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650584 Posts in 25999 Topics by 3711 Members - Latest Member: whiskeyhill September 17, 2019, 01:48:58 AM
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Author Topic: Friends / Little Bird single  (Read 791 times)
WonderBill
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« on: February 28, 2019, 07:45:46 PM »

On the list of the top 30 most played songs on my iTunes, coming in at #1 ahead of Something by The Beatles, Shoot To Thrill by AC/DC, and Black Dog by Led Zeppelin... is none other than Little Bird.

If I didn't have a computer counting how many times I've played each song, I probably would not have guessed that one was #1, but obviously the proof is in the pudding.  Grin

Something about this song is very mesmerizing, and it's hard to describe why. I guess it probably comes down to the vocal harmonies of the group being some of the best ever recorded. It really is too bad the song isn't very well known outside of hardcore fans. I actually played it not long ago when some of my hippie friends were over and we were having some smokes.  Smokin

They actually really liked it. As a matter of fact, one of them asked me the name of the album it was on so she could stream it on Spotify. I also remember her commenting on how cool the album cover for Friends is.

But being a radio DJ myself, I've always wondered how this song ended up being the flip side of the single. At the time the song was released, the band hadn't completely faded into obscurity yet; and the previous single had been a top 20 hit (also reaching #2 in their hometown). With Friends stalling at #47, it kind of baffles me that some jocks weren't flipping the record over and playing the even more catchy flip side! Especially considering the band had pretty good amount of B-sides that became minor hits themselves (at least by '60s standards). Not to mention some stations treating the B-side as the hit side.

In LA for example, God Only Knows was the hit single instead of Wouldn't It Be Nice; and in Washington, Don't Worry Baby hit #1 in 1964 rather than I Get Around.

But even though the songs did not formally hit the charts, that doesn't mean it wasn't played at all back then. Does anyone remember hearing on the radio when the single was out?
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Over and over,
The crow cries uncover the cornfield...
Over and over,
The thresher and hover the wheat field...
gxios
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« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2019, 08:03:18 AM »

In the Washington DC area, I never heard Little Bird on the radio, but Friends got played regularly for a short while, enough to memorize the lyrics.
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Don Malcolm
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« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2019, 03:34:46 PM »

WonderBill, enjoying your posts and interested to see you continue to provide whatever regional data you might have for Beach Boys chart activity in the 60s--a fascinating topic. Like glxos, I never heard "Little Bird" on the radio.

As for "Friends" the single, however, I always wondered why the single was put out when it was (well ahead of the album). Was it usual practice to put a 45 out that far in advance of the LP (two and a half months)? The year before, "Wild Honey" was released two months ahead of the LP (mid-October and mid-December respectively), but in this instance the LP's release was accompanied by the release of "Darlin'" as a follow-up single. Two weeks after the release of the FRIENDS LP, "Do It Again" was put out as a 45--but even though its somewhat "retro" sound did reasonably well on the US charts, it wasn't on FRIENDS and so it did little or nothing to help spur album sales.

I'd venture to say that there was a lot of talk about how the Beach Boys could regroup from the bewilderment that greeted SMILEY SMILE and that aggressive actions took place to try to make WILD HONEY as successful as possible. "Darlin'" did crack the Top 20 and it does appear to have helped get the WILD HONEY LP into the Top 25, which was actually the best chart position the band achieved with an LP until the ENDLESS SUMMER reissue in 1974.

It looks like Capitol and the BBs just dropped the ball on FRIENDS, and decided to just bury the record once "Friends" the 45 fell off the charts so quickly. As to why DJs didn't turn the record over, could it be that the BBs had recently been putting weird stuff on the B-sides of their singles? Consider: the flip side of "Good Vibrations" is "Let's Go Away For Awhile." Even accounting for a monster hit, not much incentive to turn that record over. Next: the flip side of "Heroes & Villains" is "You're Welcome." Again, not much reason to swap it out. We'll pass on "Gettin' Hungry," as it seems to have been a kind of "vanity release." (But let's at least as the question: was "Devoted to You," as lovely as it is, going to become an AM hit in 1967?)

Next: "Wild Honey", brought out in mid-October while the rest of the LP was still being finalized, has "Wind Chimes" as its B-side. Talk about day and night. In December, "Darlin'" is released and another "Wild Honey" track accompanies it: "Country Air." Nice tune, most of us really like it, but would DJs have been inclined to play it? Maybe another of the more driving tracks, like "Aren't You Glad" or "A Thing or Two" could have been contenders for that--or maybe they could have been contenders to be the "Friends" B-side, which would have given more contrast to the 45 than "Little Bird."

Which brings us to "Friends/Little Bird." I certainly agree that "Little Bird" is a great track; but given that it doesn't provide a strong contrast to the A-side, at least initially, it seems unlikely to have grabbed DJs' attention in 1968. It would have been only the second time Dennis would be the lead vocalist, which might have given the song an (undeserved) demerit in some minds at the time. The suite-like structure of the song also might have been a bit perplexing to a plurality of the DJs in 1968.

But mainly, the tendency of the BBs to put "artier" or "arcane" or "retro" stuff on their B-sides in this time frame may have simply contributed to the fact that DJs dismissed even the idea of using the B-side as an alternative. Not to say that such was the correct response to those songs, but once a pattern has been established, it could have simply been stuck in their minds that the BBs' B-sides were simply not radio-friendly.

Things got a bit better with the subsequent singles, and they used more and more Dennis tracks (listed in bold):

"Do It Again"/"Wake The World"
"Bluebirds Over the Mountain"/"Never Learn Not to Love" (OK, a Dennis-cum-Charlie Manson song...but at least with a Dennis vocal)
"I Can Hear Music"/"All I Want to Do"
"Break Away"/"Celebrate the News"

...and then it was onto Warners, where things got even worse in terms of 45s. As the Carpenters' "Close to You" was taking over the charts, "Slip On Through"/"This Whole World," arguably the best BBs 45 since "Wouldn't It Be Nice"/"God Only Knows," simply fell off a cliff. Of course, at this point Fred Vail's on-screen recitation of his experiences trying to promote BBs 45s in 1970 comes into play...and they never could get back to the top of AM radio with original material in the 70s.
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