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Author Topic: Brian's vocal decline - when is it first noticeable to you?  (Read 4628 times)
sloopjohnb72
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« Reply #25 on: December 29, 2020, 12:41:49 PM »

Brian's voice changing and declining are two quite different things. For a first change to his default sound that wasn't just age, it's probably Summer Days, or post-LSD. You can hear him expanding on that more fully through Pet Sounds, experimenting with different vocal styles, singing in a less 'mannered' way, belting higher notes in his chest voice, etc.

The next noticeable change is Hawaii '67 and Wild Honey. He drops the rounded, Bob Flanigan-y stylings even more fully and starts embracing something closer to his natural speaking voice. It's lighter and the phrasing's less considered. Brian's less likely to slide up into his head voice as one smooth sound, more likely to do a clean break, leaning on the nasal squawkiness as a default rather than just something he can do. And his voice was a little weaker by then from not using it so much on the road - he bails on Wouldn't It Be Nice not because he can't do it, he just doesn't have the energy to do it easily. I don't think that's a notice of any permanent decline though. Probably for the same reason, he started going lower and lower in his head voice to cover parts that he once would've yelled on Pet Sounds.

1968 continues the trend and pushes it further. More nasal squawky high voice, more relaxed conversational full voice. He's avoiding most of the challenging stuff. And it's about here that he starts doing that fragile pushed thing from the front of his throat (I call it 'Elf Brian') that turned into his natural sound through the early 70s, even closer to speak-singing. By the time he does We're Together Again and Walk On By the squawk is in full effect, and when he tries to pull a 1963 Brian on the early Do It Again by singing the bridge up high it comes out incredibly thin and cutting, none of the fullness that used to be there. I'm sure he could've imitated his younger self slightly better with some thought, it's just not the way he sang anymore.

The 'pause' happens, and then I think the first real decline is there in the Break Away scratch vocal. It's good, but you can tell Brian's struggling to do what he used to do without extra effort. Besides not singing very often it'd add up that he first used cocaine in '69. He pulls it together for the final proper opening verses though - that's pretty much the last difficult range-y vocal where you could close your eyes and picture Pet Sounds Brian doing it. By late '69 to early '70 it's really getting noticeable. Thinner, cracking sometimes, less resonance. He's now probably the weak link in the group (after IMO being the strongest & most consistent at the Lei'd in Hawaii shows), although obviously still great when used in the right places. On Games Two Can Play he's doing Busy Doin' Nothin' but it's not happening in the same way. From there I think it's a steady decline from coke and inactivity to Murry dying. In some 1971 stuff his voice is pretty shot.

The 15 Big Ones voice is a whole other cocktail. That's a deliberate, extreme change (plus a lot of actual damage), and I don't think there's much of a suggestion of it until 1974ish. He abused his vocal chords and put on another voice so heavily in such a special combination that it made him metamorphose into Bill Murray. In He Come Down, that's a guy trying to sound like someone else, not a reflection of his natural sound. It's kind of a mystery how that did become his default talking/singing voice so quickly and so thoroughly.

I love this thoughtful analysis, but balk at the notion that Brian became the vocal "weak link" in the group...even as his voice thins and reeds out in the early 70s and he draws into the background, his tone retains that singular "Brian Wilson" quality and tonality that encapsulates the sound of the Beach Boys. To me a perfect example is the bridge/outro on "You Need a Mess of Help to Stand Alone;" once you pick out Brian, in a low-mid range, doing that simple buried "She don't know it" ---- that TONE! Nobody else in the group had that level of pure vibe vocally, even on such a low burn.
I wouldn't necessarily say that Brian being the weak point in the group is untrue. I think 5 of the other guys were at their all time best in the late 60s and early 70s, and that just happened to be when Brian's voice began to decline. Still an extremely unique and enjoyable tone, just not as strong as everyone else.
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Jay
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« Reply #26 on: December 31, 2020, 04:46:40 AM »

The first slight change that I can detect is on "Where Is She?". He strains slightly on the line "Thinking of me, I want her to be on her way home".
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Lonely Summer
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« Reply #27 on: December 31, 2020, 12:30:19 PM »

The first slight change that I can detect is on "Where Is She?". He strains slightly on the line "Thinking of me, I want her to be on her way home".
I don't recall ever hearing this song.
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« Reply #28 on: December 31, 2020, 12:46:16 PM »

It痴 on Made in California

https://youtu.be/wIocg_Rhzag
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« Reply #29 on: January 01, 2021, 09:38:16 AM »

Man, I don't hear any "decline" at all. It's a beautiful vocal. I think some of you guys have a narrative in your head and you're going to stick with it no matter what.
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Tom
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« Reply #30 on: January 01, 2021, 04:24:16 PM »

Have you heard his early 70's vocals? It's pretty easy to map the change. I do agree that at first the change is a pleasant effect - his treblier/bitier sound on Wild Honey and Friends is an improvement to my ears. It's in about '69 or 70 onwards that he starts to sound more strained and brittle, increasingly as time goes on. Again, not saying that these vocals are artistically awful - I think his lead bits on Add Some Music and Til I Die are quite fitting, for example. But physiologically a decline definitely took place.
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« Reply #31 on: January 01, 2021, 05:01:28 PM »

Yeah, it's not make a diss at a vocal to say Brian's voice is not functioning as well at point B as opposed to point A. It's just making an observation. It's very true that to untrained ears it might not even be there. Hell, you have to listen to MIU pretty closely to hear how much clever production is behind Brian's vocal return on that one (though he does also sing better for real, too).
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« Reply #32 on: January 01, 2021, 10:28:15 PM »

That and they were pretty good at giving Brian vocals he could handle comfortably with his decreased control & strength. She's Got Rhythm being a very unusual outlier...
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adamghost
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« Reply #33 on: January 18, 2021, 01:45:15 AM »

That and they were pretty good at giving Brian vocals he could handle comfortably with his decreased control & strength. She's Got Rhythm being a very unusual outlier...

Just listened to that one again after many years. That lead vocal *is* really kind of a miracle. Yes, you can hear rough bits around the edges and it's triple tracked (at least), but it's a sky high melody and very competently done. It's amazing that it was within Brian's grasp *and* that he had the patience at that time to see it through.

Someone or other said Brian was taking vocal lessons just prior to MIU, and it seems to have paid off. But man, what a drop after that. His lead vocal outtakes in '78 and '79 for LA and KTSA (some not yet heard) are among the worst ever.
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c-man
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« Reply #34 on: January 18, 2021, 05:08:38 AM »

That and they were pretty good at giving Brian vocals he could handle comfortably with his decreased control & strength. She's Got Rhythm being a very unusual outlier...

Just listened to that one again after many years. That lead vocal *is* really kind of a miracle. Yes, you can hear rough bits around the edges and it's triple tracked (at least), but it's a sky high melody and very competently done. It's amazing that it was within Brian's grasp *and* that he had the patience at that time to see it through.

Someone or other said Brian was taking vocal lessons just prior to MIU, and it seems to have paid off. But man, what a drop after that. His lead vocal outtakes in '78 and '79 for LA and KTSA (some not yet heard) are among the worst ever.

Yep, vocal coach/recording engineer Bob Rose was on hand for the sessions at M.I.U. in Fairfield. He reportedly also worked with Dennis at Brother Studio during the Bambu sessions (not that it necessarily shows - but imagine how rough DW's vocals on those tracks might sound if he hadn't!).

That, plus Brian had given up smoking (and cocaine) during the M.I.U. era, which I think was a big factor in his vocal "rebirth" as well. Smiley
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lastofmykind
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« Reply #35 on: January 18, 2021, 07:03:13 AM »

This is just my opinion and nothing else, but the last couple of years its been very noticeable the decline in Brian's voice.  Up until about 2016 he could hold a note longer and wouldn't do the talk/sing he does now.  Understandably he's pushing 80, but it kind of seemed to happen quickly for Brian.  The times that I saw him live in 2008 (TLOS) 2012 and 2013 his voice was really really strong. 
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« Reply #36 on: January 18, 2021, 08:02:33 AM »

That and they were pretty good at giving Brian vocals he could handle comfortably with his decreased control & strength. She's Got Rhythm being a very unusual outlier...

Just listened to that one again after many years. That lead vocal *is* really kind of a miracle. Yes, you can hear rough bits around the edges and it's triple tracked (at least), but it's a sky high melody and very competently done. It's amazing that it was within Brian's grasp *and* that he had the patience at that time to see it through.

Someone or other said Brian was taking vocal lessons just prior to MIU, and it seems to have paid off. But man, what a drop after that. His lead vocal outtakes in '78 and '79 for LA and KTSA (some not yet heard) are among the worst ever.

Yep, vocal coach/recording engineer Bob Rose was on hand for the sessions at M.I.U. in Fairfield. He reportedly also worked with Dennis at Brother Studio during the Bambu sessions (not that it necessarily shows - but imagine how rough DW's vocals on those tracks might sound if he hadn't!).

That, plus Brian had given up smoking (and cocaine) during the M.I.U. era, which I think was a big factor in his vocal "rebirth" as well. Smiley

Did not know he was clean during MIU ! 😳
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RIP Daniel Dale Johnston ( 1961-2019)
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Fear 2 Stop: eating all of Elon Musk's nightmares as he sleeps

"I've never heard such ear-pleasing screams before!"
________________________________________________
Free Feel Flows!!!!

Just to let you know, no announcements re: FEEL FLOWS will be coming via a fanzine.
If and when the project picks up steam -- I promise you guys will be first to know.





覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧覧-

http://fear2stop.bandcamp.com/track/tricky-treats
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« Reply #37 on: January 18, 2021, 01:22:12 PM »

He was stuck in the middle of nowhere with Mike and Al.  He would have had to drive an hour just to reach *Iowa City*, there was probably nothing to do but be sober.  Smiley
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« Reply #38 on: January 18, 2021, 07:33:50 PM »

This is just my opinion and nothing else, but the last couple of years its been very noticeable the decline in Brian's voice.  Up until about 2016 he could hold a note longer and wouldn't do the talk/sing he does now.  Understandably he's pushing 80, but it kind of seemed to happen quickly for Brian.  The times that I saw him live in 2008 (TLOS) 2012 and 2013 his voice was really really strong. 

Might have something to do with the fact that between 2016-2019 he was doing Pet Sounds for the "last" time, about a million times...
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Tom
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« Reply #39 on: January 19, 2021, 03:04:51 AM »

Generally I find She's Got Rhythm is not that meaningful as a point of reference. The melody itself is dumb - even in Brian's early 60's voice it would've sounded weird and shrill. Brian's falsetto was utilised in a much more tasteful and flattering manner in the early catalogue (can't think of a single earlier example where a melody would begin with one big, loud head voice note).
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« Reply #40 on: January 19, 2021, 07:15:12 AM »

15  Big One seems to me - or the period just before. Such a bummer!
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Pablo.
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« Reply #41 on: January 19, 2021, 04:32:50 PM »

This is just my opinion and nothing else, but the last couple of years its been very noticeable the decline in Brian's voice.  Up until about 2016 he could hold a note longer and wouldn't do the talk/sing he does now.  Understandably he's pushing 80, but it kind of seemed to happen quickly for Brian.  The times that I saw him live in 2008 (TLOS) 2012 and 2013 his voice was really really strong. 

Yes. My only two were BW shows were in 2017, and he sounded much better on the non-Pet Sounds half.  However, it's clear that Brian's voice has declined in recent years. Although I don't know how much his performances at home from last year are proof of it, since he was clearly out of shape: lack of excercising, rehearsing, touring, etc.

Might have something to do with the fact that between 2016-2019 he was doing Pet Sounds for the "last" time, about a million times...
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Lonely Summer
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« Reply #42 on: January 19, 2021, 07:39:02 PM »

Generally I find She's Got Rhythm is not that meaningful as a point of reference. The melody itself is dumb - even in Brian's early 60's voice it would've sounded weird and shrill. Brian's falsetto was utilised in a much more tasteful and flattering manner in the early catalogue (can't think of a single earlier example where a melody would begin with one big, loud head voice note).
I'm not impressed with Brian's singing on She's Got Rhythm at all. Brian in the 60's never sounded shrill and silly as he does on this track. Brian had a very sweet, tender falsetto in the glory years. She's Got Rhythm is more like a Frankie Valli lead.
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Tom
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« Reply #43 on: January 20, 2021, 01:06:08 AM »

Generally I find She's Got Rhythm is not that meaningful as a point of reference. The melody itself is dumb - even in Brian's early 60's voice it would've sounded weird and shrill. Brian's falsetto was utilised in a much more tasteful and flattering manner in the early catalogue (can't think of a single earlier example where a melody would begin with one big, loud head voice note).
I'm not impressed with Brian's singing on She's Got Rhythm at all. Brian in the 60's never sounded shrill and silly as he does on this track. Brian had a very sweet, tender falsetto in the glory years. She's Got Rhythm is more like a Frankie Valli lead.

I guess what I meant is that I believe it's a songwriting thing just as much as a vocal decline thing in this instance. Yes it sounds more like a Frankie Valli lead, but that's because it's written much more like one than anything they ever did when Brian was younger. It would've sounded shrill and silly even if he'd sung it in '64.
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William Bowe
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« Reply #44 on: January 20, 2021, 04:12:34 AM »

Someone or other said Brian was taking vocal lessons just prior to MIU, and it seems to have paid off. But man, what a drop after that. His lead vocal outtakes in '78 and '79 for LA and KTSA (some not yet heard) are among the worst ever.

I'm intrigued by this - what songs are we talking here? Stuff that ended up being released with others on lead?
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SaltyMarshmallow
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« Reply #45 on: January 20, 2021, 05:19:40 AM »

Someone or other said Brian was taking vocal lessons just prior to MIU, and it seems to have paid off. But man, what a drop after that. His lead vocal outtakes in '78 and '79 for LA and KTSA (some not yet heard) are among the worst ever.

I'm intrigued by this - what songs are we talking here? Stuff that ended up being released with others on lead?

There are a handful of obscure Brian leads from that period, and yeah, some just like that that ended up being replaced. There's the start of Lookin' Down the Coast, his attempt at California Feelin' (which we've heard a small part of), Please Darling (aka I'm Begging You Please), Drip Drop (the mother of them all), Night Blooming Jasmine, Oh Darlin', and I think it's been said that Brian sings lead on the unreleased Smokey Places. There's another one from April '78 that doesn't go around, called I Really Love You, and it's bizarre. It sounds like his MIU voice on sleeping pills.

Brian never regained all of the Love You rasp, but post-MIU he did seem to lose some of the tuneful quality of his singing. The timbre deepened further and his intonation got worse. Whatever you can say about something like That Same Song, it's clear the guy's a great singer in spite of the raggedness of his voice. I don't think you could say the same about a lot of the late 70s stuff.
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ForHerCryingSoul
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« Reply #46 on: January 20, 2021, 07:29:16 AM »

There's another one from April '78 that doesn't go around, called I Really Love You, and it's bizarre. It sounds like his MIU voice on sleeping pills.
I'd love to personally hear this. MIU Brian's voice is so interesting and just a strange anomaly.
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adamghost
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« Reply #47 on: January 20, 2021, 08:37:29 AM »

Someone or other said Brian was taking vocal lessons just prior to MIU, and it seems to have paid off. But man, what a drop after that. His lead vocal outtakes in '78 and '79 for LA and KTSA (some not yet heard) are among the worst ever.

I'm intrigued by this - what songs are we talking here? Stuff that ended up being released with others on lead?

There are a handful of obscure Brian leads from that period, and yeah, some just like that that ended up being replaced. There's the start of Lookin' Down the Coast, his attempt at California Feelin' (which we've heard a small part of), Please Darling (aka I'm Begging You Please), Drip Drop (the mother of them all), Night Blooming Jasmine, Oh Darlin', and I think it's been said that Brian sings lead on the unreleased Smokey Places. There's another one from April '78 that doesn't go around, called I Really Love You, and it's bizarre. It sounds like his MIU voice on sleeping pills.

Brian never regained all of the Love You rasp, but post-MIU he did seem to lose some of the tuneful quality of his singing. The timbre deepened further and his intonation got worse. Whatever you can say about something like That Same Song, it's clear the guy's a great singer in spite of the raggedness of his voice. I don't think you could say the same about a lot of the late 70s stuff.

Years and years ago I got to hear some of the outtakes, many of which have since been released, and Smokey Places was the one that stuck in my head because it was the only one where Brian sounded halfway decent, but as I recall, froggy as hell (which was the case in general). I really understood why Brian was absent from the lead vocals of the era (even though he's all over KTSA in a Sunflower-like background capacity).
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phirnis
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« Reply #48 on: January 21, 2021, 05:47:05 AM »

...
Brian never regained all of the Love You rasp, but post-MIU he did seem to lose some of the tuneful quality of his singing. The timbre deepened further and his intonation got worse. Whatever you can say about something like That Same Song, it's clear the guy's a great singer in spite of the raggedness of his voice. I don't think you could say the same about a lot of the late 70s stuff.

That makes me think of Brian singing the opening lines to Alan's Lookin' Down the Coast; he sounds pretty robotic on that one (although I still love to hear him sing it).
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« Reply #49 on: January 21, 2021, 01:15:54 PM »

Arriving a bit late here, but I too was fascinated by Brian's vocal (and physical) transformation, so much so I decided to make a (somewhat) comprehensive video demonstrating its evolution a little while back: https://youtu.be/BaLkubqbzeo

In case you wanted a 'quick' 44 minute summation of 60 years of singing and 78 years of living.
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