It came as no surprise when we asked Nightlands’ Dave Hartley to curate a Spotify playlist for us, he chose to center his creation around The Beach Boys. In describing the list, Dave shares, “The Beach Boys are much more than the just Pet Sounds and Surf-Car-Girl party songs. Here are twelve strange and beautiful songs that came after.” Perhaps this is a side to the boys we’ve yet to truly take notice. Each of the 12 songs were chosen for good reason and Dave tells you why >>> you’ll find both the descriptions and playlist below. Enjoy!
Post-Pet Sounds Beach Boys
1. “Wonderful” – from Smiley Smile (1967) and the ‘Smile Sessions’ (2012) – Another Wilson/Parks masterpiece–short, idyllic and perfect. The melody is so complex yet so hummable.
2. “Friends” – from Friends (1968) – The title track from my favorite non-Pet Sounds Beach Boys album, which was happily recorded without eternal jackass Mike Love who was off trying to be cool with The Beatles and Donovan in India. This song is so beautiful and delusional and the vocal blend is just perfect–also features the slamming tones and performances of The Wrecking Crew.
3. “Busy Doin’ Nothing” – from Friends (1968) – Another strange and gorgeous track from ‘Friends’, this one has a very Brazilian chord style and the lyrics give detailed directions to Brian’s house in California–he was contractually obligated to contribute material to the album so he gave them a hyper-literal account of the bland minutia of his everyday life. Stranger and infinitely more melodic than fiction.
4. “Time to Get Alone” – from 20/20 (1969) – Brian wrote this one. It’s about being in love, of course, but also about Brian’s increasing need to isolate and escape from the pressures of fame and his mental illness. Insanely great harmonies. Sparkling.
5. “Do it Again” – from 20/20 (1969) – Brian and Mike wrote this together, and it has that classic Beach Boys surf vibe but with some new production techniques. Check out the crazy snare sound (hello, quick-delay)! They apparently still perform this one live, and it’s easy to hear why.
6. “Deirdre” – from Sunflower (1970) – A great illustration of just how out of sync the Beach Boys were with the times. Apart from a couple flashy-for-the-time production moves, this song could have come out in the 50’s. One of Bruce Johnston’s best compositions (with Brian co-writing).
7. “Forever” – from Sunflower (1970) – Here we really start to see Dennis flexing his songwriting muscles (foreshadowed on ‘Friends’) and showing his increasingly-gravelly baritone voice. It’s syrupy sweet and the backing vocals by the rest of The Boys just destroy me.
8. “Feel Flows” – from Surf’s Up (1971) – A song that could only be written and sung by the forever-under-appreciated Carl Wilson. Crazy synthesizer/electric piano sounds and even a yazz flute wrap themselves around Carl’s eternal lilt.
9. “Til I Die” – from Surf’s Up (1971) – Possibly my favorite Beach Boys song (recording it for my first album was probably pointless but a bottomless pool of joy). Brian’s lyrics are crushingly sad and offer a window into the depths of his sadness and mental illness. “I’m a leaf on a windy day, pretty soon I’ll be blown away…” Mike Love thought the song was too morose and ridiculed Brian for writing it. What a bastard.
10. “Disney Girls” – from Surf’s Up (1971) – Another strange and timeless Bruce Johnston gem, covered many places (my favorite is Art Garfunkel from Breakaway). I don’t completely understand the lyrics, but the bridge gives me chills every time. Brian called it one of the most beautiful songs he’s ever heard, so you know, hey.
11. “Sail On Sailor” – from Holland (1973) – Originally written by Van Dyke Parks and Brian, this song actually features a lead vocal by then-Beach-Boy Blondie Chaplin. Lyrics are pretty weak, but it doesn’t matter–it’s a genius melody.
12. “Barbara” – recorded in 1971, released in 1997 on The Endless Harmony Soundtrack – Written and sung solo by Dennis Wilson, this is essential listening for anyone who wants to know what was going on inside the heart and mind of “the fast and reckless Beach Boy”. Presumably written for his second wife Barbara Charren, it is heartbreakingly simple and plainly beautiful.