Sunday, January 11, 2015

Beach Boys Periodicals: Past and Present by Peter Reum

Through the years, there have been a number of publications that have documented the complicated and convoluted world of The Beach Boys and their music. Personally, I have been involved in over 20 books, 10 television programs, and numerous albums covering various aspects of The Beach Boys' music and their lives. Various periodicals have come and gone. Many of them are invaluable and capture the times and events that occurred as they happened. Periodicals such as Dumb Angel Gazette, Add Some Music, California Music, and the wonderful Beach Boys Stomp Magazine. The "go to" periodical for the last half of The Beach Boys' career of more than 50 years has been Endless Summer Quarterly (ESQ)

ESQ began as a fan magazine published in California in 1987, founded by Rick Edgil and Phil Mast. It was a new voice in a crowded group of fanzines. Eventually, one by one, the various fanzines faded away, and The Beach Boys Freaks United Newsletter and Endless Summer Quarterly were the two USA periodicals left who were dedicated to The Beach Boys. Endless Summer Quarterly changed ownership, with the purchase of the magazine being a shot in the arm to ESQ's future. In 1993, Lee Dempsey and David Beard took over the publication of ESQ, and a new and rigorous approach to the music of The Beach Boys began. Eschewing the drama that has plagued The Beach Boys for most of their career, Lee and David chose to ignore the controversies and plunged into the musical history of The Beach Boys and related artists instead.

Through the years, Lee became busier in his work life, and chose to focus on the financial management of ESQ, and resigned his editorial role, leaving content of the magazine to David. Under David's editorship, ESQ has gained the trust of The Beach Boys, and in turn, they have discussed their music with David in detail that is unprecedented. ESQ has devoted its content to the recording history of the Beach Boys, and has covered contemporary musical projects by the group and its members better than anyone. Recently, ESQ has begun a look back to the creation of each of The Beach Boys' albums with interviews of Brian, Mike, Alan, Bruce, and other important players who contributed to the recording of the music itself. To say that this is important would be an understatement. The interviews that have been conducted are first hand accounts of what happened in those studios as the music was being recorded.

The Beach Boys world has always been a political quagmire, and somehow, David and Lee have been able to avoid being stuck. This has been a tremendous accomplishment, and the fact that all of The Beach Boys are willing to sit down for awhile and talk about their current projects or past recorded work is amazing. I want to support Endless Summer Quarterly and their work because it is the best source of information about The Beach Boys, their music, and related artists. I hope that you will consider subscribing to this fine magazine, and for those of you overseas, they have reasonable rates for you as well. You will not regret subscribing. I will be writing some articles for them this year, and hope you will take time to read them.  I would especially encourage Beach Boys followers outside of the USA to subscribe to ESQ. You can find out more at  

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Forty Five Year Saga of Sea Cruise by Peter Reum

The study of rock music is a young branch of music history, and the styles that have evolved over the roughly 60 years of rock's existence  in many nations around the world are almost too numerous to identify. Books from authors began to emerge in the Sixties by authors like Lillian Roxon, Paul Williams, Greg Shaw, and Ralph Gleason.  Many others have come along through the decades, but identifying changes in styles is not always as easy as it sounds. The thought occurred to me that by taking a rock music standard and tracing how different people from around the world recorded it, we could see how rock evolved through the years.

Some years ago, Rhino Records did a cd entitled The Best of Louie Louie: The Greatest Renditions of Rock's All Time Song, which, if you know the old Rhino Records, was another perfect expression of their humorous and sometimes twisted sense of humor about music. With everyone from the Rice University Marching Band to Lee Dantz and His Orchestra included, a listener got the sense of just how embedded that song is in our popular culture. It is unusual to collect versions of the same song by different artists, but we all have our favorites. One of mine is Sea Cruise, that anthem of New Orleans and points south into the Caribbean. My dad used to buy used 45 rpm singles for me from a rack jobber to play on my little Capitol record player, and the one that got the most play besides The Beach Boys was Sea Cruise. Originally performed by Huey "Piano" Smith and the Clowns, Huey wrote the song and arranged it. The song has an undeniable drive and charm to it that has been the reason so many other artists have recorded it through the years. The bass line is a classic "stroll" and made the tune easy to dance to and follow time wise. Huey's seminal version may be heard here: Huey Piano Smith-The first version of Sea Cruise

The Great Huey "Piano" Smith-New Orleans  Songwriter and Performer

As often happened in the late Fifties, when Pat Boone, Gale Storm, and other White artists covered R&B chart topping records, Ace Records used Huey's track without is knowledge and added a ship's horn sound to the track and cut the tune with Frankie Ford, who modified the lyrics. This is the version  that was the big hit, and the earliest version most people have heard. This lip synched version on American Bandstand (when it was still in Philadelphia) is somewhat corny visually, but uses the track and vocal from the record. It is here: Frankie Ford doing Sea Cruise on American Bandstand 

Not to be outdone, Charlie Drake from the UK cut a version in 1959 that borders on rockabilly, or at least Great Britain's version of it. There are some Jordanaire type backing vocals, but the record appears to be a British Music Hall sendup of the song. Judging by the maniacal picture on the version here, the version doesn't seem to be serious:  Charlie Drake - Sea Cruise   In what was probably the early Sixties, alto sax player Ace Cannon cut an instrumental version with a great bottom to it. Ace hails from Mississippi, and the version here is a classic Sixties instrumental, with a raunchy type of sound. Cannon still has a website where his cds can be purchased. His version: Ace Cannon - Instrumental Version of Sea Cruise

Ace Cannon - Alto Saxophonist Extraordinaire

By now, you can see that the song has been recorded by a variety of artists. To develop a timeline is dicey, but we will try to trace it roughly by the year each version was  cut, beginning with Huey "Piano" Smith's effort. The Orlons recorded a killer version of Sea Cruise in 1963. Their version is one of only a small handul of cover versions recorded by women. It is here: The Orlons - Sea Cruise (1963) The Hondells cut a version of Sea Cruise in the mid Sixties that actually had a video made for it. Several Shindig type female dancers come on to the Hondell's boat and turn the song into a party...the version is very good to boot: Hondell's Sea Cruise with vintage 60s video with Shindig girls  Also from that period is a version by Johnny Rivers who continued to perform the song well into the Seventies. Rivers was the master of recycling Fifties hits and Sixties tunes, and rarely wrote songs for himself. His version may be heard here: Johnny Rivers - Sea Cruise  Not to be outdone, British producer/performer Mickie Most and his Guitar gunslinger, Jimmy Page, do a cool version of the tune with several brief guitar spots by Page throughout the song. Apparently there may be an earlier version by Most, but this one is notable due to Page's presence on the single: Mickie Most (with Jimmy Page) - Sea Cruise

The Orlons 1963 Down Memory Lane Album with Sea Cruise

Speaking of Mickie Most, here is a version of Sea Cruise by Herman's Hermits as produced by Mickie Most. You may recognize the guitar style here, as the guitarist either quotes Jimmy Page's guitar solo on Mickie Most's version of Sea Cruise....or, it incorporates segments of the track cut for Most's version. Take a listen: Herman's Hermits (Produced by Mickie Most) - Sea Cruise  The first Ska version was cut by the late Jackie Edwards in 1964 on UK Fontana. The record has the feel of the best of Jamaican music of the time, with Edwards playing off of a nice horn section.  Instead of a guitar solo, a trumpet solos here. Edwards' voice recalls Bob Marley, who recorded his early music shortly after this record was cut. Here it is: Jackie Edwards (Ska) - Sea Cruise   Checking in from Puerto Rico is Jose Feliciano, with a funky version that recalls the Rhythm and Blues feel of the original from Huey "Piano" Smith. The saxophones get down and dirty as well: Jose Feliciano - Sea Cruise

Jose Feliciano 

Another early Seventies version of Sea Cruise was recorded by the late and great reggae pioneer John Holt in 1970. Holt's version shows the change from ska to reggae over the roughly six year period between  the version by Jackie Edwards and this version. Here it is: John Holt (reggae pioneer) - Sea Cruise  Moving away from the Caribbean and into London, a certain Sun Records veteran by the name of Jerry Lee Lewis recorded a version of Sea Cruise with a crack bunch of British rockers in 1973, resulting in what is probably one of, if not his best album ever...Jerry Lee Lewis - The London Sessions. The version of Sea Cruise here is a rocking tour de force. It is loose enough to be fun, but tight enough to let you know everyone means business. Jerry Lee Lewis - Sea Cruise  Continuing in the Southern rock genre, Jerry Jeff Walker did a very fine medley of songs while performing in Texas with an excellent backing band, which may be heard here: Jerry Jeff Walker - Fifties Medley 

As styles of music evolved through the Seventies, several stars of the period took a crack at this tune, with two of the best being a version by John Fogerty, and a version by The Beach Boys, produced by Brian Wilson, but left off of the 15 Big Ones album. The Fogerty version appears to be a version on which Fogerty played all of the instruments. It is from his 1975 solo album, which is simply called John FogertyJohn Fogerty Sea Cruise  While several of Brian Wilson's productions for 15 Big Ones were oldies, some of them were more finished sounding than others. The version of Sea Cruise by The Beach Boys, with the late Dennis Wilson on lead vocal, was left off the album in favor of another oldie that Dennis sang lead on, In the Still of the Night. The version of Sea Cruise heard here was not released until it popped up as a bonus track on an early Eighties compilation entitled Ten Years of Harmony. Here is this version: The Beach Boys (featuring Dennis Wilson) - Sea Cruise

Dennis (left) and Brian Wilson 1965 Summer Days Photo Session

As Sea Cruise entered the late Seventies, Rory Gallagher did a blues boogie version that recalled the song's New Orleans origin. This version burns for roughly 4 and a half minutes, and the remainder of the clip is an unending crowd cheer that seems to grow louder every second. Here is this version: Rory Gallagher at Rockpalast - Sea Cruise  Also in the late Seventies, Robert Gordon and Link Wray of "Rumble" fame cut a version of Sea Cruise which they perform live on this clip. Wray burns through the tune, with Robert Gordon on lead vocal. The version is notable for Wray's performance: Robert Gordon with Link Wray - Sea Cruise  Oldies band Showaddywaddy cut a version which recalls the Fifties. The production here mirrors the saxes on the Frankie Ford version: Showaddywaddy - Sea Cruise At times this version sounds vaguely like Spector's Wall of Sound.

Sea Cruise never lost its luster as a mainline favorite of bands worldwide. Even Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band were known to perform it, albeit very few times. This is a recording from Denver's spectacular Red Rocks Amphitheater in 1981, from the audience. I am including it here because of its rarity: Bruce Springsteen & E Street Band - Sea Cruise (live)  Former and current Eagle Glen Frey cut Sea Cruise on his 1983 solo album. The version is somewhat sterile, but has a nice vocal. It may be found here: Glen Frey - Sea Cruise  King Yellowman in 1984 recorded a formidable version of Sea Cruise in the reggae manner with an excellent beat and sensual approach. The version is simply exquisite: King Yellowman - Ohh We/Sea Cruise 

King Yellowman - Jamaica's Own Sea Cruiser 

In 1982, Mr. American Pie himself, Don McLean, cut a version of Sea Cruise for his Believers album. This recording is somewhat twangy... Don McLean - Sea Cruise  The Specials cut an instrumental version of Sea Cruise for John Peel in 1980. The version is cool.... The Specials- Sea Cruise (John Peel Sessions) 1980 As with most rock and roll era standards, Sea Cruise had taken on a life of its own, with versions from virtually every type of American music, and several other world styles as well. This trip through 45 years of Sea Cruise ends with a few more versions you need to hear. The first is by Dion Di Mucci from the early Nineties. It is one of my favorites. He brings the tune home to rock and roll, after its long journey around the world. Here it is: Dion - Sea Cruise (from 1992)  The second is a nice skabilly version by Roddy Radiation and the Skabilly Rebels. If you listened to the John Peel Session with The Specials doing Sea Cruise above, this band includes Roderick Byers from The Specials. Here is their Sea Cruise, with Steamboat Willie, Disney's first cartoon on the screen: Roddy Radiation and the Skabilly Rebels -Sea Cruise  The third and last unheard version of Sea Cruise dates from 2005, and is performed by Amsterdam Electronic Exotica artists Sputnik. This version only vaguely resembles the melody we know from so many versions, but it ends with the familiar safety buoy ringing during the end of the song. Here it is: Sputnik - Sea Cruise

There you have it, 45 years of what has become a rock standard. While not covered as often as some other rock music tunes,  by now it is apparent that Sea Cruise has developed a life of its own. I have not included recent cover versions, because the last 10 years have seen a flurry oldies cruises with older rock stars serenading older Boomer patrons.  The magic of Sea Cruise, and songs like it,  is now found in the emerging indie genre, and in the searching of newcomers to rock music. These new fans support their favorite artists, who market their music to these listeners, independent of the once dominant major labels. Long may Sea Cruise live, and songs like it from through the years.