Every Tuesday, AllYourScreens highlights five songs you should know from one of our favorite bands or musicians. It can range across any genre or time period. But these are the deep cuts that might not be familiar, but are as interesting and listenable as any of the hits.
This week, I'm highlighting the Beach Boys and given the fact that they've been releasing new music since the 1960s, it's not surprising that there is a lot of music that has been overlooked. But I want to focus specifically on the 1970s, which was a difficult decade for the band.
Following the emotional collapse of creative center Brian Wilson during the abortive "Smile" album sessions, the band regrouped and hoped to build on the goodwill and buzz that still lingered from the "Pet Sounds" album. And the 1970s began strongly, with the release of "Sunflower," arguably one the band's best albums. But that release, like nearly everything the band released in the 1970s, didn't find an audience. And to make things more difficult, the band was at odds, with Carl and Dennis Wilson pitted creatively against Mike Love and sometimes Al Jardine. The Wilson Brothers were both fighting substance abuse problems and by the time 1980 rolled around, Dennis was exiting the band and the Beach Boys were essentially an oldies act. But the 1970s also held some of the band's best songs and here are five that deserve to be remembered.
1) "Forever" ("Sunflower" album, August 1970)
"Forever" was Dennis Wilson's most realized love song and by any rights it should have been a huge hit. The fact that most people might know it as the song sung by John Stamos on "Full House" is the cruelest cut for fans of the original. The video above features a live performance from Dennis and comes from the fabulous video "Good Vibrations in Central Park, 1971." If all you know of the Beach Boys are the surfer songs, that entire concert will be a revelation. They might not have been selling many records, but in 1971 the band was at the peak of their live performances. As a contrast, I've included a video below that features the original studio recording.
2) "It's About Time" ("Sunflower" album, August 1970)
The words "driving rocker" aren't generally the ones that come to mind when you think of The Beach Boys. But this Dennis Wilson-penned track manage to meld the familiar harmonies with an upbeat song that the band used as a show-closer for a couple of years. It's not the type of song that is a hit. But it's fun to listen and a hint of what the Beach Boys could be without Brian Wilson.
3) "Disney Girls (1957)" ("Surf's Up" Album, August 1971)
The Beach Boys followed up the under-appreciated "Sunflower" with "Surf's Up," an album that takes its name from a Brian Wilson song originally recorded for the aborted "Smile" album. It was dusted off and tweaked some for this album and that approach illustrates the problems with the album. New band manager Jack Rieley contributed a series of inane lyrics on several tracks and this was the beginning of Mike Love's creative control of the band. And yet the album contained several great tracks, including this Bruce Johnston-penned tribute to the 1950s.
4) "Til I Die" ("Surf's Up" Album, August 1971)
While Brian Wilson was only marginally involved with the day-to-day business of the Beach Boys in the early 1970s, he was still capable of creating magic on a few rare occasions. "Til I Die" is a lush and melancholy song that unlike any other song the band ever recorded. Easily as stunning as anything recorded for "Pet Sounds" or "Smile."
5) "Here Comes The Night" ("L.A.(Light Album), March 1979
After a string of embarrassingly weak albums, the Beach Boys released "L.A. (Light Album)" which is probably the last solid album of original songs released by the band. While the album's quality was erratic, it included "Good Timin" and "Lady Lynda," both of which were returns to form for the band. The album also included the haunting "Baby Blue," Dennis Wilson's final contribution to the band. "Here Comes The Night" had originally been released on the "Wild Honey" album, but the Brian Wilson/Mike Love track resurfaced on this album as a nearly 11-minute remixed Disco track. By all rights, I should hate the attempt to cash in on the trailing edges of Disco. But it is a wildly bizarre club track and a fitting way to end a very tough decade for the Beach Boys.