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Author Topic: Bruce's claim that "Til I Die" was the "last great Brian Wilson song"  (Read 4220 times)
Mr. Tiger
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« Reply #25 on: June 08, 2021, 10:03:04 AM »

There's often a passive aggressive tinge to much of Bruce's Brian praise, I find. He always seems to be towing the line, like in the Smile book essay where he gushes about how great the music is but then asserts that it shouldn't have gone out under the Beach Boys name. His continued disdain for the Friends album still baffles.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2021, 10:04:32 AM by Mr. Tiger » Logged
JakeH
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« Reply #26 on: June 08, 2021, 10:42:37 AM »

I'm still thinking that in the EH doc Bruce was simply quoting himself from an earlier interview with David Leaf. Does anyone have a copy of either version of it handy to see if they can track it down? My copy isn't readily available to me right now. Bruce was interviewed rather extensively by David in 1977, while he was still outside the BBs orbit. I recall a quote from him in a picture caption where he was quoted as saying he was the "Albert Speer of the Beach Boys"--a comment that folks found rather amusing back then but would likely recoil in horror from in our professionally over-reactive present day.

Correct you are - it arises in Leaf's book, in the context of Bruce discussing his involvement in the completion of the song "Surf's Up":

"I remember thinking, 'Well, if I voice this chord into Brian's part from the end of Carl's part, it'll sound okay and no on will know about it.' We ended up doing vocals to sort of emulate ourselves without Brian Wilson, which was kind of silly." [paragraph break, Bruce quote continues:] 'And yet, the last great Brian Wilson song was on that album. "Til I Die." I remember Brian playing it for the band and one member of the band didn't understand it and put it down, and Brian just decided not to show it to us for a few months. He just put it away. I mean, he was absolutely crushed. This other person just didn't like it, but Brian cut it anyway. I think that song was pretty meaningful in expressing where he was at that point in time. I think it's his heaviest song, even though I'm probably wrong.'" Source: Leaf California Myth book, 1978 edition, p. 144.

As Brian himself noted during this era, a "song" is not the same as a "record":  In the 1970 Sunflower-era Rolling Stone article penned by Jack Rieley, "Surf's Up" comes up and Brian says he prefers to keep "Surf's Up" (in its then-current state) as a "song" rather than make it into a "record."   Bruce (who, like others in Leaf's book was speaking relatively freely and honestly in those days) could very well be correct in his assessment of "Til I Die" if it's judged as a record  for which you put headphones on and listen to. But as a song?  Maybe in 1978 Bruce was correct, but in later times Brian wrote "Love and Mercy" which is as good a song as "Til I Die" and it's arguably the greatest song of Brian's career (though not necessarily his "best" song or most enjoyable to listen to). Brian himself obviously thinks very highly of "Love and Mercy" - it wasn't a hit, nobody was ever clamoring for him to perform it, yet he always performed it throughout his solo career.

Thank you for putting it into context. When a quote is dangled out there or singled out like this, the context becomes even more important.


Actually I could have been clearer about the context of the Bruce quote. The context is Brian's lack of involvement in the Surf's Up album - leading then to Bruce patching up the song "Surf's Up" for commercial release, etc.

In case anyone is interested or hasn't read Leaf's book, it goes like this, leading up, eventually, to Bruce's comment about "Til I Die."

Leaf: The recording of the Surf's Up album was the first false start in the group's resurgence. Brian's involvement was minimal. In fact, the album was initially titled Landlocked, but it was changed after a battle within the group resulted in the inclusion of the song 'Surf's Up.' That Smile jewel was put on the LP against Brian's wishes, and Bruce Johnston remembers that the entire album was designed to fool the public into thinking that Brian was part of the group.  'I think it was sort of a sham, not intentional. I felt that Jack Rieley had to make us look like a unit to pull us in a direction he was pulling us.'  Besides Brian's unhappiness, another internal feud resulted in Dennis's not having any songs on the album, one reason that the record isn't nearly as strong as Sunflower. [paragraph] The vocal arrangements on Surf's Up weren't as full as those on Sunflower either, and that is mostly because Brian wasn't working on the album. Bruce recalls, 'It was strange to be doing vocal arrangements to make it sound like the Beach Boys when we were the Beach Boys. That's a little weird to me.'"

Then the Bruce comment about working on "Surf's Up," and his point in the end being the irony that "the last great Brian Wilson song" was on an album Brian was not really involved in.

There's often a passive aggressive tinge to much of Bruce's Brian praise, I find. He always seems to be towing the line, like in the Smile book essay where he gushes about how great the music is but then asserts that it shouldn't have gone out under the Beach Boys name. His continued disdain for the Friends album still baffles.

With respect to Bruce saying that about Smile, it's not necessarily because he thinks poorly of the music, or doesn't respect its worth. Bruce would be stating a plain fact - Smile just isn't Beach Boys music.  If at the same time, Smile is nevertheless outstanding music as many people believe it to be, then what Bruce is saying could be seen as (unintentionally) reflecting poorly on the collective Beach Boys.  That is, they really had no use for music and lyrics of such outstanding quality (see also: the reaction to "Til I Die"). As a collective unit, the group just didn't speak that language.  Bruce once expressed frustration with the group being thought of as "surfing Doris Days," (Bruce of course knew Doris, and she covered some of his songs) but really that's what they are (which isn't bad - Doris Day was a great singer) and that's where their comfort zone was - regardless of the fact that one or two members of the group had no place in that format.  Bruce, we can assume, objected to Rieley's attempt to reshape the group into something it wasn't (which amounted to little more than resurrecting Brian's attempt to reshape the group in 1966) and Bruce would have had a valid point. So there is an honesty and consistency in Bruce's commentary: Jack Rieley's concept isn't "Beach Boys" and neither is Smile.

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Mr. Tiger
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« Reply #27 on: June 08, 2021, 10:58:23 AM »

Actually no, that is not fact, only your own opinion. You're welcome to subscribe to a very narrow view of what the BB could have been at that time. From this vantage point of 2021, you may feel that way, but in 1966, anything was possible.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2021, 10:59:11 AM by Mr. Tiger » Logged
thr33
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« Reply #28 on: June 08, 2021, 11:32:52 AM »

Since the interview was conducted in 1977, maybe that's a bit more defensible. Especially if this quote comes from earlier in the year, and prior to the release of Love You.

Songs written by Brian released in that span:

So Tough - You Need a Mess of Help to Stand Alone, He Come Down, Marcella
Holland - Sail On, Sailor, Funky Pretty, Fairy Tale
15 Big Ones - It's O.K., Had to Phone Ya, That Same Song, T M Song, Back Home
Singles - Child of Winter (I think this is it?)

I would take Til I Die over this selection, I think. Sail On, Sailor is very likely a great song. Marcella might be. I actually really like all of the originals on 15 Big Ones as well (and the covers), but I'm not sure if they're Bruce's cup of tea. Same with the Fairy Tale.

it's a shame both Mike and Bruce have no problem making such bold and rather negative statements about Brian. Mike has said similar things about Heroes & Villains being the last great record that Brian produced.
Do you have the source for that quote? I think I've seen it before too, I just can't seem to find it right now.

EDIT: Found it, from the Endless Harmony Doc

Mike: Heroes And The Villains is a very powerful track, very dynamic. That was the last of the super-dynamism from Brian I think. That was 1967.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2021, 01:04:36 PM by thr33 » Logged
guitarfool2002
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« Reply #29 on: June 08, 2021, 11:55:11 AM »

I think the point mentioned above regarding Smile (and others) "not being Beach Boys music" is worth noting, and it factors into the whole saga of the band especially in 1966 and '67 but also beyond that project and era too.

But in terms of Smile, consider just how many artists who were the Beach Boys' peers in terms of the best selling pop/rock artists of that time were having it said that such-and-such album or song/single isn't their kind of music, or doesn't sound like them.

Consider The Beatles Revolver, Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61, The Stones when they began moving away from playing blues and got into other styles...One thing about 1966 in particular is how many different new sounds and genres were starting to come out in pop music, and just those names mentioned above were also taking risks because the music they were releasing didn't sound like the music that made them upper-echelon stars.

I'll always say *if* the rap on Smile as it was being created was that band members felt it wasn't Beach Boys music, that was very short-sighted if not closed-minded. Those artists and albums mentioned above are considered among the greatest in rock/pop history, yet objectively or subjectively at the time they didn't sound like those artists. That didn't stop them from being released and changing pop music.

For just the Beach Boys alone, Good Vibrations at the time did not sound like Beach Boys music. Murry and other band members (unnamed) were going around saying it was too far out and they'd lose fans as a result of the radical new sound. Some fans thought Pet Sounds was so much of a departure that they left the band's fan base. But then again there are quite a few Stones fans even to this day who do not like The Stones music as much after they expanded away from playing blues.

So I don't know exactly what standard would or should apply as to defining what is and what isn't "Beach Boys music", but if it were applied it would be very short-sighted and ignorant considering the whole spirit in the air in 1966-67 was breaking new ground and getting away from what had been done previously to try new things.

I'm not pinning it on what Bruce said above, but if the notion was that Smile wasn't Beach Boys music, that mindset was what Murry was saying about Good Vibrations and what other bands who never changed their sound trying to maintain their brand had done...and the results are those bands get one or two singles played on oldies channels and Murry yet again missed the boat and didn't see the bigger picture.

I'd also suggest if Smile wasn't Beach Boys music, and that attitude was present within the group, why did they cherrypick random Smile tracks and snippets out of context and put them on their next albums moving forward into the 70's? And for Bruce's own songs, The Nearest Faraway Place and Disney Girls also sound nothing like Beach Boys tracks and more like the kind of music he would go on to produce for himself and MOR artists like Jack Jones in the 70's.

There's a lot of contradiction in all of this, laid out pretty clearly in what the band actually put on their albums in the years after 1967.
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« Reply #30 on: June 08, 2021, 12:44:02 PM »

Bruce's position in the band has always dictated that sometimes his "outsider/objective" comments don't always compute vis-a-vis his actual place in the band.

Whether it's a good or a bad thing, Bruce has sometimes turned his documented Jekyll/Hyde routine towards being more catty/critical/blunt about things to do with the band. It goes all the way back to early days, and continues to this day. Recall him describing he and the other guys working on Brian' Paley stuff in 1995 as "doing a favor" for Brian on material that he (Bruce) didn't seem to think was all that great. All this while still singing "Summer in Paradise" tracks in concert.

I take both Mike's comment about H&V being "the last of the super-dynamism" from Brian and Bruce's "his last great song" comment about "'Til I Die" as not being among at least the *most* catty or hypocritical comments from them; it seems to at least stem from holding "peak Brian" in very high esteem. But it does still come across as kind of a "poor Brian, he doesn't have it anymore" commentary, and it's never clear whether they mean Brian *never, ever* came back to that level, or if they're only speaking about some of the really dark, down times of the late 60s/early 70s, or, say, circa 1982 or something.

These types of comments such as Bruce's "'Til I Die" comments don't age particularly well in light of subsequent well-received Brian projects, not to mention Bruce continuing to work with Brian on later projects, and more in general Bruce continuing to take a "Beach Boys" paycheck for another nearly 50 years after that song. 

But at the same time, it's good to get these guys alone in interviews so they'll speak candidly. Bruce probably wouldn't say or strongly imply Brian hasn't written a great song since 1970 if Brian was there sitting next to him. 
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« Reply #31 on: June 08, 2021, 01:55:24 PM »

What I don't understand with these kinds of comments is these guys ultimately were and are all on the same team. They're all Beach Boys, the Beach Boys brand and Beach Boys music earns them a healthy paycheck every year. Mike and Bruce both have made a pretty stellar living through the years mostly due in part to Brian's original songs and productions, which they reproduce live on stage for paying audiences.

I guess I don't see the positives in making any comments at all that could have a negative connotation, either directly or one which could be interpreted as negative, regarding a member of their own team.

If you put it into any professional sports context, can you imagine an athlete giving an interview where he tells a reporter "his last truly great season was 2017" about a teammate, while that person is still on the team? To say it would be a pretty tense locker room after an interview like that would be putting it mildly, there may even be punches thrown as a result.
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« Reply #32 on: June 08, 2021, 02:34:51 PM »

Bruce has always lived in a bubble. I doubt he's heard a lot of post Til I Die tracks from Brian. 

Bruce left after Surf's Up.

For Beach Boys tracks, after Surf's Up, Bruce was on Marcella, California, Chapel of Love, Just Once In My Life, and I'll Bet He's Nice. He was also on Good Time and Susie Cincinnati, but those were recorded before he left. When he rejoined, Brian was passing out in parks in San Diego and living like a vagrant. So in Bruce's head, Til I Die definitely stands out as the last great Brian song. Love You and Adult/Child do not strike me as albums Bruce would like. MIU does seem like something Bruce would actually like, but since it went nowhere, I don't think Bruce is familiar with it. Bruce is focused on the business and that's why he and Mike are still partners; they have the same financial goal. 

As for Brian's solo stuff, I really don't think the rest of the band ever listened to it. Brian said they gave him a quick congrats on his 1988 album before starting a business meeting. I think this meeting might also be the same one that's transcribed in Mike's book. I'm guessing they knew a few songs; the ones promoted and played live. Mike trashed the album in Goldmine; saying that Brian sounded like sh*t, compared to what Brian is capable of sounding like. Mike also was aware of Sweet Insanity, but it might be he only knew the name of the project. I wonder what Carl thought of the 1988 album. It must have been hard for the guys in some sense; seeing Brian create again, but it doesn't sound like Brian of old and it's under Landy, the guy they forced Brian to go back to in 1982. They saw how Landy had his grips on Brian by 1988; I bet some of them felt some guilt at getting Brian into that situation. 

There's a European interview with Carl from 1989 that someone translated into English, and he discusses Brian's 88 album. He seems to have liked it, singling out "Let It Shine" as a favorite. I think he goes on to describe not liking Landy's lyrics, citing specifically the "I'm master of my fate, when I accelerate" line from "In My Car" off the "Still Cruisin'" album.



Found it! Didn't remember this, thank you.

http://smileysmile.net/board/index.php/topic,15607.msg369021.html#msg369021
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« Reply #33 on: June 08, 2021, 03:40:51 PM »

But at the same time, it's good to get these guys alone in interviews so they'll speak candidly. Bruce probably wouldn't say or strongly imply Brian hasn't written a great song since 1970 if Brian was there sitting next to him.  

See, that's one of the many differences between Bruce and Brian.  Brian will say that "Love & Mercy" was the best movie about him with Brent Wilson sitting right next to him.  LOL

Bruce is an odd character in a Beach Boys story full of odd characters.  AFAIK, he's never had anything resembling an ownership stake in the group.  Carl was paying him on a per-show basis in the early days.  And who knows, maybe Mike still pays him that way.   He started singing on, I think, California Girls, and is of course loud and clear on Pet Sounds and Smile.  Was he paid for that?  He certainly wasn't part of the recording deal with Capitol.   Or was he just a guest like a Dean Torrence or a Billy Hinsche or a Marilyn  singing on the record on an informal basis?  Did he care?   Beginning with Wild Honey, I think, Bruce started playing on BB tracks.  Again, he wasn't legally part of the recording act, so was he paid like any other session musician?
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phirnis
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« Reply #34 on: June 09, 2021, 03:07:46 AM »

There's often a passive aggressive tinge to much of Bruce's Brian praise, I find. He always seems to be towing the line, like in the Smile book essay where he gushes about how great the music is but then asserts that it shouldn't have gone out under the Beach Boys name. His continued disdain for the Friends album still baffles.

I agree about Bruce being passive aggressive in his praise. This part from the 1990 Record Collector interview is also very interesting in that regard:

Quote
I think that technology ruined Brian. Once he went beyond 4-track, he could put off all his decisions. It's like a kid is real cute when they're young, but once they know they're being cute, they're not so funny. Brian had too many choices, and maybe he got paranoid about what other people where doing. And he had the worst hangers-on around. But Brian was - sorry, is - an orchestral producer, because he got that sound in the studio, that real sound, that Spector did. That's pretty rare.

Is that talent of Brian's still there?

I think so. It's his choice.

What did you think of his solo album?

I think he can do better. I think it was as good as mine, and I don't like mine. I think that it wasn't close to anything he did in the past. No solo album from anyone matters after 30 years. I don't know - we've been talking about Brian for twenty years. It's like he had this five-year career, and we've been talking about it ever since. It's like a great composer or conductor, walking of the stage for twenty years, but the orchestra can still play the parts - and make the charts.

Source: https://troun.tripod.com/bruce.html

Concerning the Friends album, if memory serves me right he once said many years ago on the Male Ego board that he likes it, so maybe his feelings for this one have changed over the years for whatever reason.
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Don Malcolm
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« Reply #35 on: June 09, 2021, 05:55:33 AM »

Since the interview was conducted in 1977, maybe that's a bit more defensible. Especially if this quote comes from earlier in the year, and prior to the release of Love You.

Songs written by Brian released in that span:

So Tough - You Need a Mess of Help to Stand Alone, He Come Down, Marcella
Holland - Sail On, Sailor, Funky Pretty, Fairy Tale
15 Big Ones - It's O.K., Had to Phone Ya, That Same Song, T M Song, Back Home
Singles - Child of Winter (I think this is it?)

I would take Til I Die over this selection, I think. Sail On, Sailor is very likely a great song. Marcella might be. I actually really like all of the originals on 15 Big Ones as well (and the covers), but I'm not sure if they're Bruce's cup of tea. Same with the Fairy Tale.

IIRC, Til I Die was written in late in 1969 and was "put away" for quite some time due to negative feedback, re-emerging just in time to provide its elegiac beauty to the homestretch of the SURF'S UP LP. Much of Brian's work in the early 70s was "intercepted" by Carl and Jack Rieley, so it's hard to properly apportion the creative decisions in assessing the songs. There was clearly a lot of ferment in the band that flowed through and beyond the SURF'S UP sessions, with so many different directions manifesting themselves. Bruce, as the resident schmaltzmeister, clearly disdained the more rocked-out tendencies that came to the fore on CATP, particularly the first side of the LP, which in the mind of many folks epitomizes "not Beach Boys" (and, in the ensuing years of the decade, we often enjoyed stumping folks by playing Side One to see if they could figure out who it was before the record spun its way to "Marcella").

Thanks to Jake for finding the Bruce quote in David's book, which properly limits Bruce's remarks to that time frame. It would be interesting to ask him to revisit that quote today. He might well stick to his guns, based on his theory that "technology ruined Brian." It's ultimately a specious argument, but as with much that passes from Bruce's lips, it's superficially compelling enough to sound plausible in the overall context of his schmooze-a-rama.
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« Reply #36 on: June 09, 2021, 08:10:56 AM »


IIRC, Til I Die was written in late in 1969 and was "put away" for quite some time due to negative feedback, re-emerging just in time to provide its elegiac beauty to the homestretch of the SURF'S UP LP.

I mentioned this in the last post on page one of the thread, so I'll ask again: If I'm remembering, we heard there was some point where Mike called the lyrics a "downer", was this the criticism that caused Brian to withdraw the song, or was there criticism from other band members too when he presented it? Bruce's comment in Leaf's book mentions "one band member" who "put it down"...it could suggest Mike's put-down(s) (if it was Mike) was the put-down that scuttled it originally because  that's what we've heard about previously, but I'm wondering if there was more. Anyone have more info?
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« Reply #37 on: June 09, 2021, 11:37:09 AM »

Page 162 of carlin’s book talks about til i die reaction by the group. Even names mike saying the downer line and more. And how after brian changed a few words how the group realized the original lyrics were better and then used them when finishing up the song.
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« Reply #38 on: June 09, 2021, 12:43:07 PM »

Just curious: what songs would you say have equalled Till I Die in the 50 years since?
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« Reply #39 on: June 09, 2021, 09:31:10 PM »

Just curious: what songs would you say have equalled Till I Die in the 50 years since?

A can'o'worms question if there ever was one, so dependent upon personal taste. With such a range of styles, tempos, etc., how can anyone say definitively what's "equal"?

Brian didn't write too many introspective songs in the vein of "Til I Die" after that particular moment in time. And some of the tracks that have had "legs" over the years--"Marcella," "Sail On Sailor," "Mess of Help"--were not unalloyed Brian productions. I personally think that those three match well with "Til I Die" in terms of the genres/niches they occupy: variants of up-tempo rockers with production complexity that push the band forward in related but separate ways. It was a niche that the BBs had pretty much ignored/abandoned, and they collectively patch a big hole in the band's oeuvre. These songs have their own weightiness without the underlying anguish that propels "Til I Die." But they were all variously reliant on Carl to bring them to fruition.

While I greatly enjoy many other Brian tracks from later years, I don't think the solo work ever really reaches that level. "Rio Grande" is an impressive pastiche of the SMiLE approach to songwriting & production, but its structure and length tends to reveal how it was stitched together (something that Brian always was able to conceal on the most successful SMiLE tracks). If we ever hear the full "Life Suite," we just might have the autumnal version of Brian's "young and often spring" he gave to us in the sixties; right now, to my mind at least, the song that carries the wisp of that promise of late-career greatest is "Summer's Gone," the closest thing to the elegiac grandeur of "Til I Die."

Just my two cents...
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« Reply #40 on: June 09, 2021, 09:55:15 PM »

Melt Away is one of Brian's greatest songs proving Bruce incorrect. A lot of BW88 is really great, but I can see why some people wouldn't like the production or Brian's voice. There's even some killer stuff on Sweet Insanity. The thing with Brian's work from the 80s on is how much of the work is actually Brian. Even though Landy was an authoritarian, the music from those two albums still sounds like Brian. Sweet Insanity sounds a lot different than BW88 - just how Adult/Child was a lot different than Love You - but you can still see connections. I just wonder from Imagination on, how involved was Brian with the music and production? Seems like the last time we got true Brian music was back with Paley. Are there later songs that I really like? Yes, but I still wonder how much of the end of TWGWTR is Brian and how much of it is Joe Thomas. It doesn't take away from the fact that I love From There to Back Again. Brian's definitely written great songs since Til I Die, it's all personal choice on what his last great song was.
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« Reply #41 on: June 10, 2021, 01:39:55 AM »

Just curious: what songs would you say have equalled Till I Die in the 50 years since?

I think there are quite a few. Personally I even prefer several songs from later on over 'Til I Die, which comes down to personal taste I guess. I'd say Brian's greatest work from after 'Til I Die includes Marcella, Had to Phone Ya, The Night Was So Young, I'll Bet He's Nice, Melt Away, and Everything I Need (Paley sessions version). I'd add Sail On Sailor but I'm not sure whether it really counts as a "Brian song" considering the list of writers.
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« Reply #42 on: June 11, 2021, 01:46:21 PM »

Bruce is an odd character in a Beach Boys story full of odd characters.  AFAIK, he's never had anything resembling an ownership stake in the group.  Carl was paying him on a per-show basis in the early days.  And who knows, maybe Mike still pays him that way.   He started singing on, I think, California Girls, and is of course loud and clear on Pet Sounds and Smile.  Was he paid for that?  He certainly wasn't part of the recording deal with Capitol.   Or was he just a guest like a Dean Torrence or a Billy Hinsche or a Marilyn  singing on the record on an informal basis?  Did he care?   Beginning with Wild Honey, I think, Bruce started playing on BB tracks. Again, he wasn't legally part of the recording act, so was he paid like any other session musician?


I could be completely mistaken, but I believe Bruce plays bass on some Summer Days tracks (as did Al and Carl). I'm a little foggy on how involved he was in Smiley Smile.

Big talk to a guy who was better at being a beach boy knock off before becoming a beach boy. Then hardly contributing songs. Him and Al have got to be some of the luckiest musicians of all time.

Bruce apparently played the central role in arranging the vocals for the Surf's Up album. He was pretty significant on Sunflower as well. There's probably a fair amount of Bruce in the arranging on 20/20 as well, although those sessions seem to be a bit more mysterious. But essentially, during that period, when Brian was less "available," Bruce became the main vocal arranger. He actually bore a pretty heavy burden arranging their records when the band as a whole were at a low ebb commercially, but still a high point creatively.

I think it goes without saying that Surf's Up is more successfully arranged and produced, vocally and instrumentally, than Carl & the Passions, and Bruce deserves a ton of the credit for that. Even if you leave aside "Day in the Life of a Tree" and "'Til I Die" and credit those to Brian, and give Carl the vast majority of the credit for "Feel Flows", there's still a lot of fine music-making that Bruce made happen, including putting the title track together (alongside Carl). I think it's significant that we still don't know what a true SMiLE version of "Surf's Up" would have sounded like and when Brian revived it, he based his arrangement on the Carl-Bruce reconstruction.

I also don't believe this assessment is fair to Al, who arguably had the most demanding vocal role in the live band for many years, and played a lot of instrumental parts too in the studio (often holding down the bass chair when Brian had largely abandoned that instrument). Certainly during the Blondie/Ricky era, Al was working about as hard as Carl in the live show, if not in the studio.

So while it's probably true that Bruce has been pretty much coasting and counting his money for 40 years, and Al to a lesser degree, on no account do I consider either of them to be among "the luckiest musicians of all time." It's true that Al can't really write (most of his "originals" seem to be recycled Kingston Trio tunes) but I don't think his writing could have really added much to a band that also had Brian, Dennis, Carl, and Mike, not to mention pretty decent taste in covers.

Bruce is a hard guy to like for several reasons -- his politics and musical wimpiness chief among them -- but he's a talented guy. And I find it baffling that anyone would have an unkind word to say about Al.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2021, 07:10:27 PM by maggie » Logged
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« Reply #43 on: June 12, 2021, 04:17:25 AM »

Just curious: what songs would you say have equalled Till I Die in the 50 years since?

As far as pure 100% Brian Wilson compositions, I think "My Diane" is up there.

The emotion is strong in that one. And the bridge (or mid8 - "mid4" in this case) gives us one of those rare "WOW' moments.
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« Reply #44 on: June 12, 2021, 02:33:43 PM »

I'd add "Tell me why". That one - to quote Brian - "kills my soul".
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« Reply #45 on: June 18, 2021, 04:46:51 PM »

Bruce is an odd character in a Beach Boys story full of odd characters.  AFAIK, he's never had anything resembling an ownership stake in the group.  Carl was paying him on a per-show basis in the early days.  And who knows, maybe Mike still pays him that way.   He started singing on, I think, California Girls, and is of course loud and clear on Pet Sounds and Smile.  Was he paid for that?  He certainly wasn't part of the recording deal with Capitol.   Or was he just a guest like a Dean Torrence or a Billy Hinsche or a Marilyn  singing on the record on an informal basis?  Did he care?   Beginning with Wild Honey, I think, Bruce started playing on BB tracks. Again, he wasn't legally part of the recording act, so was he paid like any other session musician?


I could be completely mistaken, but I believe Bruce plays bass on some Summer Days tracks (as did Al and Carl). I'm a little foggy on how involved he was in Smiley Smile.

Big talk to a guy who was better at being a beach boy knock off before becoming a beach boy. Then hardly contributing songs. Him and Al have got to be some of the luckiest musicians of all time.

Bruce apparently played the central role in arranging the vocals for the Surf's Up album. He was pretty significant on Sunflower as well. There's probably a fair amount of Bruce in the arranging on 20/20 as well, although those sessions seem to be a bit more mysterious. But essentially, during that period, when Brian was less "available," Bruce became the main vocal arranger. He actually bore a pretty heavy burden arranging their records when the band as a whole were at a low ebb commercially, but still a high point creatively.

I think it goes without saying that Surf's Up is more successfully arranged and produced, vocally and instrumentally, than Carl & the Passions, and Bruce deserves a ton of the credit for that. Even if you leave aside "Day in the Life of a Tree" and "'Til I Die" and credit those to Brian, and give Carl the vast majority of the credit for "Feel Flows", there's still a lot of fine music-making that Bruce made happen, including putting the title track together (alongside Carl). I think it's significant that we still don't know what a true SMiLE version of "Surf's Up" would have sounded like and when Brian revived it, he based his arrangement on the Carl-Bruce reconstruction.

I also don't believe this assessment is fair to Al, who arguably had the most demanding vocal role in the live band for many years, and played a lot of instrumental parts too in the studio (often holding down the bass chair when Brian had largely abandoned that instrument). Certainly during the Blondie/Ricky era, Al was working about as hard as Carl in the live show, if not in the studio.

So while it's probably true that Bruce has been pretty much coasting and counting his money for 40 years, and Al to a lesser degree, on no account do I consider either of them to be among "the luckiest musicians of all time." It's true that Al can't really write (most of his "originals" seem to be recycled Kingston Trio tunes) but I don't think his writing could have really added much to a band that also had Brian, Dennis, Carl, and Mike, not to mention pretty decent taste in covers.

Bruce is a hard guy to like for several reasons -- his politics and musical wimpiness chief among them -- but he's a talented guy. And I find it baffling that anyone would have an unkind word to say about Al.

Nice post. Bruce plays some keys on SDSN and Wild Honey, and bass on Party and “Wild Honey”. Brian and Al play bass on SDSN, along with some usual WC musicians.

Regarding, an unkind word about Al, I had an interesting experience with him, but I have been advised by others here I likely caught him on a bad day.
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