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Author Topic: Brian’s vocal change Redux  (Read 4994 times)
Jay
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« Reply #25 on: July 26, 2022, 02:42:07 PM »

The more I think about it, the more confused I am over why 15 Big Ones and Love You are the only two albums where Brian's voice is so overly hoarse. On the Adult Child tracks Brian's voice is a lot smoother for the most part, other than Lazy Lizzie. He sounds really good on MIU, and even on KTSA.

I've heard outtakes from the KTSA era and listening to them it's evident they didn't use Brian's lead vocals because his voice was *really* bad around then. It's not so much that it was hoarse as that he was no longer really doing passable lead vocals regardless of the approach. The vibe I got was they wanted him up front more but wound up using him just for cameos and increased presence in the background vocal stack. Ironically the stuff a little later sounded a bit better, maybe because he was forced to sing a lot while Carl was gone.
I don't supposed you're at liberty to elaborate? The only outtakes from that period I've heard(that I'm aware of) are the alternate version of Oh Darlin'(which I personally believe to be better than the version they went with), and River Deep, Mountain High. I'm not sure if Stevie or Sweetie would count as being from that period.
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« Reply #26 on: July 26, 2022, 02:53:34 PM »

The more I think about it, the more confused I am over why 15 Big Ones and Love You are the only two albums where Brian's voice is so overly hoarse. On the Adult Child tracks Brian's voice is a lot smoother for the most part, other than Lazy Lizzie. He sounds really good on MIU, and even on KTSA.

I've heard outtakes from the KTSA era and listening to them it's evident they didn't use Brian's lead vocals because his voice was *really* bad around then. It's not so much that it was hoarse as that he was no longer really doing passable lead vocals regardless of the approach. The vibe I got was they wanted him up front more but wound up using him just for cameos and increased presence in the background vocal stack. Ironically the stuff a little later sounded a bit better, maybe because he was forced to sing a lot while Carl was gone.

It's a good point; Brian did sound a bit better a bit later. For all the justifiable criticism that 1981/82 Carl-less band gets (less because Carl wasn't there, but because they all seemed to sound worse, including a few of the backing band members), Brian's leads on that tour were *sometimes* pretty solid. Even on the most infamous case, the nationally-televised Queen Mary show, Brian sounds pretty solid on "God Only Knows" and "Sloop John B", and even on the non-high/falsetto parts of "Good Vibrations." They unfortunately inexplicably had Brian singing "Don't Worry Baby" on that tour as well. By that point, even Carl and Al would have had trouble singing that song in its original key (and sure enough, later on in the 80s Carl shared the lead with Foskett, and by the 90s they just had Matt Jardine sing the whole thing). Why they gave that song to Brian, I'd love to know.

Brian had good days and bad days during that 1981/82 run. But it was one of the last eras when he sometimes had some good power behind his voice, and if he found the right register, he sounded strangely and differently pretty good. Listen to him belt out "Oh Lord" on the "Hamburger/Cocaine Tape", which is probably from 1980 or maybe 81 or so. That's another tape where the title given to it by fans indicates the condition people assume he was in. Yet, he kind of sounds good on some of that stuff. He even sounds pretty good belting a few lines from "Heroes and Villains."
That's the thing I was trying to mention with his early live versions of what became "It's Just A Matter of Time". Brian had a "soulful", or even a "belting out" quality that he somehow lost some time after around 1984-ish. The same goes for his high register. Listen to his higher voice on that one section of "Oh Lord", and then listen to his high part in the intro to "Getcha Back". He had a certain "warmth" or "smooth" quality that somehow changed into more of a whine by 1985.
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« Reply #27 on: July 26, 2022, 03:37:20 PM »

Brian sounds pretty great on Stevie, for the era. Not so much on the handful of things he sang in '78 and '79. His voice wasn't as hoarse as it was in '76 but it's like he lost the ability to comfortably carry a tune. I definitely have a soft spot for his Oh Darlin' over Carl's, though.

Same…Carl had a “better” voice  at that point but it sounded dull and sleepy on Oh Darlin’ and the song itself certainly  didn’t need any help to achieve that!
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« Reply #28 on: July 26, 2022, 03:42:37 PM »

The more I think about it, the more confused I am over why 15 Big Ones and Love You are the only two albums where Brian's voice is so overly hoarse. On the Adult Child tracks Brian's voice is a lot smoother for the most part, other than Lazy Lizzie. He sounds really good on MIU, and even on KTSA.

I've heard outtakes from the KTSA era and listening to them it's evident they didn't use Brian's lead vocals because his voice was *really* bad around then. It's not so much that it was hoarse as that he was no longer really doing passable lead vocals regardless of the approach. The vibe I got was they wanted him up front more but wound up using him just for cameos and increased presence in the background vocal stack. Ironically the stuff a little later sounded a bit better, maybe because he was forced to sing a lot while Carl was gone.
I don't supposed you're at liberty to elaborate? The only outtakes from that period I've heard(that I'm aware of) are the alternate version of Oh Darlin'(which I personally believe to be better than the version they went with), and River Deep, Mountain High. I'm not sure if Stevie or Sweetie would count as being from that period.

Even with the stuff we have heard, he was doing this abrupt barking delivery and cutting off the ends of phrases. Like his vocal cameo on Going On, doing the title phrase. Kinda like he does now
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« Reply #29 on: July 26, 2022, 03:58:17 PM »

The more I think about it, the more confused I am over why 15 Big Ones and Love You are the only two albums where Brian's voice is so overly hoarse. On the Adult Child tracks Brian's voice is a lot smoother for the most part, other than Lazy Lizzie. He sounds really good on MIU, and even on KTSA.

I've heard outtakes from the KTSA era and listening to them it's evident they didn't use Brian's lead vocals because his voice was *really* bad around then. It's not so much that it was hoarse as that he was no longer really doing passable lead vocals regardless of the approach. The vibe I got was they wanted him up front more but wound up using him just for cameos and increased presence in the background vocal stack. Ironically the stuff a little later sounded a bit better, maybe because he was forced to sing a lot while Carl was gone.
I don't supposed you're at liberty to elaborate? The only outtakes from that period I've heard(that I'm aware of) are the alternate version of Oh Darlin'(which I personally believe to be better than the version they went with), and River Deep, Mountain High. I'm not sure if Stevie or Sweetie would count as being from that period.

Even with the stuff we have heard, he was doing this abrupt barking delivery and cutting off the ends of phrases. Like his vocal cameo on Going On, doing the title phrase. Kinda like he does now
Actually, on live recordings of Goin On' from 1980, Brian was usually really enthused and into it. He would do stuff like vocalizing over the solo at times. But occasionally(Philly 1980) he would be overly agressive and shouty(Goin' Ah-HAWN!).
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« Reply #30 on: July 26, 2022, 05:01:25 PM »

The thing that's so wild to me is the inconsistency *within* a single performance. Sometimes it almost feels like his younger voice is locked up in his chest, struggling to get out. To take just one example, there's a moment in the Queen Mary performance of Sloop John B (song is at 6:00 in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3i8BA4OMr2w), where Brian starts the song, and he's doing a pretty good job, I guess, but he's got that wooden face and slightly off delivery we're now so used to, but then on the words "we did roam" he just hits that word roam so sweetly and then immediately smiles. There's something about it that I just find very effecting, even though I'm probably reading way to much into it!
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« Reply #31 on: July 26, 2022, 05:06:31 PM »

The thing that's so wild to me is the inconsistency *within* a single performance. Sometimes it almost feels like his younger voice is locked up in his chest, struggling to get out. To take just one example, there's a moment in the Queen Mary performance of Sloop John B (song is at 6:00 in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3i8BA4OMr2w), where Brian starts the song, and he's doing a pretty good job, I guess, but he's got that wooden face and slightly off delivery we're now so used to, but then on the words "we did roam" he just hits that word roam so sweetly and then immediately smiles. There's something about it that I just find very effecting, even though I'm probably reading way to much into it!
I noticed that he often to said that particular word the sane way often during this time. He did it at Knebworth  too.
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« Reply #32 on: July 26, 2022, 08:11:43 PM »

For what it's worth, in this interview from 1995 (about 2:55 into the interview), Brian himself states he ruined his voice with cigarettes.

https://youtu.be/DKnGCVRyPh4

At points in this interview he sounds reminiscent of his younger self.
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« Reply #33 on: July 27, 2022, 06:35:51 AM »

I don't supposed you're at liberty to elaborate? The only outtakes from that period I've heard(that I'm aware of) are the alternate version of Oh Darlin'(which I personally believe to be better than the version they went with), and River Deep, Mountain High. I'm not sure if Stevie or Sweetie would count as being from that period.

I guess it's debatable whether "Stevie" would count as the same era. The KTSA tracks were pretty much all recorded in 1979. "Stevie" as I recall comes from January 1981.

There are some other bits from this era. His vocal on "Night Bloomin' Jasmine" supposedly comes from February 1979, which pretty much falls right between "LA" and "KTSA" sessions.

I don't think we've ever nailed down a definitive date for the Cocaine/Hamburger tape, but while long ago it was assumed to be 1981 or 82 during Brian's pretty rough period, I believe some believe it's earlier than that, perhaps in 1980.

I recall some supposition that home demos for "Rings/Reins", "Walking on Water", and "Sweetie" come from around 1981 (in any event, possibly pre-dating the second Landy period).

I don't think there's any hard rule about how Brian could sound during all of these periods. As is usually the case, he tends to be more likely to sound smoother and more relaxed in the studio or even on "home demos" than he did on stage. On stage he tended to stiffen up, and sometimes deliver forceful leads, and then sometimes also barely get anything out and in some cases literally give up mid-song.

I think his live leads during the 1979-1980 (and to some degree 81 and 82 as well) tended to be much more about where he was at emotionally and psychologically (not taking care of his voice certainly didn't help). But he was very detached in 1979-1980. Listen to his co-lead with Al on "Wouldn't It Be Nice" from the 4th of July 1980 show. At one point Brian's voice literally sounds like a tape deck running out of batteries and slowing to a complete stop. There are some contemporary reviews from 81/82 where Brian and even sometimes the other guys would balk on leads and toss them to someone else. I recall a review of an '82 show without Carl where Brian gave up on "God Only Knows", told Bruce to sing it, Bruce tried and gave up, and I think Foskett ended up singing it. In that case I think it may have been a cold being passed around among band members. But the shows started getting extra sloppy in that sense without Carl. Things kind of tightened up when Carl returned in mid-82 I suppose.
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« Reply #34 on: July 27, 2022, 06:43:54 AM »

The demo tape with Rings, Walking on Water, Sweetie and Angel is from October 1986, but was assumed to be earlier because Brian also talked about Sweetie in 1981. There is a Beach Boys studio version recorded at Rumbo in March that year with the Mike, Al and Brian vocal trade off he described.

Brian had a crack at a vocal on Smokey Places during the KTSA sessions, which is supposed to not be bad for the time.
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« Reply #35 on: July 27, 2022, 08:41:38 AM »

The demo tape with Rings, Walking on Water, Sweetie and Angel is from October 1986, but was assumed to be earlier because Brian also talked about Sweetie in 1981. There is a Beach Boys studio version recorded at Rumbo in March that year with the Mike, Al and Brian vocal trade off he described.

Brian had a crack at a vocal on Smokey Places during the KTSA sessions, which is supposed to not be bad for the time.

Ah, I see it circled back around. It was originally assumed (as far as I can remember anyway) those demos were from the Landy era, mid-80s, then there were implications it pre-dated Landy Mark II. Stuff like "Walking on Water" always sounded more like '85 or '86 based on Brian having some pep in his voice that you don't hear on the pre-Landy early 80s stuff so much.

The post-KTSA, pre-Landy Brian stuff I've always found fascinating. Those 1980 backing tracks ("My Solution", etc.). I've always wanted to hear more (I suspect the "Sweetie" session from Rumbo that I recall discussing many years ago is probably among the least interesting given the song's structure, but I'd still love to hear it of course). I still fear this is the type of stuff that will slip through the cracks on archival releases, because it really isn't like front-and-center stuff to present to the public. It needs the context of an archival package.
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« Reply #36 on: July 27, 2022, 11:37:46 AM »

The more I think about it, the more confused I am over why 15 Big Ones and Love You are the only two albums where Brian's voice is so overly hoarse. On the Adult Child tracks Brian's voice is a lot smoother for the most part, other than Lazy Lizzie. He sounds really good on MIU, and even on KTSA.

I've heard outtakes from the KTSA era and listening to them it's evident they didn't use Brian's lead vocals because his voice was *really* bad around then. It's not so much that it was hoarse as that he was no longer really doing passable lead vocals regardless of the approach. The vibe I got was they wanted him up front more but wound up using him just for cameos and increased presence in the background vocal stack. Ironically the stuff a little later sounded a bit better, maybe because he was forced to sing a lot while Carl was gone.
I don't supposed you're at liberty to elaborate? The only outtakes from that period I've heard(that I'm aware of) are the alternate version of Oh Darlin'(which I personally believe to be better than the version they went with), and River Deep, Mountain High. I'm not sure if Stevie or Sweetie would count as being from that period.

I wouldn't be, because I don't remember, although some of the tracks I heard at that time have I think since been released or gotten out there otherwise. I did note and still recall "Smokey Places," which I thought was the only decent Brian vocal, as Will references above.
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« Reply #37 on: September 30, 2022, 01:41:02 AM »

A couple things to add to the discussion... when did Brian first get dentures?  I'm sure that contributes to the lack of clarity of consonants and generally odd singing style later in life. 

Also, if you have the chance, listen to some of the live shows on youtube from late 1977.  Brian was at one of his lighter and healthier points, and they were trying to stick him up front, playing bass and his mic on fairly loud.  Sometimes he's way off key, but other times he just nails it and it sounds like 1964 again.
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« Reply #38 on: September 30, 2022, 08:24:19 AM »

I think Brian nailed the bridge on Surfer Girl at Knebworth.
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« Reply #39 on: September 30, 2022, 10:46:43 AM »

A couple things to add to the discussion... when did Brian first get dentures?  I'm sure that contributes to the lack of clarity of consonants and generally odd singing style later in life.  
I would guess that he got implants or veneers around 2007, and it improved things. Dentures seem a bit sketchy for someone of his economic status. Not saying there couldn’t have been a period with dentures or bridges prior to that.

I feel as though he started showing off his big bright white teeth by the time of the Lucky Old Sun photos. That is also the time at which his diction got much clearer— much crisper consonants than SMiLE in 2004.
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« Reply #40 on: October 01, 2022, 05:02:09 AM »

Talking about changes…that 1995 interview and others from the 1994 to 1996 period are some of his most honest and verbose. After 1997 the vast majority of his interviews are pretty bad, terse and unrevealing. Wonder if it was a medicine change
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« Reply #41 on: October 01, 2022, 09:34:14 AM »

Definitely was a medication change (Brian had put on a ton of weight and drastically lost it right around the same period), but I think Carl’s death also took a lot out of him
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« Reply #42 on: October 02, 2022, 06:13:26 PM »

Talking about changes…that 1995 interview and others from the 1994 to 1996 period are some of his most honest and verbose. After 1997 the vast majority of his interviews are pretty bad, terse and unrevealing. Wonder if it was a medicine change
Good observation. Yes, he was pretty talkative in IJWMFTT, and at times, very making observations of great depth. I assume the interview you refer to is the one where Brian is in the studio, has just done some work with Mike and Carl. I've gotten used to the nearly mute Brian of recent years, so it was surprising to see how verbose - and open and honest - he was there. He may have been suffering some bad side effects from some of the medicine he was on, but mentally, he's very sharp.
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« Reply #43 on: October 02, 2022, 11:57:41 PM »

That is probably the worst bad take in BB fandom: “Brian was better when he was hopped up on bad meds because that made him more conversational”.
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« Reply #44 on: October 03, 2022, 02:51:59 PM »

That is probably the worst bad take in BB fandom: “Brian was better when he was hopped up on bad meds because that made him more conversational”.

With all respect, that's not what's being said in this thread. No one is saying Brian shouldn't have gotten the medication he needed or that it would be better to be more talkative and under or poorly medicated. People are just observing that it may have been a factor in how he comes across in public speaking engagements, that's all.
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« Reply #45 on: October 03, 2022, 10:39:27 PM »

That is probably the worst bad take in BB fandom: “Brian was better when he was hopped up on bad meds because that made him more conversational”.

That's not what I said. And I think what we are seeing in that video is more the after effects of meds prescribed for him by Landy than anything he was taking in 1995.
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« Reply #46 on: October 04, 2022, 01:13:46 PM »

For what it's worth, in this interview from 1995 (about 2:55 into the interview), Brian himself states he ruined his voice with cigarettes.

https://youtu.be/DKnGCVRyPh4

At points in this interview he sounds reminiscent of his younger self.
To me, Brian sounded like his 1964 self in the opening seconds of his interview with me, when he said, "hello, Joel."
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« Reply #47 on: October 04, 2022, 05:53:15 PM »

Here’s the thing — Brian did almost no press from the late 60s to the late 90s. That’s almost 30 years. When he did give interviews, he was usually on uppers of some kind (legal or illegal). Once he was properly diagnosed, he actually began taking less medicine — but it was definitely of a more sedating, calming variety. That coincided with doing more press and, for Brian, no doubt getting much more bored and annoyed with the whole thing. So he became far more terse — and interestingly, also began to sing in a far more relaxed manner.
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« Reply #48 on: October 04, 2022, 08:47:50 PM »

Here’s the thing — Brian did almost no press from the late 60s to the late 90s. That’s almost 30 years. When he did give interviews, he was usually on uppers of some kind (legal or illegal). Once he was properly diagnosed, he actually began taking less medicine — but it was definitely of a more sedating, calming variety. That coincided with doing more press and, for Brian, no doubt getting much more bored and annoyed with the whole thing. So he became far more terse — and interestingly, also began to sing in a far more relaxed manner.

Very interesting point you make Wirestone, especially that last part. While I love the Brian Wilson album, and I love it as it is, I can't imagine the Landy-Era Brian singing with such subtlety and relaxed feeling on songs like "Summer's Gone", "Midnight's Another Day" or "Whatever Happened" among many others. I do wonder if it was just down to approach and vocal coaching, or how much the medication has effected Brian. I don't think I ever thought of any of this until you brought it up.
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« Reply #49 on: October 05, 2022, 02:01:20 AM »

Possibly getting off the subject of Brian's voice, and just to Brian in general.  I always think of something I heard years ago on the old radio talk show "Loveline".  Dr. Drew was talking about how the brain has "reserve" cells that take over when brain cells start to die off due to the aging process.  But for people who destroy brain cells due to drug use, they may say, "I feel fine, nothing has changed" in the short term.  But in the long term, when the brain needs those reserve cells... it's already on the reserve cells, and some mental decline can occur.  When I see Brian in zombie mode, I often think of that.
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