Friday, December 26, 2014

Keep An Eye On Summer - The Beach Boys Sessions 1964 Track by Track by Peter Reum




Keep An Eye On Summer - The Beach Boys Sessions 1964  Track by Track


Cover Art for The Beach Boys New Copyright Extension Collection



The second year of Beach Boys' music issued for copyright protection by Capitol/Universal is a collection of almost 3 and a half hours of music cut by The Beach Boys with a only a few minor exceptions. The first roughly two hours are covered here in this article. My article here is indebted to the notes contributed by the producers, Alan Boyd and Mark Linett for reference, and to the sessionography prepared by Craig Slowinski, whose dedication to accurate research on the sessions work of The Beach Boys is without peer.

Fun Fun Fun

The selections on Keep An Eye On Summer kick off with a session for Fun Fun Fun.  With some selected members of The Wrecking Crew on the date, the musicians begin by playing a stroll that sounds suspiciously like Sleepwalk by Santo and Johnny.  The tracking tape shows off Brian's use of rhythm piano to offset the drums, which according to Alan Boyd are played by Dennis Wilson and Hal Blaine. The baritone saxes also sound like they fill out the overall instrumental combination contributing the the Spectorish production sound. Brian and Murry are producing, with Murry being fairly directive in his "Surge, boys..." sort of  manner.  The bass guitar plays a basic stroll line as well.



Original US Fun Fun Fun Single Picture Sleeve - 1964


The vocals only mix of Fun Fun Fun is very tight, unlike the more open way the Beach Boys played it live in 1964. The falsetto and high harmony lines are simply breathtaking.  The stereo mix of Fun Fun Fun which follows the vocals only version is a full mix, not as treble sounding as the usual Beach Boy mixes. This may be due to me having my bass highly mixed on phones. What I take away from the version here is how remarkably tight the rhythm section and guitar were in their playing together. 

Why Do Fools Fall In Love

The session tape here begins with Take 5, heavy on rhythm, and cut at Gold Star. Brian's experimentation with the Gold Star echo chamber is in full form. Saxes play a repetitive four note crescendo, and  a repetitive rhythm guitar pattern morphs into a full blown production as the track progresses. The producers and assemblers of this music release, Alan Boyd and Mark Linett, also have included the unusual piano introduction which was appended to the tune a few years ago. The stereo mix included here is new, according to Alan and Mark. On the stereo mix, Brian may be heard adopting a Holland-Dozier-Holland production approach, adding instruments every 4 bars of music. The stacked vocals add to the Spector feel, along with the odd percussion that marks a Spector type of sound. At 1:10 in, the Wall of Sound drops out briefly and turns into a Wall of Vocals. The song went top 10 in several countries and US cities. Here is the Frankie Lymon original: Frankie Lymon & Teenagers Why Do Fools Fall In Love 1956

Don't Worry Baby

What is so powerful about this ballad, is a combination of emotional vulnerability expressed in Brian's lead vocal nonverbally, the lyrics themselves by Roger Christian, and the bass line/backing vocal patterns which rise at the times Brian sounds most worried on the lead vocal. The mantra "Don't Worry Baby" is repeated as the backing vocals rise along with the bass line. As early as Spring of 1964, Brian was composing off the bass root of the song, using it as the main melody. The Don't Worry Baby mantra is sung first by Brian, is answered by the backing vocalists, and then Brian comes back answering "everything will be alright."  Again, the potency of the Beach Boys' singles is on display here, and Don't Worry Baby outperformed I Get Around in some markets around the country and went top 10 in local charts.



Original 1964 Beach Boys Don't Worry Baby/I Get Around Single Picture Sleeve


In the Parking Lot

Once again, this song draws the main melody from the bass line, with Alan and Mark pointing out the unusual extended introduction, which finally breaks at second 17 into the main melody. The track is cleanly produced, with a nice solo from Carl. The witty repartee before the vocals includes a Murry joke, with Dennis and then Mike telling everyone to "treble up."  Later Dennis says that it is time to screw around because Murry is finally gone.  The background vocal refrain 'doo ronday ronday, doo ronday ron' is borrowed from Brian's Gonna Hustle You composition.

The Warmth of the Sun

The track here has a pathos about it that is at once striking yet hopeful as well. The opening has some similarities to the Surfer Girl intro. The rhythm guitar here strums along with Carl playing a repetitive round of quarter notes that at times sounds melancholic, yet just before the glockenspiel trill goes up. Mike Love's bass vocal here is a revelation, and is a key to the track's overall sound. It goes in counterpoint to the guitar Carl is playing. What sounds like wood blocks play on the second and fourth beats of each measure, probably done by Hal Blaine.  The song is sung in a solemn manner, and almost sounds like an Anglican hymn. 



1964 Original US Capitol Records Warmth of the Sun Single Label


Pom Pom Playgirl

This tune is noted by Alan and Mark as being completely played by the Beach Boys themselves. The rhythm piano, presumably played by Brian is dynamite. Mike's baritone sax is surprising,adding almost a Boots Randolph feel on the bottom. The sax plays alternating notes over the first three measures,then hits the sweet 4 notes that are on the Da Doo Ron Ron saxophone part on the fourth measure. The sax and rhythm guitar add a nice bottom, with the bass guitar moving up and down over repeating four note parts every other measure. Carl's lead vocal is a little down in the mix. It almost sounds like Dennis hitting a tympani drum at the end of the tune.

Denny's Drums

This track has some added bass and guitar that cannot be heard on the finished master. Dennis maintains a steady beat on the bass drum with accenting beats on the floor tom and snare. That Dennis was an underrated drummer is unquestionable. At times, he sounds a bit like Gene Krupa  when he played with the Benny Goodman Orchestra. Take a listen to Gene on Sing Sing Sing, then listen to Dennys Drums. Here's Gene: Gene Krupa and Benny Goodman Sing Sing Sing   What do you think?



Original Album Cover Art Work for Capitol Beach Boys Shut Down Volume 2 - 1964


Keep An Eye On Summer

This many be one of the least known but delightful ballads Brian wrote. Of particular note here is some beautiful bass singing by Mike Love along with a nice solo on the bridge of the song, and wistful background vocals from Brian, Alan, and Carl. Dennis is also noticeable doubling on the chorus. This version offers a nice opportunity to listen closely to the background harmonies with Brian's prominent lead vocal muted in the mix offered by Alan and Mark on this set.

Endless Sleep

This is a previously officially unreleased Brian Wilson production from 1964 performed by a gentleman named Denton who did not like  Brian's perfectionistic production tendencies and kept asking Brian if he was done with singing on the session.  The original  version on Demon 226 from 1958 was cut with a little more reverb,  although that version sounds suspiciously like the Goldstar echo chamber. It may be heard here: Endless Sleep1958 by Marty Wilde Brian's version is more uptempo and is not as haunting or foreboding as Wilde's version.

I Get Around

There is so much about this song that could be said. The song was Brian's first Billboard Number 1 record, and that happened in the middle of first wave of The British Invasion. There is an unusual percussive sound that almost sounds like a sped up click track, but more likely is Hal Blaine. There is a rhythmic harpsichord keyboard sound that is just radical, and is being used as a percussion emphasis. The track has some interesting stops and starts that are covered by vocals in the finished version. Once again, Dennis is on drums, and Hal Blaine is most likely on percussion. There is another Murry "treble up" joke from Mike which is directed at Al on the session tape. The vocals only version presented here illustrates the incredibly tight arrangement Brian did with vocals. Alan and Mark mention in their production notes that the 3 track version of the vocals is lost. We can hope that it will be found one of these days.



1964 Original US Capitol Records I Get Around Single Label

All Summer Long

This tracking session is one of the more revealing of these early tracking sessions, as Brian went through some 40 takes with the vibes before he got the entire sequence of notes correct. Brian jokingly titles the track "I Hate It" after 23 takes. There is some cool guitar and bass playing shadowing the vibes here. While Brian is not Lionel Hampton, he gets through the track to finish what is one of the most distinct tracks of the early years instrumentally. There is a clarinet, flute, piccolo, and alto sax which play in the background, adding some festive sounds to the track.  The vocals only track here sparkles, as only The Beach Boys' vocals can. I would say that this is one the few vocals that is truly a group lead. Dennis is quite prominent in the mix here. Anyone who might think that he was not needed in the overall Beach Boys vocal blend should recant after hearing this track.


Original Cover Art Work for Capitol Beach Boys All Summer Long Album

Hushabye

From the All Summer Long album, the version of Hushabye presented is instruments plus backing vocals. This tune was released on an EP in the USA, and charted briefly.There is some very lovely piano here which is mostly played in the bass end of things. The strumming guitar is also lower than the usual notes Carl plays on most songs. The sound is quite close to a Phil Spector production feel.  The original tune by The Mystics on Laurie is classic Brooklyn doo wop,  and is a standard of that genre. It may be heard here: The Mystics doing Hushabye  Because the tune is a Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman composition, the original track has a Latin feel that many of the Pomus/Shuman compositions have.

Girls On the Beach

The notes from the producers/compilers, Alan and Mark, indicate that the first few minutes of this selection are from a separate version of this song prepared for the movie of the same name. As with some sessions, things were not clicking, and the engineers were left to compile a usable version. The second part of this selection sounds to these ears to be the original vocals only version of the tune. The good old handle of the drum kit can be heard in the background, telling me this version is the released version. As an aside, the little part that Dennis contributes at the midpoint of the song reminds me of his marriage to Karen Lamm Wilson.

Wendy

Wendy is one of those songs my grandmother would have called a "woulda, coulda, shoulda" song. All of us have had a relationship that we thought was the one that would last "forever" blow up for reasons we don't really understand. The intro is a classic Brian "cul de sac" intro, with the last minute right turn that brings in the main melody and harmony from God knows where. Once again, the instruments drop out, and the group's vocals carry the song, even on the version with instruments mixed in. This song was also featured on the American EP that was entitled 4 by The Beach Boys. 



Cover Art for the Capitol US Four By The Beach Boys EP

Don't Back Down

The closing track to the All Summer Long lp in another version, this version has its stereo premiere according to Alan and Mark on this release. This song in its released version was also on the 4 by The Beach Boys EP. The version here sounds somewhat disjointed with some backing vocals that stick out like a sore thumb, and an almost forced phrasing that sounds stilted. Knowing Brian, he most likely heard this version, realized it sounded herky jerky,  and cut the released version which production wise sounds smoother and cleaner.

Little Saint Nick

This version, which uses the track from the All Summer Long tune entitled Drive-In, has a full bore Spector feel to it, which probably was a little more of an obvious emulation than Brian wanted to make it. The final mix of the Little Saint Nick single had a sound that was a little more original, with vibe overlays and a more subdued Spector sound. This unusual version his been in circulation for several years, making its debut as a bonus track on one of the cd releases of The 1964 Christmas album. Alan and Mark's Production notes indicate that the Ronettes were present at this session, and Mike does a "bass man" vocal that sound very R&B, along with Brian doing an odd granny voice near the end of the song.

Untitled Jam and Let's Live Before We Die

This selection is one of those that has a degree of mystery about it. The session is a tracking session. The count-off title is Let's Live, but the track has some primitive chord similarities to Girls on the Beach. 

Little Honda (Alternate Version)

This version has appeared as a bonus track on a prior release, but is mixed in stereo here. The track has a depth that is awesome. The Beach Boys hum on the verses and simulate an engine. At the beginning, Mike Love does a soliloquy on how vocals are transmitted through the mixing board to the tape.  Dennis's drumming here is very tasteful.

Little Honda (Unreleased Single Mix)

The thing that has impressed me so much about these various sessions is how much bass guitar that Alan Jardine played, and the rhythm piano or other keyboard instruments that Brian Wilson played on tracking sessions that are buried in the mix when you hear the released records, and are more obvious on these sessions tapes. The other thing is the use of just enough reverb on the guitars to offer a more punchy and rhythmic sound like instrumental surf music.  Check out Brian on organ on this selection in the last 45 seconds of the tune.

She Knows Me Too Well

The first selection heard under this title is a tracking session with backing vocals intact. Brian's patented left hand may be heard playing a bass pattern echoing the vocal part Mike Love sings on this track. Russ Titelman knocks a screwdriver against a mike stand for percussive coloration here. Alan Jardine's bass guitar is elegant here and tasteful, offering a depth that reinforces the composing off the bass root that Brian did throughout the Beach Boys' recording in the first half of the Sixties. The ensemble singing on the vocals only version of the song is extremely tight, with Brian singing a very complex lead part against the backing vocals which add depth and emotive color to the finished song.  This is Brian Wilson entering the mature phase of his production career, pouring his feelings on to vinyl.



Original Sea of Tunes Sheet Music for She Knows Me Too Well

Don't Hurt My Little Sister

This tune is deceptively simple sounding, but this vocals only version really shows off the lead vocal interplay between Mike Love and Brian. They pass the lead back and forth, with Mike singing an an aggressive vocal warning not to hurt his little sister, and Brian asking why the sister's boyfriend doesn't "love her, kiss her, and tell her you miss her."  The lyrical content has entered the relationship phase, with the content slowly moving away from dating and into long-term relationships.

Christmas Eve (Instrumental)

This track is mood music, and would probably fit on any elevator or in any department store. It is a curiosity in the sense that it has some piano parts similar to Autumn Leaves by Roger Williams, but is otherwise forgettable. A search of ASCAP and BMI for a composition with this title by Brian or Murry Wilson, and for Richard or Dick Reynolds did not yield any results.



Original Album Cover Art Work for Capitol Beach Boys Christmas Album - 1964

Jingle Bells (Instrumental)

This arrangement of the Christmas standard is suitably seasonal, with a nice swinging feel, brass accentuation, and string coloration. It would have been a fun addition to the somber side of the Beach Boys Christmas Album, and I would have enjoyed it in that context. This is a Dick Reynolds arrangement, as is Christmas Eve, and you either like Dick's work or you don't. I like a big band arrangement that swings, and this fits the bill.

When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)

This vocals only version sparkles with a tight vocal arrangement that is complex and intricate. Once again, Mike Love's bass vocals are superb, and Brian's high vocals add an innocence that is palpable. The song lyrically offers a young man's questions about life later on, with Brian's trademark naivety audible in the music and his own vocals. The leap from this tune to 1977's Still I Dream of It and It's Over Now in terms of the emotions expressed reveal a middle aged Brian Wilson, who, to use an old Montana saying was "rode hard and hung up wet."



Original Capitol Art Work for When I Grow Up (To Be a Man) Single Picture Cover

Fun Fun Fun (Live in Western Studio)

This release's producers, Mark Linett and Alan Boyd, in their production notes for this selection and the next one, I Get Around, explain that these two recordings were recorded because Brian did not feel the audio quality of the two concerts from Sacramento was good enough to be released. While Beach Boys Concert may not be the first live concert album doctored in the studio, it may be one of the live albums that was most radically revised in the studio for the era it was cut and released. The obvious problem plaguing The Beach Boys and also The Beatles on their Live at the Hollywood Bowl lp was the screaming of young teenyboppers at such a constant and shrill volume that the music was not clearly heard.



Original Album Cover Art Work for Capitol Beach Boys Concert Album - 1964

I Get Around (Live at Western Studio)

This version has lots of cajones  behind it, and could be released were it not for the obvious fact that NO audience is heard, and that makes the song sound live in the studio instead of in front of an audience. Overdubbed audience sounds are not usually believable (reference the Thirteenth Floor Elevators Live on IA). 

I'm So Young (Alternate Version)

This recording is indicated by the producers to be a tracking session and a stereo mix of the first version of the song, which is mixed  a little differently than the version on The Beach Boys Today! The version done by The Ronettes as produced by Phil Spector  has a sensuality that only can be captured by Ronnie Spector. The string chart on Spector's version and the overall arrangement by Jack Nietzche is music to make out by. It can be heard here: The Ronettes-I'm So Young  The original recording, by a doo wop group called The Students, appeared in 1958, with lead singer LeRoy King providing somewhat of an androgynous sound, on which Ronnie Spector may have based her version of the song from 1963. The Student's version may be heard here: I'm So Young by The Students

All Dressed Up For School

This version is in glorious stereo, and I would pay the price I paid for all 3 and a half hours of music just for this track. The producers remark in their notes that the scales the Beach Boys do in this tune show up later several times in subsequent compositions. This tune is one that could have at least been a flip side of a single, or perhaps even an 'A' side. Ok, it sounds a bit lecherous, but we both know that seniors love sophomores.....

Dance Dance Dance (Nashville)

The sketch of Dance Dance Dance done at Nashville showed lots of promise, but suffered from some mildly clumsy lead vocal singing at one point, and the vocals being mixed a little low over and against the instruments.  The song seems perhaps slightly slower than the released single version, and the sound Brian got at RCA in LA jumped out of the speakers.



Original Capitol Art Work for Beach Boys Dance Dance Dance Single Picture Cover

Dance Dance Dance (Los Angeles)

The tracking session at RCA in Los Angeles featured some of Wrecking Crew's finest. Right at the top of the tape, Glen Campbell can heard asking for the song's key. His guitar is high in the mix if you know his style of playing. The percussion and saxes are also Wrecking Crew. Dennis Wilson is on drums and kills, playing in an understated but very effective manner. Hal Blaine can be heard on castanets, tambourine, bell tree, sleigh bells, and possibly triangle. The vocals only version from LA is energetic compared with Nashville, and Mike Love's lead vocal is excellent. Brian's falsetto in the vocal mix highlights the choruses. It is hard to see how this record was not a number one single.

The Beach Boys at The Beeb

The Beach Boys (and Earl Leaf) toured Europe in 1964 in November, and several songs were recorded and thought lost until a British fan provided a well recorded aircheck tape. As the producers indicate, 3 of those tunes were already released on the Made In California 6 cd set. Here we have a lovely version of Graduation Day, which is the peak of the session for me. There are also very fine versions of Surfin' USA,  The Little Old Lady From Pasadena, and I Get Around.

Overall....this is a collector's set of music. That Capitol/Universal has seen fit to release it shows that there are people in the Beach Boys camp and at Capitol/Universal who value collectors and archivists, and also that there is a commitment toward those individuals as well as casual fans who buy collections of hits. Thanks to Alan Boyd, Mark Linett, and Craig Slowinski for their dedication in getting these releases done well and with such attention to details.


Text copyright 2014 by Peter Reum-All Rights Reserved
Original artwork for Beach Boys singles and albums are copyrighted by Capitol Records