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Author Topic: Bruce Johnston's 1968 Solo Project - Polydor - "...Little Help..." Solo Single?  (Read 2713 times)
guitarfool2002
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« on: February 08, 2019, 10:43:09 AM »

After that lost/rarely seen 1968 tour film footage showed up here, I went back and looked up some articles from this era and found an NME issue dated March 2, 1968...It's available online and I'll post the link here. It's the music news/gossip column from Ann Moses, where she mentions Mike Love trying to organize the Maharishi tour with the Buffalo Springfield, but it also mentions something else about Bruce which I found fascinating.

I'm *sure* this topic has been covered before, but here it is anyway for further discussion, and maybe some fans were not aware of this footnote in the band's history.

Calling on all who have the details to chime in about the Bruce Johnston solo album, single, and (according to the article) label deal with Polydor as of early 1968.

We've all heard the unreleased "With A Little Help From My Friends" cover since that rarities compilation decades ago. It's funny on YouTube to read old comments debating who is singing lead, how or if the tape was slowed, etc. Then three versions of it come out on the Sunshine Tomorrow release.

OK...So all of that history pegs it as a Beach Boys track, but with Bruce alone taking a lead vocal (which I believe would be the first time he had done so as of 1967/68.

Yet the article also states as of early 1968 that Bruce was going to release "With A Little Help..." as a solo single release on the Polydor label, and that his music partner Terry Melcher would be producing Bruce's tracks to be released on Polydor.

It also says Bruce played a sample of his solo album to Ann Moses over the phone. Was it "With A Little Help..." which is on Sunshine Tomorrow and Rarities, or was it something else unknown and unnamed in the article which Bruce had recorded by early '68 that he could play for someone?

Anyway, just conversation and wondering if there are more pieces to this. Or, if anything else from the Bruce & Terry produced Polydor project ever got recorded and exists beyond what may be known already, and especially what people think of "Little Help" after reading the article.

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« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2019, 11:14:26 AM »

This is fascinating. I had never heard of this.
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« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2019, 12:03:28 PM »

I believe that this was something that rankled the other BBs during Bruce’s first tenure as a bb. There was a general belief that he was keeping his options open and possibly angling for a solo career-rightly or wrongly.
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« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2019, 12:10:10 PM »

Someone needs to interview Patti Dahlstrom.
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guitarfool2002
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« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2019, 12:15:23 PM »

Were there any other reports of this solo project from Bruce from that era similar to Ann Moses' piece above, or even reports of it in any of the histories? I'm hard pressed to think of any that I've come across, surely none that suggest Bruce actually had a deal with Polydor for at least a single and album as this article said. Even that factor would suggest some tension, as in why would Bruce be on Polydor instead of being offered something through Brother Records, which as we know was set up with the intention of allowing band members to do solo activities, including producing. I thought there would be tension if Bruce said "Hey guys, I'm signing with Polydor..." at the same time the band was invested in getting Brother off the ground.

But what really stands out too is "With A Little Help From My Friends". I went back and listened to that version that was on "Rarities", and honestly I'm hearing a lot of Bruce in the backing vocals. I'm fascinated to know what Bruce played for Ann Moses, and whether "With A Little Help..." was what he played in some incarnation. Especially since I can't recall any other solo Bruce tracks from late 67 into early 68 being referenced too often if at all, and made even more interesting by the fact it was a track included on Beach Boys comps that is the only lead vocal we have from Bruce - period - from this same time frame.

Does anyone else hear "With A Little Help..." with a lot more of Bruce stacked in those backing vocals than the other BB's? It was a track that never fit anyway...IMO.
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« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2019, 12:15:37 PM »

I wonder what Bruce's primary motivation for wanting a solo career (or being in music at all) was back in the 60s.

Certainly today, there's no evidence he particularly likes to sing, play music, or write music. He does little of that now nor has he in eons. I mean, I have little doubt that he has some demos from over the years lurking around, maybe even a ton. But he seems to have zero interest in writing, performing/recording, and *releasing* music simply for the sake of doing it.

You can even read his comments back in the mid-late 80s and early 90s, he's fixated even then not on the band *creating*, but having a "hit."

Bruce is a fine piano player, a good vocalist, and did great work within the framework of the BBs. But I don't think his songwriting or solo performing in general was ever going to launch on ongoing, robust solo career. I can't say "I Write the Songs" is his only true commercial success, but it's by leaps and bounds one of very few. Even during the height of his powers when the song was out, his eventual "Going Public" solo album sank. I sense a 1968/69 Bruce album may have done even worse if it was full of things like "Bluebirds Over the Mountain" and "The Nearest Faraway Place."

It's ironic, he easily seems to work better within a larger group framework, yet he ended up contributing very little to the band on stage or in the studio upon his 1978 return, especially after LA and KTSA.
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« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2019, 12:24:41 PM »

Someone needs to interview Patti Dahlstrom.

True. Some fascinating info on both Bruce and Tony Asher might come from that interview if she would be willing to go there.  Wink
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« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2019, 12:39:35 PM »

Interesting that the article says Bruce “ will be “ cutting the single - meaning the Sunshine Tomorrow/Rarities track Bruce considered a demo, rather than a finished track for the Lei’d in Hawaii album.  Or he thought it would make a good single with a different more polished production so wanted to recut and repurpose the track.
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« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2019, 12:42:47 PM »

Wasn't Bluebirds originally going to be a Bruce solo track?  Maybe that is what she heard.
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« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2019, 01:03:17 PM »

Wasn't Bluebirds originally going to be a Bruce solo track?  Maybe that is what she heard.

Exactly. He also cut something called "Fanfare" for Columbia in late July of '67 (I have a copy of the AFM contract). Was that ever released?
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« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2019, 01:07:32 PM »

The backing vocals on With a Little Help just sound like Carl and Mike double-tracked to me.
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« Reply #11 on: February 08, 2019, 01:26:16 PM »

Truly fascinating, and I had no idea of this.

Wonder what the band would've done if Bruce had in fact quit around this time. Or if he tried to not quit by keeping up the solo career and doing double duty as a Beach Boy; would that have resulted in him being fired?

And if so, who would have replaced him? Was Billy Hinsche being groomed to replace Bruce around this time, perhaps for these reasons? Or am I misremembering/misinterpreting some stuff I've read before?
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Tony S
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« Reply #12 on: February 08, 2019, 01:36:48 PM »

I believe Billy was being groomed to replace Bruce at that time. Right around the time that Bruce gave up his share in the beachboy corporation as well as an owner. As far as his contributions then and now let's be real Bruce has contributed very little next to nothing on stage other than hand clapping for years and years and years now. Take him off the stage and  the show wouldn't miss a beat without him
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« Reply #13 on: February 08, 2019, 01:41:57 PM »

I believe Billy was being groomed to replace Bruce at that time. Right around the time that Bruce gave up his share in the beachboy corporation as well as an owner. As far as his contributions then and now let's be real Bruce has contributed very little next to nothing on stage other than hand clapping for years and years and years now. Take him off the stage and  the show wouldn't miss a beat without him

Well back then, especially on a video that was circulating online recently (a black-and-white complete show from around '68 or '69 from Europe), I recall that Bruce was actually playing lots of piano and singing quite a bit. I think he was definitely adding quite a bit for awhile, but over the years, what you've described absolutely occurred. I think it was probably more gradual though.
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« Reply #14 on: February 08, 2019, 03:28:07 PM »

I detailed various incidents in my book (with Jon) if you look under May 1967 you’ll see that I discussed an interview he did after the European tour where he admits that he seldom socializes with the group and has little in common with them. I also noted that he took almost no part in the smiley smile sessions because “it all got too weird.” Also note that the BBs in early 68 gave faint praise/blame for bluebirds to Bruce. In  November-December 1970 I quoted the reviewer who noted that the BBs seemed quite irritated when Bruce would take a solo turn to do tears in the morning (he taped a solo tv spot on that tour as well). I presented all the various bb quotes about his departure in April 1972-many of which were passively hostile
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« Reply #15 on: February 08, 2019, 04:03:49 PM »

Just from a flick through the Uncut Ultimate Music Guide interviews, maybe I've missed some.

Melody Maker, December 23, 1967: "We have our own record company, Brother Records, and we're setting up foreign deals and finding artist. Apart from that, I'm going to make a solo record for Polydor which will be cut in the States".

NME, March 23, 1968: "Included in The Beach Boys' recording plans are Bruce's own solo album, which features him singing the Lennon & McCartney composition "With A Little Help From My Friends". He played me his interpretation of this on the piano over the phone - believe it or not he has made a very listenable waltz out it!

NME, March 22, 1969: "I'm [Bruce] writing music for a beautiful film about surfing... It hasn't got a title yet, but the people who are making it have a movie called Free And Easy which they're showing at selected cinemas."

NME, June 7, 1969: ""Two and a half years ago, when we lost out bass player, we were thinking of asking Bruce to join us again", Mark [Lindsay, from Paul Revere and the Raiders] revealed. "Yeah, I was browned off with The Beach Boys, it was that bad period", Bruce agreed, no douibt thinking how fortunate he had been in making the decision to stay with the what must be the world's top working group".

NME, June 10 and 17, 1972: Mike: "Bruce is definitely on a solo trip, he is a good solo performer, he writes fantastic songs by himself, and the time he spent writing alone isolated him from the group. He had his own interests, his own relationships with the press, and he played a game that was oblique to The Beach Boys. But now he is free to do as he pleases. The Beach Boys never threw Bruce out, he was just on a tangent that was outside The Beach Boys for so many years. His wholeidea of the future is to be a songwriter and have a TV show, and it's all based on individual music taste and individual aspirations, which are fine, but not within the framework of a group. That was what was good about Bruce leaving the group"

the interviewer really loved Bruce (no doubt as he gave lots of great interviews to NME over the years), so there are a few more questions about this but all are along a similar line
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« Reply #16 on: February 08, 2019, 06:52:29 PM »

I remember when he joined the group. It was never much a big deal for me. I never cared much for his voice or his attempts to write songs for the group. I'd say that back in the day I thought Disney Girls was about the best thing he did but I was totally uninterested in the rest of his efforts. He always seemed like an odd choice. I wonder why he's a part of Mike Love's Beach Boys Band. He does not do anything that enhances that juke box show in any way. Makes me wonder if Bruce has something major on Mike and can never be fired.
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« Reply #17 on: February 08, 2019, 10:07:52 PM »

I detailed various incidents in my book (with Jon) if you look under May 1967 you’ll see that I discussed an interview he did after the European tour where he admits that he seldom socializes with the group and has little in common with them. I also noted that he took almost no part in the smiley smile sessions because “it all got too weird.” Also note that the BBs in early 68 gave faint praise/blame for bluebirds to Bruce. In  November-December 1970 I quoted the reviewer who noted that the BBs seemed quite irritated when Bruce would take a solo turn to do tears in the morning (he taped a solo tv spot on that tour as well). I presented all the various bb quotes about his departure in April 1972-many of which were passively hostile

Very interesting, but also a little weird considering it doesn't seem like anybody was twisting Brian, Mike, Carl, Dennis or Al's arm to keep Bruce around. For whatever reason, they must have considered him tough to replace, considering they never really did until 1972 when they made Blondie a full member.
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« Reply #18 on: February 08, 2019, 11:20:57 PM »

I detailed various incidents in my book (with Jon) if you look under May 1967 you’ll see that I discussed an interview he did after the European tour where he admits that he seldom socializes with the group and has little in common with them. I also noted that he took almost no part in the smiley smile sessions because “it all got too weird.” Also note that the BBs in early 68 gave faint praise/blame for bluebirds to Bruce. In  November-December 1970 I quoted the reviewer who noted that the BBs seemed quite irritated when Bruce would take a solo turn to do tears in the morning (he taped a solo tv spot on that tour as well). I presented all the various bb quotes about his departure in April 1972-many of which were passively hostile


So what I don't get is... if it irked the band so much that Bruce had a solo spot in the show, it begs the question 'why allow it ?'. Four of them bow down to the power of one ? Methinks not...
Watching the Paris '69 show with TNFP, as lovely and pretty as it is, makes you wonder why other, far greater 'hits' were omitted in favour of playing this. Simply promotion for the then-new 20/20 album ?? And the others were happy to walk off stage for this ?

https://youtu.be/YHdi3zW78pg
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« Reply #19 on: February 09, 2019, 06:35:49 AM »

The video from Paris was really great. Reminds me of three things 1. these guys were really good when it was basically then and a few supporting musicians on stage 2. Bruce Ashley did contribute quite a bit on stage during that time. Both vocally and musically particularly on the Oregon and 3. what a loser Mike love was and still is.
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« Reply #20 on: February 09, 2019, 11:00:17 AM »

Scoring that surf film would have been interesting.

It seems like there is a pattern throughout Bruce's career for starting projects that never see the finish line. Even in later years, where the motivation would surely have been even further diminished, There were supposed attempts at a follow up to Goin Public, (financed by Japanese investors I think?) Country Music songwriting in Nashville, a stab at writing for TV and Movies.

Maybe if Terry hadn't had so much going on in his life, managing his Mom's affairs etc, he could have been the guy to help Bruce follow through and get some stuff done. It would be awesome if Bruce surprised us with a late solo effort; something retro surf.
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« Reply #21 on: February 09, 2019, 12:56:38 PM »

It seems to me that the majority of BBs were pretty passive aggressive and seldom expressed their resentment out loud-when they did all finally express their opinions in 1977 the whole band came very close to breaking up
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« Reply #22 on: February 10, 2019, 08:20:50 AM »

I believe Billy was being groomed to replace Bruce at that time. Right around the time that Bruce gave up his share in the beachboy corporation as well as an owner. As far as his contributions then and now let's be real Bruce has contributed very little next to nothing on stage other than hand clapping for years and years and years now. Take him off the stage and  the show wouldn't miss a beat without him

And yet, a year or two back, when Bruce missed a show or two, people here commented on how the live vocal stack was much weaker without him. I think they were comparing YouTube videos from those shows to recent shows with Bruce (I didn't myself). I'm sure someone can find that thread, if they are so inclined.
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« Reply #23 on: February 10, 2019, 06:27:00 PM »

For "Think About the Days' on "that's why god made the radio"-- is Bruce doing the falsetto on that one? I swear I read that.
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« Reply #24 on: February 10, 2019, 10:02:20 PM »

For "Think About the Days' on "that's why god made the radio"-- is Bruce doing the falsetto on that one? I swear I read that.


Yes, he is singing a high falsetto part. IIRC, there is another sung by Foskett. He also sings a noticeable falsetto line on "Bill and Sue".
« Last Edit: February 10, 2019, 10:03:45 PM by c-man » Logged
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