15 Big Ones

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15 Big Ones
Studio album by The Beach Boys
Released July 5, 1976
Recorded September 1975 / January 30 – May 15, 1976,
Brother Studios, California
Genre Rock and roll, baroque pop
Length 39:20
Label Brother/Reprise
Producer Brian Wilson
The Beach Boys chronology
20 Golden Greats
(1976)
15 Big Ones
(1976)
Love You
(1977)
Singles from 15 Big Ones
  1. "Rock and Roll Music"/"T M Song"
    Released: May 24, 1976
  2. "It's O.K."/"Had to Phone Ya"
    Released: August 30, 1976
  3. "Everyone's in Love with You"/"Susie Cincinnati"
    Released: November 8, 1976

15 Big Ones is the twentieth studio album by American rock group The Beach Boys released in July 1976. It was their first studio album since Holland three years earlier, and the first produced by Brian Wilson since Pet Sounds ten years earlier. With Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar having left the group, 15 Big Ones marks the first album to feature the classic five-piece lineup of the Beach Boys (brothers Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson; cousin Mike Love; and friend Al Jardine) since 1965's The Beach Boys Today!.[1]

Background[edit]

In the fall of 1974, sessions were held at Caribou Ranch studio—owned by the group's manager James William Guercio—in Nederland, Colorado and Brother Studios in Santa Monica for an album set to be released in early 1975. It was reported that Brian was actively involved in the proceedings but no release occurred. Many of the tapes were allegedly destroyed when the Caribou Ranch and its studio burned down, with only the tapes taken to Brother Studio surviving.[citation needed] Throughout 1974 and 1975, the group had worked on very few tracks that would eventually see release: "Child of Winter (Christmas Song)" in December 1974 and "Good Timin'" in 1979.[2][3] Dennis Wilson's "River Song" was first worked on at the Caribou sessions along with the Brian/Mike Love collaboration "It's O.K.", with the latter resulting in being the only piece used for 15 Big Ones.[4]

In 1975, Brian attempted to establish a Los Angeles collective named California Music, which included Gary Usher, Curt Boettcher, and former Beach Boy Bruce Johnston.[4] The Beach Boys' recent Endless Summer compilation was selling extremely well, and the band—without Brian—was touring non-stop, making them the biggest live draw in the US. Guercio was then fired by the group and replaced by Mike's brother Stephen Love who urged the group to encourage Brian to return to the production helm.[5] According to Stephen: "We were under contract with Warner Bros., and we couldn't have him going on a tangent. If he was going to be productive, it's gotta be for the Beach Boys."[4] Brian, who had already grown tired of working with the Beach Boys, was then legally ousted from California Music in order to focus his undivided attention on the band.[4] Later in the year, Brian became involved with therapist Eugene Landy who had a major role in keeping Brian from indulging in substance abuse with constant supervision.[6]

Recording[edit]

Brian Wilson behind the mixing board of Brother Studios during a 15 Big Ones session.

At the end of January 1976, the Beach Boys returned to the studio with an apprehensive Brian producing once again. At the time, he felt: "It was a little scary because [the Beach Boys and I] weren't as close. We had drifted apart, personality-wise. A lot of the guys had developed new personalities through meditation. It was a bit scary and shaky. But we went into the studio with the attitude that we had to get it done. After a week or two in the studio, we started to get the niche again."[7] He decided the band should do an album of rock and roll and doo wop standards, but brothers Carl and Dennis disagreed, feeling that an album of originals was far more ideal. Mike and Al Jardine reportedly wanted the album out as quickly as possible[7] to take advantage of their resurgence of popularity. At one point during the sessions, it was decided that a double album was to be released: one album of covers and another of original material. In the end, a compromise of both new originals and covers was decided upon, though the younger Wilson brothers were displeased. Whatever the case, it was a radical shift from previous albums such as Sunflower and Holland.[according to whom?] Group meetings were supervised by Landy, and discussions over each song for the record were reported to last for up to eight hours.[7]

According to Stephen Love, Carl Wilson "dragged his feet" for the record, believing that the group was squandering its potential. He explained: "The hard truth is you don't have forever to tinker around with this stuff. The pressing demands of business sometimes interfere with artistic indulgence. Business-wise, you want to get the goddamn album out when things are gelling. Commerce and art, man, that's a tough thing."[8] There are reports of group members undermining Brian's control over the album; some additional mixing and vocal overdubs were recorded without his knowledge in objection to Brian's desire for a rough, dry sound.[7] Discussing Brian's production, Carl said: "Once we had finished a certain batch of songs, Brian said, 'That's it. Put it out.' That's why the album sounds unfinished. Brian just wanted to do one cut and capture the moment rather than working on something."[7]

A few of the cover songs are connected to record producer and composer Phil Spector, whose famous wall of sound production methods have been an enduring fascination to Brian Wilson. "Just Once in My Life" and "Chapel of Love" both carry Spector songwriting credits, and "Talk to Me" had been a relatively unknown 45 rpm single produced by Spector in the early 1960s for singer Jean DuShon. Some songs were recorded for the album's sessions but not released on the LP. These include covers of "Come Go With Me", "On Broadway", "Running Bear", "Shake, Rattle, and Roll", "Peggy Sue", "Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore", a remake with Brian and Van Dyke Parks of the latter's 1966 "Come to the Sunshine" single, and the original "Don't Fight the Sea".[3][7] According to Wilson, the songs that were covered were chosen on the basis that "since they were acceptable once, we figured they would be acceptable again. . . We figured it was a safe way to go."[1]

Release[edit]

Brian's suggestion to name the album Group Therapy was vetoed by the group, and it was instead entitled 15 Big Ones for their fifteen years in the business and for the fact that it had the same number of tracks.[7] Despite objections by Carl and Dennis,[1] it was released in late June, rising to number 8 in the US during a chart stay of 27 weeks, went gold and became the band's last top 10 studio album until That's Why God Made the Radio in 2012.[citation needed] The group then embarked on a large US tour with several performances, which included Brian as per his therapy program.[1] With media coverage in high gear, the Beach Boys were given an NBC TV special heralding their return. The special included a rendition of "That Same Song" with the Alexander Hamilton Double Rock Baptist Choir. Brian appeared at the center of a "Failure to Surf" comedy sketch in which surf cops played by Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi pull Brian out of bed and force him to ride the waves outside.[9]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 2.5/5 stars[10]
Pitchfork Media 1.5/10[11]
Robert Christgau B[12]

15 Big Ones had been the most commercially successful Beach Boys studio album in over ten years, though the critical reaction of the album was not strong. John Bush of Allmusic wrote: "Most of the covers are mistakes, part of a misguided attempt by the aging Beach Boys to recapture the energy of their youth. The 'contemporary' production techniques and overly polished sound do nothing for these oldies, and effectively sap them of any energy they might once have had." He later adds, "The only one that succeeds is the closer, the lesser-known Righteous Brothers hit "Just Once in My Life," given an emotional reading by Carl and Brian. Of the band originals, the good-time standard 'It's O.K.' and the quirky, endearing 'Had to Phone Ya' are excellent, reminiscent of Brian's odd pop songs on late-'60s albums like Friends and 20/20."

The album was generally disliked by fans.[1] Brian admitted that "[undoubtedly] the new album is nothing too deep," but remained optimistic, saying that the next group effort would be on par with "Good Vibrations".[1] Carl was disappointed with the record, while Dennis was "heartbroken," explaining: "People have waited all this time, anticipating a new Beach Boys album, and I hated to give them this. It was a great mistake to put Brian in full control. He was always the absolute producer, but little did he know that in his absence, people grew up, people became as sensitive as the next guy. Why do I relinquish my rights as an artist? The whole process was a little bruising."[1]

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Lead vocals Length
1. "Rock and Roll Music"   Chuck Berry Mike Love 2:29
2. "It's O.K."   Brian Wilson/Mike Love Love/Dennis Wilson 2:12
3. "Had to Phone Ya"   B. Wilson/Love/Diane Rovell Love/Al Jardine/D. Wilson/Carl Wilson/Brian Wilson 1:43
4. "Chapel of Love"   Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich/Phil Spector B. Wilson 2:34
5. "Everyone's in Love with You"   Love Love 2:42
6. "Talk to Me" (On the back sleeve titled "Talk to Me (Medley)", referring to the interpolation of the 1959 Freddy Cannon song "Tallahassee Lassie") Joe Seneca C. Wilson 2:14
7. "That Same Song"   B. Wilson/Love B. Wilson 2:16
8. "T M Song"   B. Wilson Jardine 1:34
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Lead Vocals Length
1. "Palisades Park"   Chuck Barris C. Wilson 2:27
2. "Susie Cincinnati"   Al Jardine Jardine 2:57
3. "A Casual Look"   Ed Wells Love/Jardine 2:45
4. "Blueberry Hill"   Al Lewis/Larry Stock/Vincent Rose Love 3:01
5. "Back Home"   B. Wilson/Bob Norberg B. Wilson 2:49
6. "In the Still of the Night"   Fred Parris D. Wilson 3:03
7. "Just Once in My Life"   Gerry Goffin/Carole King/Phil Spector C. Wilson/B. Wilson 3:47

Personnel[edit]

The Beach Boys
  • Al Jardine - vocals, guitar (on "Susie Cincinnati")
  • Mike Love - vocals
  • Brian Wilson - vocals, organ, piano, Moog bass, arpeggiator, string ensemble, bass guitar, harmonica, chimes, bells
  • Carl Wilson - vocals, guitar, bass, synthesiser, harp, percussion
  • Dennis Wilson - vocals, drums, percussion, vibraphone
Session musicians and production staff
  • Murry Adler – violin
  • Ron Altbach – piano, harpsichord, accordion
  • Mike Altschol – saxophone, clarinet
  • Arnold Belnick – violin
  • Ben Benay – guitar
  • Hal Blaine – drums
  • Eddy Carter – guitar
  • Jerry Cole – guitar
  • Steve Douglas – saxophone, horns, flute
  • Daryl Dragon – clavinet
  • Dennis Dreith – saxophone, clarinet, clavinet
  • Timothy Drummond – bass
  • Gene Estes – percussion
  • Ricky Fataar – drums
  • Henry Ferber – violin
  • Carl L. Fontina – accordion
  • James Getzoff – violin
  • Billy Hinsche – guitar
  • James D. Hughart – string bass
  • Jules Jacobs – clavinet
  • Plas Johnson – saxophone
  • Bruce Johnston – background vocals, piano
  • John J. Kelson Jr. – saxophone, clarinet
  • Lou Klass – violin
  • Bernard Kondell – violin
  • William Kurasch – violin
  • Charles Lloyd – flute
  • Jay Migliori – saxophone, horns, flute
  • Carol Lee Miller – auto harp
  • Jack Nimitz – saxophone, clarinet
  • Ray Pohlman – bass
  • Lyle Ritz – bass
  • Henry L. Roth – violin
  • Sidney Sharp – violin
  • Bobby Shew – trumpet
  • Thomas J. Tedesco – guitar
  • Toni Tennille – background vocals
  • Julius Wechter – percussion, bells
  • Maureen L. West – harp
  • Marilyn Wilson – background vocals
  • Wizzard – saxophone
  • Roy Wood – saxophone
  • Tiber Zelig – violin[13]

Album cover, art direction and logo was done by Dean Torrence and Jim Evans.

Sales chart positions[edit]

Albums
Year Chart Position
1976 US Billboard 200 Albums Chart 8
1976 UK Top 40 Album Chart 31
US Singles
Year Single Chart Position
1976 "Rock and Roll Music" US Billboard Singles Chart 5
1976 "It's OK" US Billboard Singles Chart 29
UK Singles
Year Single Chart Position
1976 "Rock and Roll Music" UK Top 40 Single Chart 36

Chart information courtesy of Allmusi c and other music databases.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Badman 2004, p. 364.
  2. ^ Carlin 2006, p. 195.
  3. ^ a b Doe, Andrew G. "GIGS". Retrieved 17 June 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d Carlin 2006, p. 198.
  5. ^ Carlin 2006, p. 205.
  6. ^ Carlin 2006, pp. 198–9.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Badman 2004, p. 358.
  8. ^ Carlin 2006, p. 208.
  9. ^ Carlin 2006, p. 215.
  10. ^ http://www.allmusic.com/album/r1451
  11. ^ Kempke, Erik. "15 Big Ones". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 
  12. ^ Christgau, Robert. "The Beach Boys". Robert Christgau. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 
  13. ^ Album liner notes.
  14. ^ "UK Top 40 Hit Database". EveryHit. 

Bibliography[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Surf's Up: The Beach Boys On Record Brad Elliott
  • 15 Big Ones/Love You CD booklet notes, Dennis Diken and Peter Buck, c.2000.
  • "The Nearest Faraway Place: Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys and the Southern California Experience", Timothy White, c. 1994.