Sunday, April 30, 2017

Life As a Cracked Mosaic by Peter Reum

Life As a Cracked Mosaic by Peter Reum

I have known men and women
Whose promises were gold
Then there are self-promoters
Whose word never seems to hold

Integrity is often the harder path
Those folks who break promises
Are more prone to sound sincere
Intensions of evil soon become clear

Hold on to caring friends
Watch out for phonies' words
True friends bring truth and light
Phonies bring only evil and blight

In weak moments hesitation grows
Uncertainty will dominate
Confusion rules with impugnity
A dearth of truth breeds insanity

People who really care for you
Will share the truth unreservedly
Manipulators say what will help them
In the moment-then it loses validity

To first believe people are honest
Is to offer the benefit of the doubt
Sometimes things go off the rails
Keep the faith with all that entails

I'd like to say things are getting better
It is part of my beliefs to bring hope
Getting angry when we are fooled
Brings a temptation not to cope

Keep your heart open and free
Cynicism cannot ever abide
Where wisdom, kindness, and love
Brings peace like a beautiful dove

Copyright 2017 by Peter Reum - All
Rights Reserved

Monday, April 24, 2017

Disturbing Trends by Peter Reum

Having been on this planet for a long time, I have developed some biases and prejudices that I have worked hard to make myself conscious of. Some of them are harder to face. As a trained counseling/therapy professional, my biases are something I am required ethically to take into account in any therapeutic relationship I undertake.
We access these almost unconscious thoughts and instincts dozens of times daily. The reactions that we have initially may emanate from associations with another person's physical stature, tone of voice, where they live, who their friends are, what their occupation is, and so forth.
The therapist must know himself/herself well enough to make a decision whether the person who is seeking therapy or is court ordered for therapy would benefit from a professional to client relationship. This decision is one of the most important decisions a counselor or a psychologist will make.
As time has passed from the early period of the field of counseling to the more ethically based and license governed structure of today, there are a number of foundational rules and boundaries that cannot be broken. There are the rules that are more familiar to society as a whole, and other rules that are primarily known by professionals in the helping fields.
The more well known professional rules center upon behavior of the occupation that adopts a code of ethics. As an example, many of the various codes of ethics' behavioral standards involve avoiding any behavior toward clients that is "unprofessional." Perhaps the most well known psychological/counseling ethical standard that people seeking professional help are familiar with is centered upon avoidance of personal emotional and/or sexual relationships with clients. This would include sexual harassment or providing services that are done for a type of "payment" that is not monetary.
It happens that many professions "barter" services for other services that the medical or therapeutic professional is not allowed to ethically access. Many other professionals outside the medical, pastoral, and therapeutic types of occupations barter without reservation. For some families and individuals, especially those who cannot afford to purchase the services needed, it is necessary to barter. Medical and therapeutical professionals are generally not allowed to barter.
The laws of the United States have harsh penalties for medical and helping professionals who break laws governing their ethical professional standards of behavior. In my field, penalties increase in severity depending on the nature of the misconduct of the therapeutic counselor. Civil litigation is often initiated for these sorts of violations that involve flagrantly continuing misbehavior. It is rare for a counseling/therapeutic professional to successfully defend their behavior if the client can testify well and avoid inflating the severity of the therapist's transgression.
In a sense, many of these ethical standards are also codified into common law covering what is unacceptable behavior between ordinary citizens. Laws cover several types of human interaction, such as assault, rape, sexual harassment, and so forth. The veneer of civilized behavior is often very thin. The polemics between interest groups with political differences has, at times in United States lawmaking and politics, gone past civil disagreement. After all, we fought the Civil War over such political conflicts.
In platforms where public debate is often conducted, the discussions over how the country should proceed in coming years have become festering boils on the country's collective body. A close examination of the dynamics of debate between progressive citizens and their conservative counterparts will yield often destructive pigheadedness. We seem to have lost the genuine willingness to work together to develop a consensus needing to be best forged to benefit all of the citizens of the U.S.A.
Such a consensus building approach can serve to bring practical agreements on a high number of issues previously considered by extremists on both sides as unsolvable.
To change the status quo, there will need to be developed a consensus building problem solving approach. This approach brings together rational people desiring a more practical discussion and resolution of political issues. This discussion must generate an ordered and structured approach to fixing the issues on the table needing resolution. Practical problem resolution approaches must lower the posturing and theatric rhetoric that makes finding consensus improbable. Rational progressives and conservative discourse should begin with the basic idea that the other side's key points are genuine. It is worth the time and effort to listen to their positions respectfully. Demeaning the other side's ideas or making fun of their primary leadership regarding each issue has to be unacceptable.
It is a basic truth that idealogues on both sides of an issue will use rhetoric that is designed to promote conflict. Practical and straight-forward communication and renouncing of extremist members of progressive and conservative groups will behaviorally reward consensus builders on both sides and remove power leverage from idealogues who like to "bogart" the attention from the broadcast and print media.
It is exciting that the number of women in the Congress is growing gradually. Women in the last few Congresses have often crossed the aisle and worked with each other to move toward drafting pieces of legislation that will pass the Congress and be signed by the sitting President. As each piece of legislation goes into effect, consensus building is strengthened. Extremists are negatively reinforced for their attention seeking behavior. Instead of being rewarded by the press for their attention seeking, they are ignored. There will always be attention junkies in Congress. The press will learn where the real power resides, and ignore the braying donkeys and elephants.
For we common citizens, the same approach holds. Behavioral Psychology principles are scientifically validated. When someone gets flamed on any of the various social communication sites, it behooves well-intentioned progressives and conservatives to respond to the attention-seeking idealogues on both sides in a civil yet confrontational manner showing basic human respect for them as people....not as microphone hogs and idealogues. Another choice is simply ignoring the blaring blather from attention seekers on both sides.
Political discourse between Members of Congress and Senators as well as those of us who discuss politics on Social Media do not have to lower ourselves to a kindergarten fight over toys. Playing "gotcha" is misanthropic. As a country, as a community of nations, and as a species, we need to find the humanity and commonality we share. The alternative is the death of all we hold dear....our lives, our civilization, and most of all, our planet.
Copyright 2017 by Peter Reum - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Treasure Worth Saving by Peter Reum

When I was 28, my then wife and I decided to explore the Northwestern United States and Western Canada. We lived in Greeley, Colorado, and traveled up I-25 and I-90. My then wife was a teacher, and we therefore had ample time for exploration. We traveled through Yellowstone National Park up to Glacier National Park. We entered Canada, and drove up the Rocky Mountain Front to Calgary, Banff National Park and through Jasper National Park.

Canada remains my favorite country other than my own. Eventually we drove past the Athabasca River headwaters and got to view the magnificent Columbia Ice Field. We were impressed with the absence of mining and drilling that had already begun to ruin the Western USA.

The Athabasca River teemed with the river and land our trip passed through. We found the Canadian Northwest to be some of the most lovely mountain scenery we had ever seen.

Fast forward to 2016, and the World Channel, a part of PBS, aired a film that left me shaking my head in disgust concerning the rape of the Lakota tribe in North Dakota by putting an oil pipeline through their sacred land. Now, in 2017, my current wife and I saw a documentary that documented the effect of tar sand mining on the very region that had so deeply impressed me.  The damage has become so profound that the striped and scraped earth resembles the appearance of our Moon....lifeless and dead.

The people who are living on these indigenous reserves, as Canada calls them, are experiencing the same horrible health problems that mines that stripped off the surface of the land in Appalacchia, the Mountain West, and Great Lakes regions of the USA caused residents of their parts of the country.

As the drive for exporting oil expands in Alberta, the health of the fish, game, and birds along the Athabasca River is deteriorating. A March 23, 2017 editorial in the Edmonton, Alberta Journal written by five distinguished scientists points out the methodological weaknesses of sampling the river once a year during autumn. The authors of the editorial advocate sampling during all seasons because the river is at its lowest annual flow when samples are taken.

The sampling in the past of water from the river has been done after suspended particles have been removed from the sample. The editorial points out that the suspended particles that are removed by river samplers are a "toxic cocktail" of heavy metal elements and petrochemical hydrocarbons. The authors maintain that isolating each compound sampled doesn't take into account the bonding of these chemicals into a compound of both sources together.

The authors give the example of methylmercury ruining water habitats for fish and birds. Heavy toxins are also
a problem. The authors describe a compound called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which are more toxic in sunlight than in darkness.

The authors also state that the tributaries of the Athabasca River must also be sampled several times a year to monitor when toxic chemicals enter the Athabascan riparian system. It is also important to mention that the Metis, Chippewa, and related tribes are experiencing an epidemic of unusual types of cancer that historically appear in areas with strip mining and oil sand scraping as is occuring in Northern Alberta.

It is no coincidence that the fracking method of petrochemical recovery has had the same types of problems in several states. Residents of Texas, Oklahoma, and other states where fracking has been prominent report toxification of ground water, increased seismic activity, and a rise in diseases
where oil refineries are plentiful...
such as Louisiana.

The actions of oil sand stripping and fracking are well documented insofar as the resulting damage to the poisoning of acquifers, rivers, and lands and an unusual increase of seismic activity after fracking. Oklahoma, where  fracking was most active, has seen an exponential inctease in earthquakes. Some of these were mild, but most of them were moderate to severe. Perhaps the most flagrant propaganda circulated about global warming and damage to riparian systems is spread by gutless excuses for public servants in the Congress of the United States and in state legislatures essentially owned by people who show no concern for their descendants over several generations in the future. The tragic result will be that unregulated capitalists will have raped this world of its ability to repair damage caused by rampant exploitation of the lands, waters, and air by mankind who was entrusted to maintain.

Let's just preserve our resources and do the work we need to do to leave our emotional baggage behind us and be the best people that we can be. We can no longer afford to isolate people or ruin their health for a profit as we did in the past.

Copyright 2017 by Peter Reum -All Rights Reserved

Monday, April 3, 2017

Good Vibrations- Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys in Critical Perspective by Peter Reum

Good Vibrations: Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys in Critical Perspective
Philip Lambert, Ed.
 by Peter Reum


With the growing presence of American Popular Music as a research topic, and as the topic of a graduate or undergraduate course in many United States colleges and universities, it is a thrill for me to see serious musical analysis and history books by researchers in Music, 20th Century Culture, and also Music History. There are many music scholars and popular music authors working in these areas of research and scholarly music history.

They are writing about  a certain musical style (e.g. Blues), biographical articles and books about prominent musicians and record industry pioneers (e,g, Sam Phillips), or regions of North America, Europe, and other locations that have been hotbeds in the development of unique musical styles such as  (San Francisco Psychedelia), and so forth.
Certain universities have used their academic presses to underwrite more esoteric areas of music research or to bring awareness to readers of significant forces, musicians, musical styles, and regions. The University of Michigan Press has sponsored a topic that is neither esoteric or trivial with respect to popular music. They have published a group of books that treat popular music as seriously as jazz, blues, motion picture music, and Broadway plays and shows. As late as twenty years ago, probably less than 200 books had been devoted to pop music. Good Vibrations: Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys in Critical Perspective carries on a trend of seriously researched books that are footnoted, with proper credit given to the authors whose work is being used in music history and biography. In the Tracking Pop series, in addition to Good Vibrations, subjects of origins of hip hop, German Metal and Dance Music, and several more are available.

Good Vibrations: Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys In Critical Perspective
Philip Lambert - Editor
Published 2016

Inside the Music of Brian Wilson by Philip Lambert
Published 2007

Part One

The first three chapters that comprise formal musical topics are together under a large umbrella, yet would easily selected for a music scholarly journals focus upon different aspects of the structure of Beach Boys music. For example, how would a person who listens to music might intellectually internalize Brian Wilson's compositions. Then there is the process of how listeners emotionally connect with Brian's music, arrangements, and lyrics, and why Brian's life outside of music might be important in the subjective aspect of how his music transformed listeners. The third essay in this opening section of the book is written by Mr. Lambert himself. I found Mr. Lambert's opening essay to be a key to musical growth that Brian Wilson experienced through learning the possible juxtaposition of various chords, both major and minor. I especially appreciated Mr. Lambert including the lyrics to the section of whatever song he was addressing which enabled people like myself who know Brian's melodies well, but know the song being discussed through memorization of the melodic changes and lyrical content from literally thousands of plays of records, tapes, and cds.

Daniel Harrison's analysis of various sounds and spaces in numerous Brian Wilson songs is the second of the three essays in this first section of the book. Daniel enumerates and shows how even short stops (no pun intended) of a 16th of a note change the flavor and the commercial value of a given tune. The obvious sounds and stops are presented, but there are numerous breaks in Brian's songs. The most obvious of these which nearly everyone would know are numerous instrument and vocal stops in the single The Little Girl I Once Knew, the dogs and train passing at the end of Pet Sounds, and the chirping guitar birdlike sounds in Diamond Head. I found Mr. Harrison's insight into a subtle form of record production and songwriting an illuminating.

Kirk Curnett presents a personal history of how his view of Brian Wilson changed through the years. He documents the forces that may have shaped the lyrical aspect of his songs, then cogently analyzes the slow evolution of the public Brian Wilson in various books, articles, and television coverage of Brian from roughly the Capitol promotion magazines (1964-67), through the Jules Siegel's Cheetah magazine article which created the Smile fervor, through the video of Brian singing a section of Surfs Up in the 1967 David Oppenheim tv special. Next came Paul Williams and Crawdaddy trying to figure out why Smile was shelved which then moves into the influence of Rolling Stone from 1967 to 1971, especially Tom Nolan's extensive two part article in 1971. David Leaf is mentioned as a strong influence on public perception of Brian over against the other Beach Boys, especially Mike Love. Three elements of this article I found astute and insightful....first the interactions of Eugene Landy in Brian's life, and second, Garry Trudeau's masterful chronicle of Andy, sick with AIDS, living long enough to hear Pet Sounds in stereo, and finally David Leaf's interview with Paul McCartney, who cites Pet Sounds as a major influence on Sgt. Pepper, and says it is one of the most important albums ever record in Rock Music.

If these topics strike you as esoteric with respect to subject selection, I would caution you as reader to keep an open mind

Part Two

The second of three sections of this book addresses history regarding Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys. In the first of four essays in this section, Kier Knightley addresses some sociological aspects of the early career of The Beach Boys. The second essay by Ms. Jadey O' Regan discusses the early history of The Beach Boys, and attempts to construct a  model  of musical development that lays out the artistic periods the Beach Boys experienced in the Sixties. The third essay, by Dale Carter, is entitled The Undergrounding of Brian Wilson 1964-67. This piece addresses the growing musicianship of Brian Wilson as he makes contact with a number of people who were considered to be the cream of Los Angeles hipsters. The fourth essay, Good Reverberations, is Philip Lambert's second essay in this book.  He uses the song Good Vibrations to explore how this composition evolved through the process of adaptation of the song for live performance or was altered lyrically for inclusion on several occasions. An example of how this happens is the process of using a version that was recorded earlier that the edit that was used for release as a single. It follows the life of Good Vibrations, arguably Brian's most famous and successful composition, from its early development during Pet Sounds through the adaptation of the song for live performance by The Beach Boys, into its iconic status as a song in the Library of Congress's Register of American Recordings. Mr. Lambert also discusses several covers of Good Vibrations by various artists through the last fifty years.

Mr. Knightley's essay, entitled Summer of '64, places the fulcrum point of the evolution of Brian's songwriting and producing on The All Summer Long album. He takes the position that  there was no Rock Music Culture as of 1964, that its developments came later. Brian's essay on the back cover of All Summer Long mentions developing a feeling of sociological superiority, which Mr. Knightley deconstructs and interprets as the beginning of a Rock Music sensibility which is superior to ordinary "pop music." Mr. Knightley cites theory developed by David Riesman in 1950 which posits two types of music listeners. The first is the majority listener, and the second is the minority listener. The latter sits at the edge of new trends in popular music, with a somewhat hostile attitude toward common popular music. Mr. Knightley quotes Paul Williams in an essay defending the quality of music recorded by The Beach Boys after the Smile Sessions. Brian's music in 1964 "toed the nose" through the various elements of Southern California youth culture and was an incredible musical and lyrical snapshot of all the affluent and not so affluent youth of the Southland. Brian's unprecedented success, at least in Los Angeles Recording Studios, essentially moved the center of American Music Recording Culture from New York City to L.A. Not only was Brian's music popular in the United States, but all over the developed world.

Mr. Knightley seems to feel that the cover design of the All Summer Long album had subtle elements of Piet Mondrian's art. Personally, I think it was just another excremental Capitol album cover. The photos on the cover do show the group having fun "all summer long." Mr. Knightley goes on to address Brian and The Beach Boy's artistic expansion to movies and television. He mentions Karen from a television program that stiffed in 1964 and a tune entitled Things We Did Last Summer which was a prominent movie tune in a teenage film of the era. Having lived through those days of network tv and teen movies, I would say that Karen was a career appendix of a tune that did nothing for the career exposure of the Beach Boys, and Things We  Did Last Summer was in the vault and remained unreleased until The Beach Boys' 1993 Good Vibrations Boxed Set. I personally remember the incredible number of tv appearances they made on the most popular programs of that time, such as Red Skelton, Steve Allen, Ed Sullivan, Jack Benny (with Bob Hope), Kraft Music Hall, and most importantly Shindig. These were the shows that allowed exposure of the group to millions of households. The All Summer Long lp is mentioned by Mr. Knightley as having "no filler." Personally, there is no doubt in my mind that Carl's Big Chance was a filler track designed to get Carl some song royalties. Our Favorite Recording Sessions was clever, but again a track quickly cooked up to finish an album. Mr. Knightley's summary of Brian's place in the pantheon of musicians who changed American Music is well stated, and his essay is easily one of the more thought provoking pieces of writing about Brian and The Beach Boys in recent years.

The second essay in Section 2 is by Ms. Jadey O'Regan. In her chapter, she suggests a conceptual theme by identifying Surfin"Safari and the Surfin"USA Albums in the craftman category which include Surfer Girl, Little Deuce Coupe, Shut Down Volume 2, and All Summer Long. The Artist category includes Today, Summer Days, and Pet Sounds. Ms. O'Regan then provides what could be seen as a songwriting model which she uses to display the frequency of the types of song which are prevalent on each of the nine albums in the study. The chart in which she displays her results is a good analysis of the various song structures identified in her article.

Ms. O'Regan goes next to an interesting section which displays the use of songwriting structures that appear on each of the nine albums in this article. Finally, the lyrical content of each of the nine albums in this study is analyzed based upon the apprentice-craftsman-artist model introduced earlier in this article. A frequency analysis using a display called "wordle" is employed on three themes heard in Beach Boys albums from 1962-66. Quite candidly, the word frequency display results for songs in the surfing period are in the apprentice category. These results would be intuitively expected based upon the lyrical content upon reading the lyrics for Surfin' Safari and Surfin' USA. After exploring other lyrical themes (e.g. cars, girls, reflective songs) in the Craftsman and Artist levels, the article moves into the three levels for vocal performance. With regard to the use of falsetto vocals,  Ms. O'Regan seems to equate them with vocal sophistication. A chart shows that excluding the Surfin' Safari album, Brian's use of falsetto vocals was fairly constant through albums up to and including Pet Sounds, if a scatter plot were to be used to illustrate the high and emotional sounds of his falsetto. An informative appendix helps the reader answer any questions that might arise from reading the chapter.

The third article by Dale Carter is a very well researched narrative which is concerned with the period leading up to and including the period of time in which Brian and a group of friends of Van Dyke Parks introduced Brian to the underground scene in West LA and Santa Monica. High school friends of Brian's tried to keep in touch with Brian for the first five years after graduation. In interviews with three of them, the high school pals of Brian said all made the observation that Brian was different personality wise after he dropped acid and used marijuana. What was never discussed was Brian's growing use of a form of amphetamine called "cross tops" in order to maintain a schedule where his time was in demand nearly every day week after week, month after month.

Brian has told friends of mine that he was in a creative frenzy which he has indicated to mutual friends made him overtired and more susceptible to the nasty voice hallucinations which he feared. The sheer fatigue he felt was somewhat relieved by cannabis, but the creativity he had felt using cross tops turned into an inability to sleep and a form of paranoia that ensued which caused him to have a form of hypersensitivity, which caused friends to think that might be trying to sabotage his music.

As the article by Mr. Carter points out, Brian studied a number of new forms of spirituality that he or his new friends experimented with. As a friend of Brian from high school said, "the drive from West LA to Hawthorne might as well been one thousand miles."

This essay by Mr. Carter in twenty pages is tightly written and is the most succintly written summary of Smile and how the events surrounding its history came to pass that I have read for a long time.

The last article in this second part of this book is again by Philip Lambert. The original Good Vibrations single is one of the most amazing examples of using the studio as an instrument itself of that era. Of special note is the discussion of a plethora of cover versions by over 100 different artists.
There is a wonderful appendix to this article which lists over one hundred versions with dates listed. This is invaluable.

Mr. Lambert goes into detail in his description of Brian Wilson's mixdown of various segments of Good Vibrations into the classic single we all know. The results of over 50 hours of tape recorded in five separate studios are boiled down to a single 45 rpm 'A' side. Mr. Lambert goes on to outline how various versions by Brian evolved over time and were modified to meet the purpose needed. He goes on to show how his daughters changed the tune to sound plausible when sung from a female perspective in the group Wilson Philips.

In my years of collecting I came across dozens of covers of Good Vibrations from the sublime to the ridiculous. But....Mr. Lambert wins the gold medal for identifying over 100+ versions. Some of them are close versions, e.g. Todd. Rundgren. Some are in a foreign language, such as the Quebecois group Les Eccentrique. There are numerous imitations by other imitation or tribute groups, such as Papa Doo Run Run. Then there are the quasi symphonic versions, versions sung by chorale type groups and so forth. Some are just plain hilarious, such as Little Joe Shaver and the Devil Dog Band.

Mr. Lambert's work here is encyclopedic and instructive. For lifelong Brian Wilson/Beach Boys fans, this article takes us to a place where we decided to spring for a Good Vibrations cover version....only to find out what we had bought was a miserable piece of sh*t! And so it goes...and so it goes, and where it ends no one knows.

Part Three

The last section of this book centers around Brian Wilson's Smile Project. Andrew Flory's contribution, entitled Fandom and Ontology in Smile, centers around the impact of unofficial people and events which kept Smile alive for 37 years until Brian Wilson felt safe enough to take a look at his most imaginative and mysterious music.

The final chapter is by Larry Starr, and is a survey of Brian Wilson/Beach Boys music done after the shelving of Smile in 1967. Entitled A Listener's Smile, the essay asks many of the same questions that have been posed by Beach Boys fans, record companies, and curious fellow musicians over the 37 year span between shelving and revival of Smile.

A personal note--As some Brian Wilson and Beach Boys fans know, I have personal history with Smile going back decades. I need to mention this because early on in my Brian and Beach Boys history, I ceased being a person outside Smile, and became part of the story.

Beach Boys fans were quite insular when this story began. Brian was the recipient of a Derek Taylor publicity campaign when the Smile album was in development in 1966. Excitement grew on both sides of the Atlantic as various articles ran in music media. As Brian grew more involved in the entire Beach Boys scene, his attention was diverted from Smile. Already stressed from the praise of the Pet Sounds lp across the world, he tried to top Pet Sounds with Smile.....a difficult task at best. Good Vibrations was a great start and showed the world how his modular style of production could succeed, but Brian is one of those people who needs unqualified positive feedback around him, from which he catapults to the next level of amazing music.

When things began to unravel was when David Anderle told Brian that Capitol needed a single in December 1966. Work on Smile stopped cold, and Brian went to work on the single Brother Records planned to be the lead single, Heroes and Villains. Brian had numerous sessions through January and February 1967, and kept working on Heroes to the point of exhaustion. Recording, which had always been a positive experience and a tension reliever for Brian became onerous. Brian had no activity to replace making records as a positive compulsion. Soon, the Heroes and Villains single had to be set aside to deal with the Capitol Records lawsuit Brother Records had filed. Heroes, which Brian contemplated as a dazzling tour de force, became another unfinished task as February 1967 ended.

March 1967 was when Brian first set aside Smile. He had some film projects in mind he was planning, oversaw the lawsuit against Capitol, and as time passed, he became more and more rattled by some of the people in his Smile entourage. Van Dyke Parks, whose lyrics so eloquently complemented Brian's Smile music, was frustrated with some of the Beach Boys complaining about his lyrics and asking what they meant. He left in February, only to return in April to help with the newest planned single, Vegetables. In early May 1967, Brian recorded some music related to water, presumably for Smile's Elements Suite. Van Dyke Parks left again in late April, and signed a deal with Warner Records for solo albums. Without Van Dyke's able presence and willingness to help Brian defend Smile as a concept and Van's lyrics as being necessary for the project, Brian, finding that he had given his all for people who carped about his musical intuition, threw in the towel on Smile and had a breakdown of sorts that sidelined him.

The beautiful Smile music and lyrics were shelved. Brian, in a fragile state of mind took part of May to just rest and recover. When he met with the Beach Boys later in May, he told them that he could no longer produce the group by himself, and that if he were to record with them that the project replacing Smile would have to be low key and fun. Heroes and Villains was simplified, still clocking in at roughly 3 and a half minutes in length. In Tom Nolan's 1971 Rolling Stone article Terry Melcher said that Brian took the Heroes single to an LA radio station to give them the exclusive chance to premier the single, and the dj told Brian he couldn't play singles not on the approved for broadcast list. By the time the station manager screamed "put it on, you idiot!" the damage was done. It was the last excrement sandwich Brian had to swallow in a year of nothing but them being served.

Smiley Smile was completed in July 1967, and is still the first album recorded and completed using modular recording techniques. Pieces of Smile were used by The Beach Boys against Brian's wishes to help complete albums due at Capitol. The second half of 1967 and all of 1968 and 1969 were devoted to completing the Capitol Records contract. That was accomplished and the Beach Boys won their Capitol Records lawsuit, only to have their entire catalog deleted in 1971. 1972 brought a possible bonus of $50,000 from Reprise Records to The Beach Boys if Smile was presented completed. Carl Wilson and an engineer went through the shelved Smile tapes, and discovered that they had no way to finish it without Brian, who was struggling with voices in his head and trying to silence them with anything that altered his mind.

Fast forward to 1982, and while working with some authors on a book project that a Beach Boys discographer and I assisted, some folks inside the Beach Boys extended family proposed a tape trade by exchanging some unreleased songs for roughly 25 minutes of Smile music. The discographer sent me the cassette, which I listened to without bathing for a week (just kidding). It was in good but not great sound quality.  Some folks I thought I could trust were given a copy of the tape, and just to make things interesting, I put several different Smile soundalike tunes on their tapes. One schmoo was sent a copy of the tape with Here Come De Honeyman from Miles Davis and Bill Evans Porgy and Bess album labelled air "Air" from the Elements. In the interim, about 30 more minutes of Smile had been found by other Beach Boys collectors and sent to myself and a few other Beach Boys wingnuts deserving copies. We NEVER intended to have this material put on a bootleg and went to great lengths to prevent that eventuality. The schmoo who got the Porgy and Bess "Air" track pressed vinyl copies of about 35 minutes of Smile and was vilified in the tape community for his greed and stupidity.

As time went by, more and more Smile surfaced from crazy places, and the little cassette community had more Smile to listen to. Little did we know that a person working on a Beach Boys documentary had dubbed every bit of unreleased Beach Boys music he could find, and somehow gave that material to some Europeans who did a bootleg series called Sea of Tunes. Perfect quality recordings of all kinds of Beach Boys material surfaced, and diehard Beach Boys fans heard this stuff for the first time. Because the Smile material had surfaced originally in piecemeal fashion, each person with the various cassettes before Sea of Tunes emerged could put together their own track lineup in excellent quality sound. There was also a Japanese bootleg that offered a few tracks not otherwise available.

The reaction in the musician community was nothing short of spectacular. Bands listened to the Smile material and were thrilled and awed by the imaginative and no holds barred manner Brian Wilson gave his muse full freedom and recorded the most imaginative and original music ever recorded. There are too many to name...but a friend of mine who knew Fleet Foxes well said that Smile inspired them to cut their own revolutionary music.

My friend David was doing the notes for the Capitol 2fers in the early Nineties and asked me to contribute some facts for the booklets accompanying them. Later, he did the amazing notes for the Good Vibrations 1993 Capitol boxed set. The set included some 30+ minutes of Smile music, and was heralded as one of the best boxed sets ever done.

In roughly twelve years, we had gone from 25 minutes of Smile music to 6 unofficial hours in excellent sound quality AND more importantly, the first official release of Smile music done with Brian Wilson's approval. The respect and adulation the Good Vibrations set's Smile music received showed Brian that his most personal and creative music DID receive a tremendously positive response, despite Brian's fears that Smile would be rejected.

In 1995, Van Dyke Parks asked Brian to sing on a song called Orange Crate Art that he had written with Brian doing vocals in mind. After that studio date went well, Van Dyke asked Brian to sing lead vocals on ten additional tunes for the album, also entitled Orange Crate Art.  As the album was generally well received, some pain from the Smile album sessions was relieved.

As time went on, the young musicians who loved Smile would come up to Brian and tell him how much they loved Smile, and tell him that he should put it together. After Carl Wilson's sad demise in 1997, Brian began to consider playing live himself. He played a longer type of set with his newly assembled touring band. He released a live double cd set, and played the entire Pet Sounds album live to rapturous acclaim. His reception at Royal Festival Hall in London moved him deeply. He vowed to come back at "the right time."

In 2003, Brian announced dramatically that he and his band would premiere Smile in London's Royal Festival Hall in February 2004. With the performance a year away, Brian, with Darian Sahanaja identified crucial Smile segments. I spoke via email with Van Dyke Parks and asked after his health. He assured me that he was in good health. I inquired if Brian had gotten in touch with him about Smile. He indicated that he hadn't. Not wanting to. appear nosy, I left it there. About a week later, word came through some friends that Brian had called and asked Van Dyke to work with him.

As time marched on, I was asked to assist with research on a film being shot concerning Smile. I eventually flew to London with my friend Dave. We helped where we could, and attended all of the shows. The film was excellent.

In 2005 I drove to Eugene, Oregon to see Smile one last time. My dear friend of 30 years, Bob Hanes, and his wife and I drove to Portland and got there early enough to catch a short show with Brian and a few band members for a Portland radio station. Brian said hello to both of us. We were happy that he remembered us. The show that evening was incredible.

Things settled down for several years. In early 2011, I made original Smile artwork available to Capitol. It turned out that they showed it to Brian and his wife to prove the art they had in their own files dated to 1966. I was asked to provide photos for the Capitol Smile boxed set slated for release that year. I was also asked to write an essay for the deluxe boxed set book. My long 45 year association with Smile ended with the Smile boxed set. It was Brian's triumph. The deluxe 5 cd box won the Grammy for best historical release of 2011.....and Smile and the wonderful work Brian did was vindicated.  The second article in the last section of Good Vibrations by Larry Starr. He traces the history of the Smile tapes from the early work on Good Vibrations through the cannibal type use of the Smile material by The Beach Boys from 1967 through the Surfs Up album in 1971. Each of these uses of the Smile tapes to fill out various albums bothered Brian. Brian considered the Smile tapes to be some of his best work. To have the group use the Smile material after some members of the group dissed it when it was being recorded felt like the ultimate betrayal. Brian eventually vindicated himself and his instincts with Brian Wilson Presents Smile, voted by several publications as the album of the year for 2005. The video presentation of the performance in Los Angeles showed a happy Brian who loved the way his band performed with him as a tight unit.

The Beautiful Dreamer documentary fearlessly followed Brian through the months he spent wrestling with the idea of exposing himself and his highly personal music to public opinion. The rapidly moving emotions Brian felt were there for all to see. The adulation was there on film as well. In the end, Smile was a performance piece in three movements...not a Beach Boys album. Mr. Starr's observations echo many of my personal feelings regarding Smile. Now it belongs to the future as generations newly discover the dazzling beauty of Brian Wilson's most personal work....the music the angels gave him, as a close friend of Brian's learned from Brian himself.

Copyright 2017 by Peter Reum -- All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Fellowship by Peter Reum

He thought he had life by the tail
Every question he answered
There were no mysteries that paled
One would think he could cure cancer

Reliance upon his own intellect
Was his usual modus operandi
He treated loved ones with disrespect
While seeking every honor to collect

Friends and family went away
The result of ego gone astray
In grieving, he tried to see the cost
Silence deafening, his soul was lost

When things looked to him the bleakest
He took inventory of his whole life
People he never knew talked with him
Showing him new ways to lose strife

Old behavior is not easily changed
We need help to avoid falling back
Friends don't know why he acted strange
But fellowship kept him on the tracks

Making amends was quite frightening
He would rather be struck by lightning
There is peace in getting life balanced
Getting rid of shame was enlightening

Keeping things honest is essential
Walking the line humbly is best
The fellowship is always confidential
Changing your life is a noble quest

Copyright 2017 by Peter Reum - All Rights Reserved

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Favorite Albums #9--The Raspberries Starting Over by Peter Reum

Somewhere, a long time ago, I saw a promotional film which introduced to listeners of Rock Music by the Raspberries. Serious Rock listeners in the Sixties and Seventies often relied upon guidance about new albums from reviews that ran in magazines like Creem, Rolling Stone, and Crawdaddy along with articles in local papers, and advice from friends. The Raspberries had had singles with modest to excellent chart success, and good to great reviews of their first three albums. The group seemed to have excellent musicianship that was influenced by contemporary bands such as The Who, The Beach Boys, and The Beatles, both as a group and solo.

Cover Art for the Raspberries Starting Over (1974)

Rolling Stone Magazine named Starting Over as one of the top 5 lps of 1974, and I bought it, based upon their short but favorable review of the album. I had heard Raspberries singles on the radio, and once in awhile they would show up on progressive FM stations as well. Their leaders, Eric Carmen and Wally Bryson, were joined by a new pair of musicians, Michael McBride, a drummer, and Scott McCarl, a bass guitarist, them being two musicians who shined as a new rhythm section for the band.

After the end of the Raspberries, Eric Carmen signed a solo contract with Arista Records. He was to have a better type of success with Arista. It appeared that Capitol Records really had no idea how to promote the Raspberries. That said, there were four albums that pioneered power pop, with the crown jewel being Starting Over.

The album's tunes were all excellent. Starting Over opened with a tune called Overnight Sensation. The production by Jimmy Ienner enthusiastically creates the sound of a new band lineup which enthusiastically sought to put out a single which would be a hit, and which upon release, would be picked up by radio stations across the USA, and take the nation by storm. The lead vocal by Eric Carmen pulls in the listener with a confession by Carmen that he "knows it sounds funny, but I'm not in it for the money" and eases into the wish that "I want a hit record, yeah...number 1." The record goes into the song's bridge sounding like an old fashioned car radio and then turns into the regular bridge of the tune. Overnight Sensation is a brilliant track, and shows the trust that the group had with their producer.

For me, Cruisin' Music is another incredible tune which melds the Beach Boys' best car songs with the feel of their summer themed surf music. The bass and drums carry the feeling of Californa Summer Music along with lyrics that complement the picture that the instrumental track contributes. The group vocals are excellent, reflecting the shimmering feel of Brian Wilson's vocal arrangements.

The title track, a gorgeous ballad that foreshadows Eric's solo albums, offers a sweet and romantic ballad. Ballads were offered on each of the Raspberries' first three albums, as well as his first three solo Arista albums. In 1975, Eric Carmen signed with Arista.

It has often been said that the Raspberries' harder rocking tunes reflect the strong influence of The Who. This is very accurate with respect to I Don't Know What I Want. Theme wise, this tune releases The Raspberries inner that the song's vocalist roars that he doesn't "know what he wants, BUT I WANT IT NOW!!!! The tune reveals the petulant side of being a rock star, and it seems to pay tribute to Keith Moon.

The album's second song, Play On, also shows a British influence. The tune is a bit whiny, with the lead vocalist moaning about touring. He reflects that
seemingly homesick feeling that even the best bands experience on those long tours. The music rocks on Play On, which erases some of lyrical complaining herein.

All Through the Night is another vigorous hard rocking tune that explores the groupie phenomenon. There is no doubt in my mind that this band never lacked for young women to sleep with. This tune again shows the brilliance of the power pop that they seemed to compose and play so easily.
The song, like Cruisin' Music, shows some Beach Boys influence, along with solo Paul McCartney.

No Hard Feelings is a song that reflects the split in half of the guys that made up the Raspberries for the first three albums. On November 26, 1973, the split occured. Scott McCarl seemed to need to speak with the former members in order to move on with the new Raspberries lineup. The song rocks, and with the new members aboard, there is nothing lost from the first band to the new lineup that made Starting Over.

The album's entire song lineup will show listeners where American Power Pop had its beginning. I would suggest the Raspberries 4 cd set on Caroline, which may be obtained online. All four Raspberries albums are well done, and demonstrate how bands like The Knack and Cheap Trick inherited the urge and the quality that the best American Power Pop exemplified.

Text copyright 2017 by Peter Reum - All Rights Reserved