The Beach Boys Today!

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The Beach Boys Today!
BeachBoysTodayCover.jpg
Studio album by The Beach Boys
Released March 8, 1965 (1965-03-08)
Recorded
  • June 22, 1964 (1964-06-22)–January 19, 1965 (1965-01-19)
Studio United Western Recorders, Gold Star Studios, and RCA Victor Studios, Hollywood
Genre
Length 28:54
Label Capitol
Producer Brian Wilson
The Beach Boys chronology
The Beach Boys' Christmas Album
(1964)
Today!
(1965)
Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!)
(1965)
The Beach Boys UK chronology
Beach Boys' Party!
(1966)
Today!
(1966)
Pet Sounds
(1966)
Singles from Today!
  1. "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)" / "She Knows Me Too Well"
    Released: August 24, 1964
  2. "Dance, Dance, Dance"
    Released: October 26, 1964
  3. "Do You Wanna Dance?" / "Please Let Me Wonder"
    Released: February 15, 1965

The Beach Boys Today!, also known simply as Today!,[2][3] is the eighth studio album by the American rock group the Beach Boys. It peaked at number four on US record charts and was preceded by the top 10 singles "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)" and "Dance, Dance, Dance", along with "Do You Wanna Dance?" which reached number 12.

Shortly before recording began, the group completed their album All Summer Long (1964), intended to be their final statement on beach-themed music. In December 1964, Brian Wilson suffered through a nervous breakdown while on a flight, and was introduced to marijuana as a stress reliever. He then became a regular user after he realized the profound effect it had on the way he perceived music, and resigned from touring with the group to focus solely on writing and producing.

Produced, arranged, and largely written by Wilson with additional lyrics by Mike Love, Today! signaled a departure from previous albums through Wilson's increasingly sophisticated, orchestral approach and the abandonment of themes related to surfing, cars, or teenage love. The tracks on side one feature an uptempo sound that contrasts side two, which consists mostly of ballads. With instrumentation that includes accordions, harpsichords, French horn, tack pianos, mandolins, and sleigh bells, the album showcases adventurous and distinct arrangements, multi-layered Wall of Sound productions, and personal, autobiographical subject matter that would foreshadow future albums such as Pet Sounds (1966).

Today! established the Beach Boys as album artists rather than just a singles band.[4] Author Scott Schinder referred to its "suite-like structure" as an early example of the rock album format being used to make a cohesive artistic statement.[5] In 2012, the album was voted 271 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time".[6] In 2005, it was included in the musical reference book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Background[edit]

Performing on The Ed Sullivan Show in September 1964, three months before Brian's resignation from touring

By the end of a particularly stressful 1964, the Beach Boys had released four albums in 12 months, dismissed the Wilsons' father Murry from his managerial position and recorded the advance hit singles "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)" and "Dance, Dance, Dance".[7] Mid-1964 also saw the divorce of Mike Love from his first wife Frances St. Martin whom he had married in 1961.[8] During the album's recording sessions, Love told Melody Maker that he and the band wanted to look beyond surf rock, wanting to avoid living in the past or resting on the band's laurels.[9] Brian Wilson had written his last surf song in April 1964,[10] intending All Summer Long (released July 1964) to be the group's final statement on beach-themed music.[11]

Wilson became physically and emotionally exhausted to a point that he suffered an anxiety attack on December 23, 1964. During the recording sessions of Today! in January 1965, he informed the band that he intended to retire from touring and focus his attention solely on creating and producing music, to which the band reluctantly agreed.[7] Wilson expressed regret over not having done this sooner so that he could do "justice" to the band's recordings, saying "I was run down mentally and emotionally because I was running around, jumping on jets from one city to another on one-night stands, also producing, writing, arranging, singing, planning, teaching – to the point where I had no peace of mind and no chance to actually sit down and think or even rest."[12][nb 1]

Music and lyrics[edit]

In songs like 'She Knows Me Too Well' and 'In the Back of My Mind', Wilson's dream lovers were suddenly no longer simple happy souls harmonizing their sun-kissed innocence and dying devotion to each other over a honey-coated backdrop of surf and sand. Instead, they'd become highly vulnerable, slightly neurotic and riddled with telling insecurities.

Nick Kent, "The Last Beach Movie Revisited", 2009[14][page needed]

Today! marked a maturation in the Beach Boys' lyric content by abandoning themes related to surfing, cars, or teenage love. Some love songs remained, but with a marked increase in depth, along with introspective tracks accompanied by adventurous and distinct arrangements.[5][15] British rock critic Nick Kent explained: "What was really happening was Brian's approach to romance was becoming more and more personalized, more honest in a distinctly autobiographical way."[14][page needed]

According to author Scott Schinder, "Today!'s suite-like structure, with the album divided into a side of fast songs and a side of ballads, presented an early manifestation of the rock album format being used to make a cohesive artistic statement – an idea that Brian would soon explore more fully."[5] It was thus the band's first flirtation with the album-as-art form.[16] Brian's recent introduction to marijuana, which he used as a stress reliever,[17] greatly influenced the album's writing, as he later stated: "Pot made the music grow in my head."[18] Musicologist Philip Lambert disagrees with the notion that "Brian wrote B-side songs before his December catharsis and A-side songs in the sunny glow of his subsequent freedom", believing that the compositions which preceded his plane episode still showed evidence of progressive ingenuity.[19]

Side one[edit]

"When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)" features multiple key modulations, a hook based on a functionally ambiguous chord, tempo stretches, and a long pause as a climax.[20]

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PopMatters notes that even though Today!'s A-side is filled with uptempo numbers, "it would be a mistake to assume that the ballads are more sophisticated. ... Wilson proves that he can be just as harmonically and structurally inventive with catchy dance songs as he can with emotional ballads."[21] On "Good to My Baby" and "Don't Hurt My Little Sister", the journal points out "deceptive simplicity" in its music and lyricism, with the latter "capturing the conflicting and tortured feelings Wilson was dealing with through this period" that may not be heard on a first listen.[22] The journal explains that "Don't Hurt My Little Sister" is commonly suspected to be autobiographical, with Wilson alluding to his conflicted, romantic feelings toward his sister-in-law.[22] According to Brian's later collaborator Van Dyke Parks, Brian had a "fervent desire to reinvent himself as an individual, not as a boy."[23] This culminated in "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)", a song discussing his anxieties about becoming an adult.[20] Released as an A-sided single, it was one of the first rock songs to explore the subject of impending adulthood.[1] The next track, "Help Me, Ronda", would later be re-recorded as "Help Me, Rhonda" to deliver the Beach Boys their second number one hit in May.[24] Its riff was taken from Buster Brown's "Fannie Mae" (1959).[25]

Side two[edit]

"Kiss Me, Baby" is arranged similar to Phil Spector's Wall of Sound, but instead of combining each instrument into one color, Wilson brings them in and out.[26]

The music in "She Knows Me Too Well" is sparse compared to other Today! tracks. Its dissonant harmonic development helps convey the song's lyricism about a man who struggles with his treatment of women.[27]

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"Please Let Me Wonder" was claimed to be the first song Wilson had written under the influence of marijuana.[28] "Kiss Me, Baby" contains an expanded instrumental palette of three guitars, two basses, two pianos, two saxophones, and percussion, English horn and French horn.[26] Thomas Ward of AllMusic called the song a product of Wilson's "dense, multi-layered confessional songs, with adult themes and exploring issues previously only developed by performers such as Bob Dylan"[29] while biographer Jon Stebbins would refer to it as "the pinnacle of balladry ... one of the Beach Boys' most romantic and emotional songs."[26] In the book Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop, Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne wrote of the lyricism in "In the Back of My Mind":

"[The narrator's] emotions, whatever really was in the back of his mind, seemed to come out without any filter for what was deemed cool, or appropriate, or even musically acceptable ... The same album's 'She Knows Me Too Well' opened with 'Sometimes I have a weird way of showing my love', a line that wouldn't shock in the catalogues of Nick Cave or the Jesus and Mary Chain, but was pretty unsettling in the hands of the car-crazy Californians. Brian was aiming for Johnny Mercer but coming up proto-indie."[30]

The front cover lists nine of the album's 12 tracks, followed by "plus three great new songs written by Brian Wilson." However, of the remaining three tracks, only "In the Back of My Mind" was another original composition. "I'm So Young" is usually attributed to William H. "Prez" Tyus, Jr., and the other song, "Bull Session with the "Big Daddy"", is an informal interview with the band.[citation needed]

Recording and production[edit]

Begun on June 22, 1964 in between sessions for The Beach Boys' Christmas Album, "Don't Hurt My Little Sister" was the earliest song tracked for the album. August was devoted to the singles "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)" and "She Knows Me Too Well"; followed by "I'm So Young", the outtake "All Dressed Up for School", and "Dance, Dance, Dance" in September.[nb 2] Only one session occurred in October for a remake of "Dance, Dance, Dance", being the first session date labelled for Today!, and the only session which was conducted at RCA Victor Studios.[nb 3] "Kiss Me Baby" was then tracked two months later in December.[nb 4] Following Brian's return to the studio on January 7, 1965, the rest of the album was completed in less than two weeks, ending on January 19.[13] As documented by Craig Slowinski, the extent of the album's instrumentation features:

In comparison to previous albums, Today! necessitated Brian's use of session musicians to a greater extent. Despite this, Carl Wilson was still employed on lead guitar for many of the album's tracks, and usually played alongside these session musicians[1] which would later be informally known as the Wrecking Crew, comprising many of the same musicians who played on Phil Spector's Wall of Sound productions that Wilson idolized.[5] The recording process typically involved recording an instrumental on two tracks of 3-track tape with one remaining track left for the first vocal overdub. This tape was then dubbed down to a second tape for an additional layer of vocal overdubs. The LP was finally issued in mono, their first album not to be issued in stereo since Surfin' U.S.A. (1963).[1]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Retrospective reviews
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[3]
Blender 4/5 stars[32]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 5/5 stars[33]
The Guardian positive[34]
Rolling Stone 5/5 stars[35]

Despite being a departure from the Beach Boys sound that pervaded prior efforts, the album was a commercial success; Today! climbed to number four in the US chart during a chart stay of 50 weeks[36] and also reached number six in the British chart during the summer of 1966.[37][38] Singles "Do You Wanna Dance?", "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)" and "Dance, Dance, Dance" had all charted.[39]

The album is often described as a foreshadowing of the later Beach Boys' album Pet Sounds.[1][7][16][21] Alice Bolin writes: "Pet Sounds was released only a little over a year after Today!, and it can be hard to separate Today! from the masterpiece it led to—so much so that Today! can feel like a rehearsal for Pet Sounds, with its themes and ideas repeated and perfected in the later album."[16] PopMatters adds "Pet Sounds is about growing up and moving on, and as such, it’s melancholic and reflective. But Today! is about the optimism, not the sadness, of leaving adolescence. Even on the more sentimental b-side songs, there’s a sense of excitement and longing for what the future has in store."[21]

Accolades[edit]

In 2005, Today! was included in Robert Dimery's 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[40] In 2007, The Guardian named it one of "1000 Albums to Hear Before You Die".[41] In 2012, a variety of musicians and writers voted the album at 271 for Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list, with it stating: "The Beach Boys were still into cars, girls and surfboards, [sic] but Brian Wilson was already a genius. He writes sweet California tunes here, and the haunting 'She Knows Me Too Well' hits Pet Sounds-deep."[6]

Release history[edit]

Between 1969 and 1971 (Capitol DF-8-0703), 1978 (Capitol DF-703), and again in the early 1980s (Capitol DN-16019 and accompanying 8-track tape), as part of Capitol Records' repackage series of their Beach Boys albums, Today! was retitled Dance Dance Dance and had two tracks deleted: "In the Back of My Mind" and "Bull Session with the 'Big Daddy'".[citation needed]

The album was re-released complete in 2001 on a disc that also contained Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) as well as several bonus tracks.[citation needed]

This was one of several Beach Boys releases not to be issued in true stereophonic sound. Originally, Capitol issued the album in mono, as well as "duophonic". In 2012, a complete stereo mix of Today! was released for the first time.[42]

Track listing[edit]

Track list details per Craig Slowinski.[1] Following a 1990s court case, the songs "Good to My Baby", "Don't Hurt My Little Sister", "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)", "Help Me, Ronda", "Dance, Dance, Dance", "She Knows Me Too Well", and "In the Back of My Mind" were amended to include a songwriting credit to Mike Love that did not exist previously.[43]

All songs written and composed by Brian Wilson and Mike Love, except where noted. 

Side one
No. Title Lead vocals Length
1. "Do You Wanna Dance?" (Bobby Freeman) Dennis Wilson 2:19
2. "Good to My Baby"   B. Wilson with Love 2:16
3. "Don't Hurt My Little Sister"   Love with B. Wilson 2:07
4. "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)"   Love with B. Wilson 2:01
5. "Help Me, Ronda"   Al Jardine 3:08
6. "Dance, Dance, Dance" (B. Wilson/Carl Wilson/Love) Love 1:59
Side two
No. Title Lead vocals Length
1. "Please Let Me Wonder"   B. Wilson with Love 2:45
2. "I'm So Young" (William H. "Prez" Tyus, Jr.) B. Wilson 2:30
3. "Kiss Me, Baby"   B. Wilson with Love 2:35
4. "She Knows Me Too Well"   B. Wilson 2:27
5. "In the Back of My Mind"   D. Wilson 2:07
6. "Bull Session with the 'Big Daddy'" (The Beach Boys) Earl Leaf, Ron Swallow, B. Wilson, Love, D. Wilson, Marilyn Wilson, and C. Wilson 2:10

Personnel[edit]

The Beach Boys in 1964 (from left: Al Jardine, Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Mike Love, and Dennis Wilson)

Sourced from Musician's Union AFM contract sheets and surviving session audio, documented by Craig Slowinski.[1]

The Beach Boys
Additional musicians and production staff

Charts[edit]

Albums
Year Chart Position
1965 German Albums Chart[44] 14
1965 US Billboard 200 Albums Chart[36] 4
1965 UK Top 40 Album Chart[45] 6
Singles
Year Single Chart Position
1964 "Dance, Dance, Dance" US Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart 8
1964 "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)" US Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart 9
1965 "Do You Wanna Dance?" US Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart 12
1965 "Please Let Me Wonder" US Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart 52

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Throughout 1965, Brian still performed live with the Beach Boys, but only on justified occasions during February, July, and October.[13]
  2. ^ The September sessions for "I'm So Young" and "Dance, Dance, Dance" were discarded alternate versions.[31] The versions of these songs which appear on the album were recorded in January 1965.[13]
  3. ^ The album was mainly recorded at United Western Recorders with some exceptions at Gold Star Studios.[1]
  4. ^ Craig Slowinski notes: "this is probably the most historically significant track on the Today! album, simply because Brian suffered his notorious in-flight nervous breakdown between the date of the session for the instrumental track and that for the vocals."[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Craig Slowinski (2007). "The Beach Boys - The Beach Boys Today!" (PDF). Retrieved October 27, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Today!". Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone. Retrieved 10 October 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Unterberger, Richie. "Today!". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-10-28. 
  4. ^ Moskowitz 2015, p. 43.
  5. ^ a b c d Schinder 2007, p. 111.
  6. ^ a b "500 Greatest Albums of All Time: The Beach Boys, 'The Beach Boys Today'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 12, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c Leaf, David (1990). Today/Summer Days (CD Liner). The Beach Boys. Capitol Records. 
  8. ^ Doe, Andrew G. "1964". Bellagio 10452. Endless Summer Quarterly. 
  9. ^ Welch, C 1964, 'Beach Boys Brought their own vegetables - so audiences beware!, Melody Maker, 14 November, p.10
  10. ^ Carlin 2006, p. 51.
  11. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "All Summer Long". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  12. ^ Nolan, Tom (October 28, 1971). "The Beach Boys: A California Saga". Rolling Stone (94). 
  13. ^ a b c Doe, Andrew G. Doe. "GIGS65". Bellagio 10452. Endless Summer Quarterly. 
  14. ^ a b Kent 2009.
  15. ^ Howard 2004, p. 58.
  16. ^ a b c Bolin, Alice (July 8, 2012). "The Beach Boys Are Still Looking at an Impossible Future". PopMatters. 
  17. ^ "A Boy's own story". theguardian.com. 2002-01-05. Retrieved 2015-04-22. 
  18. ^ Hoskyns 2009, pp. 104–105.
  19. ^ Lambert 2007, pp. 180–182.
  20. ^ a b Interrante, Scott (April 28, 2014). "When I Grow Up: The Beach Boys - "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)"". PopMatters. 
  21. ^ a b c Interrante, Scott (March 31, 2014). "When I Grow Up: 'The Beach Boys Today!'". PopMatters. 
  22. ^ a b Interrante, Scott (April 21, 2014). "When I Grow Up: The Beach Boys - "Don't Hurt My Little Sister"". PopMatters. 
  23. ^ Priore 2005.
  24. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2002) "Top Pop Singles 1955-2001"
  25. ^ Lambert 2007, p. 187.
  26. ^ a b c Interrante, Scott (June 2, 2014). "The Beach Boys - "Kiss Me, Baby"". Popmatters. 
  27. ^ Interrante, Scott (June 9, 2014). "When I Grow Up: The Beach Boys - "She Knows Me Too Well"". Popmatters. 
  28. ^ Greenwald, Matthew. "Please Let Me Wonder". AllMusic. 
  29. ^ Ward, Thomas. "Kiss Me, Baby". AllMusic. 
  30. ^ Stanley 2013, pp. 219–220.
  31. ^ Doe, Andrew G. Doe. "GIGS64". Bellagio 10452. Endless Summer Quarterly. 
  32. ^ Blender review
  33. ^ The Virgin Encyclopedia Of Popular Music, Concise (4th Edition), Virgin Books (UK), 2002, ed. Larkin, Colin.
  34. ^ Today! - The Beach Boys: The Guardian review, Saturday 17 November 2007
  35. ^ The Rolling Stone Album Guide (3rd Edition) Random House (US), 1992, ed. Anthony DeCurtis ISBN 0-679-73729-4
  36. ^ a b "Today! - The Beach Boys: Awards". AllMusic. 
  37. ^ "The Official Charts Company - Beach Boys Today by The Beach Boys Search". The Official Charts Company. 6 May 2013. 
  38. ^ Brown, Tony (2000). "The Complete Book of the British Charts"
  39. ^ "The Beach Boys Billboard Chart History". billboard.com. Retrieved 2015-04-22. 
  40. ^ Dimery, Robert (2005). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Universe. New York, NY. p. 910. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5. 
  41. ^ 1000 Albums to Hear Before You Die, The Guardian, Saturday 17 November 2007
  42. ^ "Review: The Beach Boys Remasters, Part Two: The Album-by-Album Guide « The Second Disc". Theseconddisc.com. Retrieved 2012-11-09. 
  43. ^ Doe, Andrew G. "Album Archiveq". Bellagio 10452. Endless Summer Quarterly. 
  44. ^ "Album Search: The Beach Boys – The Beach Boys Today!" (in German). Media Control. Retrieved April 14, 2013. 
  45. ^ "UK Top 40 Hit Database". EveryHit. 

Bibliography[edit]