The second part of my epic Beach Boys celebration countdown, here’s ten more classic songs, with lots of lesser-known gems from Brian Wilson’s contributions to the band in the 70s and a big shout-out to Ricky Fataar and Blondie Chaplin.
40 – Heroes And Villains
One of the SMiLE songs that did get used on Smiley Smile, Heroes And Villains has always been one of the main signposts for what the real album would have sounded like, but it’s still been great to hear it back in its rightful place and this video is a load of fun.
39 – Please Let Me Wonder
The Beach Boys Today! was the turning point for the band and Brian as a composer and producer, having turned his back on touring to spend more time in the studio. The second half of the album signposted the way to Pet Sounds clear as day, and Please Let Me Wonder is a gorgeous song that wouldn’t be out of place on that album.
38 – The Night Was So Young
Love You has such a reputation for weirdness, because of Brian’s experimentation with squelchy synths and his off-the-wall childlike lyrics, but it’s a shame that mature and beautiful songs like The Night Was So Young get forgotten about. It wasn’t all songs about Johnny Carson and bizarre collaborations with Roger McGuinn you know…
37 – Marcella
Written about his masseuse, this was apparently Brian’s early 70s attempt to make the Beach Boys sound more like the Rolling Stones. A tough challenge, but it’s an enduringly entertaining chugger of a rock song that still makes it into his solo setlists from time to time, while the original had the reliable lead vocals of his brother Carl.
36 – Little Deuce Coupe
One of the classic Beach Boys hits, Little Deuce Coupe rates a little lower than some of its peers, but it’s still a great song and probably the definitive car song from their ‘cars/girls/surf’ era.
35 – Steamboat
The early 70s is one of my favourite periods of Beach Boys history, mostly because of the dominance of Carl and Dennis on the band’s musical direction. Unfortunately, the financial disappointment of Holland put an end to it and sent them reeling towards nostalgia, but Steamboat is a perfect example of the great music the younger Wilson brothers were capable of, written by Denny and sung by the two of them together.
34 – Catch A Wave
Given that only one of the band was really a surfer, the Boys did remarkably well to pass themselves off as a surf band in those early days, and Catch A Wave manages to perpetuate that myth as well as following the formula to the letter without actually being dull. It’s a cracking energetic tune full of the joys of California beach life.
33 – Be True To Your School
Part of the appeal of the Beach Boys was their all-American nature and here it overspilled into pure cheese, especially from the perspective of a cynical Englishman born in the 1980s. But it works. Be True To Your School isn’t a sentiment I ever felt when I was at school, but as a slice of American school life, with sports, cheerleaders, decals and ra-ra-ra’s, it’s a classic. (NOTE: the version with the overdubs from the Honeys is just awful.)
32 – Girls On The Beach
Not all of the beach songs that the Beach Boys did in the 60s were fast-paced surf ditties, and Girls On The Beach is a fine example of how beautiful harmonies were just as good at evoking the idealised world that these stunning girls inhabited. And it makes you want to be a part of it.
31 – Leaving This Town
Having two South Africans in the band was an odd thing for America’s Band to do, and Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar certainly added a lot in their brief spell, not least this tune. They co-wrote it with Carl and (somewhat bizarrely, Mike) and while its freak-out organ instrumental was probably a bit dated by then, it’s still good and Blondie’s vocals fit perfectly.