 minutes from I Wasn’t Made For These Times. No dates or credits are given, so I am guessing that the mid-70s TV chat show interview is from The Mike Douglas Show, recorded on Tuesday the 23rd of November 1976 (and broadcast December the 8th). Here Brian, without Beach Boys, talks openly (and lucidly) about drugs. Says some interesting stuff. I will mention it later.

This show was recorded the same week as another Brian Wilson solo appearance, on Saturday Night Live (Friday 26th):

Because of the delayed transmission of The Mike Douglas Show, this..becomes Brian’s first solo American TV appearance since Inside Pop…Other members of The Beach Boys…are angry they are not invited onto this prestigious show, but [SNL Producer] Michaels is adamant that Brian should appear alone.

Do not buy this CD. I didn’t. I’ll sell you mine. No, that would be bad form, as it was a gift.

Right, to Peter Ames Carlin’s ‘definitive account of Brian Wilson’s expansive genius and consuming madness’…

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That’s it for these video transcriptions. This last took way too long to finish (and a while to recover from) – but if I have saved anyone from the toxicity, ennui, self-delusion and self-love that so permeates these official Beach Boys narratives (bar Summer Dreams, which is unofficial, and a hoot), maybe some good may come of all this. While the self-sacrifice (and personal suffering) has been great, there was so much to see, and too much to miss. An American Family alone is a gift that just keeps giving…

I’ve only addressed Beach Boys docu-dramas that were familiar, either owned, taped or watched over the past quarter century. None was ever meant to be a ‘close reading’, but the process of screengrabbing and transcribing finds a focus on details that otherwise slip past unnoticed. Beach Boys Inc., and its reiterative historical revisionism, repeatedly and consistently damns Smile as an aberration; these are just a few specific illustrations.

Even Pet Sounds barely gets an acknowledgement at the Waikiki Beach Party. Mike Love’s introduction to God Only Knows (as ‘one of the favourites of the songs that Brian wrote’, as opposed to one of his favourites) is delivered carefully, thanks to the mandatory cue cards – a single misplaced word could confuse McCartney’s opinion with Mike’s own, which remains non-committal.

He may never forgive Brian Wilson for fucking up the formula. And all Beach Boys-sanctioned films always, eventually, come back to this point.

Summer Dreams – The Story of the Beach Boys (TV Movie, 1990)

This is Brian Wilson:

This is Mike Love:

These are Beach Boys:

This, to the filmmakers, is what Smile was about, a non-musical and utterly artless tape collage playing on a reel-to-reel:

This guy is a kind of Van Dyke Parks:

This is Brian Wilson, weeks after abandoning Smile:

The Beach Boys – An American Family (TV Movie Special, 2000)

This is Brian Wilson:

This is Mike Love:

This is ‘Van Dyke’:

These are Beach Boys:

This, to the filmmakers, is what Smile was about:

This is Brian Wilson, months after abandoning Smile:

The Beach Boys – An American Band (1984)

This is an authorised documentary.

This is Brian Wilson:

This is Mike Love:

This guy is Van Dyke Parks:

These are Beach Boys:

This, to the filmmakers, is what Smile was about:

This is Carl talking about Brian Wilson abandoning Smile:

Carl: Brian ran into all kinds of problems on Smile, he just couldn’t find the right direction to finish it, and then after all that hard work the album was abandoned. Brian withdrew from public life completely. We were supposed to headline the Monterey Pop Festival, but at the last minute Brian backed out. Monterey was a turning point in rock and roll, overnight the whole scene changed, and we felt as if we’d been passed by.

Endless Harmony (1998)

This is an authorised documentary.

This is Brian Wilson:

This is Mike Love:

This is Van Dyke Parks (beaming in his contribution from 1976):

These are Beach Boys:

This, to the filmmakers, is what Smile was about:

Mike: Now why do you want to talk to ME about that? I like Van Dyke Parks? (as an insert) – he’s a NICE PERSON – but, I asked him once, ‘Van Dyke, what does that lyric mean?’ and he says ‘I don’t know! I haven’t a clue!’ And I said ‘Exactly!’

This is Mike talking about Brian Wilson abandoning Smile:

Mike: Heroes And The Villains is a very powerful track, very dynamic. That was the last of the super-dynamism from Brian I think. That was 1967.

The Beach Boys 25 Years Together (TV, 1987)

This is an authorised concert film.

This is Brian Wilson (c.1987):

This is Brian Wilson (c.1966):

This is Mike Love:

There was never any kind of Van Dyke Parks.

These are Beach Boys:

This, to the filmmakers, is what Smile was about:

And these are The Beach Boys’ fans:

I couldn’t find my own VHS version of A Celebration in Waikiki, taped off the TV some time in the nineties, so had to depend upon a youtube uploader. The youtube version has excised Brian Wilson’s solo Spirit of Rock and Roll, as if it were never performed. An exercise: likewise remove every other trace of Brian Wilson’s presence on Waikiki on the 12th of December 1986, and you have glimpses of a different timeline, while losing barely another five minutes of the show.

Had Brian Wilson left The Beach Boys in 1967 (taking Smile and Van Dyke Parks with him), and The Boys limped into the 70s and 80s with only their egos to support them, this joyless document of their doggedness against the odds wouldn’t have differed much. There would be no Sail On Sailor; there might even be a little less self-congratulation – maybe even some humility. But maybe not.

The Beach Boys feel that anniversaries (and self-aggrandisements) are important, and, strangely, there seems to be a 50 year anniversary ‘reunion’ album planned for 2012. With The Smile Sessions as the crown jewels of their Golden Jubilee, what could possibly be gained from this? When there is Pet Sounds Live, Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE, That Lucky Old Sun, Reimagines Gershwin, Songs In The Key Of Disney and The Smile Sessions, does Brian Wilson really need the Beach Boys brand to reaffirm itself, yet again? No? And if not, then who does? The fans? Are there people who really dream of Mike Love and Brian Wilson sharing a studio (or even a stage) again?

And what is actually being celebrated on Waikiki Beach? Certainly not The Beach Boys back catalogue, nor Brian Wilson as its author: of 29 songs perfomed in this show, 5 have fuck all to do with The Beach Boys; 7 are cover versions; 12 Beach Boys ‘classics’ are performed, but only 4 in versions faithful to the originals; a couple are parodied; a few become the soundtrack to some form of theatre. Only 2 of the songs performed are from the 1970s; of 4 from the 1980s, only one is an original composition. The band’s core repertoire is from the first 5 years of their 25th anniversary.

It is, however, a celebration of one thing: GIRLS. In the company of The Beach Boys, everybody loves girls. Mike Love exhibits the same middle-aged male concupiscence as Benny Hill, and his ‘blue’ UK successor Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown. But take a look at Benny and Roy; they will never actually get an attractive woman to have sex with them. Because their braggadocio is the fucking joke. They are comedians; Mike seems, for want of any better term, serious.

Maybe I’m missing a hidden level of sexual self-deprecation here in Waikiki. But look again at The Beach Boys, then look over these swimsuited lovelies:

Without meaning any disrespect, would any of the women above willingly reciprocate the lust that Mike Love projects? If his tumescence were more visible under his towel, maybe ‘the joke’ might be more obvious. And this rampant heterosexuality becomes almost defensive in its overstatement (‘We LOVE girls!!! Don’t you love girls as much as we love girls?!?’), as Brian Wilson’s ‘teenage symphony to God’ is negated and polluted by ‘teenage kicks‘ (as exercised by middle-aged men). Exactly whose ‘school’ is Mike being true to, as teenage cheerleaders display their underwear alongside him?

It doesn’t get much grimmer than this. And it’s this – all of this – that comes to mind when most people consider The Beach Boys. Do not delude yourself otherwise. And this is how Beach Boys™ chose to be perceived in 1987 – the cue cards just ensured accuracy.

The closest I’ve ever been to a Beach Boys live concert was spotting Bruce Johnston buying newspapers at Percivals Bookshop, a glance out of a bus window on an otherwise miserable Manchester day; The Beach Boys were at G-Mex the night before, and Bruce was wearing a similar shorts-and-shirt combo to this outfit (and here his cheeky look is worthy of The Lad Himself):

Despite the inconguity (it was Manchester, he was in a Hawaiian shirt) and my amusement (it was pissing down, he was wearing shorts, and he was Bruce Johnston),  there was no concomitant feeling that I was near The Beach Boys, or nearer to Smile. So I cannot comment on The Beach Boys live act, then or now. Are they currently lead by a priapic (or Viagra-charged) 70-year old in a towel, goading ‘the girls’ with his manhood?

Don’t answer; I don’t want to know. None of this has anything to do with what is interesting about The Beach Boys.

Let us put aside all of that frightful unpleasantness, and take a look at the Special Guest Stars.

Glen Campbell had a 6 month live association with The Beach Boys, and a flop (but fantastic) Brian Wilson-produced single. Here he performs a Jimmy Webb song.

Belinda Carlisle released Band Of Gold as a single in 1986. The Beach Boys had no involvement.

Ray Charles does the best performance of the show. Brian is visibly enthused.

Patrick Duffy, other than sharing the ocean with surfers while he swam from Atlantis, has no connection with The Beach Boys. But his euphemism for male sexual arousal (‘who can look at [insert image of girl here] and NOT hear a Beach Boys song coming on?‘) could have been a corker in Carry On Surfing. I would watch that. Here is Mike Love (with babe); Bernard Bresslaw is Brian Wilson.

The Everly Brothers are always The Everly Brothers.

The Fabulous Thunderbirds had their only US Top 40 hit in 1987; other than sharing the same planet as The Beach Boys at the same time, they have no connection.

Jeffrey Osborne, ‘after scoring two more substantial R&B hits in the early 1990s…would be absent from the charts for the remainder of the decade.’ Which he has in common with The Beach Boys.

Paul Shaffer was on TV at the time. He famously plays keyboards.

Three Dog Night have their own place in The Beach Boys saga.

Joe Piscopo made an album in 1985, New Jersey, that features Hal Wilner, Terry Adams and John Zorn, as well as one great joke – Wipe Out (the Surfaris original, not the Fat Boys cover) as a Music Minus One track, for drums. It’s funny. But he isn’t funny here. Nothing is funny here. (As an aside, imagine a Beach Boys Music Minus One: you contribute Mike Love’s backing vocals…)

And Gloria Loring?

In 1986, Loring scored a #2 Pop and #1 Adult Contemporary hit record in the United States with Friends and Lovers, with Carl Anderson (also a #1 Country hit in 1986 for Eddie Rabbitt and Juice Newton under the title “Both to Each Other”). Loring originally performed “Friends and Lovers” on Days of Our Lives dating back more than a year before the track finally hit the charts. Her performance of the song generated the largest mail response of any song in NBC daytime history. First recorded as a duet with Anderson (who would himself appear on Days of Our Lives to sing the song with Loring) in 1985, the single would have to wait an entire year before its eventual 1986 release, due to legal hassles. Loring left Days that same year and made sporadic film and television appearances over the next few decades…Friends and Lovers was her only major hit single.

“like sand through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives”

Days of Our Lives is a US soap opera. Since it began in the 1960s, there have been many unbelievable plot twists and turns. Characters regularly change roles, identities and actors; psychology and motivation is often baffling and contradictory. International espionage, satanic possession, regular returns from the grave, impossible gadgetry and time-travel patents are just a few of its simpler complications. And throughout all of this there is deceit, duplicity, jealousy, bitter rivalry and family betrayals.

The script is often laughable and unbelievable, and plotlines would not stand up to any critical scrutiny – but frankly improbable events and explanations are taken at face value by its fans, because this is part of the endless saga’s appeal. And, as with most melodramas, viewers are aware that, ultimately, it is all a fiction.

The Beach Boys™ and its universe (band and supporters) sometimes seems less capable of making this distinction. There are plot flaws, continuity errors, and uncharacteristic actions and statements from actors throughout The Beach Boys Drama. But, where one could imagine life in Salem continuing when Days Of Our Lives is offscreen, in reality its actors go back to their real lives. The Beach Boys’ California Saga carries on offstage – and may be as dark and as stark as the weirdest of Days plots.

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