Friday, 16 October 2009

Good Vibrations - 30 Years Of The Beach Boys

This week I will be listening to the Beach Boys box set, Good Vibrations, Thirty Years of The Beach Boys. Its about 5 or 6 discs long and it is career spanning, released in 1993 it has elements of their entire career, from pre Beach Boys up to the detestable Kokomo.
This boxset is possibly my greatest bargain, a number of years ago I worked as an auditer for Woolworths and I saw they were selling this boxset for around 2.99, it was foolish not to buy it.
So anyway, Disc one today, leading off with a demo version of Surfin USA and finishing with a little tribute to the Four Freshman.

Surfin USA by The Beach Boys

This is my last alphabeticised B, I may dip into a few misfiled B’s in the future but this is the end. And what an end, an absolute joy this morning. Disc one is potentially the best of all the discs on this compilation taking in the supremely good Don’t Worry Baby, Little Deuce Coupe, Be True To Your School, Surfer Moon, Little Honda and the magnificent In My Room. As well as alternate versions and demos of the classics, Surfin USA and Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring.

In My Room by The Beach Boys

As a start to any boxset that would be enough but over 35 or 36 songs you get the foundations of what made The Beach Boys one of, if not THE greatest pop band ever.
Disc two (Tuesday) and more of the same but moving towards a more experimental point in their career, this disc features tracks from Pet sounds, Smiley Smile and the unreleased, Smile. Heroes and Villains in particular is given a lot of space on disc 2, in total 8 of the tracks from smile appear on this release.
Disc 2 as I said is the more experimental disc and this is it’s downfall for me, the songs are undoubtedly great but a little overblown. One of my favourite Beach Boys tracks is Heroes and Villains but I am unsure if I need to hear it in various guises three times.

Heroes and Villains by The Beach Boys

I was a mere lad the first time I heard Heroes and Villains and if I recall correctly I thought it was very very long and a little odd, time means that I know it isn’t that long and even though the oddness is still there, it’s a great track.
Disc 2 may have been a bit lengthy but it still has its fair share of amazing tracks that alone would make up a greatest hits, and reaffirmed why The Beach Boys need a box set to show off their career.
Disc 3 today and moving slowly into a period of The Beach Boys career that I love, although inexplicably it kicks off with yet another version of Heroes and Villains. I suspect that will not be the last time I hear that song in this boxset.
This period I guess is fallow for a lot of people, moving away from surfing and cars and the experimentation that preceeded it and more a case of Carl Wilson leading the band during Brian’s retirement from live performance and subsequent mental illness. The thing that I find with this era is this is when they were more reliant on the songs and to a degree, other band members were allowed to produce some stunning songs.

Disney Girls by The Beach Boys

Disney Girls, Bruce Johnstons track makes an appearance and this is one of my all time favourite songs. Described by some as sentimental crap, but I like sentimental, its what I like best. Also appearing is Dennis Wilson’s Forever, again it could be described as sentimental, but again, its something that really is a high point.
Also present is a take on the Leadbelly track, Cottonfields, it does seem a little out of place in all fairness and when ever I heard it, it suffered from not ringing true, a good song though, just a little out of character.
The hits are fewer and far between on this disc, a quick glance and it seems that only Heroes and Villains, Darlin, Do It Again, I Can Hear Music and the Brian and Murray Wilson (father) penned Breakaway. This disc though for my money is not about the hits, its about exploring the album tracks produced in the 70’s, the alternate takes, and the previously unreleased, This Whole World, San Miguel and Can’t Wait Too Long, respectively.
As disc 3 closes another strong disc that contains some of my favourite Beach Boys album tracks.
Disc 4 and it must be Thursday, and this album is the transition from the 70’s to the 80’s. A period that saw the Beach Boys kicking and screaming, after all the transition from the 60’s to the 70’s was difficult enough for them.
Although this disc is as bursting at the seams with great tracks like its predecessors, it certainly has a few greats, notably the Dennis Wilson song Baby Blue, a real treat and one that would not have been out of place on his solo album Pacific Ocean Blue. Baby Blue is the best track on this disc, but it isn’t alone.

Baby Blue by The Beach Boys

You Need A Mess of Help To Stand Alone, a track that I first encountered as a Hefner B-side and one that is almost bluesy in its feel, so quite different to the cover. Another great track though.
What isn’t a great track, and I think it is indicative of where The Beach Boys were heading without Brain Wilson’s influence is the saccharine flavoured Kokomo. As a final song to the chronological discs, its an appalling closer.
The return journey today will be the sessions, demos and tracks from their Stack o Tracks box. Maybe that will erase the memory of Kokomo.
The final disc was as expected a trainspotters paradise, but if you are a casual fan it could be an eyebrow raiser. The final disc gives you an insight into the recording process, you get to see the genesis of Good Vibrations, but also hear the guide vocals. A superb ending to a great box set, an enjoyable boxset and a great way to bow out of the killer B’s.

God Only Knows Demo by The Beach Boys

This would be 10 out of 10, it should be 10 out of 10, but through this, listening to Mike Love’s vocals, and recalling what an utter dick the man is. I had to mark it down purely an simply for that. He has the weakest vocals of any band, and through this boxset he is given the chance at lead vocal. Couple that with him being, to quote my daughter, a total douche. This loses one for his presence. 9 out of 10.


  1. Great piece Peter. It would prompt me to go out and listen to some. You may have also broken our record for longest post.

    How does anyone have such strong feelings about Mike Love?

  2. I recommend looking into Mike Love, his claims, his litigious ways and look at his contribution to Beach Boys tracks. A man that claims to be the creative force in the Beach Boys, that claims to have had a large hand in the writing of Good Vibrations, but never wrote anything similar prior to or following that track. Genuinely if I thought that perhaps he wasn’t a sue happy idiot I would be a whole lot more abusive about him, whilst Google exists though, lets leave it there.