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667007 Posts in 26775 Topics by 3874 Members - Latest Member: thesethingsillbe March 02, 2021, 03:43:50 PM
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Author Topic: Was a Beatles-like career arc ever possible for the Beach Boys?  (Read 1358 times)
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« Reply #25 on: February 11, 2021, 05:04:48 PM »

It's just not the same trajectories, their respective images are completely different in my mind.

I'm 44 and I guess I've known the names of John, Paul, George and Ringo since I was a kid. They're all icons in their own ways. I knew their faces and their names before I even knew their music. Like Elvis, I guess. The Beatles were EVERYWHERE. In cartoons, in Astérix, on t-shirts, etc.

The Beach Boys? I knew the hit songs, but I learned their names at the saddest occasion, when I heard on television that Carl had died. Weirdly, the only one I knew was Dennis, but only because I'm a movie buff and I'd seen pictures of Two-Lane Blacktop. (My videoclub had a huge yellow poster of the film). To me, even though I hadn't seen the film at that time, Dennis was "the actor from Two-Lane Blacktop"... It's only after Carl's passing that I started to get really interested in the band and all of their albums, listening to them one by one.

But, what's interesting is that before I knew any of their names, The Beach Boys were almost mythical to me. When I was in high school, a friend named Karl (!) lent me a compilation that had just been released on CD. That would have been around 1992-93. (I'm pretty sure it was Good Vibrations : 30 Years of the Beach Boys). I remember vividly listening to it and being blown away. I already knew the big hits from different movies of that era (I Get Around was in Look Who's Talking, Kokomo of course was in Cocktail, Good Vibrations, Surfin'USA and California Girls were in everything), but listening to that box set was quite the experience. Without any knowledge about the band's history, listening to that collection just conjured all those beautiful images that, to me, represented America. The beaches, the waves, the youth and enthusiasm of the sixties, but also the sheer joy and beauty of these songs I hadn't heard before, like The Warmth of the Sun or Don't Worry Baby... I remember listening to that compilation in my room one weekend and how magical a moment that was for me. For a teenage boy from Belgium, they were "the soundtrack of America". When I thought about The United States, it's The Beach Boys' music that came to mind first. I didn't need to know who they were because their voices were so unreal and godlike they might as well not have been human. That was my impression after listening to that compilation that weekend and falling in love with the music.

Years later, I bought the albums, learned their history and their names and, of course, all the sad episodes of the saga that we all know about. And they kinda lost that mythical quality they had before. You cannot see Bruce wearing those goshdarn shorts all the time or Mike being weird at the Rock'n Roll Hall of Fame ceremony or Eugene Landy sitting in Brian's lap or Al's 90s ponytail or their apperances in Full House and Baywatch and still have that pure image of musical Gods I had in my mind.

That's also what separates them from the Beatles : the Fab Four never really had any of those embarassing moments. Plus, The Beatles are just four people. The BB had more lineups, the coolest one in my mind being when they added Blondie and Ricky. (And seeing Blondie playing with Brian these last few years has been a joy for me! - Now, Blondie, he's someone I still find REALLY REALLY fascinating for some reason. How cool is Blondie, seriously?...)

Now I wonder if I'd be a bigger fan if I didn't know any of their names and their whole history. With the Beach Boys, the music is and always will be enough. Their music is iconic. But apart from Brian, they're not really (and I'm saying this with love...) I remember crying my eyes out the day George Harrison died. I'm pretty sure I'll cry when we lose Brian (you know, years and years and years from now) and sure, I'll be sad for the others but... it's just not the same thing.

That being said, I'd really love to see them get the "Rutles" treatment. That would be fun!
« Last Edit: February 11, 2021, 05:32:53 PM by Toursiveu » Logged
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« Reply #26 on: February 11, 2021, 06:21:13 PM »

One of them IS a Rutle -- Stig!!
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« Reply #27 on: February 12, 2021, 07:57:16 AM »

"Going out on top" is a romantic notion that I think is way, way, way overrated. I'm still disappointed with the Beatles and REM for quitting when they did.

The Beatles weren't trying to go out on top. That thing held together as long as it could.

And really, as Howie Edelson's Fabcast has been proving with numerous episodes, we didn't lose the Beatles in 1970. "Ram" is Beatles. "Imagine" is Beatles. It doesn't have that name on the label, and if they had all played on each other's albums those albums would have been *even better*. But it's still Beatles. "The Back Seat of My Car" is Beatles. "Crackerbox Palace" is Beatles.

The Beatles broke up and made more music than a band like the Beach Boys who kinda never really did "break up" as such.

I'm far more disappointed in the Beach Boys for largely giving up being an active regularly-recording act in like Year 19 of their existence, and going out on autopilot for decades after on tour playing the same stuff over and over.

Either I'm not reading it or understanding the points correctly, or I just simply disagree strongly, but I can't wrap my head around the opinion that "Ram" or "Imagine" or any other solo effort is The Beatles.

Just so it's not like my opinion is coming out of thin air, I've had copies of those solo albums, mostly from flea market and yard sale vinyl hauls (before reissues and before it became trendy lol), since the mid-80's when I truly did a deep dive into the Beatles music, yet before I had enough musical knowledge to break down what they were doing musically, with production and songwriting, etc.

But I never, even when listening and enjoying them on a purely visceral and less-educated level, considered any of them as "Beatles" albums or connected them in that way as an extension of The Beatles as a band dynamic. There was such a definite separation, such a dividing line between Abbey Road and Let It Be and the solo efforts that it didn't even seem fair to connect the two. The obvious reason was that the band members themselves, perhaps Harrison most strongly, considered The Beatles over and done and they were able to do whatever they wanted free of a group dynamic and free of expectations apart from being former members of the band.

I think what is missing most, and maybe what I as a listener missed most from those solo efforts was the "X Factor" of the group dynamic at work. The solo albums work as solo albums, but if we're going to draw a line between those and even the final 2 or 3 Beatles albums, what's missing is a chorus that has John and Paul harmonizing, the sound of a Ringo drum fill versus McCartney's on Maybe I'm Amazed, a Macca bass line on Jealous Guy, a quirky Lennon rhythm guitar part on Give Me Love, etc. Of course they played on a few of each others' tracks, but even in its more strained examples when the group dynamic was shaky at best, they were still The Beatles, a band which had been playing together for years.

If we connect this to The Beach Boys, is the dynamic different to suggest Pacific Ocean Blue, or Carl's solo record, or Looking Back With Love, or the first Brian solo album are "The Beach Boys" like "Crackerbox Palace" or "Crippled Inside" is "The Beatles"? Or taking it even further to another band, that Keith Richards and the Xpensive Winos or Jagger and Bowie were just more Stones albums coming at a time when The Stones were basically not a band?

Yeah, I think the point isn't come across correctly.

I think if you listen to Howie's "Fabcast", the way he talks about this and verbalizes it is probably the best way to explain.

But to try to succinctly explain, I'm obviously aware of all the discographies and who played on what. In the scenario I was describing, "Beatles" means the most transcendent, highest standard of music as conveyed by Lennon or McCartney or any combination of Beatles. That thing that the Beatles do for people who get what they get from it, that "thing" is still there on a lot of the solo records. It didn't blink out of existence in 1970.

It's funny that Howie has discussed this concept in Fabcast, because in my family, this idea goes back decades too. We would say that "Crackerbox Palace" was "Beatles", and we'd know what that meant. Not that it should have literally been called "Beatles", not even that all the Beatles should have played on it (although who wouldn't usually want that?), and not even necessarily that it's "what the Beatles would have sounded like in 19XX" or whatever. What it means is that it comes from the same place, and that it does the same thing for you/me that the Beatles did, that it's up to that high standard.

It's discussed in Fabcast that a lot of fans seemed to drop the Beatles once that name wasn't on the label. Obviously, the solo records sold well for awhile. But, in the extreme, there really are "fans" who listen to and enjoy and pick apart *every minute corner* of the Beatles catalog, down to tedious "Get Back" rehearsals and 87 takes of "Thank You Girl", who don't listen to the solo stuff *at all*. And that's crazy to me, and I feel bad for fans that had/have hangups who can't enjoy "The Back Seat of My Car" or "Maybe I'm Amazed" or "Some People Never Know" or "I'd Have You Anytime" or "Isolation" as much as Beatles tracks. Some over the years have lamented losing the Beatles. The point here is that you kinda didn't. It's right there on those albums. It's not always exactly the same, and yes, I'm not suggesting Ringo's "Y Not" or Paul's "Egypt Station" qualify. But there are albums and albums worth of material in the 70s and 80s (and occasionally after) that are "Beatles" in this sense, at least sporadically. "The Pound is Sinking" is Beatles. It's not, but it is. You know what I mean? If someone knows what I mean, then they'll maybe get what I'm getting at.

There isn't an exact analog to the Beach Boys when it comes to this concept, for a lot of reasons. The Beach Boys' catalog, while amazing on the whole, is not the same as the Beatles'. Also, the Beach Boys never really "broke up" as such, with solo records being released concurrently with the band existing in some form at least.

But on the most basic level, I think we can apply some of the same ideas to the Beach Boys. If we use "Beach Boys" in this scenario to describe the highest art, the most life-affirming of Brian and the band's work, then yes, there are "solo" moments where it's "Beach Boys." Moments on "Pacific Ocean Blue" fall into that category, not because they "sound like the Beach Boys", but because it's high art that meets that high standard. Some of Brian's solo work falls into this category. There's frankly a point in the *Beach Boys* group recording career where they largely lose it and only occasionally can I say "now *that's* Beach Boys!" Much of the reunion album was that way.

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« Reply #28 on: February 12, 2021, 02:05:17 PM »

Anything is possible, so here goes:

1) better PR management that emphasized the guys as each having something to offer the culture of the time (instead of emphasizing the supposed represented culture (surfing, cars), make The Beach Boys themselves the epicenter of the band in terms of PR). When I was a kid, before I had even heard 3 Beatles songs I knew who John, Paul, George, and Ringo were due to their impact on pop culture as people. Whereas I actually listened to The Beach Boys a lot as a kid and only heard of Brian Wilson after researching the band in my late-teens. Their surfing/car image seemed to really hurt them post 1969 (until the Endless Summer began).

2) a willingness to not haphazardly put together albums (ie, no albums full of filler - especially in the early years. Though Surfer Girl and LDC are pretty much filler free in my opinion, Shut Down Vol II is a complete disaster compared to any Beatles album at that same time - even though SDV2 has some of the best beach boys songs on it).

3) a much better bond between each band member. I think had each and every band member been more respectful of the individual desires/needs of their fellow bandmates, the band would’ve flourished with creativity and harmony. This would’ve over-rid any need for a 10 year breakup: these guys seemed to be just getting started in terms of band-contributed creativity 10 years after they first got together. Had #1 on my list happened, then I feel like The Beach Boys wouldn’t have been pushed to the side in the their music on Sunflower and Surf’s Up a chance to thrive in the culture.

Had any of this^ happened, their entire discography would be completely different. And perhaps to a fault. The Beach Boys are exactly who they needed to be. I just find it incredible that the pieces of this universe fell into place for these guys to get together and create the music that they did...even with all the kinks. And I think over time The Beach Boys will continue to ascend in popularity as far as genius of the music them being as popular as the Beatles isn’t really a concern to me. But it is, no doubt, interesting to think about.

Yes to #2!!!
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