Friday, July 31, 2015

My Beach Boys Countdown: 11-1

We have reached both the end of July and the finish line of the countdown of my 55 favorite Beach Boys songs of all-time. I hope some of you have enjoyed this as much as I have, but in any case- I HAVE! To check out last weeks post and discover links to other things I have written about the band, click the Beach Boys tab at the top of this blog.


Our final featured album of this countdown is the 1971 classic Surf's Up. In addition to the two tracks featured in the list below, Surf's Up (#19 on this countdown), #38 Disney Girls (1957) and Feel Flows were incredible pieces of music. You can also learn about taking care of your feet, about the dangers of water pollution and about reasons to hide during a riot. It's quite an eclectic work. Carl Wilson did much of the production work on the album, but the entire band contributed to some extent. The title track was pulled from the SMile tapes and given some new lyrics and a different ending. The album is creative and unique, and Rolling Stone Magazine ranked it #154 on its list of the top 500 albums of all-time. It was also featured in the musical reference book 101 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. And now on with the final countdown...

11)  Sail On, Sailor (1973) - From the album Holland. This song was a late addition to the album because the record company thought it could be hit single. It was a minor hit twice, once in 1973 and again in 1975, when I heard it on the local rock station one day during high school study hall. It was one of the few Beach Boys songs with Blondie Chaplin as the lead vocalist. Favorite Lyric: "Caught like a sewer rat alone but I sail, bought like a crust of bread but oh do I wail."
10)  Do It Again (1968) - From the album 20/20. A bit of "pre-nostalgia," as only 3 years removed from California Girls the guys wistfully revisited their surf music past. They returned to the original formula, with Mike writing lyrics and Brian writing music, and Mike once again provided the lead vocal. Brian once called it their best collaboration- and that's saying something!  Favorite Lyric: "Suntanned bodies and waves of sunshine, the California girls and a beautiful coastline, warmed up weather let's get together and do it again!"
 9)  I Get Around (1964) - From the album All Summer Long. When normal people are asked to pick their favorite song by The Beach Boys, this is nearly always in the top 3. It was their first #1 single and remains a classic, constantly featured in films and TV shows even now. Favorite Lyric: "My buddies and me are getting real well known, yeah the bad guys know us and they leave us alone!"
 8)  Wouldn't It Be Nice? (1966) - From the album Pet Sounds. The opening track on one of the greatest albums ever, this song captures like few others the joys and frustrations of young love. The vocals are classic. And the orchestrations behind them...just wow. In fact, you can watch the clip below and listen to the music without the vocals- Stack 'O' Tracks style!  Favorite Lyric: "You know it seems the more we talk about it, it only makes it worse to live without it...but let's talk about it...wouldn't it be nice."




7)  'Til I Die (1971) - From the album Surf's Up. Along with In My Room (#13) this is considered to be the penultimate Brian Wilson autobiographical song. Brian wrote it all, and got it on the album against the wishes of his band mates. It is emotional and shows Brian's depression at the time. It is featured during a very moving montage of flashbacks near the end of the movie Love & Mercy.  Favorite Lyric: "I'm a cork on the ocean, floating over the raging sea. How deep is the ocean? I lost my way..."
 6)  The Little Girl I Once Knew (1968) - From the album Best of The Beach Boys Vol. 3. I confess that until I started these posts I had no idea that this incredible song never appeared on a regular BB album. I knew it from the compilation Spirit of America, but it was released as a single in 1968. It's considered by many music scholars to be a masterpiece of writing and arranging. The totally silent pause before the chorus was the first time that had ever been done in a pop song played on AM radio, and they actually cause DJs not to play it because the dead stops made them uncomfortable. You may recognize it from the film The Devil Wears PradaFavorite Lyric: "How could I ever have known that she'd be what she is today? Look at how her boyfriend holds her, I'll be moving in one day...'split man!'"
 5)  Long Promised Road (1971) - From the album Surf's Up. This is the late, great Carl Wilson's magnum opus as a singer/songwriter. He also produced it and played all the instruments. It was never a hit, at least in part because it came at a time when The Beach Boys were "out of fashion." It's also very complex, with tempo changes and deeply reflective lyrics. And to me, it's very nearly perfect.  Favorite Lyric: "But I hit hard at the battle that's confronting me, yeah. Knock down all the roadblocks a-stumbling me, throw off all the shackles that are binding me down."
 4)  Good Vibrations (1967) - From the album Smiley Smile. Originally released as single meant to precede its inclusion as the closing track of SMiLE, this was their biggest seller and arguably most famous song. It was referred to by the great Leonard Bernstein as Brian's pocket symphony. It is one of the most complex recordings in music history, especially considering the technology of the time. And you can't help but smile when you hear it.  Favorite Lyric: "Close my eyes, she's somehow closer now, softly smile, I know she must be kind."
 3)  Marcella (1973) - From the album The Beach Boys in Concert. Perhaps the biggest surprise on the list, this song was originally featured on the 1972 album Carl and the Passions: So Tough. It didn't really find an audience until the great 1973 double live album. I fell in love with it immediately and it remains one of the most listened to songs on my iPod. It might not make any other Beach Boys fan's top 100- but it's #3 on mine! Favorite Lyric: "One arm over my shoulder, sandals dance at my feet. Eyes that knock you right over, Ooo Marcella's so sweet."




2)  California Girls (1965) - From the album Summer Days (and Summer Nights!). When I first started listening to the Endless Summer double album I would often play one side and then listen to California Girls, then play another side and listen to it again. It seemed like the perfect mix of amazing music and fodder for daydreams. If you were to surprise me and say "Name a Beach Boys song!" this would likely be the first thing out of my mouth. And it still holds up so well.  Favorite Lyric: "The west coast has the sunshine and the girls all get so tanned. I dig a french bikini on Hawaiian island dolls by a palm tree in the sand."
1)  God Only Knows (1966) - From the album Pet Sounds. After all of the thinking and writing and listing, #1 was a pretty simple choice. My favorite song on my favorite album. It's an amazing love song. Paul McCartney called it the best song ever written. Who am I to argue with Sir Paul?  Favorite Lyric: "If you should ever leave me, though life would still go on, believe me. The world could show nothing to me, so what good would living do me? God only knows what I'd be without you."

So that's it. All done after 55 (technically 57) songs, plus 5 "almost songs," selected from 30 different albums spread out over 50 years. I hope you may have learned a few things you didn't know and discovered some new songs you can love at least half as much as I do. We'll close with one more Almost Song of the Week. It's time to Catch A Wave! What better way to close out this tribute to The Beach Boys than with one final surfin' song, right? Enjoy one last ride...

41 comments:

  1. Anonymous7/31/2015

    CJ, this was the perfect finish to a great series! California Girls, I Get Around and Wouldn't It Be Nice all belong, and God Only Knows is a great #1. And as usual, you surprised us too. Thanks for doing this. And I'll keep reading! - Katie Davis

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    1. Thanks for joining me on this journey, Katie! Glad you weren't TOO disappointed in my #1.

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  2. Anonymous7/31/2015

    So happy to see "The Little Girl I Once Knew" in your top 10. What a great song and one that always makes me smile. Thanks for a fun few weeks of great memories! - Eric Whitmer

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    1. I told you way back in the beginning we would be friends, Eric. Thanks so much for reading along!

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  3. Anonymous7/31/2015

    OK, so Good Vibrations was NOT #1, so you're a moron just as I predicted. But all-in-all a great list. For a moron, I mean... LOL

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    1. Thank you. I think...

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  4. Anonymous7/31/2015

    YESSSS!!! God Only Knows is #1 and all is right with the world! You had me worried with some of your obscure choices along the way, but you reached the perfect conclusion. This was fun. Thanks! - K.A.

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    1. I had been wondering if you were still with us, K.A. Glad that I made you happy with my pick. Thanks for joining us!!!

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  5. Anonymous7/31/2015

    Great job, CJ. Your choice of Long Promised Road for the top 10 was inspired. Great, great song. - Dave Matkinson

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    1. Thanks Dave! I agree....one of the great, great lesser known songs by the band. Everyone should give it a listen!

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  6. Anonymous7/31/2015

    Carl, I have learned a lot about the Beach Boys through this countdown. You've given me a ton of new music to listen to, and I cannot argue with your #1. A beautiful song for sure! ~ Chris Cooper

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    1. One of my goals was to expose some great music to people who only knew a few songs going in. So thanks Chris. I feel it was all worthwhile now! lol

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    2. Anonymous7/31/2015

      OH...and someone has to say this, so I will. #1 should be Kokomo. Back me up, web universe!!! ~ Coop

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    3. Seriously Chris? Let it go. It's over now. And still no "Kokomo." Live with it. :)

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  7. Anonymous7/31/2015

    This has been a brilliant series on a truly great band. We here in the UK treasure the Beach Boys in much the same way you Yanks treasure The Beatles, and your countdown was filled with favorite songs. Thank you for this journey. - Clayton Redding

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    1. Thank you, Clayton. It's been a real pleasure to have you along for the ride. Cheers, my friend.

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    2. Anonymous7/31/2015

      I am also a Brit and have loved your series. Your favorites provide a great overview of their wide range of music, especially the oft-ignored post Pet Sounds material. Blessings to you for sharing these fine posts.

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  8. Anonymous7/31/2015

    I was so hoping California Girls would be #1, but second place is not bad either! Thanks for this series, it's been a hoot! ~ Lindsey K.

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    1. It's been great fun for me too, Lindsey! I'm glad 2nd place didn't disappoint you too much. :)

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  9. Anonymous7/31/2015

    You really get a feel for the genius of Pet Sounds when you hear that instruments only version of Wouldn't It Be Nice. Like a symphony! - Kent Waterson

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    1. You should also checkout the Stack O' Tracks version of "Sloop John B." Simply brilliant.

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    2. Anonymous8/02/2015

      I did. Brilliant indeed! - Kent

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  10. I had to the time to sit down and listen to all 11 on this post. I like The Beach Boys more than I thought I did. Thanks for sharing so much with me. I think your #1 is a reflection of the side of The Beach Boys that you really like, the quieter deeper pondering side. I didn't really know they had that until you shared it. So thanks.

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    1. Andrea, I am glad you have discovered the "other side" of The Beach Boys, and even happier you found them to be better than expected. You are so right about how much I love their deeper stuff. It's just so good.

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  11. Anonymous7/31/2015

    Your "Almost Song of the Week" could have just as easily been a top 10 song. That's what a great band the Beach Boys have been over the last 50 years. Thanks for sharing 55 + amazing songs with us. - Leslie Morgan

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    1. You summed up my nightmare, Leslie. Picking 55 was much harder than most would have ever imagined. Thanks for reading along with us.

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    2. Anonymous7/31/2015

      Catch A Wave would be in my top 5. My favorite surfing song. - Deke Bartow

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  12. Anonymous7/31/2015

    Well done CJ. My #1 would have been "I Get Around" or "Surfer Girl," but yours is a fine list. It's been lots of fun. Thank you.

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    1. Thanks. And as I mentioned yesterday there were at least a dozen songs that might have been #2 - including those two. But I am very happy with my choice.

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  13. Anonymous7/31/2015

    Thanks for including 'Til I Die. It's been playing in my head since I saw the movie. We are all just corks on the ocean. It was a great countdown. - Pete

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    1. Thanks Pete. So many of their best songs are the ones few people know. 'Til I Die is one of the best.

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  14. Anonymous7/31/2015

    It seems as if lots of these comments would have preferred a different top choice. I think you got #1 exactly right. For me it's the greatest love song ever. Thank you for taking the time to celebrate this classic band. - Christine Rogers

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    1. Thanks for the support, Christine. It's #1 on a lot of lists.

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  15. Anonymous7/31/2015

    Loved the entire list, but today was special. So many great songs. You've given us all a gift of great music for the last month. Thank you! - Craig Abercrombie

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    1. So glad you enjoyed it, Craig. It was a labor of love for me to wtite this series.

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  16. Anonymous8/01/2015

    Well done, CJ! You promised us you would dig deep into the band's catalogue and indeed you did. I feel as if I KNOW the Beach Boys now, and have a new respect for them. Thank you for the education. ~ Louis Veneer

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    1. You are very welcome, Louis!

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  17. Anonymous8/01/2015

    I just read my way through the entire countdown, listening to the songs I was unfamiliar with. This was a great pleasure, as you did a remarkable job of shining light on just how talented these musicians were and are. Their work in the 70s was simply brilliant, and it is a shame so few people know it. I am no longer one of the ignorant. Thank you for that. - Rhonda (but not the one who needs help! LOL)

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    1. I am sure you were never ignorant, Rhonda- but thanks for the kind words anyway! They are indeed a remarkable band. And your Beach Boys joke about your name was the perfect touch!!!

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  18. Anonymous8/02/2015

    I'm hurt because you didn't change your #1 to Good Vibrations just so I could win that bogus trip to Tampa, but all-in-all you made a good list and God Only Knows is a great song- so I won't complain TOO much!!! - Keri

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    1. The deluxe accommodations of the prize, including sharing a room with the dog, are still available anytime! Just book in advance...

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Thanks for reading,and thanks for your comment!