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Author Topic: A Day in the Life of a Tree  (Read 2419 times)
SanAntone
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« on: December 09, 2021, 02:19:04 PM »

Surf's Up was always one of my favorites, mainly because of the title song which is one of the greatest songs Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks ever wrote.  When I hear it I once again grieve over the abandonment of SMiLE.  Also the Carl Wilson songs "Long Promised Road" and "Feel Flows" were the best things the BBs had done since Pet Sounds.

But the song which really blew my mind when I first listened to Surf's Up was "A Day in the Life of a Tree".

First thing I noticed was the voice was not a Beach Boys voice, and there's nothing but an organ accompaniment.  (I didn't know it then but the vocal was by Jack Rieley, their nominal manager, hanger on, and in general Major Domo. ) The lyrics, sung from the point of view of a tree were mind-boggling to my 19 year old brain - I was knocked out.  As the song builds, the organ swelling, the background vocals coming in - listening on earphones I was overwhelmed.  I can remember listening to this song over and over.

Then "When I Die" leading up to "Surf's Up" - wow - what a great finish to a generally okay record.

Your thoughts?

« Last Edit: December 09, 2021, 06:08:06 PM by SanAntone » Logged
Zenobi
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« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2021, 04:54:46 PM »

I agree on everything. The album is great. A Day in the Life of a Tree is one of the best songs written by Brian. Very underrated, as usual.

By the way, do you know the Smile Sessions? Smile was not completed, but it gave life to hours of sublime music. Among the very best music ever, IMHO.
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SanAntone
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« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2021, 06:11:52 PM »

I agree on everything. The album is great. A Day in the Life of a Tree is one of the best songs written by Brian. Very underrated, as usual.

By the way, do you know the Smile Sessions? Smile was not completed, but it gave life to hours of sublime music. Among the very best music ever, IMHO.

I just bought a *new* (still in the factory box, sealed in cellophane, manufactured in Mexico) copy of the deluxe 5CD, 2LP, two45s Smile Sessions box.  I have only listened to the first 1.5 discs so far.  Unfortunately my LPs are warped.  They don't skip but there is noise. 
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Sound of Free
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« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2022, 02:44:43 PM »

The Surf's Up album would have been a classic if Dennis hadn't pulled Fourth of July and Wouldn't It Be Nice to Live Again. Once Dennis pulled his songs, I think it would have been good to give him a shot at singing the lead on "Tree" instead of Jack (that's nothing against Jack, it just would have been nice to hear Dennis).
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Don Malcolm
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« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2022, 07:54:16 PM »

I've come around to the idea that an interesting approach to "Tree" would've been to pass around the lead vocal in a way analogous to what was done on "Add Some Music." The lyrics support the idea of different voices for the different stages of the tree's life...Dennis could certainly have been part of that.
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« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2022, 04:13:35 PM »

Had the same reaction to this song and actually for awhile I thought of it as autobiographical to Brian's life, which I sounded incredibly tragic and sad to me and it made me have a deep emotional connection with the song. Then I read Jack wrote the lyrics and literally meant it about a tree (and the environment in general) and it disappointed me a bit to know Brian didn't write it. Still it is an amazing bit of writing and the song is definitely one of the most beautiful songs Brian wrote, along with Til I Die and Surfs up, which I feel elevate the album higher than it actually is. There are some weaker songs like Take a Load Off Your Feet, Student demonstration time and Disney Girls which are so much weaker than the other songs. At least even the silly Don't Go Near The Water is quite brilliant musically and has nice piano playing from Brian. I do agree that Dennis's songs would have helped quite a bit and it's a shame they were left off.
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Joshilyn Hoisington
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« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2022, 05:46:04 PM »

Had the same reaction to this song and actually for awhile I thought of it as autobiographical to Brian's life, which I sounded incredibly tragic and sad to me and it made me have a deep emotional connection with the song. Then I read Jack wrote the lyrics and literally meant it about a tree (and the environment in general) and it disappointed me a bit to know Brian didn't write it. Still it is an amazing bit of writing and the song is definitely one of the most beautiful songs Brian wrote, along with Til I Die and Surfs up, which I feel elevate the album higher than it actually is. There are some weaker songs like Take a Load Off Your Feet, Student demonstration time and Disney Girls which are so much weaker than the other songs. At least even the silly Don't Go Near The Water is quite brilliant musically and has nice piano playing from Brian. I do agree that Dennis's songs would have helped quite a bit and it's a shame they were left off.

Gee I hate to spoil anything else for you but Brian didn't play piano on Don't Go Near the Water - that was Al and Daryl Dragon.
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« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2022, 10:34:08 PM »


Quote
Gee I hate to spoil anything else for you but Brian didn't play piano on Don't Go Near the Water - that was Al and Daryl Dragon.

Oh really, I thought that was played by Brian. It doesn't matter who played it though it's great either way and it's a good song. It's just funny to me on the two-fers how Cool Cool Water comes right before it.
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« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2022, 08:50:15 PM »

Had the same reaction to this song and actually for awhile I thought of it as autobiographical to Brian's life, which I sounded incredibly tragic and sad to me and it made me have a deep emotional connection with the song. Then I read Jack wrote the lyrics and literally meant it about a tree (and the environment in general) and it disappointed me a bit to know Brian didn't write it. Still it is an amazing bit of writing and the song is definitely one of the most beautiful songs Brian wrote, along with Til I Die and Surfs up, which I feel elevate the album higher than it actually is. There are some weaker songs like Take a Load Off Your Feet, Student demonstration time and Disney Girls which are so much weaker than the other songs. At least even the silly Don't Go Near The Water is quite brilliant musically and has nice piano playing from Brian. I do agree that Dennis's songs would have helped quite a bit and it's a shame they were left off.

Gee I hate to spoil anything else for you but Brian didn't play piano on Don't Go Near the Water - that was Al and Daryl Dragon.

Al jardine played piano on DgntW?
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Joshilyn Hoisington
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« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2022, 06:30:27 AM »

Had the same reaction to this song and actually for awhile I thought of it as autobiographical to Brian's life, which I sounded incredibly tragic and sad to me and it made me have a deep emotional connection with the song. Then I read Jack wrote the lyrics and literally meant it about a tree (and the environment in general) and it disappointed me a bit to know Brian didn't write it. Still it is an amazing bit of writing and the song is definitely one of the most beautiful songs Brian wrote, along with Til I Die and Surfs up, which I feel elevate the album higher than it actually is. There are some weaker songs like Take a Load Off Your Feet, Student demonstration time and Disney Girls which are so much weaker than the other songs. At least even the silly Don't Go Near The Water is quite brilliant musically and has nice piano playing from Brian. I do agree that Dennis's songs would have helped quite a bit and it's a shame they were left off.

Gee I hate to spoil anything else for you but Brian didn't play piano on Don't Go Near the Water - that was Al and Daryl Dragon.

Al jardine played piano on DgntW?

That's right.  He played tack piano and Daryl was on grand piano for the basic track.
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« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2022, 05:12:46 PM »

Had the same reaction to this song and actually for awhile I thought of it as autobiographical to Brian's life, which I sounded incredibly tragic and sad to me and it made me have a deep emotional connection with the song. Then I read Jack wrote the lyrics and literally meant it about a tree (and the environment in general) and it disappointed me a bit to know Brian didn't write it. Still it is an amazing bit of writing and the song is definitely one of the most beautiful songs Brian wrote, along with Til I Die and Surfs up, which I feel elevate the album higher than it actually is. There are some weaker songs like Take a Load Off Your Feet, Student demonstration time and Disney Girls which are so much weaker than the other songs. At least even the silly Don't Go Near The Water is quite brilliant musically and has nice piano playing from Brian. I do agree that Dennis's songs would have helped quite a bit and it's a shame they were left off.

Gee I hate to spoil anything else for you but Brian didn't play piano on Don't Go Near the Water - that was Al and Daryl Dragon.

Al jardine played piano on DgntW?

That's right.  He played tack piano and Daryl was on grand piano for the basic track.



"According to biographer Peter Ames Carlin, Brian Wilson contributed the dissonant piano part.[1] However, in a 2007 interview, Wilson stated of the song, "Totally Alanís trip. I was not part of that."[2]

That must be where I got confused. Peter Ames Carlin claimed it was Brian but apparently very inaccurate information here.
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Joshilyn Hoisington
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« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2022, 05:38:21 PM »

Had the same reaction to this song and actually for awhile I thought of it as autobiographical to Brian's life, which I sounded incredibly tragic and sad to me and it made me have a deep emotional connection with the song. Then I read Jack wrote the lyrics and literally meant it about a tree (and the environment in general) and it disappointed me a bit to know Brian didn't write it. Still it is an amazing bit of writing and the song is definitely one of the most beautiful songs Brian wrote, along with Til I Die and Surfs up, which I feel elevate the album higher than it actually is. There are some weaker songs like Take a Load Off Your Feet, Student demonstration time and Disney Girls which are so much weaker than the other songs. At least even the silly Don't Go Near The Water is quite brilliant musically and has nice piano playing from Brian. I do agree that Dennis's songs would have helped quite a bit and it's a shame they were left off.

Gee I hate to spoil anything else for you but Brian didn't play piano on Don't Go Near the Water - that was Al and Daryl Dragon.

Al jardine played piano on DgntW?

That's right.  He played tack piano and Daryl was on grand piano for the basic track.



"According to biographer Peter Ames Carlin, Brian Wilson contributed the dissonant piano part.[1] However, in a 2007 interview, Wilson stated of the song, "Totally Alanís trip. I was not part of that."[2]

That must be where I got confused. Peter Ames Carlin claimed it was Brian but apparently very inaccurate information here.

As usual, Beach Boys Land is full of bad credits in what are otherwise respectable efforts.  Brian's not entirely right either -- it's possible he contributed some minor parts to the track, and he's definitely on it vocally.
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« Reply #12 on: March 08, 2022, 09:51:47 AM »

Listening to session tapes and looking at documentation is the key, of course.

There's a 1985 radio interview with Brian mostly discussing the '85 album where at one point he's asked about the "Surf's Up" album, both the album and specific tracks (I recall "Take A Load Off Your Feet" being one), and Brian acts as if he has *zero* idea what the interviewer is even talking about, as if he's never heard of the album or the song. The only question there is whether that is a variation on the "I burned the Smile tapes" where it's dodging delving into a topic that has a negative connotation, or if he really didn't remember at that moment.

So, while all of these guys at times can provide very lucid, specific, reliable answers to questions, there are certainly times where I'm not going to rely too much on Brian's recollection of a specific "Surf's Up" era studio session.

Sometimes I prefer it if they just admit they don't remember, as opposed to offering a weird false recollection. I recall one time Ringo in a radio interview being roped into some Beatles trivia bit, and he had no problem saying he didn't know and didn't care.

I also always go back to something Mark Lewisohn said about the Beatles that would certainly apply to the BBs and just about any historical topic. Fans and scholars sometimes think of this stuff in terms of chronological album releases, and/or year-by-year, etc. But for the people who lived it, it's their life. They don't usually think of their own life in those exact proportions or time intervals. So they're just not going to have a song title thrown at them and always think "ah, yes, that was August of 1970 during the 'Surf's Up' session. I played the piano and did the second vocal overdub."
« Last Edit: March 08, 2022, 12:14:40 PM by HeyJude » Logged

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« Reply #13 on: March 08, 2022, 10:06:47 AM »

Listening to session tapes and looking at documentation is the key, of course.

There's a 1985 radio interview with Brian mostly discussing the '85 album where at one point he's asked about the "Surf's Up" album, both the album and specific tracks (I recall "Take A Load Off Your Feet" being one), and Brian acts as if he has *zero* idea what the interviewer is even talking about, as if he's never heard of the album or the song. The only question there is whether that is a variation on the "I burned the Smile tapes" where it's dodging delving into a topic that has a negative connotation, or if he really didn't remember at that moment.

So, while all of these guys at times can provide very lucid, specific, reliable answers to questions, there are certainly times where I'm not going to rely too much on Brian's recollection of a specific "Surf's Up" era studio session.

Sometimes I prefer if if they just admit they don't remember, as opposed to offering a weird false recollection. I recall one time Ringo in a radio interview being roped into some Beatles trivia bit, and he had no problem saying he didn't know and didn't care.

I also always go back to something Mark Lewisohn said about the Beatles that would certainly apply to the BBs and just about any historical topic. Fans and scholars sometimes think of this stuff in terms of chronological album releases, and/or year-by-year, etc. But for the people who lived it, it's their life. They don't usually think of their own life in those exact proportions or time intervals. So they're just not going to have a song title thrown at them and always think "ah, yes, that was August of 1970 during the 'Surf's Up' session. I played the piano and did the second vocal overdub."

Absolutely, I generally think it's folly to try to get too specific.  Depending on who the subject of the interview is, sometimes it doesn't hurt to just say "I'm going to ask you about some details first, it's ok if you don't remember specifics, because then we'll just go to generalities." 

With Brian, I still think the definitive interview with him that would still be possible would have to be with he and the interviewer at pianos.  Draw him into the music and go from there.
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« Reply #14 on: March 08, 2022, 12:13:43 PM »

Listening to session tapes and looking at documentation is the key, of course.

There's a 1985 radio interview with Brian mostly discussing the '85 album where at one point he's asked about the "Surf's Up" album, both the album and specific tracks (I recall "Take A Load Off Your Feet" being one), and Brian acts as if he has *zero* idea what the interviewer is even talking about, as if he's never heard of the album or the song. The only question there is whether that is a variation on the "I burned the Smile tapes" where it's dodging delving into a topic that has a negative connotation, or if he really didn't remember at that moment.

So, while all of these guys at times can provide very lucid, specific, reliable answers to questions, there are certainly times where I'm not going to rely too much on Brian's recollection of a specific "Surf's Up" era studio session.

Sometimes I prefer if if they just admit they don't remember, as opposed to offering a weird false recollection. I recall one time Ringo in a radio interview being roped into some Beatles trivia bit, and he had no problem saying he didn't know and didn't care.

I also always go back to something Mark Lewisohn said about the Beatles that would certainly apply to the BBs and just about any historical topic. Fans and scholars sometimes think of this stuff in terms of chronological album releases, and/or year-by-year, etc. But for the people who lived it, it's their life. They don't usually think of their own life in those exact proportions or time intervals. So they're just not going to have a song title thrown at them and always think "ah, yes, that was August of 1970 during the 'Surf's Up' session. I played the piano and did the second vocal overdub."

Absolutely, I generally think it's folly to try to get too specific.  Depending on who the subject of the interview is, sometimes it doesn't hurt to just say "I'm going to ask you about some details first, it's ok if you don't remember specifics, because then we'll just go to generalities." 

With Brian, I still think the definitive interview with him that would still be possible would have to be with he and the interviewer at pianos.  Draw him into the music and go from there.

And also I say play back Brian the original session tapes when possible. While there are stubborn "legacy" artists that would stand by an incorrect assertion even after being presented with actual aural evidence, I sense if Brian said "I didn't play on that", and then you played him a session tape where he's on it playing something, he'd likely just go "Oh, wow, sounds like I *am* on that!"
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