The Beach Boys Today!
|The Beach Boys Today!|
|Studio album by|
|Released||March 8, 1965|
|Studio||United Western Recorders, Gold Star Studios, and RCA Victor Studios, Hollywood|
|The Beach Boys chronology|
|The Beach Boys UK chronology|
|Singles from Today!|
The Beach Boys Today! is the eighth studio album by the American rock band the Beach Boys, released on March 8, 1965. The album signaled a departure from their previous records with its orchestral approach, intimate subject matter, and abandonment of themes related to surfing, cars, or superficial love. It peaked at number four on US record charts during a 50-week chart stay 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. When issued in the UK one year later, Today! peaked at number six.
The album was produced, arranged, and largely written by Brian Wilson with additional lyrics by Mike Love. 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 had a nervous breakdown while on a flight, and resigned from touring with the group to focus solely on writing and producing. He began using marijuana, which he later said had profound effects on his musical conceptions.
Today! established the Beach Boys as album artists rather than just a singles band. Side one features an uptempo sound that contrasts side two, which consists mostly of ballads. 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. In 2012, the album was voted 271 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". In 2005, it was included in the musical reference book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
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". Mid-1964 also saw the divorce of Mike Love from his first wife Frances St. Martin whom he had married in 1961. 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. Brian Wilson had written his last surf song in April 1964, intending All Summer Long (released July 1964) to be the group's final statement on beach-themed music.
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. 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."[nb 1] According to Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, in early 1965, Wilson phoned the couple to congratulate them on their new song "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'", as Weil quotes Wilson: "Your song is the greatest record ever. I was ready to quit the music business, but this has inspired me to write again. I want to write with you guys."
Music and lyrics
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. 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."
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." It was thus the band's first flirtation with the album-as-art form. Brian's recent introduction to marijuana, which he used as a stress reliever, greatly influenced the album's writing, as he later stated: "Pot made the music grow in my head." 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.
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." 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. 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. According to Brian's later collaborator Van Dyke Parks, Brian had a "fervent desire to reinvent himself as an individual, not as a boy." This culminated in "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)", a song discussing his anxieties about becoming an adult. Released as an A-sided single, it was one of the first rock songs to explore the subject of impending adulthood. 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. Its riff was taken from Buster Brown's "Fannie Mae" (1959). Unlike the later single edit, this version contains numerous false fade-outs.
"Please Let Me Wonder" was claimed to be the first song Wilson had written under the influence of marijuana. "Kiss Me, Baby" contains an expanded instrumental palette of three guitars, two basses, two pianos, two saxophones, and percussion, English horn and French horn. 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" while biographer Jon Stebbins would refer to it as "the pinnacle of balladry ... one of the Beach Boys' most romantic and emotional songs." 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."
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.
Recording and production
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. 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 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. 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). In 2012, a complete stereo mix of Today! was released for the first time.
Release and legacy
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
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 and also reached number six in the British chart during the summer of 1966. Singles "Do You Wanna Dance?", "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)" and "Dance, Dance, Dance" had all charted.
The album is described as a foreshadowing of the later Beach Boys' album Pet Sounds. Alice Bolin of PopMatters 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." Scott Interrante 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."
In 2005, Today! was included in Robert Dimery's 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. In 2007, The Guardian named it one of "1000 Albums to Hear Before You Die". 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: "Brian Wilson was already a genius. He writes sweet California tunes here, and the haunting 'She Knows Me Too Well' hits Pet Sounds-deep."
|1.||"Do You Wanna Dance?"||Bobby Freeman||Dennis Wilson||2:19|
|2.||"Good to My Baby" (*)||Brian Wilson, Mike Love||B. Wilson with Love||2:16|
|3.||"Don't Hurt My Little Sister" (*)||B. Wilson, Love||Love with B. Wilson||2:07|
|4.||"When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)" (*)||B. Wilson, Love||Love with B. Wilson||2:01|
|5.||"Help Me, Ronda" (*)||B. Wilson, Love||Al Jardine||3:08|
|6.||"Dance, Dance, Dance" (*)||B. Wilson, Carl Wilson, Love||Love with B. Wilson||1:59|
|1.||"Please Let Me Wonder"||B. Wilson||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, Love||B. Wilson with Love||2:35|
|4.||"She Knows Me Too Well" (*)||B. Wilson, Love||B. Wilson||2:27|
|5.||"In the Back of My Mind" (*)||B. Wilson, Love||D. Wilson||2:07|
|6.||"Bull Session with the 'Big Daddy'" (spoken word)||2:10|
|2001 CD reissue bonus tracks|
|25.||"The Little Girl I Once Knew"||B. Wilson||B. Wilson, Jardine with C. Wilson||2:40|
|26.||"Dance, Dance, Dance" (alternate take)||B. Wilson, C. Wilson, Love||Love with B. Wilson||2:02|
|27.||"I'm So Young" (alternate take)||Tyus||B. Wilson||2:29|
|28.||"Let Him Run Wild" (alternate take)||B. Wilson, Love||B. Wilson||2:18|
|29.||"Graduation Day"||Joe Sherman, Noel Sherman||Love with B. Wilson||2:18|
Sourced from Musician's Union AFM contract sheets and surviving session audio.
The Beach Boys
- Al Jardine – lead, harmony and backing vocals; electric rhythm guitar; bass guitar; handclaps
- Mike Love – lead, harmony and backing vocals; handclaps
- Brian Wilson – lead, harmony and backing vocals; four and six-string bass guitar; grand, upright and tack piano; Baldwin harpsichord; Hammond organ; handclaps
- Carl Wilson – harmony and backing vocals; lead, rhythm and twelve-string guitar; six-string bass guitar; handclaps
- Dennis Wilson – lead, harmony and backing vocals; drums, tambourine, handclaps
Additional musicians and production
- Hal Blaine – drums, wood blocks, sleigh bells, triangle, tambourine, castanets, temple block
- Chuck Britz – engineer
- Glen Campbell – guitar
- Peter Christ – English horn
- Steve Douglas – tenor saxophone
- David Duke – French horn
- John Gray – grand piano
- Carl Fortina – accordion
- Plas Johnson – tenor saxophone
- Carol Kaye – bass guitar
- Barney Kessel – classical nylon rhythm guitar, twelve-string guitar
- Larry Knechtel – bass guitar
- Larry Levine – engineer
- Carrol Lewis – double-reed harmonica
- "Louie" (last name unknown) – castanets
- Jack Nimitz – saxophone
- Jay Migliori – baritone saxophone
- Earl Palmer – drums, timbales
- Don Randi – tack upright piano, organ
- Bill Pitman – electric guitar, acoustic guitar
- Ray Pohlman – bass guitar
- Billy Lee Riley – harmonica
- Leon Russell – piano, organ
- Billy Strange – electric guitar, electric mandolin
- Ron Swallow – tambourine
- Tommy Tedesco – autoharp, electric guitar, mandolin
- Russ Titelman – percussion (microphone boom hit with screwdriver)
- Julius Wechter – vibraphone, bell tree, timpani, tambourine, congas
- Jerry Williams – vibraphone, timpani
- Marilyn Wilson – backing vocals
- unknown – oboe, cellos, violins, violas, English horn
|1965||German Albums Chart||14|
|1965||US Billboard 200 Albums Chart||4|
|1965||UK Top 40 Album Chart||6|
|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|
- Throughout 1965, Brian still performed live with the Beach Boys, but only on justified occasions during February, July, and October.
- The September sessions for "I'm So Young" and "Dance, Dance, Dance" were discarded alternate versions. The versions of these songs which appear on the album were recorded in January 1965.
- The album was mainly recorded at United Western Recorders with some exceptions at Gold Star Studios.
- 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."
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