Jul 102015

OK, so Love & Mercy Week wasn’t the thread-a-day, gripping discussion shot in the arm to Rock Town Hall that I’d hoped it would be. Traffic to the site continues to be down, and Facebook and actual telephone calls continue to be an easy way out for even regulars to discuss threads outside the forum. One Townsman was content to air his objections to my movie review via private messages on Facebook, while E. Pluribus Gergely, the man who accompanied me to the movie felt his daily phone calls with encouragement for my “great work” would do the job. Offlist feedback and deep friendship are much appreciated, but that’s not why any of us drafts a post for public consumption in the Halls of Rock.

Who knows, perhaps enough people haven’t seen the movie to focus on my follow-up piece regarding Dennis Leary’s involvement. Regardless, as too often is the case, life (including work) got in the way of me drafting all the excellent threads I had in mind. In case you’d like to pick up any of the projected threads that I’m not going to have time to flesh out, they are as follows:

  • Friday the 13th: Eugene vs Murray
  • Paul Dano Seals Best Performance in a Terrible Movie Oscar
  • Antisemitism in Love & Mercy
  • Love & Mercy Through the Prism of the Manson Family

The one thread that I will complete this week is the concern I’ve had with Beach Boys worship since the late-’80s. It’s an issue I don’t believe will ever be resolved until my hot mute cavewoman of the prehistoric future drops the needle on “I Get Around” in the Cave of the Forbidden Zone.


  21 Responses to “Love & Mercy: The Cave in the Forbidden Zone”

  1. misterioso

    Gosh, it isn’t that complicated. For the couple of years of “Brian reaching or the sun” the Beach Boys were an interesting band who made two wonderful records. (That would be Pet Sounds and Smile. Sorry that the hipsters or the stoners killed the joy of Smile for you, Mod, or whatever happened, but so it goes.) And let’s face it: when I say “band” I am being generous. Mostly those records are Brian.

    Before that, they were a band for which a nice lp of greatest hits could be assembled that I wouldn’t mind listening to. Occasionally. Occasionally. After that, likewise, until such point (anyway, surely by the mid-70s) when they were entirely unlistenable. You couldn’t get me to sit through an entire pre-Pet Sounds or post-Smile Beach Boys lp without heavy artillery.

    And generally speaking, just hearing Mike Love’s voice makes me angry, since it makes me think of his face, which makes me really angry. Not because he didn’t appreciate Brian’s genius, but because, well, he sucks.

    Hope you’re all having an endless summer.

  2. Thank you for kicking off the roll call of Fine People Who Are Otherwise Wrong About This Topic.

    Who’s next?

  3. Here are some miscellaneous comments –

    • props to the props for “Girl Don’t Tell Me”. I have the single, Barbara Ann b/w Girl Don’t Tell Me that I bought back in 1966 at the tender age of 11, probably in the JC Penny record department. I bought it for the a-side but played the b-side far more often. I know I’ve commented on this song here in the Hall before but can’t recall anyone else echoing it. My favorite Beach Boys song, even before I lived the story. And the one that gives a lie to the next comment.

    • Yes, I’ll generally agree that pre-Pet Sounds, the Boys were a singles band. I’ve never felt much need to listen to any pre-Pet Sounds/post-Smile albums either, although I have them all. But perhaps that says more about when I got them, that is, when I was older, had more disposable income and bought too many albums and was too busy to devour them as I did with every album I (more discriminatingly) bought prior to about 1980. But I’m sure the batting average isn’t nearly as good as the rival Beatles or surely I would have made the time.

    • But those singles are fantastic. And anyone who wants to argue differently is surely just a snob who will dislike most any pop song because, well, it’s too popular. And the lyrics are great and provide the justification for Mike Love’s existence, overcoming all the jerkiness that he has to account for.

    • Brian is unknowable at this point, if he ever was knowable. Still, too many who ought to know say he was a genius and Pet Sounds and Smile are enough to warrant that label. Is there a better album than Pet Sounds? Surely not the Fabs Pepper response. And the parts of Smile that exist are better than any post-Revolver album.

    • [As an aside to the last comment, I recently spoke to a very good friend of Van Dyke Parks who insists that VDP played a much larger part in Smile than is generally acknowledged. She wasn’t there so is relying on VDP’s statements, so it’s another unknowable piece of the puzzle.]

    • The best of the Beach Boys, which for me means the singles (both pre- and post-Pet Sounds) and the Pet Sounds album, are timeless. They are like the Beatles or Motown; I’m not tired of them after a thousand listens and I can’t imagine being tired of them after a thousand more. There aren’t too many artists who have such a large number of songs I can say the same thing about.

    And thanks Mr. Mod for trying to recapture some of the past essence of RTH. I am hopeful that, one of these days, RTH will rise Phoenix-like to the heights it scaled for so many years. Stop answering the phone and stop going on Facebook; force those lapsed souls back to RTH!

  4. A lip reader has spoken!Thanks for making the case fir Love’s lyrics.

  5. cliff sovinsanity

    Rapid fire

    1. I will listen to a compilation of pre Pet Sounds singles and a dozen hand picked album tracks before I listen to the Pet Sounds album.
    2. I don’t consider Pet Sounds a true Beach Boys album.
    3. I realize Pet Sounds is grand achievement of all pop albums before and after it’s release, yet I don’t listen to it very often.
    4. Quite frankly, it depresses me.
    5. My favourite studio album by the Beach Boys is Surf’s Up.
    6. Surf’s Up is not genius, but it captures all the Beach Boys at the top of their songwriting craft. Unfortunately there isn’t a Denis Wilson track on that album.
    7. I never bought into the Brian Wilson genius tag until I heard Brian Wilson’s Presents Smile.
    8. That album made me cry.

  6. Good feedback! One thing I’ve been meaning to look up regarding the movie: when Brian starts work on Pet Sounds he’s introduced to the musicians, perhaps as if he’s never worked with them before. I’m sure this is for the general movie audience’s education, but weren’t the earlier records made with Wrecking Crew members as well? Does anyone know how much the other Beach Boys actually played on their earlier records? Dennis couldn’t really play drums up to par, could he? I think I’ve read that Carl actually played guitar, but the other guys?

  7. cliff sovinsanity

    I recently watched the documentary The Wrecking Crew and they clearly stated that they worked full time on the Beach Boys records around the time of the 1965 Today! album. A few of the studio session players showed up on previous records, most notably Hal Blaine and Glen Campbell.
    The instrumental surf songs on the first 3 albums sound way to polished for the talents of Carl and Dennis at that time.

  8. diskojoe

    I’m currently listening to the Beach Boys Live album that came out in 1973, which I enjoy very much w/it’s mix of post-Pet Sounds material. I think that it’s somwhat underrated. Also, I enjoy listening to the early Beach Boys along w/the Ramones. I think that they go very well together. The Ramones seem to be the Bizarro version of the Beach Boys, although both bands were equally dysfunctional in real life. Finally, I always thought that the Charlton Heston character should have realized that he was on Earth when he encountered that doll in that cave.

  9. Great point about Heston’s character not realizing where he was at the discovery of the doll!

    It seems the Ramones were hip to the fact that they were a Bizarro World version of the Beach Boys. That came through to me, too. Now, the thought of Joey (or Johnny?) Ramone’s version of Smile intrigues me… Where’s Alexmagic to write up that piece when we need him?

  10. misterioso

    I think this is spot on. My feelings about both bands (with, again, the exceptions of Pet Sounds and Smile) is that they were good at what they did and what they did can occasionally hold my interest for one or two songs at a time.

  11. misterioso

    I think that Cliff’s point is correct that Pet Sounds and (I suspect he would agree) Smile even more so, are Beach Boys records in name only. To me, one of the (numerous) tragedies of Brian is that he was stuck with trying, even nominally, to accommodate the Beach Boys group concept. I’m not saying it would have worked out better for him if he’d been set free entirely, of course. But the other Beach Boys remind me of the human appendix–it must have had some function at some point but no one can figure out what, it can be source of great discomfort, and generally you’re better off without it.

  12. diskojoe

    I think that one thing you have to consider is that “going solo” in the pop/rock area wasn’t a real option until the late 60s, w/the coming of CSN. Gene Clark attempted a solo career in 1966, which didn’t work out commercially. Brian tried w/the solo billing of the “Caroline No” single, but it only went to #32 in the charts.

  13. I really started getting into the Beach Boys listening to “Beach Boys 69” a mid-70s re-release of a London concert (without Brian) where they do a great version of Do It Again, one of my favorite songs.

    I like a lot of latter period stuff — up until “Keepin’ the Summer Alive” or whatever that is — when Mike Love completely took over and Denny died. I wish Denny would have been a stronger musical force and tugged the band in the direction of Pacific Ocean Blue vs. Kokomo.

  14. misterioso

    Yeah, you’re right, and I’d forgotten that Caroline, No was billed as a solo single. It was indeed a different time.

  15. cliff sovinsanity

    Also, it would have been awkward for Brian to abandon his brothers.
    To be fair, the rest of the band had fine voices. Al, Bruce, Mike (as a bass) and Carl were a decent unit. I can’t imagine Pet Sounds without them.

  16. I often can’t tell who’s singing lead if it’s not Brian way up high or Mike in his nasally territory, but I think Mike’s voice was the secret sauce. He projected a cooler Everydude vibe that cut through all the harmonies and sleigh bells.

  17. ladymisskirroyale

    Mod, I’m interested in at least a brief description of your potential threads. That may get further discussion going.

  18. I doubt any intense discussion will result in this effort considering the cultural-redefining work I’ve already attempted, but here goes:

    Friday the 13th: Eugene vs Murray: This would have been based on the funniest scene in the movie [SPOILER ALERT]…when Banks is trying to talk Cusack into leaving Landy, when – ALL OF A SUDDEN – the Evil Eugene appears behind the control room glass. Spooky! The whole movie should have turned into a cheesy escape thriller, with a cat leaping out of a closet, a late-night kitchen seduction scene, a best friend getting impaled by a chandelier, a half-wit African American gardener who begins to catch on to the evil doings, and the inevitable cigar box of newspaper clippings of Evil Eugene’s earlier mind control missions over Richard Harris and other celebrities.

    Paul Dano Seals Best Performance in a Terrible Movie Oscar: I think this is self-explanatory. All that needs to happen is for the Academy to create this category.

    Antisemitism in Love & Mercy: You know all those amazing love and heartbreak songs on the amazing Pet Sounds album? You know who the love object was? It wasn’t Elizabeth Banks, but Marilyn (I think that was her first name) Wilson. You know what we learn about her in the film Love & Mercy? That she was a Jew. You know, the kind of person who is used to eating matzo ball soup. That’s all we learn about Brian’s first wife throughout this exploration of his deep psyche and emotional turmoil.

    Love & Mercy Through the Prism of the Manson Family: This is the story that would focus on Dennis and the Manson women.

  19. ladymisskirroyale

    Mod, I like the way you are thinking. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can contribute much more your impressive theorizing.

    Has Marilyn Wilson written a tell-all? If so, has anyone read it? If not, more power to her. I didn’t think the matzo ball soup reference was too antisemitic. Unless they inserted this band into the film and the musicians were really the Wilsons https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RG1yJS1iFNU

    An interesting thread may be whether Wilson-Phillips can be topped as the band with the most f’ed up parents.

  20. This movie exists because of Melinda so it’s no surprise that there is so little of Marilyn in it.

  21. The only differences between pre-Pet Sounds Beach Boys and Pet Sounds/Smile is that Mike Love wrote the lyrics to the early hits and Brian moved away from the formula. He wrote the music and produced, The Wrecking Crew were the instrumentalists, and the Boys provided the vocals and harmonies on all of it.

    Big difference in the results but fundamentally not very different.

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