5:44 p.m. - October 04, 2005
More so than any other major rock-and-roll group in history, the catalog of the Beach Boys has been ignored and abused. Sure, after the releases of Endless Summer in 1974 and Spirit of America in 1975, the Beach Boys’ original records are at best spotty and at worst dismal. And of course, who doesn’t know all of those fabulous hits of theirs in the early and mid 1960’s.
But from the period between “Good Vibrations” to “Kokomo”, many people could name only one single, 1969’s “Do It Again”, and they would put that one squarely in 1965 more often that not. (Some of you may recall 1985’s “Getcha Back” but I doubt that it’s more than 5% of the populus reading me now.)
After the release of Pet Sounds in 1966, the Beach Boys released several albums that contained some fine moments, and had some minor hits, but radio doesn’t play them and those records seem to be lost to the general public. Even some of their earlier work has been forgotten, because all everyone knows are the hits that the oldies stations play and play and play.
This essay is not to slight any of their fine work as a hit singles machine back in the day, which is the work of genius, and of course, Pet Sounds is the greatest album ever released in the history of the world. (Skeptics about those statements, listen to four songs for me, “I Get Around”, “You Still Believe In Me”, “God Only Knows”, and “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times”. There, are you satisfied now?)
So without further ado, here are:
30 Beach Boys Songs That You Don’t Know But Need To Hear, Now!!
30. “Be True To Your School” (45 Version) – Good Vibrations Box Set
“Wait, Smed!”, you’re saying, “I KNOW those songs!” Well, you probably haven’t heard THESE versions (unless you have the Box Set or the remastered albums). The reason is that when Capitol put together Endless Summer the ninnies chose the WRONG versions, and those versions seem to be played all of the time now. The 45 version (which everyone heard back in the day) of “Be True To Your School” has a much different mix than the album version, and contains cheerleaders and some interesting stuff going on in the instrumental break. “Help Me, Rhonda” is even more of an embarrassing gaffe, as they chose a version that’s actually called “Help Me, Ronda” (note the spelling) that was released on an earlier album. Brian Wilson decided to tighten up the song, change the arrangement a bit, and released as a single. And so he did, and it was good. But Capitol screwed it up when Capitol anthologized it.
28. The Warmth Of The Sun” - Shut Down, Vol. 2
A beautiful ballad that was never released as a single, it would have been much higher on the list if this wasn’t on a lot of movie soundtracks. I put it this low on the list because of all of these songs, many of you would know this one, and I needed to get to 30 somehow.
27. “Wind Chimes” – Good Vibrations Box Set
One of the cuts that was supposed to be on the Smile album (which will get its own essay soon), this is a peaceful, calm song until the middle, when Brian Wilson unleashes his production mastery. This has a pretty melody and a neat arrangement. I would avoid the version on Smiley Smile, as that is a re-recorded version that is affected by substances they used.
26. “You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone” - Carl And The Passions: So Tough
The 1972 album is pretty much a mess (it’s probably the low point of their career until 1976 – and what the hell is up with the title, anyway) but this song redeems it a bit. It’s a neat rocker written by Carl and Brian Wilson, and Carl sings it with gusto. It’s sloppy and goofy, but it’s fun.
25. “Little Bird” - Friends
Dennis, yes Dennis, Wilson shows that he can write and arrange songs as well. (Actually, he’s ahead of Carl Wilson at this point). It’s a rather light song, but it has a neat structure and some interesting sonic tricks that show that Dennis was actually paying attention to what Brian was doing.
24. “Let Him Run Wild” - Summer Days (And Summer Nights)
There are several songs that seem to be precursors to Pet Sounds, and this is one of them. It wasn’t released as a single, but would definitely sound great on the radio, even to this day. The arrangement is a bit busy, as Brian was still toying with his version of the Wall of Sound.
23. “Little Saint Nick” (45 Version) - Good Vibrations Box Set
It’s really hard to write original rock and roll Christmas songs that aren’t derivative, cloying, or downright train wrecks. Brian and the boys come up with a winner here that really should be a classic. Later covered by Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem!
22. “4th Of July” - Good Vibrations Box Set
Dennis Wilson again, on an out-take from Surf’s Up. The reason it was an outtake is because of Dennis’ issues with Mike Love and that axis of the group. (Basically, all you need to know is Mike Love is a tool and an idiot, and that theme will recur.) Carl Wilson sings the song with the poignancy and reverence is deserves.
21. “Time To Get Alone” - 20/20
That album, a mish-mash hodge-podge of singles and tracks that were laying around, was deemed as the inevitable contractual obligation album (and it worked, as it was their last original Capitol record) but that aside, it had several hidden gems. Brian Wilson wrote this, Carl Wilson sang it (as he emerged as the voice of the Beach Boys) and the production is stellar, especially the stunning “deep and wide” part in the bridge.
20. “Darlin’” - Wild Honey
After the lambasting the Beach Boys took on Smiley Smile (most of it well deserved) they retreated and came up with this winner of a single. It was a decent sized hit (if not doggone outta site), but no one remembers it or plays it on the radio anymore.
19. “Let The Wind Blow” - Wild Honey
A simple song with a spare arrangement, this proves that you do not need to be lush, fancy, or overtly complicated to come up with a winning song. Mike Love (for once a positive contributor post-1965!) and Brian Wilson collaborate on this one, which makes up in great depth and feeling what it lacks in true substance.
18. “Breakaway” - Spirit of America
This was the final Capitol single, but it sure sounds like 1965. For some reason, it totally stiffed, only hitting the mid-60’s on the chart, and it deserved so much more. It was the only post “Good Vibrations” song released on either Endless Summer or Spirit of America which begs the question why weren’t songs like “Darlin’”, “Heroes and Villans” or “Wild Honey” chosen if they chose this one? (This was actually co-written with Brian’s father Murry, one of their only collaborations).
17. “Heroes and Villans” - Smiley Smile
The hype was incredible. This was the follow up to “Good Vibrations” and the kick off to the Smile album. It’s a very interesting, complicated single that is great fun and has many spectacular parts and pieces to it. It didn’t do that well, alas, because it was probably too complicated for AM radio. This wasn’t what the actual single version was going to be, because Smile was scrapped before they released it. However, I have a 10-minute bootleg (shhh…don’t tell) version that was a rough cut of the album version of the song, and it’s fascinating!
16. “Wendy” - All Summer Long
I don’t know how many people actually know this, but since this is my list (MINE!) I’ll put it here. I do know this wasn’t a single (it was the lead cut of a 1964 EP), and I also do know it’s a fabulous song on all fronts. And yes, 1:18 into it, during the organ solo, there is a very audible cough. Oops!
Part two of this essay will be posted soon, so stay tuned, music fans!