Love You (album)
|Studio album by The Beach Boys|
|Released||April 11, 1977|
|Recorded||January 1970, March–November 1973, October 1976–January 1977|
|Studio||Brother Studios and Brian Wilson's home studio, California|
|The Beach Boys chronology|
|Singles from Love You|
Love You (also known as The Beach Boys Love You) is the twenty-first studio album by American rock band the Beach Boys, released on April 11, 1977. Originally conceived as a Brian Wilson solo album entitled Brian Loves You, the album is almost entirely written and performed by Wilson, with the other band members mainly serving as additional lead vocalists.
Penned during a process of mental and drug rehabilitation for Wilson, Love You has been praised by critics for the album's honest, unpretentious lyrics, and has been described as a portrait into his sense of self in 1977. Heavily reliant on 1970s analog synthesizers, the album has been recognized as an early work of synthpop, and an idiosyncratic and creative oddity in the Beach Boys' canon.
Ten years ago, I had resolved I wasn't going to tour, that I was much better off, I assumed, at home, in an environment where I could create music. Then, the guys in the group said, "Hey Brian, would you help us? We think your presence on the road would improve the quality of the show and help sell tickets." Another reason was that my psychiatrist [Eugene Landy] wished I would do something to keep me from sitting on my ass, to keep me from going insane.
Three months following the release of 15 Big Ones, Wilson commenced recording the bulk of Love You—then tentatively a solo project entitled Brian Loves You or Brian's In Love—that he had mostly written alone. The songs (with arrangements inspired by Wendy Carlos' Switched-On Bach) were largely performed by Wilson through the aid of multitrack recording. From October 13 to November 10, 1976, Wilson demoed over sixteen tracks for the Beach Boys' next release at Brother Studios. In comparison to the Beach Boys' previous 15 Big Ones, Wilson intended Love You to be "more creative, more original" and "lyrically much more interesting." Wilson stated optimistically: "We're going to do another 'Good Vibrations' [this] time. Another masterpiece." Due to internal struggles with the group, Wilson felt unable to pursue a solo career, likening his place in the band "a commodity in a stock market." To make the album seem more democratic, its title was changed to The Beach Boys Love You.
Containing twelve of the songs the Beach Boys had worked on throughout 1976 and 1977, the album also sourced two tracks from earlier recording sessions. "Good Time", co-written by Wilson and Al Jardine, was the first of these, having been recorded on January 7, 1970, during a Sunflower session. It is abnormal in the context of the Love You album, because the song features a Wilson lead vocal recorded prior to the deepening of his voice. The second of the tracks, "Ding Dang", was largely conceived by Wilson with lyrics contributed by Roger McGuinn. Wilson became obsessed with the vocal arrangement of "Ding Dang" (adapted to or from the traditional folk song "Shortnin' Bread") and as such, various sessions of the songs and its derivatives were recorded throughout the 1970s, creating ambiguity in determining the version on Love You's precise recording date. Beach Boys historians have estimated that it was likely recorded sometime in spring and fall 1973.
Music and lyrics
Similar to the Wilson-commandeered Mount Vernon and Fairway, Love You's instrumentation is almost entirely made up of state-of-the-art analog synthesizers such as the Minimoog. The arranging and mixing methods of these instruments were often made from a Wall of Sound approach, owing to Wilson's fascination with the work of record producer Phil Spector. Producer Earle Mankey served as engineer for the album. According to him, Wilson's studio time was booked by therapist Landy, who forced him to be productive, which was "the only way he'd get his dinner." Occasionally, Landy rewarded Wilson with a joint of cannabis when performing his duties well. Brother Studios' chief administrator Trish Camp recalls an associate of Landy would stand over Wilson with a baseball bat to further his "creative inspiration." Mankey considered Love You to be "lighthearted" on the surface, but was a "serious, autobiographical" work that could be compared somewhat to Eraserhead. He described his own role in the album as "the low man on the totem pole," elaborating:
I would sit in there with Brian for his morning session, which ran from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nobody else wanted to get up that early. And nobody else wanted to sit around if Brian didn’t have anything to do. I worked there. I got paid to do that. I spent a lot of time with him–sometimes productive, sometimes not productive. It was very cool because I was a major Brian Wilson fan and I got to talk to him a lot about the recording aspects of the music that interested me.…Lots [of discussions] about Phil Spector and his techniques and the things that he learned from Phil Spector and the methods that he used. At the foot of it all Brian would say, “There was a fire, and I don’t have that fire anymore and I wish I could get it back.”…When I would get him up to that point he would be talking about how he wrote the songs and recorded them with lots of live musicians in the room."
Mankey has said that Wizzard frontman Roy Wood contributed to "Honkin' Down the Highway" and "Ding Dang", and asserted: "everybody who showed up got subjected to 'Ding Dang'." Fellow Beach Boy Al Jardine further explains: "Brian had an obsession about 'Ding Dang'. He was channeling a certain vibration. He would get hyper-focused on one riff. That might have evolved into 'Shortenin' Bread'. Those songs had that great boogie piano behind them. He had such unique rhythmic expressions, and the voices were like punctuation marks." McGuinn later expounded on his writing contributions, stating that Wilson had one day drove to his house unexpectedly for amphetamines. He recollects:
Brian parked in the driveway and approached the house. I opened the front door and invited him in. "I just wanted to see you," he said. "Do you have any speed?" "Why yes," I replied. "Are you sure you should be taking it?" He said, "I'm running away from Dr. Landy, so it's OK," with a half smile from the side of his mouth. I gave him two Biphetamine 20s and a glass of water and he gulped them down like someone gasping for fresh air after having been submerged for a long time. We had a beer and played pool for a while and then Brian found his way to the music room. He had seated himself at my upright piano and was playing a tune. "What's that?" I asked. "Oh nothing. Just something I came up with now," he replied. I said, "It sounds great! Do you want to write some words?" "OK," he replied. We played the tune for an hour or so but the only lyrics we had were: "I love a girl and I love her madly / I treat her so fine but she treats me so badly," et cetera. After about five or six hours of this, I got tired and went to bed. When I awoke the next morning, Brian was still at the piano playing the same verse over and over.
Side A opens with the rockers "Let Us Go On This Way" and "Roller Skating Child" followed by "Mona", a 1950s-style love ballad that contains references to Phil Spector, "Be My Baby", and "Da Doo Ron Ron" in its lyrics. Biographer Peter Ames Carlin likened "Roller Skating Child" as a "musical interpretation of Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita, complete with vivid descriptions of adolescent sexuality, (the ribbons in her hair, her devious wink, her preternatural facility on skates), careless parenting, ("Her folks let me stay with her 'til late at night"), and the lust-filled escape that sounded so much like Humbert Humbert's scheme you can almost imagine him singing with Mike's voice," and "Johnny Carson" to be a "pivot point" of the album: "From there it just got weirder." Wilson has explained, "'Johnny Carson' came about when I was sitting at my piano and someone was talking about him. I told them I was gonna write a song about him and they didn't believe me. I had the whole thing done in twenty minutes." Despite the song's eccentric lyrics ("Don't you think he's such a natural guy / The way he's kept it up could make you cry"), it has been speculated to have been written as a semi-autobiographic piece. The lyrics can be interpreted as Wilson's frustrations with outside pressures expecting him to be consistently active; which leads him to compare himself with the daily appearing late-night talk show host Johnny Carson.
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For the opening of side B, Brian has said that "Solar System" was written while driving to his daughters' school. Carlin continues to describe it "a celestial variant on 'California Girls'", while referring to subsequent tracks "The Night Was So Young" and "I'll Bet He's Nice" as "traditional shades of self-pity, jealousy, and loneliness."
On November 27, eleven days after compiling the first rough mix of the Love You demos, Wilson made a solo appearance on Saturday Night Live at the instigation of Landy to promote the upcoming album by performing Beach Boys oldies and the work-in-progress track "Love is a Woman". A few weeks following this performance, he was released from Landy's program due to disputes over the doctor's monthly fee. Carl Wilson remixed the completed material in January 1977, overdubbing elements such as guitar and extra percussion to complement the idiosyncratic sound of the songs. For these contributions, he was credited as the album's mixdown producer. Around this period, the call and response tag to "Airplane" was recorded. Jardine considered Carl and Dennis Wilson's contributions to be crucial, accordingly, "I didn’t have that much to do with it... I remember watching the brothers work on it. In a way, [Love You] was Carl’s tribute to Brian. The title of that album is really The Beach Boys Love Brian. Carl wanted Brian to feel appreciated. He had the most to do with that album, him and Dennis, paying tribute to their brother. The Minimoogs are all over the place."
In 1976, Wilson retrieved an instrumental track he recorded in 1965 for the album Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!) entitled "Sandy". He renamed the song "Sherry She Needs Me" and recorded new vocals, but ended up discarding the song for Love You. A cover version of the Spector-produced "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" was also recorded. According to later Beach Boys engineer Alan Boyd,
I talked to Earle Mankey about it and he remembers the session vividly. He recalls that Brian came in one day and recorded the whole song. He plays everything on it, did all the vocals. Everything was pretty much done in one take. Apparently when he was singing both vocals parts at the end—the Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield parts—he really got into that. Earle described his head bouncing back and forth from one side of the microphone to the other. Like a lot of the material from Love You, Brian was working very quickly on his own. It’s a very simple production. Everything is anchored by that tack piano. Brian did this very interesting thing and it goes back to his early days too, for rhythm he’d often use guitars and piano to fulfill the same rhythm function as a high-hat. He’d always have these eighth notes but there’d be these chord clusters. I think he liked the tack piano because it had that sort of percussive click on it and it sort of fulfills the same function as a high-hat except with all these notes so it makes everything sort of swirl. His version of "You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling" is very dark and it’s very raw. It almost has kind of a punk edge to it.
Released on April 11, just weeks after announcing the band's new record deal with CBS, it has been hypothesized that the lack of promotion Reprise Records put into Love You was a byproduct of the falling out between artist and label. It is reported that most Warner Brothers associates liked the record, except for label president Mo Ostin, who believed it should have been "touched up" further. It was relatively overlooked by mainstream audiences, which Wilson later attributed to the poor promotion by Reprise.
Peaking at number 28 in the UK and number 53 in the US, the album was a moderate success, but weighed against the band's prior chart placements. With the momentum of the "Brian's Back" campaign passing and the surge of commercial popularity for disco and punk, the Beach Boys' commercial appeal had slowed down once more. Following the album's lukewarm reception and the re-emergence of personal demons, Wilson resumed his back seat proceedings in the band and would never again be as involved with an album's genesis and execution.
|The A.V. Club||positive|
Despite its low charts, Love You was met with praise, and viewed as a dramatic improvement over 15 Big Ones the year before. Positively received by critics both then and today; Love You has been praised for its awkward beauty and high levels of musical creativity. Publication Musician, Player, and Listener wrote: "In the bargain bins [the album] collected dust. That 1977 release is Brian Wilson's most ambitious and successful work of the decade. It ranks with Fleetwood Mac's Tusk, Steely Dan's Katy Lied, and Neil Young's Zuma as the best California rock albums of the decade." Pitchfork Media said of the album: "The Beach Boys Love You stands in sharp contrast to the albums that preceded and followed it, because it was a product of genuine inspiration on Brian Wilson's part, with little outside interference." AllMusic also agreed that the emotional inspiration was apparent, believing "The Night Was So Young," "I'll Bet He's Nice," and "Let's Put Our Hearts Together" form a suite during side two that possesses a breadth of emotional attachment to rival Pet Sounds.
Love You has since developed a cult following and is regarded by some as one of the band's best albums. Referring to "naysayers" of the album, the underground fanzine Scram wrote "fuck [them] … [the album showcases] a truly original mix of humor and sadness. The original numbers always dance just a step away from the cliché, dealing with simple lyrical themes that make you wonder why they had never been explored before." Divided by fans and critics, Love You is renowned for its swamping sounds of layered synths (once named "a loopy funhouse ambience"), gruff vocals, and unique production approach—whereas others have found the raw, unconventional sound difficult to appreciate. The A.V. Club somewhat echoed this statement, admitting "there's something not-quite-right about men on the cusp of middle age hungering after a 'roller-skating child'—but its failure reveals a touching vulnerability beneath the sunny good-times image of an American institution", going on to say that "more often than not, Love You has a winning, human directness."
In a strong negative review by Audio, the album was named "a real disappointment … patronizing and disastrous, the kind of record to get out of a contract with. And that they have done." The periodical went on to accuse other critics of writing unauthentic positive feedback toward the album; also praising the fanzine Pet Sounds for publishing a negative piece on the album by Michael Tearson, for who they called "the only record reviewer who told it like it is. It took guts."
Brian Wilson has stated that the album is one of his favorite Beach Boys releases, saying: "That's when it all happened for me. That's where my heart lies. Jesus, that's the best album we ever made." He added in later years, "I think because I felt so sad I had to bring out my feelings, and try to create music that would make me and all my friends feel better.…My favorites are 'I Wanna Pick You Up' and 'Ding Dang'. that was a good cut, wasn't it? Just a very short song, that's all." After being asked where somebody should begin with the Beach Boys discography, Wilson said, "They should listen to Pet Sounds first, and then listen to The Beach Boys Love You." In 2013, Beach Boy Al Jardine expressed enthusiasm for performing the entire Love You album in concert, going on to note, "those are some of the best songs we ever did."
Patti Smith lauded the album at release, and helped promote it with her own review which called Love You "[an album] siphoned from the meandering mind of a madman…laced w/ tender cynicism, [it] seems to exude from a dead man w/ memory." In a review of Love You for Circus, Lester Bangs wrote "[the Beach Boys are] a diseased bunch of motherfuckers if ever there was one…But the miracle is that the Beach Boys have made that disease sound like the literal babyflesh pink of health…Maybe it’s just that unprickable and ingenuous wholesomeness that accounts not only for their charm, but for their beauty—a beauty so awesome that listening to them at their best is like being in some vast dream cathedral decorated with a thousand gleaming American pop culture icons." Peter Buck of R.E.M. has given high praise to Love You, naming it as his favorite Beach Boys release of all time.
A cover version by Alex Chilton of the album's "Solar System" was included in the posthumous Electricity by Candlelight (2013), and he contributed his own recording of "I Wanna Pick You Up" for the various artists tribute album Caroline Now! (2000). Other songs covered in the compilation were "Honkin' Down the Highway" (Radio Sweethearts), "Good Time" (Stevie Jackson of Belle & Sebastian), and "Let's Put Our Hearts Together" (duet between Chip Taylor and Evie Sands). In 1997, Darian Sahanaja released a cover of "I Wanna Pick You Up" as a single.
All songs written and composed by Brian Wilson, except where noted.
|1.||"Let Us Go On This Way" (B. Wilson/Mike Love)||Carl Wilson with Love||1:58|
|2.||"Roller Skating Child"||Love, C. Wilson, Al Jardine with B. Wilson||2:17|
|3.||"Mona"||Dennis Wilson with B. Wilson||2:06|
|4.||"Johnny Carson"||Love with C. Wilson||2:47|
|5.||"Good Time" (B. Wilson/Jardine)||B. Wilson||2:50|
|6.||"Honkin' Down the Highway"||Jardine||2:48|
|7.||"Ding Dang" (B. Wilson/Roger McGuinn)||Love||0:57|
|1.||"Solar System"||B. Wilson||2:49|
|2.||"The Night Was So Young"||C. Wilson with B. Wilson||2:15|
|3.||"I'll Bet He's Nice"||D. Wilson, B. Wilson with C. Wilson||2:36|
|4.||"Let's Put Our Hearts Together"||B. Wilson with Marilyn Wilson||2:14|
|5.||"I Wanna Pick You Up"||D. Wilson with B. Wilson||2:39|
|6.||"Airplane"||Love, B. Wilson with C. Wilson||3:05|
|7.||"Love Is a Woman"||B. Wilson, Love with Jardine||2:57|
As written on the back of the vinyl sleeve and 2000 liner notes except where otherwise stated.
- The Beach Boys
- Al Jardine – vocals
- Mike Love – vocals
- Brian Wilson – vocals, keyboards, synthesizers, drums, producer
- Carl Wilson – vocals, mixdown producer
- Dennis Wilson – vocals
- Additional musicians and production staff
|Canada RPM Albums Chart||66|
|Swedish Album Charts||34|
|UK Top 40 Album Chart||28|
|US Billboard 200 Albums Chart||53|
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