I am not be the first person to come up with the concept of looking at the worst recordings from an artists back catalogue. I believe that the first was the infamous bootleg, ‘Elvis’ Greatest Shit’ which was released in 1982 showcasing some of the worst recordings from the King’s career. This is also not the first time I have looked at some of the worst recordings of The Beach Boys. ‘Volume 1’ in this series was posted back in November of 2021. This collection was not only inspired by the aforementioned fake Elvis album, but a Beach Boys bootleg called ‘Endless Bummer, The Very Worst of The Beach Boys’. As I said back in November of last year, it sure does live up to its title. There is a drunk Carl Wilson trying to make his way through ‘Good Vibrations’, Mike Love making a quick buck on some adverts, a Spanish language version of their massive mid 80s hit, ‘Kokomo’ as well Brian Wilson’s father berating him in the recoding studio. However, all of these recording have not been released commercially as far as I can tell, and it is unlikely that they ever will be.
In these collections, I look at songs that the band officially released and in this case, they all come from their albums. This collection looks at the period between 1967 and 1979. This is a much wider span of years than ‘Volume 1’, but that is down to a number of factors.
The group became more of a band after the collapse of the ‘Smile’ sessions. Each member contributed songs, and therefore the work load that had once sat on Brian Wilson’s shoulders has now been distributed around a lot more evenly. The release schedule of the albums was a lot more spread out. Where as between 1962 and 1967, the band released 13 studio and one live album. Between 1968 and 1973, they released one new studio album a year. There was then a break of three years before releasing a record a year between 1976 and 1980.
That period between 1968 and 1973 could be seen as a real purple patch for the band. The albums always contained some excellent material and this was their most consistent period. None of the albums is a classic but as a whole, they are a lot more constant than the period before ‘Pet Sounds’. The amount of filler is dramatically reduced. Like Dylan though, they seemed to leave a lot of A-Grade material in the archive. Thankfully, this has been making its way into the world via bootlegs but more recently archive releases by the band.
The three year gap between records during the period 1973 and 1976 derailed the band somewhat. A compilation was released called ‘Endless Summer’ which contained some of their most popular songs from the sixties. The compilation sold millions and their manager told the band to start playing some of this material in their sets. The band obliged and with this rise in popularity, they became one of the must see live bands of the mid 1970’s. Brian Wilson meanwhile had taken the death of his father badly and retreated into drug addiction which took him out of action for about two and half years. The knock on effect of both of these events was that The Beach Boys became more of an oldies act.
What followed were a series of underwhelming albums which has pretty much been the way of The Beach Boys ever since. Instead of setting the trends, they were now following them, trying to stay relevant. This will become more apparent in ‘Volume 3’. So what goodies as it were are served up in they second helping?
- A Day In The Life Of A Tree (Surf’s Up)
- I’d Love Just Once To See You (Wild Honey)
- Transcendental Meditation (Friends)
- Take A Load Off Your Feet (Surf’s Up)
- Johnny Carson (Love You)
- Solar System (Love You)
- I Wanna Pick You Up (Love You)
- TM Song (15 Big Ones)
- Match Point Of Your Love (M.I.U. Album)
- Some Of Your Love (Keepin’ The Summer Alive)
- Hey Little Tomboy (M.I.U. Album)
- Sumahama (L.A. (Light Album))
- Shortening’ Bread (L.A. (Light Album)
A Day In The Life Of A Tree – Written from the point of view of a tree and how pollution was slowly killing it. Very much ahead of its time, but according to Al Jardine, it was so depressing that they conned their manager Jack Riley into singing it. Riley may well have been a good manager, but a singer he was not.
I’d Love Just Once To See You – not a terrible tune by any stretch of the imagination, but it is the lyrics that are the problem here. Something that will come up time and again on this compilation. It is a song about a mundane day but with a little bit at the very end that would have been funny to a very young person, but not for everyone else. Once you know the payoff, it does’t warrant to many repeat listens.
Transcendental Meditation – I thought that meditation was all about being relaxed. Well, this does not make me relaxed. The brass instruments jar against the noise the rest of the musicians are making and the lyrics sound like they are being sung purposefully badly. A weak effort on an otherwise pretty good album.
Take A Load Off Your Feet – Who needs a song that tells you how to look after your feet? Well, Al Jardine thought we did. Compared to what was also recorded during the sessions for the ‘Surf’s Up’ that was left in the archive, this was a weak effort. It might have been fun to make but a good song this is not.
Johnny Carson – Johnny Carson was best known as a talk show host, but mostly in the United States. Anyone not living or at least visiting the USA between 1962 and 1992 when the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson was airing would not have had any idea who this guy was, and why there was a tribute song to him on a Beach Boys album. When the man himself was asked about the song, he said “It was not a work of art”.
Solar System – Brian Wilson has written some of the greatest pieces of music of all time, but even thought the man himself says he is proud of this effort, this is just a song about stars and planets. The lyrics also sound a bit lazy. “If Mars had life on it, I might find my wife on it”. Oh dear.
I Wanna Pick You Up – Bring Wilson said this was about a girl/woman (it is unclear which) who is too big to pick up. Is this song about song about an infant even? The lyrics state “pat, pat, pat on her butt, butt”. If it isn’t an infant, then what the hell are these lyrics trying to tell us?
TM Song – Starting off with a fake argument (the band tried this track on ‘Cassius’ Love v ‘Sonny’ Wilson’ contained on ‘Volume 1’), this is another song about Transcendental Meditation. Still not the most relaxing of listens.
Match Point Of Your Love – The tune is pretty good, but the lyrics are absolutely terrible. How many tennis metaphors can be made in a song? Too many in this songs case.
Some Of Your Love – Judging by the lyrics, this sounds as though it was written about a girl in school. the age of the girl is not revealed but by this point in their lives, The Beach Boys were all pushing 40 years of age. Not creepy at all then.
Hey Little Tomboy – In these times of gender fluidity, I’m surprised that there hasn’t been some complaints about this song. Being it is a bit obscure might have helped. The songs is about trying to stop a girl being a tomboy and start being more feminine so the boys would like her. The fact that the songs narrator is Mike Love and tells the tomboy to sit on his lap whilst he is thinking about all of the changes he sees for her could be the most unsettling thing The Beach Boys ever recorded. Remember, this is the band that recorded a song written by Charles Manson.
When Girls Get Together – Originally recorded for the ‘Sunflower’ album, ten years earlier, this song details that all women seem to talk about are the men in their lives. They don’t have time to waste on what the weather is or that they can’t solve a mystery. Another lyric that has not stood the test of time.
Shortening’ Bread – Brian Wilson was fixated with recording this song. This is a traditional song and Wilson had the band record numerous versions of this song. In fact, he played it so often that he caused Iggy Pop to proclaim him nuts after subjecting Mr Pop to one of his numerous renditions, that went on and on and on etc. Only one version has been released. In future, we might get a whole album dedicated just to Brian Wilson’s recordings of this song. I do hope not.
Ding Dang – At under a minute, this must be one of the shortest Beach Boys song. Written by Wilson and Roger McGuinn of The Byrds one night when the former had visited the latter to acquire some amphetamines. Wilson obsessed over this song as well, recording numerous versions but ultimately the one that came out was the same as the version McGuinn and Wilson worked on a few years before.
I was tempted by a number of songs from ‘Smiley Smile’, especially ‘Little Pad’ which starts off with The Beach Boys obviously stoned, but the rest of the track is pretty good. Shame they didn’t edit out the start.