Wild Honey (album)

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Wild Honey
Wild honey beach boys.jpg
Studio album by The Beach Boys
Released December 18, 1967 (1967-12-18)
Recorded September 26 – November 15, 1967
Studio Wally Heider Studios and Brian Wilson's home studio in Los Angeles
Length 23:58
Label Capitol
Producer The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys chronology
Smiley Smile
Wild Honey
Singles from Wild Honey
  1. "Wild Honey"
    Released: October 23, 1967
  2. "Darlin'"
    Released: December 18, 1967

Wild Honey is the 13th studio album by American rock band the Beach Boys, released on December 18, 1967.[1] The album contrasts with many Beach Boys LPs that came before it with its R&B and soul music aesthetic. Its name is a double entendre suggesting both edible honey and "honey" as a term of endearment; also the namesake of the album's lead single and opening track.[2] The single became a minor hit with only a short chart stay. Its follow-up "Darlin'" reached the US Top 20. The album itself reached number 24 in the US and number seven in the UK.

The album's sessions began immediately after the abandonment of Lei'd in Hawaii, a failed live album; and the release of Smiley Smile, their previous studio album. Self-produced by the band, Wild Honey was the second Beach Boys album since Surfin' U.S.A. (1963) not to give sole production credit to Brian Wilson, who had gradually abdicated the band's musical leadership following the difficult sessions for the aborted Smile LP. The track "Here Comes the Night" was later redone by the group as a disco single in the late 1970s and was a minor hit.[citation needed]


Main article: Lei'd in Hawaii

The Wild Honey sessions were preceded by an attempt at recording a live-in-the-studio album, Lei'd in Hawaii. When conflicts arose, the idea was dropped in favor of a new studio album.[3] The Wilsons' cousin Steve Korthoff and friend Arnie Geller later wrote the album's original liner notes: "Honey, of the wild variety, on a shelf in Brian's kitchen, was not only an aide to all of the Beach Boys' health but the source of inspiration for the record, Wild Honey ... We think this is a great album. We love to listen to it. We might just be biased because we work for the Beach Boys. Please see what you think."[4]

Music and style[edit]

According to Steven Gaines, Wild Honey is "considered by many" to be a soul album.[6] Jason Fine, writing in The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), called it "a rougher album of California soul".[7] Edwin Faust from Stylus Magazine wrote that it is "sometimes referred to as the Beach Boys' 'soul album'" and that its music focuses "simply on catchy hooks, snappy melodies and a straight-up boogie-woogie feel".[8] In The Rough Guide to Rock (1996), Nig Hodgkins called Wild Honey the Beach Boys' "party album" which mixed rhythm and blues, pop, and soul styles,[9] while Billboard referred to it as a pop rock record.[10] Lenny Kaye, writing for Wondering Sound, felt that its "R&B leanings" may be attributed to Mike Love and Carl Wilson's vocal roles on the album.[11] Biographer Mark Dillon wrote: "While R&B had been a big part of the band's early days — when it built songs on borrowed Chuck Berry riffs — much of the new material was inspired by the more vocally emotive soul music on the Motown, Stax Records."[12] David Leaf said that "this Beach Boys soul album was in part a response to critics' claims that the group consisted of ball-less choir boys."[13] According to writer Byron Preiss, Carl Wilson "came into prominence singing leads and working on production", and the focus of the project was "something thoroughly unexpected: a Beach Boys' soul album. The group had turned around, getting closer to their R&B roots."[14] Brian Chidester of Paste magazine called it one "in a series of lo-fi albums" by the Beach Boys.[15]

Music theorist Daniel Harrison described Wild Honey as a self-conscious attempt by the Beach Boys to "regroup as a rock 'n' roll band and to reject the mantle of recording-studio auteurs that Brian had made them wear. Without Brian's drive, of course, they could no longer be those auteurs, hence Wild Honey."[16] He goes on to say that the album contained simple songs which lacked the "enigmatic weirdness" and "virtuosic mesmerizers" present in Smiley Smile, but featured the same production approach and similar core instrumental combo of organ, honky-tonk piano, and electronic bass.[17] The piano was slightly detuned, which Brian says made it "more like a twelve-string guitar, to get a more mellow sound. ... I loved what it did to the sound of the record."[18]

Brian, fatigued by the multi-tasking role he had taken up with the Beach Boys for several years, requested that Carl become more involved with album's recording.[20] Carl explained: "Wild Honey was music for Brian to cool out by."[4] Recorded mostly at Brian's home studio, Wild Honey differs in many ways from previous Beach Boys albums. It contains very little group singing compared to previous albums, and mainly features Brian singing at his piano.[4] The recording sessions lasted only several weeks, compared to the several months required for "Good Vibrations" (1966).[4] "Let the Wind Blow" was the first composition recorded by the group that is in 3/4 time from beginning to end.[21] "How She Boogaloeed It" was the first original Beach Boys song (excluding instrumentals and cover versions) not to feature contributions from Brian.[4] Brian is credited as composer or co-composer for only 9 of 13 tracks, compared to Smiley Smile in which he held a songwriting credit for every track.[17]

Mike Love claimed that he wrote the lyrics of the lead track "Wild Honey" from the perspective of Stevie Wonder singing it.[2] Author Andrew Hickey noted melodic similarities between "Country Air" and the Crystals' "Da Doo Ron Ron".[22] "Darlin'" was one of the album's more developed productions, and was reworked from an earlier Brian Wilson/Mike Love composition entitled "Thinkin' 'Bout You Baby".[4] Leaf named "I'd Love Just Once to See You" a precursor to the writing style that Brian would later explore in the next studio album Friends.[4] Hickey believes that the song had no significant writing contributions from Mike Love, calling it "as obvious an example of a Brian Wilson solo composition as I've ever heard. This is the first in a series of slice-of-life songs that would become a minor thread running through the next few years of Brian's work."[23]

The closing track, "Mama Says", is a chant that originated from an unreleased incarnation of the composition "Vegetables".[24] It was the first of tracks with thematic links to Smile used to close a later Beach Boys album.[4] Outtakes from the Wild Honey sessions include "Can't Wait Too Long",[4] "Cool, Cool Water" and covers of the Box Tops hit "The Letter" and Burt Bacharach's "My Little Red Book".[25]

Cover artwork[edit]

The colorful image on the front of the album sleeve is a small section of an elaborate stained-glass window that adorned Brian and Marilyn Wilson's house in Bel Air. Although the Wilson family no longer owns that property, the window itself was removed when they moved out and is currently[when?] to be found in Marilyn Wilson-Rutherford's present house.[original research?]


Professional ratings
Retrospective reviews
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[26]
Blender 5/5 stars[27]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 3/5 stars[28]
The Great Rock Discography 6/10[28]
Music Story 3.5/5 stars[28]
MusicHound Rock 4.5/5[28]
Pitchfork 3.5/10[29]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[7]
The Village Voice A+[30]

Wild Honey became the Beach Boys' lowest-selling album at that point and remained on the charts for only 15 weeks.[4] It was similarly received as Smiley Smile had been by contemporary critics, who viewed it as another inconsequential record from the band.[13] The album also alienated others whose expectations had been raised by Smile. According to writer Paul Williams, Wild Honey was "a work of joy ... new and fresh and raw and beautiful", but "we expected more (from Brian) than we would expect from any other composer alive, because the tracks we'd heard from Smile were just that good. Smiley Smile was … a confusion … and Wild Honey is just another Beach Boys record."[4]

Rolling Stone magazine wrote at the time that the Beach Boys have regained their better judgement after the "disaster" of Smiley Smile, although their use of "pre-existing ideas and idioms" on Wild Honey is less satisfactory and original than their earlier work: "It's kind of amusing that the Beach Boys are suddenly re-discovering rhythm and blues five years after the Beatles and Stones had brought it all back home".[31] Gene Scullati wrote: "[the Beach Boys] have the audacity to fool around with r&b, a territory indeed alien to them. Surprisingly, Wild Honey works well. It isn't the least bit pretentious, it's honest, and convincing.".[32] In his column for Esquire, Robert Christgau wrote that the album "epitomizes Brian Wilson", including the song "I'd Love Just Once to See You", which "expresses perfectly his quiet, thoughtful, sentimental artistic personality."[33]

In a 1976 retrospective guide to 1967 for The Village Voice, Christgau felt Wild Honey is "so slight" but "perfect and full of pleasure". He argued that, "almost without a bad second", the album conveys "the troubled innocence of the Beach Boys through a time of attractive but perilous psychedelic sturm und drang. Its method is whimsy, candor, and carefully modulated amateurishness, all of which comes through as humor."[30] In 1978, he ranked Wild Honey number 10 on his list of the best rock albums.[34] In 2002, he ranked it as his seventh favourite album of the 1960s, excluding jazz albums.[35] Record producer Tony Visconti listed it as one of his 13 favorite albums and said that "I still refer to this record as a benchmark in the same way that I do Revolver."[36] In 2012, Rolling Stone ranked Wild Honey at number two on its "Coolest Summer Albums of All Time" list, praising its "hedonistic rock & roll spirit", "humor" and "pensive depth".[37]

In a negative review, Pitchfork critic Spencer Owen said only "one or two" songs succeed and the majority of Wild Honey is "not pretty" because of its R&B vein as "interpreted by white surfer boys", including "a Stevie Wonder cover sung with as much faux-soul as Carl Wilson could have possibly mustered."[29] In his review for AllMusic, Richie Unterberger wrote that, apart from "Darlin'", "Here Comes the Night", and the title track, most of Wild Honey was "inessential". He found the music "often quite pleasant, for the great harmonies if nothing else, but the material and arrangements were quite simply thinner than they had been for a long time."[26]

Reissues and stereo mixes[edit]

Wild Honey was the last Beach Boys LP to be released in both mono and duophonic. It held no true stereo mix at the time of its release. In 1990 Capitol Records reissued Wild Honey on a Beach Boys double CD with Smiley Smile in the original mono. This printing of the CD also included in-depth liner notes by David Leaf, as well as previously unreleased Smile session photos by Jasper Dailey. As of 2013, the album is still only officially available in monophonic sound, although some tracks have appeared in remixed stereo within compilation albums. In 2001 a stereo mix of "Let the Wind Blow" was released on Hawthorne CA; "Darlin" and "Wild Honey" made their stereo debut on Fifty Big Ones in 2012 and "Country Air" on Made in California in 2013.

Live performances[edit]

Seven of the 11 songs on the album have been performed live by The Beach Boys or Brian Wilson. Only "Darlin'" has become a semi-regular concert staple since the album's release.[38] It was played several times during the early 1970s and released on the album The Beach Boys In Concert. Other songs from the album that have been played live include "Aren't You Glad", "Country Air", "How She Boogalooed It",[38] and "Let the Wind Blow". "I'd Love Just Once to See You" was performed for the first time ever by Brian Wilson in 2007.[39]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Brian Wilson/Mike Love, except where noted.

Side one
No. Title Lead Vocals Length
1. "Wild Honey" Carl Wilson 2:37
2. "Aren't You Glad" Mike Love/Brian Wilson/C. Wilson 2:16
3. "I Was Made to Love Her" (Cosby/Moy/Hardaway/Wonder) C. Wilson 2:05
4. "Country Air" Group 2:20
5. "A Thing or Two" Love/C. Wilson/B. Wilson 2:40
Side two
No. Title Lead Vocals Length
1. "Darlin'" C. Wilson 2:12
2. "I'd Love Just Once to See You" B. Wilson 1:48
3. "Here Comes the Night" B. Wilson 2:41
4. "Let the Wind Blow" Love/B. Wilson/C. Wilson 2:19
5. "How She Boogalooed It" (Love/Johnston/Jardine/C. Wilson) C. Wilson 1:56
6. "Mama Says" Group 1:05


The Beach Boys
Production staff


Chart (1968) Peak
UK Albums Chart[40] 7
US Billboard 200[41] 24


  1. ^ Badman 2005, p. 208.
  2. ^ a b Sharp, Ken (September 18, 1992). "Love Among The Ruins". Goldmine. p. 19. 
  3. ^ Doe, Andrew Grayham. "Unreleased Albums". Bellagio 10452. Endless Summer Quarterly. Retrieved July 13, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Leaf, David (1990). Smiley Smile/Wild Honey (CD Liner). The Beach Boys. Capitol Records. 
  5. ^ Badman 2004, p. 203.
  6. ^ Gaines 1986, p. 183.
  7. ^ a b Fine, Jason (2004). "The Beach Boys". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian. The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 46, 48. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 
  8. ^ Faust, Edwin (September 1, 2003). "The Beach Boys – Smiley Smile/Wild Honey – On Second Thought". Stylus Magazine. Retrieved June 22, 2013. 
  9. ^ Hodgkins, Nig; et al. (1996). Buckley, Jonathan, ed. Rock: The Rough Guide. Rough Guides. p. 69. ISBN 1858282012. 
  10. ^ "Campus Briefs". Billboard (November 9): 3. 1974. Retrieved July 5, 2016. 
  11. ^ Kaye, Lenny (September 18, 2012). "Beach Boys, Wild Honey (2001 – Remaster)". Wondering Sound. Retrieved June 22, 2013. 
  12. ^ Dillon 2012, pp. 305–306.
  13. ^ a b Leaf 1985, p. 125.
  14. ^ Preiss 1979, p. 87.
  15. ^ Chidester, Brian (March 7, 2014). "Busy Doin' Somethin': Uncovering Brian Wilson's Lost Bedroom Tapes". Paste. Retrieved December 11, 2014. 
  16. ^ Harrison 1997, pp. 49–50.
  17. ^ a b Harrison 1997, p. 51.
  18. ^ Wilson & Greenman 2016.
  19. ^ Harrison 1997, pp. 50–51.
  20. ^ "The Beach Boys". Music Favorites. Vol. 1 no. 2. 1976. 
  21. ^ Hickey 2011, p. 143.
  22. ^ Hickey 2011, p. 141.
  23. ^ Hickey 2011, p. 142.
  24. ^ Hickey 2011, p. 145.
  25. ^ Planer, Lindsay. "Unsurpassed Masters, Vol. 19 (1967)". Allmusic. allmusic.com. Retrieved 30 July 2013. 
  26. ^ a b Allmusic review
  27. ^ "Smiley Smile / Wild Honey". Blender. New York. April 2001. 
  28. ^ a b c d "Wild Honey". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved December 26, 2016. 
  29. ^ a b Owen, Spencer (March 29, 2001). "The Beach Boys: Smiley Smile/Wild Honey". Pitchfork. Retrieved June 22, 2013. 
  30. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (December 20, 1976). "Christgau's Consumer Guide to 1967". The Village Voice. New York. p. 69. Retrieved June 22, 2013. 
  31. ^ "Wild Honey". Rolling Stone. New York. February 24, 1968. Retrieved June 22, 2013. 
  32. ^ Scullati, Gene (September 1968). "Villains and Heroes: In Defense of the Beach Boys". Jazz & Pop. 
  33. ^ Christgau, Robert (June 1968). "Columns". Esquire. Retrieved June 22, 2013. 
  34. ^ Gambaccini, Paul (1978). Rock Critic's Choice: The Top 200 Albums. United States: Omnibus. pp. 83–84. Retrieved October 30, 2012. 
  35. ^ "Answers From the Dean: Online Exchange with Robert Christgau, Part V". RockCritics.com. 2002-07-01. Archived from the original on 2015-11-03. Retrieved 2016-12-18. 
  36. ^ Julian Marszalek (October 31, 2012). "Tony Visconti On Wild Honey". The Quietus. Retrieved November 1, 2012. 
  37. ^ Sheffield, Rob (July 18, 2012). "The 10 Coolest Summer Albums of All Time". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 5, 2015. 
  38. ^ a b "The Beach Boys Tour Statistics". setlist.fm. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  39. ^ "Brian Wilson I'd Love Just Once To See You Kenwood London". youtube.com. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  40. ^ "Beach Boys". Official Charts Company. Retrieved June 22, 2013. 
  41. ^ "Wild Honey – The Beach Boys : Awards". Allmusic. Retrieved June 22, 2013. 


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