Beach Bummed

 Posted by
Aug 072011

I’m sure I have as much love of The Beach Boys as anyone else in the Hall. But I have a pet peeve about “Barbara Ann.” I know it’s a cover…so I’m not going to come down on them for this lazily-written song. But it’s the singing and the “Hey, let’s throw anything we do out there” sentiment that bums me out. It’s a lame song, covered lamely. And I can’t believe it hit #2 at the time.

Ok, I’m done. Thank you.


  25 Responses to “Beach Bummed”

  1. tonyola

    Yeah, “Barbara Ann” is pretty poor. The Regents did it better in 1961. We could do a whole thing on the worst, saddest throwaways by respected artists. However, you’ll have to beat my entry: Chuck Berry and “My Ding-a-ling”. Not only is it a pathetic comedown for someone of such historic musical importance, the crowd “sing-a-long” sounds fake and pasted-in.

  2. tonyola

    One of the most unlikely and amusing throwaways is King Crimson’s “Barber Shop”.

  3. 2000 Man

    I think Barbara Ann is easily my favorite Beach Boys song. I think I like it because of all the reasons you don’t.

  4. I love “Barbara Ann.” Did you bypass childhood, machinery?

  5. The Beach Boys version of “Barbara Ann” was off “The Beach Boys Party” album. The whole conceit of that album was for it to sound like they were all hanging out in a rec room with their girlfriends (as pictured on the sleeve), having a party; knocking back cokes and singing covers in an impromptu manner. It was a Christmas season release, requested by the label because Pet Sounds was in it’s early stages of development and they didn’t want to miss out on that holiday cash. They’d done a Christmas album already, and a true live album – this was the idea chosen over a greatest hits LP, because they thought people would take that to mean that they were done as a band. It was the third full length album they released in ’65 (after the significantly more substantial albums, “Today” & “Summer Days (& Summer Nights)”). Taking all that into consideration (esp. in light of bands nowadays taking 2 – 3 years in between albums that have, maybe, two decent tracks on ’em), I can be a little more forgiving of Bri & the boys tossing one off to satisfy the label’s demands.

  6. By the way, it was their 10th studio album release in 3 years of recording.

  7. machinery

    Defend thyself. What’s to like? I think you all have Beach Boy Blinders on. Bittman at least makes me see the why.

  8. machinery

    Plus all that “laughter” and looseness sounds totally fake to me. Ugh.

  9. “Party” pooper!

  10. Perhaps the ultimate throwaway is Having Fun With Elvis On Stage. No singing – just stage patter and attempts at jokes. It actually made it onto Billboard charts.

  11. That used to be a great one for between song programming on mixtapes: “Hot damn tamale!”

  12. Here’s a link to a download (it’s OOP and hasn’t been released on CD – big surprise!) for anyone interested in hearing this completely unnecessary release of Elvis rambling on stage…very odd:

  13. Actually it is in print and there are five volumes of this crap now.

  14. Oh, Christ! Those people are freakin’ shameless!

  15. I’m holding out for the German True Stereo edition!

  16. OK, machinery, you’re right: all I did was question whether you had bypassed childhood. I should have said what I liked about “Barbara Ann.”

    First of all, I think it actually does sound like fun. My family never sat around singing songs in the living room. These brothers and cousins obviously did. Vicariously I was pulled into their “happy,” singing family. When I was 5 years old, it should be noted, I had not yet read a Beach Boys biography and learned of the family’s profound unhappiness let alone the fake-live nature of the Party album. I truly imagined that they recorded the song in the living room of some “mod” split-level house, wearing summery trousers and ribbed t-shirts. The recording was F-U-N.

    In educational terms, I was dazzled by the vocal construction. It was like the next step beyond the round version of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” combined with the escalating Ahs of “Twist and Shout.” I didn’t put it together that clearly as a kid, mind you, but looking back at it now, that’s a fair way to describe what the harmony tricks in the song meant to me. I’m still dazzled by these tricks.

    Finally, to this day, I simply love how the song showcases the band’s nasally/reedy vocal timbre. That’s a sound I find key to my enjoyment of the Beach Boys, and a tone they’d move away from in their later “lost” years of releasing stuff only folks who belong in the Halls of Rock can convince themselves of liking in great depth. I love the robotic, California “fun-loving” side they display when they follow Mike Love and Al Jardine’s tonal lead (at least I think Jardine is the other Beach Boy most responsible for setting that distinctive early Beach Boys tone – isn’t he the lead singer on “Help Me Rhonda”?).

    So there. Don’t be bummed, man. Join the party!

  17. I always liked that this song was in danger of imploding …and some may say it does when at least one singer hums through the “Betty Sue” part. I liked this song as a child and Beach Boys party was on heavy rotation.

    The three Beatles covers were far more confusing to me. I had only two Beatles records: “Abbey Road” and “Love Songs” so I didn’t know these songs as anything but Beach Boys tunes until later.

    My favorite song from these “sessons” was Alley-Oop,

    Can’t say I have played this record since about 1978. May have to dig it up and see if it has any magic left in it.

  18. machinery

    I guess my main chargrin was how this reached number 2 on the Billboard charts! I mean, wasn’t there “real” music to compete with?

    OK, I will now embrace the rest of the summer …

  19. Agreed — loved this song as a kid in the late 70s — and it’s one of the many reasons I got hooked on the Beach Boys. It’s a cover, but along with Sloop John B, you can’t think of the song without thinking of them. The sloppy singing sounded “fresh” to me, compared to what I was hearing on rock radio.

  20. Gave it a spin on spotify. It’s kinda how I remember it, a fun throwaway record. Just lose enough to fool us into thinking this was “off the cuff”. Forgot that they goofed around during the Dylan song (where’s the respect?)

    Wikipedia says that Barbara Ann was not intended as a single but that the combo of the failed single for “The Little Girl I Once Knew” and that US DJ’s were playing the album version led to it being a single (and going to #3 in England)

  21. Love has horns — anybody going to see Love (aka The Beach Boys Band) at Wolftrap next week? I made that mistake once. It’s billed as their “Annual Summer Party!” Annual summer sham!

  22. 2000 Man

    I think it’s cool because Doo Wop was kind of gone by then, so it’s nice to see a newer (at the time anyway) group get that vibe that songs like Get a Job and Blue Moon had.

  23. I know, right? Then just dolling up an old folk song and calling it “Sloop John B”? Sort of kills that whole “Pet Sounds” thing for me. Genius my foot!


  24. I initially felt that song was a buzzkill on Pet Sounds, but one day I realized it upholds the same themes of feeling set adrift and wanting to “get back” that original songs on the album, like “That’s Not Me,” state. Once I made that connection the song hit me a bit deeper than I’d ever thought possible.

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