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Author Topic: Surf's Up 1971 LP: Did the BB play all the instruments?  (Read 3292 times)
jeremylr
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« on: October 02, 2009, 11:33:38 PM »

This week I listened to "Surf's Up" from 1971 again.  What a forward-sounding LP.  Aside from all the beautiful & at times complicated vocal arrangements, I'd like to see some comments about the Beach Boys & their instrumental chops on this album.  

Did they play on all the songs?  I've got "Surf's Up" as part of the 2 albums on 1 cd format along with Sunflower, & there's not really much info on who played what.  For example, did Dennis play drums on each track?  Did one of the boys play bass on everything, or did they switch up all the time?

On a side note, 1 song that I had forgotten about is Al's "Lookin' At Tomorrow (A Welfare Song)."  It's so simple, yet so complex especially when Al does the ba ba ba ba, do do do scat vocal in the middle.  I even like Student Demonstration Time, even though it doesn't fit with any of the other songs.  On the other hand, "Day In The Life of a Tree" is weird & too dirge-sounding, not to mention that I'd rather hear a BB sing the lead vocal.  It gets better at the end when the BB, who can actually sing, appear, or maybe I'm just happy it's about to end.
« Last Edit: October 02, 2009, 11:35:40 PM by jeremylr » Logged
sleeptalk
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« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2009, 11:44:36 PM »

"life of a tree" is a BW classic, man. so good.

curious about the album personnel too, though.
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nobody
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« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2009, 12:18:20 AM »

"life of a tree" is a BW classic, man. so good.


agreed. very moving song. i like van dyke park's voice on it, too. the main vocal is... passable once you get past the initial shock of the first few seconds of it. the song is just so beautiful, music and lyric. did Brian play the organ on this track?
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sleeptalk
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« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2009, 12:25:08 AM »

i don't know, i think jack's trembling voice fits the tenor of the song pretty well it's a nice, poetic effect. i understand why brian cried when he heard the finished version of this song.
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Andrew G. Doe
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« Reply #4 on: October 03, 2009, 12:43:58 AM »

Dennis didn't play drums post his accident, which was, I think, May or thereabouts. On "Feel Flows" Woody Thews played percussion and Charles Lloyd flute. Darryl Dragon played keyboards & bass, Eddie Carter guitar. This is top of the head stuff, will get back with a  better response soon.
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Wrightfan
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« Reply #5 on: October 03, 2009, 03:40:04 PM »

"life of a tree" is a BW classic, man. so good.

curious about the album personnel too, though.

I must be the exception. I can't stand that song. One of the weak links along with Student Demonstration time.

The rest is gold...Yes, even Take a Load off Your Feet.
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BennySahuaro
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« Reply #6 on: October 03, 2009, 04:18:56 PM »

Dennis didn't play drums post his accident, which was, I think, May or thereabouts. On "Feel Flows" Woody Thews played percussion and Charles Lloyd flute. Darryl Dragon played keyboards & bass, Eddie Carter guitar. This is top of the head stuff, will get back with a  better response soon.
Wasn't the other Dennis (Dragon) drumming on Beach Boys stuff around this time?
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Sound of Free
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« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2009, 05:08:27 PM »

When he hurt his hand, didn't Dennis say something like "The last song I'll ever drum on is 'Riot'" which of course lyrically morphed into became "Student Demonstration Time."
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c-man
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« Reply #8 on: October 03, 2009, 08:17:51 PM »

I'm certain at least one of the Boys is playing on every cut from the "Surf's Up" album, even the title track (Brian plays the piano in the coda, and I think Carl added another piano part & flicked a set of car keys in the first part). 

The AFM contracts for this album are not a lot of help, though, except for the first one (the one for "Long Promised Road")...the personnel listed on that one are:
Carl Wilson  Piano
Carl Wilson  o.d. Guitar
Carl Wilson  o.d. Moog
Carl Wilson  o.d. Harpsichord
Carl Wilson  o.d. Percussion
Carl Wilson  o.d. Drums
Carl Wilson  o.d. Organ

I believe that contract to be accurate.  The others, for the most part, seem to have been drawn up after the fact...each features two song titles and lists a different Beach Boy as the session "leader". 

The one for "Disney Girls" and "Student Demonstration Time" lists Bruce as the "leader", and the players listed are Bruce, Brian, Carl, and Dennis.  There's one for "Feet Pete" and "Day In The Life Of A Tree" that shows Brian as the "leader", and the players are Brian, Alan, and Carl.  The one for "Lookin' at Tomorrow" and "Feel Flows" shows Carl as the "leader" and lists the players as Carl, Alan, Bruce, Charles Lloyd, and Woodrow Thews".  And the one for "Don't Go Near The Water" and "'Till I Die" lists Alan as the "leader", and the players as Alan, Bruce, Brian, and Carl.  The most obvious omission is that of Daryl Dragon, who by Desper's recollection played the pipe organ on "Day In The Life Of A Tree" (he says Brian played the harmonium on that one), and bass & tack piano on "Student Demonstration Time".  But the sheets do appear somewhat accurate in that they only list Dennis on the contract for the one song he's known to have played on "SDT"), then his name is missing from the later ones (presumably due to his hand injury preventing him from playing).  Steve says the other players on "SDT" were Carl (on both guitar parts) and Mike on tambourine (plus horns and sirens).  For "Don't Go Near The Water", Steve says Alan played the lead guitar (processed through a Moog), with Daryl on rhythm guitar (and I suspect bass and piano as well...the piano just doesn't sound like Brian, despite was Desper says...maybe Brian added the harmonica on the tag, though), and Carl adding tambourine later.  The drums on that one are really simple, and similar to those on "LPR", so perhaps that's Carl as well (although Mike Kowalski once said he played drums on some of that album...there ARE two drum tracks on "SDT", so maybe one is his). 

Bruce has stated that the musician lineup on "Disney Girls" is Eddie Carter on acoustic & electric guitars, Dennis Dragon on drums, Kathy Dragon on flute, and himself on upright piano, mandolin, and Moog bass.  Carl stated (in Rolling Stone) that he played the other instruments on "Feel Flows" (piano, organ, bass & guitar).  The percussion (via empty 5-gallon Sparkletts glass water) on "Take A Load Off Your Feet" is said to be Brian (as are the foot steps heard running across the stereo soundscape), and I'll bet the other instruments on that one are Alan and Brian as well (except the strings, of course...there is an AFM sheet for that).   "Til I Die" is Brian on organ, and I suspect drums (the real drums, which come in for the coda...up to that point, it's Rhythm Ace).  The acoustic guitar on that is probably Carl, or maybe even Brian.  "Lookin' At Tomorrow" sounds like it could be all Alan, maybe with some help from Carl on the simple drums (Dennis was away filming "Blacktop" when that one was recorded).       

One intersting find is a contract for a "Surf's Up" tracking session held at Sunset Sound June 18th of '71...it's been mentioned somewhere that a brand new track for the song was attempted & discarded (in favor of the "SMiLE" relic), and this session appears to have been for that purpose.  The players include many of the ones from the original 1967 "Surf's Up" session.
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LetHimRun
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« Reply #9 on: October 03, 2009, 09:38:03 PM »

Brian apparently wanted the lead of Life of a Tree to purposely be sung off-key. He thought Rieley's voice fit the mood of the song perfectly.
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jeremylr
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« Reply #10 on: October 04, 2009, 01:51:16 AM »

C-man,


Thanks so much for what you came up with.  I had no idea Carl was so involved on Long Promised Road.  That's almost a solo track, isn't it?  I envy you for being able to see those session contract sheets. 

It's a pity that the BB couldn't have someone back in the late '60s/'70s to keep accurate records of who played on what. 
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Andrew G. Doe
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« Reply #11 on: October 04, 2009, 01:55:23 AM »

Extrapolating from contemporary comments, Dennis' hand injury seems to have occurred on or about June 11th 1971. Assuming this surmise is correct, the following are the sessions he couldn't have drummed on:

June
18 - Surf's Up session: Surf's Up [Sunset]
19 - session: Won't You Tell Me [Sunset - vocals]
?? - Surf's Up session: A Day In the Life Of A Tree [shortly before 20th]
20 - Surf's Up session: 4th Of July [vocals]/'Happy Birthday, Brian'
July
  7 - Dennis Wilson session: Behold the Night/It's A New Day [Sunset]
  8 - Dennis Wilson session; It's A New Day [Sunset]
23 - Surf's Up session: Disney Girls (1957)/Student Demonstration Time
?? - Surf's Up session: 4th Of July [before the 25th]
26 - Surf's Up session: Take A Load Off Your Feet, Pete/A Day in The Life Of A Tree
29 - Surf's Up session: Feel Flows/Lookin' At Tomorrow
30 - Surf's Up session: 'Til I Die/Don't Go Near The Water
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Andrew G. Doe
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« Reply #12 on: October 04, 2009, 01:56:39 AM »

C-man,


Thanks so much for what you came up with.  I had no idea Carl was so involved on Long Promised Road.  That's almost a solo track, isn't it?  I envy you for being able to see those session contract sheets. 

It's a pity that the BB couldn't have someone back in the late '60s/'70s to keep accurate records of who played on what. 

Problem was that, back then, a lot of recording was done at the Bellagio studio, thus the record keeping was, to be polite about it, lax.
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hypehat
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« Reply #13 on: October 04, 2009, 03:45:27 AM »

They wouldn't really, would they? Although didn't Diane still handle all that stuff like she did earlier in the decade?

Or am i horribly off-base? Roll Eyes
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« Reply #14 on: October 04, 2009, 08:32:48 AM »

Extrapolating from contemporary comments, Dennis' hand injury seems to have occurred on or about June 11th 1971. Assuming this surmise is correct, the following are the sessions he couldn't have drummed on:

June
18 - Surf's Up session: Surf's Up [Sunset]
19 - session: Won't You Tell Me [Sunset - vocals]
?? - Surf's Up session: A Day In the Life Of A Tree [shortly before 20th]
20 - Surf's Up session: 4th Of July [vocals]/'Happy Birthday, Brian'
July
  7 - Dennis Wilson session: Behold the Night/It's A New Day [Sunset]
  8 - Dennis Wilson session; It's A New Day [Sunset]
23 - Surf's Up session: Disney Girls (1957)/Student Demonstration Time
?? - Surf's Up session: 4th Of July [before the 25th]
26 - Surf's Up session: Take A Load Off Your Feet, Pete/A Day in The Life Of A Tree
29 - Surf's Up session: Feel Flows/Lookin' At Tomorrow
30 - Surf's Up session: 'Til I Die/Don't Go Near The Water

The dates for the July 23, 26, 29 & 30 sessions come from the AFM sheets, and are highly suspect in my opinion...we know from other sources that "Lookin' At Tomorrow", and "'Til I Die" were recorded circa late 1970, since they were on the so-called "Landlocked" reel which was complied sometime before February '71.  Badman's book gives a more likely timeframe of August for those two, and "Take A Load" (which is also on the "Landlocked" reel) had strings added to it way back in January 1970 (according to the date on another AFM contract).  Of course, Badman gets a lot of stuff wrong and some AFM dates are suspect (as I just mentioned), but the July 23, 26, 29 & 30 ones seem a lot more suspect than most.  My guess is someone realized they hadn't bothered to fill out contracts for those titles, and hurriedly put them together, perhaps using the mixdown dates in place of the actual tracking dates.
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Andrew G. Doe
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« Reply #15 on: October 04, 2009, 10:57:19 AM »

Fair point, especially as a safety copy of the album master was made on June 25th...

Dennis' oft-repeated comment that "SDT" was the last track he drummed on is similarly questionable, as there was a mixdown session for that dated 11/3/70 !
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