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Author Topic: Unpopular Beach Boys opinions  (Read 126090 times)
The Cigarette Light Joke
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« Reply #1375 on: March 12, 2018, 06:48:50 AM »

It’s an interesting thing, context. I feel that for me this conversation may partly explain why there is so much love out there in the fan base for Rio Grande and BW88 as a whole.
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« Reply #1376 on: March 12, 2018, 07:03:33 AM »

It’s an interesting thing, context. I feel that for me this conversation may partly explain why there is so much love out there in the fan base for Rio Grande and BW88 as a whole.

I think there's some truth to that.   But, I also think underneath the really bad production, there are some really good songs on the album.   I just don't consider Rio Grande to be one of them. 
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« Reply #1377 on: March 12, 2018, 07:04:57 AM »

It’s an interesting thing, context. I feel that for me this conversation may partly explain why there is so much love out there in the fan base for Rio Grande and BW88 as a whole.

I knew from the moment I heard "Rio Grande" that it was in some ways a contrived/manufactured "Smile" knock-off, which is basically what Lenny Waronker asked for as I recall.

But some of those musical bits are still quite good, some of Brian's vocal arrangements great.
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« Reply #1378 on: March 12, 2018, 07:07:31 AM »

I don't think any of us who were fans in 1988 ever dreamed Brian could come up with something like Rio Grande (or Melt Away) at the time. He was able to do those things in spite of Landy, in spite of the heavy drug cocktail.  I was expecting an album of I'm So Lonely's. You have to take all of those elements into consideration when looking at those songs.

No, you absolutely don't have to take all--or even any--of those elements into consideration when looking at those songs.

A song is as good as it is, whether it was written and recorded by a prince in the lap of luxury or a homeless veteran who scrounged up a few nickels. That Rio Grande was more than many fans expected at the time is irrelevant to how good it is. That Rio Grande was done by someone under the control of an abusive doctor is irrelevant to how good it is. The personal story surrounding the music is separate and apart from the quality of the music. The quality of music is based on the sounds that one hears when listening to it.

The shitty finger painting on your refrigerator isn't good because your 3-year-old niece painted it for you. It's still sh*t. It's just sh*t that means something more to you, regardless of its actual quality.

Depends on what "looking at those songs" means to you. If you don't care about context, about being a student of the history of the band, or of examining what songs or recordings might mean contextually, and are 100% about the pure pleasure (or lack thereof) that you derive from hearing a given song, then you can choose to look at it that way.

Obviously, I think the deal is that most fans are going to take a mixture of a number of factors to build the context around which they digest the music. Otherwise, is there much of a reason to be a "fan" of a particular band? Typically, a "fan" listens to the next new Brian or BB release because they're already a "fan." So it already has something of a context. You're presumably predisposed to digesting that next release because there is already a context: You're a fan, and you like previous output from that artist (and if you *don't* like any recent previous output and you're still listening to the stuff, then that's a whole other set of issues to examine).

I don't think it should ever be the case that we literally lower the standards of what constitutes good music because Brian (or anyone) is somehow compromised. But if Brian was going through mental anguish, or under abusive care, etc., then that does provide some appropriate context and may help one appreciate the music more.

I would argue that buried under weird synth arrangements on "Love You" are some truly excellent compositions; some amazing chord changes that some may be missing because they can't get over the weird arrangement and presentation. But separate from that, the content, especially lyrically, is informed quite a bit by and gives great insight into Brian's frame of mind at the time. It's almost frighteningly innocent and without pretense. I can't imagine a student of the band's music *and* history not finding some keenly interesting things going on with the album.

"Rio Grande" on BW '88 is a similar case. It's Brian, while being abused by Landy, having an executive egg him on to basically ape the "Smile" format to try to wring something similar out of him. It's a mixed success at best. It does feel forced/contrived, whatever. But he did write all of those sections, and it does show that the talent/ability was still buried under there somewhere.

But again, context matters if you're at all interesting in actually *studying* or *discussing* this stuff. If you're about nothing but what music gets you off, what music instantly pleases you, then nothing else matters and then, is there really much to discuss beyond saying "I like that", "I don't like that", "that's okay", etc.?

But for students/scholars of the band, it most definitely is important in digesting the music to know that Brian was f-ed up under Landy while making BW '88, or that Brian was where he was at during "Love You." It doesn't mean something has to be labeled as great, as if  "man, it's amazing he was able to string together a sentence let alone record an album", but knowing Brian's frame of mind and what he was through most definitely does help with an *appreciation* of "Love You." And understanding the contexts of these projects more *can* help one enjoy them/like them more. It doesn't mean anything is going to make "Mona" or "Little Children" great songs to me. But it might make listening to those songs more intereresting.


The story is interesting. The story is informative. The story, when known, can change how a person approaches or appreciates the music. But it doesn’t affect the merits of the music. The implication that by using the music to assess the music is simplistic, just about “what gets you off” or “instantly pleases you” is a straw man: I’ve never implied anything remotely like that. And to say that using music to asses music leaves you stuck at “I like it” and “I don’t like it” is absurd. Scholars do exactly that: they analyze and discuss music based on its content. And your post shows you value scholars, at least of the message board/ pop variety. (Other scholars focus more on artists’ stories over music: they’re historians.)
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« Reply #1379 on: March 12, 2018, 07:12:18 AM »

I don't think any of us who were fans in 1988 ever dreamed Brian could come up with something like Rio Grande (or Melt Away) at the time. He was able to do those things in spite of Landy, in spite of the heavy drug cocktail.  I was expecting an album of I'm So Lonely's. You have to take all of those elements into consideration when looking at those songs.

No, you absolutely don't have to take all--or even any--of those elements into consideration when looking at those songs.

A song is as good as it is, whether it was written and recorded by a prince in the lap of luxury or a homeless veteran who scrounged up a few nickels. That Rio Grande was more than many fans expected at the time is irrelevant to how good it is. That Rio Grande was done by someone under the control of an abusive doctor is irrelevant to how good it is. The personal story surrounding the music is separate and apart from the quality of the music. The quality of music is based on the sounds that one hears when listening to it.

The shitty finger painting on your refrigerator isn't good because your 3-year-old niece painted it for you. It's still sh*t. It's just sh*t that means something more to you, regardless of its actual quality.

Depends on what "looking at those songs" means to you. If you don't care about context, about being a student of the history of the band, or of examining what songs or recordings might mean contextually, and are 100% about the pure pleasure (or lack thereof) that you derive from hearing a given song, then you can choose to look at it that way.

Obviously, I think the deal is that most fans are going to take a mixture of a number of factors to build the context around which they digest the music. Otherwise, is there much of a reason to be a "fan" of a particular band? Typically, a "fan" listens to the next new Brian or BB release because they're already a "fan." So it already has something of a context. You're presumably predisposed to digesting that next release because there is already a context: You're a fan, and you like previous output from that artist (and if you *don't* like any recent previous output and you're still listening to the stuff, then that's a whole other set of issues to examine).

I don't think it should ever be the case that we literally lower the standards of what constitutes good music because Brian (or anyone) is somehow compromised. But if Brian was going through mental anguish, or under abusive care, etc., then that does provide some appropriate context and may help one appreciate the music more.

I would argue that buried under weird synth arrangements on "Love You" are some truly excellent compositions; some amazing chord changes that some may be missing because they can't get over the weird arrangement and presentation. But separate from that, the content, especially lyrically, is informed quite a bit by and gives great insight into Brian's frame of mind at the time. It's almost frighteningly innocent and without pretense. I can't imagine a student of the band's music *and* history not finding some keenly interesting things going on with the album.

"Rio Grande" on BW '88 is a similar case. It's Brian, while being abused by Landy, having an executive egg him on to basically ape the "Smile" format to try to wring something similar out of him. It's a mixed success at best. It does feel forced/contrived, whatever. But he did write all of those sections, and it does show that the talent/ability was still buried under there somewhere.

But again, context matters if you're at all interesting in actually *studying* or *discussing* this stuff. If you're about nothing but what music gets you off, what music instantly pleases you, then nothing else matters and then, is there really much to discuss beyond saying "I like that", "I don't like that", "that's okay", etc.?

But for students/scholars of the band, it most definitely is important in digesting the music to know that Brian was f-ed up under Landy while making BW '88, or that Brian was where he was at during "Love You." It doesn't mean something has to be labeled as great, as if  "man, it's amazing he was able to string together a sentence let alone record an album", but knowing Brian's frame of mind and what he was through most definitely does help with an *appreciation* of "Love You." And understanding the contexts of these projects more *can* help one enjoy them/like them more. It doesn't mean anything is going to make "Mona" or "Little Children" great songs to me. But it might make listening to those songs more intereresting.


I get what you're saying about context, but at the end of the day, it's still about the quality of the music.   

Take Syd Barrett's solo albums.   On one hand, as a fan of early Pink Floyd, I find their mere existence to be a borderline miracle.   On the other hand, knowing Syd's story doesn't change my opinion that half the songs are pretty bad.   

Same goes for Love You and BW88.   

But context can inform what one perceives to be the "quality" of the music, and certainly one's enjoyment of the music.

Nobody listens to a given piece of music in a vacuum. Every listener has their tastes and proclivities and biases going into listening to a piece of music. So I don't think sometimes adding historical context to that list of factors heavily changes things. Indeed, I think taking some context into account is probably *less* of a factor in someone deciding what they personally "like" compared to their own built-in bias/taste.

There's no objective number score that can applied to music separate from context. So, because it's already (obviously) subjective, adding the circumstances/context of a given composition/recording isn't necessarily a bad thing when deciding whether one "likes" or "dislikes" music.

I don't think anyone goes from thinking a song/recording totally sucks to thinking it's *amazing* simply because the writer/performer were under some adverse conditions while creating. But I think completely divorcing oneself from the context of an album is also not a particularly informative or useful thing, especially when it comes to *discussing* the album rather than just blurting out whether one likes or doesn't like something.

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« Reply #1380 on: March 12, 2018, 07:21:58 AM »

This isn’t going to be productive unless I better explain myself, I don’t think: I think I must’ve been unclear based on your responses. Since I’m at work and posting from my phone, that’s going to have to wait.
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« Reply #1381 on: March 12, 2018, 07:23:18 AM »

I don't think any of us who were fans in 1988 ever dreamed Brian could come up with something like Rio Grande (or Melt Away) at the time. He was able to do those things in spite of Landy, in spite of the heavy drug cocktail.  I was expecting an album of I'm So Lonely's. You have to take all of those elements into consideration when looking at those songs.

No, you absolutely don't have to take all--or even any--of those elements into consideration when looking at those songs.

A song is as good as it is, whether it was written and recorded by a prince in the lap of luxury or a homeless veteran who scrounged up a few nickels. That Rio Grande was more than many fans expected at the time is irrelevant to how good it is. That Rio Grande was done by someone under the control of an abusive doctor is irrelevant to how good it is. The personal story surrounding the music is separate and apart from the quality of the music. The quality of music is based on the sounds that one hears when listening to it.

The shitty finger painting on your refrigerator isn't good because your 3-year-old niece painted it for you. It's still sh*t. It's just sh*t that means something more to you, regardless of its actual quality.

Depends on what "looking at those songs" means to you. If you don't care about context, about being a student of the history of the band, or of examining what songs or recordings might mean contextually, and are 100% about the pure pleasure (or lack thereof) that you derive from hearing a given song, then you can choose to look at it that way.

Obviously, I think the deal is that most fans are going to take a mixture of a number of factors to build the context around which they digest the music. Otherwise, is there much of a reason to be a "fan" of a particular band? Typically, a "fan" listens to the next new Brian or BB release because they're already a "fan." So it already has something of a context. You're presumably predisposed to digesting that next release because there is already a context: You're a fan, and you like previous output from that artist (and if you *don't* like any recent previous output and you're still listening to the stuff, then that's a whole other set of issues to examine).

I don't think it should ever be the case that we literally lower the standards of what constitutes good music because Brian (or anyone) is somehow compromised. But if Brian was going through mental anguish, or under abusive care, etc., then that does provide some appropriate context and may help one appreciate the music more.

I would argue that buried under weird synth arrangements on "Love You" are some truly excellent compositions; some amazing chord changes that some may be missing because they can't get over the weird arrangement and presentation. But separate from that, the content, especially lyrically, is informed quite a bit by and gives great insight into Brian's frame of mind at the time. It's almost frighteningly innocent and without pretense. I can't imagine a student of the band's music *and* history not finding some keenly interesting things going on with the album.

"Rio Grande" on BW '88 is a similar case. It's Brian, while being abused by Landy, having an executive egg him on to basically ape the "Smile" format to try to wring something similar out of him. It's a mixed success at best. It does feel forced/contrived, whatever. But he did write all of those sections, and it does show that the talent/ability was still buried under there somewhere.

But again, context matters if you're at all interesting in actually *studying* or *discussing* this stuff. If you're about nothing but what music gets you off, what music instantly pleases you, then nothing else matters and then, is there really much to discuss beyond saying "I like that", "I don't like that", "that's okay", etc.?

But for students/scholars of the band, it most definitely is important in digesting the music to know that Brian was f-ed up under Landy while making BW '88, or that Brian was where he was at during "Love You." It doesn't mean something has to be labeled as great, as if  "man, it's amazing he was able to string together a sentence let alone record an album", but knowing Brian's frame of mind and what he was through most definitely does help with an *appreciation* of "Love You." And understanding the contexts of these projects more *can* help one enjoy them/like them more. It doesn't mean anything is going to make "Mona" or "Little Children" great songs to me. But it might make listening to those songs more intereresting.


I get what you're saying about context, but at the end of the day, it's still about the quality of the music.   

Take Syd Barrett's solo albums.   On one hand, as a fan of early Pink Floyd, I find their mere existence to be a borderline miracle.   On the other hand, knowing Syd's story doesn't change my opinion that half the songs are pretty bad.   

Same goes for Love You and BW88.   

But context can inform what one perceives to be the "quality" of the music, and certainly one's enjoyment of the music.



I can only see context affecting my enjoyment if the music is actually something I enjoy listening to.  

Knowing Brian Wilson's story probably makes me appreciate Southern California a little more.   But, I'd probably think that was a good song, regardless of whether or not I knew the story behind Scott's lyrics.  

Knowing Freddie Mercury was dying when he recorded Innuendo really makes me appreciate the high quality of his vocals.  But, getting into Queen a bit late, I loved The Show Must Go On before I knew Freddie was dying, and knew he was dying, when he recorded it.  

But, on the other hand, knowing the 37 year struggle to get the Smile album released really don't make me believe that Smile is nearly as good as it's hype.  
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« Reply #1382 on: March 12, 2018, 07:25:27 AM »

I don't think any of us who were fans in 1988 ever dreamed Brian could come up with something like Rio Grande (or Melt Away) at the time. He was able to do those things in spite of Landy, in spite of the heavy drug cocktail.  I was expecting an album of I'm So Lonely's. You have to take all of those elements into consideration when looking at those songs.

No, you absolutely don't have to take all--or even any--of those elements into consideration when looking at those songs.

A song is as good as it is, whether it was written and recorded by a prince in the lap of luxury or a homeless veteran who scrounged up a few nickels. That Rio Grande was more than many fans expected at the time is irrelevant to how good it is. That Rio Grande was done by someone under the control of an abusive doctor is irrelevant to how good it is. The personal story surrounding the music is separate and apart from the quality of the music. The quality of music is based on the sounds that one hears when listening to it.

The shitty finger painting on your refrigerator isn't good because your 3-year-old niece painted it for you. It's still sh*t. It's just sh*t that means something more to you, regardless of its actual quality.

Depends on what "looking at those songs" means to you. If you don't care about context, about being a student of the history of the band, or of examining what songs or recordings might mean contextually, and are 100% about the pure pleasure (or lack thereof) that you derive from hearing a given song, then you can choose to look at it that way.

Obviously, I think the deal is that most fans are going to take a mixture of a number of factors to build the context around which they digest the music. Otherwise, is there much of a reason to be a "fan" of a particular band? Typically, a "fan" listens to the next new Brian or BB release because they're already a "fan." So it already has something of a context. You're presumably predisposed to digesting that next release because there is already a context: You're a fan, and you like previous output from that artist (and if you *don't* like any recent previous output and you're still listening to the stuff, then that's a whole other set of issues to examine).

I don't think it should ever be the case that we literally lower the standards of what constitutes good music because Brian (or anyone) is somehow compromised. But if Brian was going through mental anguish, or under abusive care, etc., then that does provide some appropriate context and may help one appreciate the music more.

I would argue that buried under weird synth arrangements on "Love You" are some truly excellent compositions; some amazing chord changes that some may be missing because they can't get over the weird arrangement and presentation. But separate from that, the content, especially lyrically, is informed quite a bit by and gives great insight into Brian's frame of mind at the time. It's almost frighteningly innocent and without pretense. I can't imagine a student of the band's music *and* history not finding some keenly interesting things going on with the album.

"Rio Grande" on BW '88 is a similar case. It's Brian, while being abused by Landy, having an executive egg him on to basically ape the "Smile" format to try to wring something similar out of him. It's a mixed success at best. It does feel forced/contrived, whatever. But he did write all of those sections, and it does show that the talent/ability was still buried under there somewhere.

But again, context matters if you're at all interesting in actually *studying* or *discussing* this stuff. If you're about nothing but what music gets you off, what music instantly pleases you, then nothing else matters and then, is there really much to discuss beyond saying "I like that", "I don't like that", "that's okay", etc.?

But for students/scholars of the band, it most definitely is important in digesting the music to know that Brian was f-ed up under Landy while making BW '88, or that Brian was where he was at during "Love You." It doesn't mean something has to be labeled as great, as if  "man, it's amazing he was able to string together a sentence let alone record an album", but knowing Brian's frame of mind and what he was through most definitely does help with an *appreciation* of "Love You." And understanding the contexts of these projects more *can* help one enjoy them/like them more. It doesn't mean anything is going to make "Mona" or "Little Children" great songs to me. But it might make listening to those songs more intereresting.


The story is interesting. The story is informative. The story, when known, can change how a person approaches or appreciates the music. But it doesn’t affect the merits of the music. The implication that by using the music to assess the music is simplistic, just about “what gets you off” or “instantly pleases you” is a straw man: I’ve never implied anything remotely like that. And to say that using music to asses music leaves you stuck at “I like it” and “I don’t like it” is absurd. Scholars do exactly that: they analyze and discuss music based on its content. And your post shows you value scholars, at least of the message board/ pop variety. (Other scholars focus more on artists’ stories over music: they’re historians.)


Discussing the "merits" of music is a very, very subjective process. Few folks here are musicologists (as far as I'm aware), so examining nothing *but* the "music" is something that, in all my years here, has almost never been done.

So yeah, I think if you're going to divorce the music from any context and talk about *purely* the music, then if you're *not* a musicologist and not discussing it in very technical detail, then there probably is little beyond "I like that" or "I don't like that" to go into.

"I just think the song is a bad song, it doesn't do anything for me." I've seen this sort of thing in many discussions. It's not an invalid point to make (obviously), and it can be a jumping-off point to further discussion. But, like "favorite song" polls and the like, like those polls that ask for only "personal preference" and specifically ask to *not* bring in any other context but whether one individual person like something or not (or likes one thing *more* than something else), I think there is a limit to how far that's going to carry conversation/discussion/debate.

I think the phrase "using music to assess music" is kind of silly and kind of reductive, especially when we're talking outside of very learned, specialized musicology terms. As soon as you're using your own subjectivity in deciding whether you like something, you're no longer solely using "music" to assess the music. You're bringing in your personal taste/bias, etc. Any form of criticism invariably brings in some level of context both on the "artist" side and the "consumer/critic" side.

*And*, when we're talking not about *compositions*, but rather albums/singles (e.g. *recordings*), then we're most definitely not using "music to assess music", because the process of arrangement and especially *recording* (and performance of course) brings in a number of factors outside of the actual music on the page so to speak.
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« Reply #1383 on: March 12, 2018, 07:30:45 AM »

I don't think any of us who were fans in 1988 ever dreamed Brian could come up with something like Rio Grande (or Melt Away) at the time. He was able to do those things in spite of Landy, in spite of the heavy drug cocktail.  I was expecting an album of I'm So Lonely's. You have to take all of those elements into consideration when looking at those songs.

No, you absolutely don't have to take all--or even any--of those elements into consideration when looking at those songs.

A song is as good as it is, whether it was written and recorded by a prince in the lap of luxury or a homeless veteran who scrounged up a few nickels. That Rio Grande was more than many fans expected at the time is irrelevant to how good it is. That Rio Grande was done by someone under the control of an abusive doctor is irrelevant to how good it is. The personal story surrounding the music is separate and apart from the quality of the music. The quality of music is based on the sounds that one hears when listening to it.

The shitty finger painting on your refrigerator isn't good because your 3-year-old niece painted it for you. It's still sh*t. It's just sh*t that means something more to you, regardless of its actual quality.

Depends on what "looking at those songs" means to you. If you don't care about context, about being a student of the history of the band, or of examining what songs or recordings might mean contextually, and are 100% about the pure pleasure (or lack thereof) that you derive from hearing a given song, then you can choose to look at it that way.

Obviously, I think the deal is that most fans are going to take a mixture of a number of factors to build the context around which they digest the music. Otherwise, is there much of a reason to be a "fan" of a particular band? Typically, a "fan" listens to the next new Brian or BB release because they're already a "fan." So it already has something of a context. You're presumably predisposed to digesting that next release because there is already a context: You're a fan, and you like previous output from that artist (and if you *don't* like any recent previous output and you're still listening to the stuff, then that's a whole other set of issues to examine).

I don't think it should ever be the case that we literally lower the standards of what constitutes good music because Brian (or anyone) is somehow compromised. But if Brian was going through mental anguish, or under abusive care, etc., then that does provide some appropriate context and may help one appreciate the music more.

I would argue that buried under weird synth arrangements on "Love You" are some truly excellent compositions; some amazing chord changes that some may be missing because they can't get over the weird arrangement and presentation. But separate from that, the content, especially lyrically, is informed quite a bit by and gives great insight into Brian's frame of mind at the time. It's almost frighteningly innocent and without pretense. I can't imagine a student of the band's music *and* history not finding some keenly interesting things going on with the album.

"Rio Grande" on BW '88 is a similar case. It's Brian, while being abused by Landy, having an executive egg him on to basically ape the "Smile" format to try to wring something similar out of him. It's a mixed success at best. It does feel forced/contrived, whatever. But he did write all of those sections, and it does show that the talent/ability was still buried under there somewhere.

But again, context matters if you're at all interesting in actually *studying* or *discussing* this stuff. If you're about nothing but what music gets you off, what music instantly pleases you, then nothing else matters and then, is there really much to discuss beyond saying "I like that", "I don't like that", "that's okay", etc.?

But for students/scholars of the band, it most definitely is important in digesting the music to know that Brian was f-ed up under Landy while making BW '88, or that Brian was where he was at during "Love You." It doesn't mean something has to be labeled as great, as if  "man, it's amazing he was able to string together a sentence let alone record an album", but knowing Brian's frame of mind and what he was through most definitely does help with an *appreciation* of "Love You." And understanding the contexts of these projects more *can* help one enjoy them/like them more. It doesn't mean anything is going to make "Mona" or "Little Children" great songs to me. But it might make listening to those songs more intereresting.


I get what you're saying about context, but at the end of the day, it's still about the quality of the music.  

Take Syd Barrett's solo albums.   On one hand, as a fan of early Pink Floyd, I find their mere existence to be a borderline miracle.   On the other hand, knowing Syd's story doesn't change my opinion that half the songs are pretty bad.  

Same goes for Love You and BW88.  

But context can inform what one perceives to be the "quality" of the music, and certainly one's enjoyment of the music.



I can only see context affecting my enjoyment if the music is actually something I enjoy listening to.  

Knowing Brian Wilson's story probably makes me appreciate Southern California a little more.   But, I'd probably think that was a good song, regardless of whether or not I knew the story behind Scott's lyrics.  

Knowing Freddie Mercury was dying when he recorded Innuendo really makes me appreciate the high quality of his vocals.  But, getting into Queen a bit late, I loved The Show Must Go On before I knew Freddie was dying, and knew he was dying, when he recorded it.  

But, on the other hand, knowing the 37 year struggle to get the Smile album released really don't make me believe that Smile is nearly as good as it's hype.  

And even the selective nature of what context you propose putting those projects into makes it a very personal, subjective process. That is, I think context is very important when examining "Smile." But I don't think the context of the 40+ years of its legend is the context that is particularly important. What was going on (both for Brian and the BBs and pop music in general) in 1966/67 is a more important context to put the album in.

I can't fathom not marveling at something like "Heroes and Villains" or "Our Prayer" or "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" or "Surf's Up" in reference to what else was around in pop music in 1966. It doesn't mean "good for its time" or "ahead of its time" is going to morph something from something you hate into something you love. But it adds an important layer of context, ESPECIALLY when it comes to having discussions about the material and moving beyond the "I like this, I don't like that" level of discussion.
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« Reply #1384 on: March 12, 2018, 07:46:57 AM »

I don't think any of us who were fans in 1988 ever dreamed Brian could come up with something like Rio Grande (or Melt Away) at the time. He was able to do those things in spite of Landy, in spite of the heavy drug cocktail.  I was expecting an album of I'm So Lonely's. You have to take all of those elements into consideration when looking at those songs.

No, you absolutely don't have to take all--or even any--of those elements into consideration when looking at those songs.

A song is as good as it is, whether it was written and recorded by a prince in the lap of luxury or a homeless veteran who scrounged up a few nickels. That Rio Grande was more than many fans expected at the time is irrelevant to how good it is. That Rio Grande was done by someone under the control of an abusive doctor is irrelevant to how good it is. The personal story surrounding the music is separate and apart from the quality of the music. The quality of music is based on the sounds that one hears when listening to it.

The shitty finger painting on your refrigerator isn't good because your 3-year-old niece painted it for you. It's still sh*t. It's just sh*t that means something more to you, regardless of its actual quality.

Depends on what "looking at those songs" means to you. If you don't care about context, about being a student of the history of the band, or of examining what songs or recordings might mean contextually, and are 100% about the pure pleasure (or lack thereof) that you derive from hearing a given song, then you can choose to look at it that way.

Obviously, I think the deal is that most fans are going to take a mixture of a number of factors to build the context around which they digest the music. Otherwise, is there much of a reason to be a "fan" of a particular band? Typically, a "fan" listens to the next new Brian or BB release because they're already a "fan." So it already has something of a context. You're presumably predisposed to digesting that next release because there is already a context: You're a fan, and you like previous output from that artist (and if you *don't* like any recent previous output and you're still listening to the stuff, then that's a whole other set of issues to examine).

I don't think it should ever be the case that we literally lower the standards of what constitutes good music because Brian (or anyone) is somehow compromised. But if Brian was going through mental anguish, or under abusive care, etc., then that does provide some appropriate context and may help one appreciate the music more.

I would argue that buried under weird synth arrangements on "Love You" are some truly excellent compositions; some amazing chord changes that some may be missing because they can't get over the weird arrangement and presentation. But separate from that, the content, especially lyrically, is informed quite a bit by and gives great insight into Brian's frame of mind at the time. It's almost frighteningly innocent and without pretense. I can't imagine a student of the band's music *and* history not finding some keenly interesting things going on with the album.

"Rio Grande" on BW '88 is a similar case. It's Brian, while being abused by Landy, having an executive egg him on to basically ape the "Smile" format to try to wring something similar out of him. It's a mixed success at best. It does feel forced/contrived, whatever. But he did write all of those sections, and it does show that the talent/ability was still buried under there somewhere.

But again, context matters if you're at all interesting in actually *studying* or *discussing* this stuff. If you're about nothing but what music gets you off, what music instantly pleases you, then nothing else matters and then, is there really much to discuss beyond saying "I like that", "I don't like that", "that's okay", etc.?

But for students/scholars of the band, it most definitely is important in digesting the music to know that Brian was f-ed up under Landy while making BW '88, or that Brian was where he was at during "Love You." It doesn't mean something has to be labeled as great, as if  "man, it's amazing he was able to string together a sentence let alone record an album", but knowing Brian's frame of mind and what he was through most definitely does help with an *appreciation* of "Love You." And understanding the contexts of these projects more *can* help one enjoy them/like them more. It doesn't mean anything is going to make "Mona" or "Little Children" great songs to me. But it might make listening to those songs more intereresting.


I get what you're saying about context, but at the end of the day, it's still about the quality of the music.  

Take Syd Barrett's solo albums.   On one hand, as a fan of early Pink Floyd, I find their mere existence to be a borderline miracle.   On the other hand, knowing Syd's story doesn't change my opinion that half the songs are pretty bad.  

Same goes for Love You and BW88.  

But context can inform what one perceives to be the "quality" of the music, and certainly one's enjoyment of the music.



I can only see context affecting my enjoyment if the music is actually something I enjoy listening to.  

Knowing Brian Wilson's story probably makes me appreciate Southern California a little more.   But, I'd probably think that was a good song, regardless of whether or not I knew the story behind Scott's lyrics.  

Knowing Freddie Mercury was dying when he recorded Innuendo really makes me appreciate the high quality of his vocals.  But, getting into Queen a bit late, I loved The Show Must Go On before I knew Freddie was dying, and knew he was dying, when he recorded it.  

But, on the other hand, knowing the 37 year struggle to get the Smile album released really don't make me believe that Smile is nearly as good as it's hype.  

And even the selective nature of what context you propose putting those projects into makes it a very personal, subjective process. That is, I think context is very important when examining "Smile." But I don't think the context of the 40+ years of its legend is the context that is particularly important. What was going on (both for Brian and the BBs and pop music in general) in 1966/67 is a more important context to put the album in.

I can't fathom not marveling at something like "Heroes and Villains" or "Our Prayer" or "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" or "Surf's Up" in reference to what else was around in pop music in 1966. It doesn't mean "good for its time" or "ahead of its time" is going to morph something from something you hate into something you love. But it adds an important layer of context, ESPECIALLY when it comes to having discussions about the material and moving beyond the "I like this, I don't like that" level of discussion.

I do marvel at H&V, Our Prayer, Surf's Up, Cabinessence, Wonderful, and GV.....but I can't say the same for the likes of Wind Chimes, Do You Like Worms, Barnyard, or especially Vegetables.   Which is why I don't consider Smile a great album.
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« Reply #1385 on: March 12, 2018, 11:38:38 AM »

Loaded question time... how many people would have felt that in 1967?


Not trying to start anything...it’s something I have always wondered.
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« Reply #1386 on: March 12, 2018, 11:54:12 AM »

Loaded question time... how many people would have felt that in 1967?


Not trying to start anything...it’s something I have always wondered.

I'd feel my assessment of Smile would pretty much be the same.   

I think Our Prayer, Heroes & Villains, Surf's Up, Wonderful, Cabinessence, and GV are great in any year.   I also feel that Do You Like Worms, Barnyard, and Vegetables are pretty bad in any year. 

However, hot take, I don't think Smile would be nearly as revered as an album had it been released in 1967, and the myth / legend didn't have a chance to grow over time. 

But....if Surf's Up in its completed form had been released in 1967, I think it would be a lot more highly regarded outside of BB fans. 
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« Reply #1387 on: March 12, 2018, 01:52:35 PM »

Loaded question time... how many people would have felt that in 1967?


Not trying to start anything...it’s something I have always wondered.

No one intelligent would have Billy...unless they were listening to Smiley Smile.  Some of THAT is pretty effin' pissy.  It's sounds to me exactly like 2 great hit singles attached to an album that would better have been called 'Who Gives a Tinker's f***?'  The cover would have been just plain green and folks would either refer to it as 'The Green Album'...or...'The Beach Boys We Give Up Record.'
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« Reply #1388 on: March 12, 2018, 03:41:48 PM »

We all say that now but 1) a lot of it comes with 50 years of perspective and 2) we’re die hard fans of The Beach Boys so we automatically have better taste than the average music listener. Even now... my musician friends mostly love it, but it’s too weird for most of my “average “ friends. I’m bringing this up because I had company over the other day and someone made a comment about the music I was listening to. Of course, this is coming from someone who only likes the pre pet sounds stuff and prefers the John Stamos version of Forever Roll Eyes Sadly, there are a lot of those types in the general public, especially with entertainment in general becoming more and more homogenized with every passing year. I wasn’t around in the 60s, so everything I know about the tastes of the general music buying public back then is viewed through the prism of history. For those who were...would Smile have had the same impact that we all would like it to have? It’s a topic we’ve discussed many times, but if you feel it wouldn’t have, this topic is as good a place to discuss it as any.
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« Reply #1389 on: March 12, 2018, 04:24:39 PM »

Like Billy, I wasn't around in the '60s (or conscious in the '70s, though I enjoyed a solid three-and-a-half years of those). So I'm speculating more than some here.

But I can't imagine Smile would have had the impact that die-hard Beach Boys fans who waited almost 40 years for it wished, dreamed, and sometimes still insist it would have had. The reason I say so is that our sample group (say, all albums released by popular bands to some substantial hype) shows that most albums don't. The comparison for decades was Pepper. Well, how many albums were Pepper? (One, and plenty of people have spent the past 20 years shitting on that.) Most albums, including most hyped albums by great bands, aren't considered era-changing, even when they're considered great. This one could have been unique, but the odds are against it.

Beyond that, it isn't just about comparing it to other big acts' hyped albums, but to a big act's hyped non-album whose myth grew for decades. There are, naturally, fewer comparisons at this point. VU's would-be third album, Beefheart's Bat Chain Puller...and these aren't remotely similar in terms of popularity.

In short, I think the hype after the fact makes living up the the hype before the fact unlikely to impossible. A 1967 Smile could not have lived up to the hype that 2003 pre-Smile had reached.

If I may speculate--and frankly, what are you going to do to stop me, tough guy?--I'd guess it would have been a mediocre seller with a ton of hipster cred at the time and since, cycling through lists of best-ofs based on the changing fashions of subsequent years. KDS is right that something like a finished Surf's Up would have been acknowledged as immaculate, and set alongside the other cornerstones of the album, it would have been impressive for sure.





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« Reply #1390 on: March 12, 2018, 04:27:34 PM »

Aw f***, this reminds me that I'm supposed to go back to my previous posts and HeyJude's and put together a thoughtful restatement of my point and/or response to his. Damnit. I'm not in the mood. I'm trying to drink, here. And you've gotta leave room for liquor.
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« Reply #1391 on: March 12, 2018, 05:19:37 PM »

I think it would have had a huge impact if SMiLE had been released in a timely fashion.  The 'Boys' would have done Monterey and they would have been seen in an entirely different light.  It would have meant that Brian was healthy.  It would have shut a certain negative force right the f*** down and while their heritage would have always been saluted and appreciated from the stage and from the seats alike...Sha Na Na with sand pails and, subsequently, the Beached Boys would have never seen the light of day.  At some point along the collective path the band would have taken breaks...sometimes longer ones...in order to allow for some solo and side project work but reunions or continuations would have always been the highly anticipated norm.

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« Reply #1392 on: March 12, 2018, 11:57:02 PM »

It kind of puzzles me that the hip crowd didn't tune in to Smiley Smile. Some of the vocals on that album are just effing amazing! But I guess the hip people were more into 20 minute guitar solos than out of this world vocals. So maybe Smile wouldn't have blown them away, either.
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« Reply #1393 on: March 13, 2018, 12:08:53 AM »

I love Smiley Smile. What concerns me is something you kind of touched on. The general public didn’t diss Smiley because it sucked, the felt it sucked because it was too weird for them
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« Reply #1394 on: March 13, 2018, 11:15:45 AM »

It kind of puzzles me that the hip crowd didn't tune in to Smiley Smile. Some of the vocals on that album are just effing amazing! But I guess the hip people were more into 20 minute guitar solos than out of this world vocals. So maybe Smile wouldn't have blown them away, either.

This: by 1967 people were starting to get into 20 minute guitar solos. Smile's near chamber music approach would have enjoyed a short success, then been wiped out by the big guitars and later by prog rock.
What happened to the Beach Boys after Smiley Smile makes us practically forget that the Beatles, with all their clout and with Sgt. Pepper's success, struggled for a couple years and then dissolved.
No, I don't think Smile would have changed music history. You don't stop a juggernaut with gossamer voices and the tinkling of wind chimes, nor with Swedish frogs. Smiley
But not being released in 1967 transformed Smile into something unique, the musical haunt of our lives, forever just beyond reach, and for that reason forever fascinating.
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« Reply #1395 on: March 13, 2018, 12:02:32 PM »

This has turned into a fascinating discussion.

I think if Smile were released in 1967, it would have sold massively because of the hype and promotion it received. I mean, look at 15 Big Ones. It was super hyped, and it sold like crazy despite being mediocre at best. Whether it lived up to the hype is another question, but I find it hard to believe it wouldn't have been a big success.

However, music was still changing massively fast. I wonder how a completed Smile in 1967 would have impacted the rest of their career. Would Brian have fallen as deep into drugs? Would he have ceded control of the band? Would Carl and Dennis still have emerged as strong songwriters like they did in the late 1960s and into 1970s? These are fascinating questions to ponder.
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« Reply #1396 on: March 13, 2018, 02:26:32 PM »


What happened to the Beach Boys after Smiley Smile makes us practically forget that the Beatles, with all their clout and with Sgt. Pepper's success, struggled for a couple years and then dissolved.


Though, to be clear, while the Beatles had plenty of internal struggles post-1967, they had zero commercial problems, and continued to sell well and hit #1 on albums and singles charts until the end in 1970.

The BBs internal problems coincided to some degree with a decline in sales/chart position, etc.
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« Reply #1397 on: March 13, 2018, 02:29:19 PM »

I don't think there's any chance that, had any iteration of "Smile" been released in 1967, that it would have rivaled Sgt. Pepper (or "Magical Mystery Tour", etc.) in terms of sales or chart position. It probably would have failed to surpass what "Pet Sounds" did in 1966.

Fan reaction would have been (obviously) mixed.

Critical reaction both in terms of contemporary criticism as well as the long-term view of the album are much harder to guess at. I'm sure "Smile" would have been rightly heralded as an amazing piece of music by those who were qualified to see its genius.

But it would not have shot the BBs back to the top of the charts in 1967, nearly a year after "Good Vibrations" had topped the chart.
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« Reply #1398 on: March 13, 2018, 03:49:31 PM »

Hopefully this don't just sound like i'm coming from a place of arrogance but since i'm in my 20s I don't think the level of coolness or sales for our favourite bands back in the 60s means very much anymore does it? It's all dinosaur music at this point. Wink

I think in this day and age it's just wonderful to have all that incredible music out there from The Beach Boys OUT THERE for everyone to listen too. Looking back, despite everything else losing Carl at a young age is by far the biggest tragedy in the BB story in the last 35 years.

Also just look at how different The Beach Boys reputation is now.. I mean, just over 20 years ago the Beach Boys were recording the crap tastic Stars and Stripes Vol. 1 and being used as backing singers for Status Quo on UK tv! Ugh. Their musical reputation has never been more acclaimed than it is now. I've seen/met a lot of younger people that like the Beach Boys. Despite Mike Love's endless touring jukebox, it is largely Brian Wilson that the critics and music fans think of when they think of classic Beach Boys. Although that could largely be the influence of a million indie bands who worship at the church of Brian. Not to mention that the '67-'73 material + Love You + Pacific Ocean Blue have grown a hell of a lot in stature too. Plus of course the SMiLE and PET SOUNDS related projects have received rapturous acclaim and attention from music fans the world over.

There is still a lot of love and appreciation for the group that's become even more apparent in the 21st century, the 50th anniversary, the Love & Mercy film and BBC 'God Only Knows' release confirms that The Beach Boys will only increasingly be looked back upon as in the top tier of 'classic pop/rock' music of the last 50+ years. A similar situation to other uncool bands of the sixties like The Kinks and The Monkees whose reputation has only grown also. All the band politics stuff, gets washed away when you listen to 'Good Vibrations', 'All Summer Long' or 'Holland' or whatever. Listening to The Stones or The Who in 2018 is hardly a million miles less cool than listening to The Beach Boys at this point in time. Wink

Thank god (and the Beach Boys) for making all that fantastic music! RIP to Carl and Denny. Long live Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, Blondie Chaplin ect. Keep creating that wonderful life-affirming music guys, especially Brian!
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« Reply #1399 on: March 13, 2018, 04:16:51 PM »

It’s an interesting thing, context. I feel that for me this conversation may partly explain why there is so much love out there in the fan base for Rio Grande and BW88 as a whole.

I think there's some truth to that.   But, I also think underneath the really bad production, there are some really good songs on the album.   I just don't consider Rio Grande to be one of them.  

Agreed, although for me L&M and Melt Away are the only songs worth writing home about.
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