Thoughts and music of double J x


The Kids Are Alright: The Who

maxresdefaultThe Who performed a secret concert for fan club members on May 25, 1978, at London’s Shepperton Film Studios for their documentary “The Kids Are Alright“. They wanted to get ‘live’ concert footage. The sad part about this ‘concert’ is that it was the last time Keith Moon would ever play with The Who. 

6b0fb5e82c8e5151551d78533fecbdb2Pete Townshend would later write about the Keith that day: ““Keith was in a good mood but bloated and unfit, and he found the repeated takes wearying.” Because Moon’s earphones kept falling off, they taped them to his head with thick black gaffers’ tape. In the months that followed, Moon headed to Malibu, California where he tried to kick his alcohol habit and then started abusing medications to relieve the withdrawal symptoms. On September 6, Moon took 32 tablets of clomethiazole, a sedative meant to help him cope with the withdrawal. The next morning Roger Daltrey, The Who’s lead singer, called Pete Townshend and simply said “He’s done it.” The last dance from The Who. 39 years ago today..


The Small Faces: Odgens’ Nut Gone Flake!

small-faces-sony-music-special-products-cdThe Small Faces released their third LP “Odgens’ Nut Gone Flake” on May 24, 1968. The title and the design of the distinctive packaging was a parody of Ogden’s Nut-brown Flake, a brand of tobacco that was produced in Liverpool from 1899 onwards by Thomas Ogden. Side two of the record is based on an original fairy tale about a boy called Happiness Stan, narrated in his unique “Unwinese” gobbledegook by Stanley Unwin, who picked up modern slang from the band and incorporated it into the surreal narrative.

The fairy tale follows Stan in his quest to find the missing half of the moon, after seeing a half-moon in the sky one night. Along the way, he saves a fly from starvation, and in gratitude the insect tells him of someone who can answer his question and also tell him the philosophy of life itself. With magic power, Stan intones, “If all the flies were one fly, what a great enormous fly-follolloper that would bold,” and the fly grows to gigantic proportions. Seated on the giant fly’s back, Stan takes a psychedelic journey to the cave of Mad John the Hermit, who explains that the moon’s disappearance is only temporary, and demonstrates by pointing out that Stan has spent so long on his quest that the moon is now full again. He then sings Stan a cheerful song about the meaning of life.

18620406_1682107235163312_4018971400356020724_nThe album was originally released on vinyl in a circular novelty package of a metal replica of a giant tobacco tin, inside which was a poster created with five connected paper circles with pictures of the band members. This proved too expensive and not successful as the tins tended to roll off of shelves and it was quickly followed by a paper/card replica with a gatefold cover. To promote the album, Immediate Records issued an advertisement that parodied the Lord’s Prayer. This caused an uproar in the British press, and outraged readers wrote in to voice their anger. It read:

facesSmall Faces
Which were in the studios
Hallowed by thy name
Thy music come
Thy songs be sung
On this album as they came from your heads
We give you this day our daily bread
Give us thy album in a round cover as we give thee 37/9d
Lead us into the record stores
And deliver us Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake
For nice is the music
The sleeve and the story
For ever and ever, Immediate

p01l6324Regarding the advert, Steve Marriott said, “We didn’t know a thing about the ad until we saw it in the music papers. And frankly we got the horrors at first. We realize that it could be taken as a serious knock against religion. But on thinking it over, we don’t feel it is particularly good or bad. It’s just another form of advertising. We’re not all that concerned about it. We’re more concerned in writing our music and producing our records.”

Happy 49th Birthday to The Small Faces LP “Odgens’ Nut Gone Flake”!!

So: Peter Gabriel

eight_col_PeterGabrielSoSo is the fifth studio album by English rock musician Peter Gabriel, released on 19 May 1986 by Charisma Records. After working on the soundtrack to the film Birdy (1984), producer Daniel Lanois was invited to remain at Gabriel’s home during 1985 to work on his next solo project. Initial sessions for So consisted of Gabriel, Lanois and guitarist David Rhodes, although these grew to include a number of percussionists.

petergabrielPrior to recording So, Gabriel released four studio albums all titled . They received nicknames based on their sleeve art, which were designed by English duo Hipgnosis. His debut, Car (1977), received positive reviews, mainly because of the hugely popular “Solsbury Hill“, which concerned the site of the same name near Ashcombe House, Gabriel’s estate to the north-east of Bath in Somerset. His second album—Scratch (1978)—fared less well and it was not until Melt (1980) that Gabriel was considered a progressive solo artist. Melt included the emotive anti-apartheid song “Biko” and the popular “Games Without Frontiers“, with Gabriel helping to “blueprint the sound of 80s rock through its trailblazing use of what became known as the “gated reverb” drum effect.” In the early 1980s, Gabriel embarked on various projects, including founding the World Music, Arts and Dance Festival (WOMAD), with a WOMAD album featuring himself, Robert Fripp, Pete Townshend and other artists of the world music genre. His fourth album, Security (1982)—also released in German as the Deutsches Album (1982)—saw success with Gabriel’s music video for the eye-opening “Shock the Monkey“. Gabriel won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival for scoring the soundtrack to the film Birdy (1984).[ Bono (U2) contacted Gabriel to perform at A Conspiracy of Hope, a series of Live Aid-inspired concerts that intended to spread awareness of human rights issues in light of Amnesty International’s twenty-fifth anniversary. Gabriel accepted and in June 1986, he performed alongside Sting, The Police, Lou Reed and Joan Baez, with a set that opened with “Red Rain” and featured “Sledgehammer“. Gabriel described it as “the best tour [he’d] ever been on”. So is often regarded as Gabriel’s best album, as well as one of the best albums of the 1980s. It enabled Gabriel to transform from a cult artist, acclaimed for his cerebral, experimental solo work, into a mainstream, internationally known star, it is Gabriel’s best-selling album, having been certified fivefold platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and triple platinum by the British Phonographic Industry

SOpoloroids-734x511Although Gabriel continued to use the pioneering Fairlight CMI synthesizer, songs from these sessions were notably less experimental than his previous material. Nevertheless, Gabriel drew on various musical influences, fusing pop, soul and art rock with elements of traditional world music, particularly African and Brazilian styles. It is Gabriel’s first non-eponymous album, So representing an “anti-title” that resulted from label pressure to properly market his music. Gabriel toured So on the This Way Up tour (1986–1987), with some songs performed at human rights and charity concerts during this period.

Gabriel said of the Lp “There is always wisdom from hindsight. And because ‘So’ was my most successful record, I think that a lot of people, particularly in America, think that it was designed to be that, from the other end of it, you never really know which records are going to do well. You know that some things are going to be so obscure and difficult for a mainstream audience that they’re no-hopers but generally, with what I do, it’s hard to predict which albums are going to do well”

1986-05-pgcd5Side One: Gabriel wanted the album to “crash open at the front” and despite disliking “metal” percussion instruments, he was persuaded by Lanois to allow The Police’s Stewart Copeland to play cymbals and hi-hat on its opener, “Red Rain”. The track sees Gabriel sing in his upper register with a throaty, gravely texture, of a destructive world with social problems such as torture and kidnapping. Its concept originated from a dream in which he envisaged the parting of a vast, red sea and human-like glass bottles filling up with blood. It was also intended to continue the story of Mozo, a recurring character in Gabriel’s first and second albums. The second track, “Sledgehammer”, was the final track to be conceived of. Although most of Gabriel’s band had packed away their equipment and were ready to leave the studio, Gabriel asked them to reassemble to quickly run through a song he had an idea for. “Sledgehammer” was partially inspired by the music of Otis Redding, and Gabriel sought out Wayne Jackson, whom Gabriel had seen on tour with Redding in the 1960s, to record horns for the track. Opened by a shakuhachi bamboo flute, its beat is dominated by brass instruments, particularly Jackson’s horn, and features lyrics abundant with sexual euphemisms. Manu Katché’s drums were recorded in one take as he believed any subsequent version would be inferior to his original interpretation of the music.

So’s most prominent political statement, “Don’t Give Up“, was fuelled by Gabriel’s discontent with rising unemployment during Margaret Thatcher’s premiership and Dorothea Lange’s photograph “Migrant Mother“. The track began as a rhythm pattern of slow, low-pitched tom-tom drums that Gabriel made, and Lanois believed could serve as the centrepiece of a song. Tony Levin added bass to create a more harmonious sound, and during the second half of the track, put a nappy behind his bass strings to dampen the sound. Gabriel ensured the song, which follows a narrative of an unemployed man and his lover, was written as a conversational piece. He initially sought out Dolly Parton to portray the woman, although Parton declined; his friend Kate Bush later agreed to feature. Bush serves as the song’s respondent, she assumes a comforting role and with delicate vocals, sings lines such as “Rest your head/ you worry too much”. The album’s first side culminates with “That Voice Again“, in which Gabriel explores the concept of conscience, examining the “parental voice in our heads that either helps or defeats us”. Co-written with David Rhodes, who plays guitar over Katché and Levin’s input, the song was written after Gabriel’s initial discussions with Martin Scorsese about scoring The Last Temptation of Christ (1988).

so-tapes-studioSide Two

In Your Eyes” has been described as Gabriel’s greatest love song. Inspired by the Sagrada Família and its architect Antoni Gaudí, Gabriel sings over a drumbeat of only feeling complete in the eyes of his lover. The track’s powerful atmosphere is created through the scat singing of Senegalese musician Youssou N’Dour, who sings in his native language. Gabriel became interested in the late American poet Anne Sexton after reading the anthology To Bedlam And Part Way Back. He dedicated So’s sixth track to her, calling it “Mercy Street” after “45 Mercy Street”, a poem released in another posthumous collection. “Mercy Street” is set to one of several Forró-inspired percussion compositions that Gabriel recorded in Rio de Janeiro. When these compositions were unearthed in the studio, they were accidentally played back ten per cent slower than the original recording, giving them a grainy quality that Gabriel and Lanois thought highlighted the cymbal and guitars. It features two harmonious Gabriel vocals; one a shadow vocal an octave below the main vocal. Intended to give a sensual, haunting effect, this was hard to capture except when Gabriel first woke up.

The dance song “Big Time” has funk influences and is built on a “percussive bass sound”. Its lyrics satirise the yuppie culture of the 1980s, materialism and consumerism and are the result of Gabriel’s self-examination, after he considered whether he may have desired fame after all. “We Do What We’re Told (Milgram’s 37)” was a song written for Peter Gabriel or “Melt” and is described as an interlude. It references the experiment on obedience carried out by American social psychologist Stanley Milgram, intended as a reference to the obedience citizens show to dictators during times of war. Marotta’s drums on the song – said to resemble “a heartbeat heard from the womb” – were coupled with Shankar’s violin and “two overdubbed guitar tracks by Rhodes”. The album is completed by “This Is The Picture (Excellent Birds)”, which Gabriel decided, forty-eight hours before his album submission, was to be included. “Excellent Birds” was composed with American musician Laurie Anderson and featured on her 1984 album Mister Heartbreak. This was interpolated with a recording called “This Is The Picture“, on which Nile Rodgers plays rhythmic guitar

261-2Often considered his best album, as well as his most accessible, So was an immediate commercial success and transformed Gabriel from a cult artist into a mainstream star, becoming his best-selling solo release. It has been certified fivefold platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America and triple platinum by the British Phonographic Industry. The album’s lead single, “Sledgehammer”, was promoted with an innovative animated music video and achieved particular success, reaching number-one on the Billboard Hot 100 and subsequently winning a record of nine MTV Video Music Awards. It was followed by four further singles, “Don’t Give Up” (a duet with Kate Bush), “Big Time”, “In Your Eyes” and “Red Rain”.

The album received positive reviews from most critics, who praised its songwriting, melodies and fusion of genres, although some retrospective reviews have criticised its overt commercialism and 1980s production sounds. So was nominated for the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1987 but lost to Paul Simon’s Graceland. It has continued to appear in lists of the best albums of the 1980s and was included at number 187 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. So was remastered in 2002, partially re-recorded for Gabriel’s 2012 orchestral project New Blood and issued as a box set the same year.

Ian Curtis: Joy Division

10375014cc260390a335f24efc7cc52aIan Kevin Curtis (15 July 1956 – 18 May 1980) was an English singer-songwriter and musician. He is best known as the lead singer and lyricist of the post-punk band Joy Division. Joy Division released their debut album, Unknown Pleasures, in 1979 and recorded their follow-up, Closer, in 1980. In the early hours of 18 May 1980, Curtis committed suicide by hanging himself in the kitchen of his house at No.77 Barton Street, Macclesfield, at the age of 23. He had just viewed Werner Herzog’s 1977 film Stroszek and listened to Iggy Pop’s album The Idiot. His wife found Curtis’s body the next morning; he had used the kitchen’s washing line. Deborah claimed later that he had confided to her on several occasions that he had no desire to live past his twenties. Curtis’ body was cremated at Macclesfield Crematorium and his ashes were buried at Macclesfield Cemetery.

068.tifCurtis, who suffered from epilepsy and depression, took his own life on 18 May 1980, on the eve of Joy Division’s first North American tour, resulting in the band’s dissolution and the subsequent formation of New Order. Curtis was known for his bass-baritone voice, dance style, and songwriting filled with imagery of desolation, war, emptiness and alienation. After Curtis’s death, the remaining members continued as New Order and achieved critical and commercial success. Although their career spanned less than four years, Joy Division continues to exert an influence on a variety of subsequent artists.

1164582-joy-division_jpgIn 1976 at a Sex Pistols gig, Curtis met Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook. They were trying to form a band, and Curtis immediately proposed himself as singer and lyricist. The trio then tried unsuccessfully to recruit several drummers before selecting Stephen Morris as their final member. Initially, the band was called Warsaw, but as their name conflicted with that of another group, Warsaw Pakt, they changed it to Joy Division. The moniker was derived from a 1955 novel The House of Dolls, which featured a Nazi concentration camp with a sexual slavery wing called the “Joy Division“. The cover of the band’s first EP depicted a drawing of a Hitler Youth beating a drum and the A-side contained a song, “Warsaw”, which was a musical retelling of the life of Nazi leader Rudolf Hess. After starting Factory Records with Alan Erasmus, Tony Wilson signed the band to his label following the band’s appearance on his So It Goes television programme, itself prompted by an abusive letter sent to Wilson by Curtis.

joy-division-hulme-bridgeWhile performing with Joy Division, Curtis became known for his quiet and awkward demeanour, as well as a unique dancing style. Although predominantly a singer, Curtis also played guitar on a handful of tracks (usually when Sumner was playing synthesizer; “Incubation” and a Peel session version of “Transmission” were rare instances when both played guitar). At first Curtis played Sumner’s Shergold Masquerader, but in September 1979 he acquired his own guitar, a Vox Phantom Special VI (often described incorrectly as a Teardrop or ordinary Phantom model) which had many built-in effects used both live and in studio. After Curtis’ death, Sumner inherited the guitar and used it in several early New Order songs, such as “Everything’s Gone Green“.

Curtis’ last live performance was on 2 May 1980, at High Hall of Birmingham University, a show that included Joy Division’s first and only performance of “Ceremony“, later recorded by New Order and released as their first single. The last song Curtis performed onstage was “Digital“. The recording of this performance was included on the compilation album Still.

ce1d58b39a0204d173554d43477f1a5fCurtis was portrayed by Sean Harris in the 2002 film 24 Hour Party People, which dramatised the rise and fall of Factory Records from the 1970s to the 1990s. In 2007 a British Ian Curtis biographical film called Control was released, based on material from Deborah Curtis’s book Touching from a Distance. It was directed by the Dutch rock photographer and music video director Anton Corbijn, who had previously photographed the band and directed the video for “Atmosphere“. Deborah Curtis and Tony Wilson were executive producers and Todd Eckert of Clara Flora was the producer. Sam Riley, the lead singer of the band 10,000 Things, portrays Curtis, while Samantha Morton plays his wife, Deborah. The film had its debut at the Cannes Film Festival on 17 May 2007 to great acclaim, taking three awards at the Directors’ Fortnight. It portrays Curtis’s secondary school romance with Deborah, their marriage, his problems balancing his domestic life with his rise to fame, his relationship with Annik Honoré, his struggle with poorly medicated epilepsy and depression, and his suicide.

Lodger: David Bowie

1979_lodger_us_cvr_fix_800sqOriginally released May 18th 1979, on the label RCA Lodger is the thirteenth studio album by David Bowie. The last of the Berlin Trilogy, it was recorded in Switzerland and New York City with collaborator Brian Eno and producer Tony Visconti. Unlike Bowie’s previous albums, Lodger contained no instrumentals and a somewhat more pop-oriented style while experimenting with elements of world music and recording techniques inspired by Eno’s Oblique Strategies cards. The album was not, by Bowie’s standards, a major commercial success. Indifferently received by critics on its initial release, it is now widely considered to be among Bowie’s most underrated albums. It was accompanied by several singles, including the UK Top 10 hit “Boys Keep Swinging.

bb3234538132427cde4c62a5bb313e59Originally to be titled either Planned Accidents or Despite Straight Lines, Lodger was largely recorded between legs of David Bowie’s 1978 world tour and featured the same musicians, along with Brian Eno. Experiments on the album included using old tunes played backwards, employing identical chord sequences for different songs and having the musicians play unfamiliar instruments (as on “Boys Keep Swinging”). Lead guitar was played not by Robert Fripp, as on “Heroes”, but by Fripp’s future King Crimson band member, Adrian Belew, whom Bowie had “poached” while the guitarist was touring with Frank Zappa. Much of Belew’s work on the album was composited from multiple takes played against backing tracks of which he had no prior knowledge, not even the key.

djThough missing the songs/instrumentals split that characterised Low and “Heroes“, Lodger has been interpreted as dividing roughly into two major themes, that of travel (primarily side one) and critiques of Western civilisation (primarily side two). The final track on “Heroes”, “The Secret Life of Arabia“, anticipated the mock-exotic feel of Lodger’s travel songs. “African Night Flight” was a tribute to the music and culture of the veld, inspired by a trip to Kenya that he took with his then-small son Zowie; its musical textures have been cited as presaging the popularity of world music, Bowie considering it a forerunner of the sounds developed by Brian Eno and David Byrne for My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1981). “Move On” was lyrically Bowie’s ode to his own wanderlust, sonically his earlier classic “All the Young Dudes” played backwards. “Yassassin” was an unlikely reggae song with a Turkish flavour. “Red Sails” was inspired in part by the music of German band Neu!, sharing Neu!’s distinctive “motorik” drum beat; for Bowie, it combined “a German new music feel” with “a contemporary English mercenary-cum-swashbuckling Errol Flynn” to produce “a lovely cross-reference of cultures”.

Eno felt that the trilogy had “petered out” by Lodger, and Belew also observed Eno’s and Bowie’s working relationship closing down: “They didn’t quarrel or anything uncivilised like that; they just didn’t seem to have the spark that I imagine they might have had during the “Heroes” album.” An early plan to continue the basic pattern of the previous records with one side of songs and the other instrumentals was dropped, Bowie instead adding lyrics that foreshadowed the more worldly concerns of his next album, Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps).

david-bowie-lodger-gatefold-insideBowie collaborated with English pop artist Derek Boshier on the cover design. The original gatefold album sleeve featured a full-length shot of Bowie by photographer Brian Duffy as an accident victim, heavily made up with an apparently broken nose. For effect, the image was deliberately of low resolution, taken with a Polaroid SX-70 type camera. The inside of the gatefold included pictures of Che Guevara’s corpse, Andrea Mantegna’s Lamentation of Christ and Bowie being readied for the cover photo. These images were not reproduced in the Rykodisc CD reissue in 1991.

Let It Be: The Beatles

LetItBe_0The Beatles released their 12th and final LP “Let It Be” in the US on May 18 (some sources say 17), 1970. It was released almost a month after the group’s break-up. Like most of the band’s previous releases, it was a number one album in many countries, including both the US and the UK, and was released in tandem with the motion picture of the same name. The album was conceived as Get Back, a return to the Beatles’ earlier, less complicated approach to music. Most of Let It Be was recorded in January 1969, before the recording and release of the Beatles’ album Abbey Road. For this reason, some critics and fans, such as Mark Lewisohn, argue that Abbey Road should be considered the group’s final album and Let It Be the penultimate.

By late 1968, more than two years after the Beatles gave up touring, Paul McCartney was eager for the group to perform live again. The sessions for that year’s The Beatles (commonly known as the “White Album“) had seen a number of serious arguments and strained relations among the group. McCartney felt that the band’s cohesiveness had been lost through years without playing live, and from using the studio not to record ensemble performances, but to make increasingly complex recordings made up of parts played individually by each Beatle as overdubs rather than as a group. He believed that the best way to improve band relations and revive enthusiasm was to get the group back into rehearsal as quickly as possible (the White Album sessions having concluded in October 1968) and begin work on a new album that made little or no use of studio artifice or multiple overdubbing. This would allow the group to return to their roots by playing as a true ensemble, recording some or all of the new album during a one-off live concert or full concert tour. This idea mirrored the “back to basics” attitude of a number of rock musicians at this time in reaction against the psychedelic and progressive music dominant in the previous two years.

lib beatlesThe concert itself would be filmed for broadcast on worldwide television, with the album released to coincide with it. McCartney also decided to invite producer/engineer Glyn Johns to contribute to the recording. His proposed role was apparently not clearly defined, as McCartney also wished to retain the services of George Martin. As a result, Johns was not entirely sure whether he was supposed to be producing (or co-producing) the album or merely engineering it, with Martin having no clear idea of where he stood either. As it turned out, Johns acted as engineer, while the band used Martin for advice and ideas as they worked.

Rehearsals began at Twickenham Film Studios in January 1969 as part of a planned documentary showing the Beatles preparing to return to live performance. A project instigated by Paul McCartney, the filmed rehearsals were marked by ill-feeling, leading to George Harrison’s temporary departure from the group. As a condition of his return, the Beatles reconvened at their own Apple Studio, where they completed the recordings with the help of guest musician Billy Preston. Following several rejected mixes by Glyn Johns, a new version of the album was produced by Phil Spector in March–April 1970. While three songs from the sessions were released as singles before the album’s release, “Get Back”/”Don’t Let Me Down” and “Let It Be“, the songs were remixed by Spector for the album and “Don’t Let Me Down” was not included.

beatles12The band played hundreds of songs during the Get Back/Let It Be sessions. Aside from original songs ultimately released on Let It Be, there were early versions of many tracks that appeared on Abbey Road, including “Mean Mr. Mustard”, “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window”, “Sun King”, “Polythene Pam”, “Golden Slumbers”, “Carry That Weight”, “Something”, “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, “Oh! Darling”, “Octopus’s Garden” and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)“. Other original compositions would eventually end up on Beatle solo albums, including Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” (called “Child of Nature” at the time and originally written and rehearsed for the White Album) and “Gimme Some Truth“; Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass“, “Isn’t It a Pity” (a song he initially put forward for Revolver in 1966), “Let It Down” and “Hear Me Lord“; and McCartney’s “Another Day”, “Teddy Boy”, “Junk” (another track from the White Album era) and “The Back Seat of My Car“. Throughout the rehearsals and recording sessions, much of the band’s attention was focused on a broad range of covers, extended jams on 12-bar blues, and occasional new efforts such as Lennon’s uncompleted “Madman“. These covers included classical pieces such as Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”, jazz standards such as “Ain’t She Sweet“, and an array of songs from the early rock and roll era such as “Stand By Me”, “Words of Love”, “Lonely Sea”, “Bésame Mucho” by Mexican composer Consuelo Velázquez (a song that was part of the Beatles’ repertoire at the start of their career) and “Blue Suede Shoes“. Several Bob Dylan songs were also played, including “Positively 4th Street”, “All Along the Watchtower” and “I Shall Be Released”. Only a handful of these cover versions were complete performances; the vast majority were fragmentary renditions with at most a verse or two of misremembered lyrics.

Two songs appearing on the album were not recorded during the January 1969 sessions. “Across the Universe” had been recorded at Abbey Road Studios in February 1968, and “I Me Mine” was not recorded until January 1970, after Lennon’s unannounced departure from the group. Lewisohn recognises “I Me Mine” as the final song to be recorded by the Beatles before their official dissolution. Overdubbing of vocals and instrumentation for other tracks continued into April 1970, just before the album’s release.

R-375500-1386801766-9912_jpegLet It Be… Naked was released in 2003, an alternative version of the album, without any of Spector’s production work and using some different takes of songs.

Does it matter to you if it was their “real” ot “actual” last album… “Let It Be”!!

Pet Sounds: Beach Boys

pet-soundsThe Beach Boys released their 11th album “Pet Sounds” on May 16, 1966. At first it met a lukewarm critical and commercial reception in the United States, but received immediate success abroad, where British publications declared it “the most progressive pop album ever”. It charted at number two in the UK but only hit number ten in the US, a significantly lower placement than the band’s preceding albums.

The July 1964 release of the Beach Boys’ sixth album All Summer Long marked an end to the group’s beach-themed period. From there on, their recorded material took a significantly different stylistic and lyrical path. While on a December 23 flight from Los Angeles to Houston, the band’s songwriter and producer Brian Wilson suffered a panic attack only hours after performing with the group on the musical variety series Shindig! The 22-year-old Wilson had already skipped several concert tours by then, but the airplane episode proved devastating to his psyche. In order to focus his efforts on writing and recording, Wilson indefinitely resigned from live performances. Freed from the burden, he immediately showcased great artistic leaps in his musical development evident within the albums Today! and Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!), released in the first half of 1965. With the July 1965 single “California Girls“, Wilson began experimenting with song composition while under the influence of psychedelic drugs, a factor that yielded a great effect on the group’s musical conceptions

beach-boys-getty1For Pet Sounds, Wilson desired to make “a complete statement”, similar to what he believed the Beatles had done with their newest album Rubber Soul, released in December 1965. Wilson was immediately enamored with the album, given the impression that it had no filler tracks, a feature that was mostly unheard of at a time when 45 rpm singles were considered more noteworthy than full-length LPs. Many albums up until the mid-1960s lacked a cohesive artistic goal and were largely used to sell singles at a higher price point. Wilson found that Rubber Soul subverted this by having a wholly consistent thread of music. Inspired, he rushed to his wife and proclaimed, “Marilyn, I’m gonna make the greatest album! The greatest rock album ever made!” He would say of his reaction to Rubber Soul: “I liked the way it all went together, the way it was all one thing. It was a challenge to me … It didn’t make me want to copy them but to be as good as them. I didn’t want to do the same kind of music, but on the same level.”

The album was produced and arranged by Brian Wilson, who also wrote and composed almost all of its music. Most of the recording sessions were conducted between January and April 1966, a year after he had quit touring with the Beach Boys in order to focus more attention on writing and recording. For Pet Sounds, Wilson’s goal was to create “the greatest rock album ever made” — a personalized work with no filler tracks. It is sometimes considered a Wilson solo album, repeating the themes and ideas he had introduced with The Beach Boys Today! one year earlier. The album’s lead single, “Caroline, No“, was issued as his official solo debut. It was followed by two singles credited to the group: “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” (backed with “God Only Knows“) and “Sloop John B“.

wolcott-beach-boys-september-2016Collaborating with lyricist Tony Asher, Wilson’s symphonic arrangements wove elaborate layers of vocal harmonies, coupled with sound effects and unusual instruments such as bicycle bells, buzzing organs, harpsichords, flutes, Electro-Theremin, trains, Hawaiian-sounding string instruments, Coca-Cola cans, and barking dogs, along with the more usual keyboards and guitars. Unified by Wall of Sound-style production techniques, the album comprised Wilson’s “pet sounds”, consisting mainly of introspective songs like “You Still Believe in Me“, about faithfulness, “I Know There’s an Answer“, a critique of LSD users, and “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times“, an autobiographical statement on social alienation (as well as the first use of a theremin-like instrument on a rock record). Recording was completed on April 13, 1966, with an unprecedented total production cost that exceeded $70,000 (equivalent to $520,000 in 2016). A follow-up album, Smile, was immediately planned, but left unfinished. In 1997, a “making-of” version of Pet Sounds was supervised by Wilson and released as The Pet Sounds Sessions, containing the album’s first true stereo mix.

It took some time but the album garnered enormous worldwide acclaim by critics and musicians alike, and is regarded as one of the most influential pieces in the history of popular music. One of the first big fans of the LP was Paul McCartney who has said many times how much he liked the album, citing “God Only Knows” as his favorite song of all-time. He acknowledged that it was the primary impetus for The Beatles’ 1967 album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Happy 51st Birthday to one of the most influential ablums in the history of Rock and Roll, “Pet Sounds”!!