Archive for the ‘Brian Wilson’ Category

The Third Rail

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Listen: Run, Run, Run / The Third Rail

Never mind what the label copy indicates. This one’s less than two minutes long. I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when converting the vinyl to a file for the post. Memory never recalled ‘Run, Run, Run’ as being that short. Must be the tempo change / middle bridge breakdown, a flower power 101 production trick during ’67. Every respectful, as well, confused producer used that ace card to authenticate their psychedelic masterpieces. The passage certainly gave subliminal symphony dynamics to “Run, Run, Run’, even implying a longer playing time. Plus it comes only :45 in. Nowadays, the first chorus hook sometimes doesn’t even hint at existing before the :60 mark.

As a kid, the lyrical stock exchange mock up went completely over my head, and I bet it was not mine alone. That era required a song’s message be current and political. Not many years later, those of-the-moment lyrics bit everyone on the back, turning their punch lines into quick sell by dates, and now makes for historical place marking.

To be fair, ‘Run, Run, Run’ didn’t need lengthening. It’s the perfect gem exactly as it stands. You can really hear the profound influence guys like Gary Usher and especially Brian Wilson, even more precisely ‘Good Vibrations’, had on west coast bands, songs, arrangements and productions. The clean and colorful clarity of lysergic acid was ever present.

‘Run, Run, Run’ was yet another audio sugar lump journeying confidently down the summer of love conveyor belt. As mentioned in other posts, these records were everywhere that year. And every single one a keeper.

Jan & Dean

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Dead Man's Curve / Jan & Dean

Listen: Dead Man’s Curve / Jan & Dean JanDeanDead.mp3

Right after my little kid fascination with The McGuire Sisters, I moved on to The Ronettes and The Shangri-Las. This process seemed an eternity, but was actually only a year or two span. No sooner had the girl groups caught my ear, than surf took hold. Even though we lived in upstate New York, our favorite sport was surfing. At least that’s what we all agreed. I’m not a deeply knowledgeable collector of surf, but I do love a lot of the big hits. Summertime poured out of our transistor radios when any of the many surf singles were played, regardless of the season. Most friends were drawn to The Beach Boys, and indeed ‘Surfin USA’ and ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ still tingle like a first listen every play. But Jan & Dean for me were most consistent. These two singles, over time, have risen to the top. No secret that Brian Wilson co-wrote many of their hits, and that Jan was very involved in Beach Boys recordings too. It must have been an incredible time in LA.

‘Dead Man’s Curve’ is particularly eerie, given the near fatal crash two years after it’s release suffered by Jan Berry very close to the actual dead man’s curve, on Whittier Drive and Sunset Blvd. I have often driven past there, late at night, on my way back from John’s place just the other side of Bel Air, and would creep myself out by blasting this on the ipod. I know the route that the lyrics describe by heart. The fantasy of drag racing along Sunset, past Doheny and onward to the curve in a bright red Corvette is irresistible. Cheap thrills for a non resident basically.

Still all the history of LA and Hollywood never ceases to attract my morbid side. Years ago, Denise Zoom drove Joey and I to where the Tate murders happened. We were pretty buzzed, it was late and feeling adventurous. Halfway up the drive we both started shouting and screaming for her to stop – and back up. Never did make it all the way to the top. We were brave enough to drive past the garage where Sal Mineo was stabbed later that night though.

Ride The Wild Surf / Jan & Dean

Listen: Ride The Wild Surf / Jan & Dean JanDeanRideWild.mp3

Even ‘Ride The Wild Surf’ has a spine chiller element to it. Never could place what. The melody? The strings? The power of the ocean? They all make for an anthemic song not often given it’s dues anymore.


Friday, November 7th, 2008

Listen:  My World Fell Down / Sagittarius

Listen: My World Fell Down / Sagittarius MyWorldFellDown.mp3

Gary Usher was an early collaborator with Brian Wilson. One of them hugely influenced the other, not sure which, their work is so similar sounding. You might even say their sound was identical. Very much tied to the surf/hot rod California scene, he manufactured a bunch of bands in the genre: The Hondells being the biggest. In ‘67, the sound of LSD mixed with clean, west coast surf-pop trademarked his then current fictitious band: Sagittarius. This single was ever present during the summer of that year. Although it didn’t chart that high (#70), it warranted a full length that is really good. This is almost a blueprint of well produced, commercial drug pop.