Recycling the Beach Boys, Again

On April 28, I know you were anxiously awaiting this press release from Capitol Records to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Beach Boys:

To kick off the yearlong celebration and provide the perfect summer soundtrack, Capitol Records and UMe will release a newly remastered and expanded edition of The Beach Boys career-spanning greatest hits collection, Sounds Of Summer: The Very Best Of The Beach Boys, on June 17. Originally released in 2003, the album soared to no. 16 in the US and stayed on the chart for 104 weeks. Now certified 4x platinum for sales of nearly four and a half million albums, the collection has been updated in both number of songs and audio quality, expanding the original 30-track best of with 50 more of the band’s most beloved songs for a total of 80 tracks that span their earliest hits to deeper fan-favorite cuts and from their 1962 debut album, Surfin’ Safari through to 1989’s Still Cruisin’.

I know where you will be on June 17. You will be at your local record store waiting for an employee to unlock the door so you can rush in and be the first in your neighborhood to make this purchase.

There could be a slight problem with you making the trip to your local record store. Depending upon where you live, your community might not have a local record store anymore. Of course that is another story too— how independent record stores and bookstores manage to stay open.
But, before we go any further, I must confess. I am a long time fan of the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson. I have disclosed this before in other post about the Beach Boys.

In someways, I guess it is sad that a 68 year old man still keeps up with these now ancient singers, songwriters, and musicians. Yet, there is something about the music created by the Beach Boys that tugs at my old heart and sometimes moistens my eyes.

This isn’t the first time that Capitol Records has recycled the hit records of the Beach Boys. The first was on July 5, 1966 when Capitol released Best of The Beach Boys.

That album contained twelve songs and not all of the songs were top ten hits. The album appeared two months after the release of the Pet Sounds album. Some speculate that Capitol quickly compiled this album to counter the lackluster sales of Pet Sounds.

Eight years later on June 24, 1974, Capitol released Endless Summer a double album of greatest hits. Four months later this album hit number one on the album sales charts.

Since 1974 to the present, a wide range of greatest hits albums have been released in America and around the world. Some have been very successful in their sales. I’m sure this makes record company executives and the Beach Boys happy.

But to be truthful with you, this eighty song release to celebrate the band’s 60th anniversary is a disappointment. I believe Capitol Records missed an opportunity to focus on the band’s live in concert recordings.

Despite all of the ups and downs the Beach Boys experienced in their sixty years of work, there’s been one constant—they have always toured.

In the lean years from 1967 to 1969, when their record sales fell into a deep ocean trench, touring saved them. This was especially true when they played in Great Britain and Europe.

All that touring forced Al, Mike, Dennis, Carl, and Bruce to really work at their musicianship. And it necessitated adding other competent musicians to more fully capture the studio recordings in a concert setting.

From 1970 -1975, the Beach Boys gradually became a hot in concert band. Rolling Stone magazine at the end of 1974 proclaimed the Beach Boys their band of the year. This was an affirmation of how strong the group’s concert performances had become.

Clearly, Capitol Records would have plenty of concert material to pull from the well stocked vaults of the Beach Boys. Over the years, fans have been treated to some unreleased live recordings being a part of compilations and box sets that have been released.

You can hear how the band’s concert sound evolved with those recordings.

From the first live album Beach Boys Concert in 1964, we hear the screams from the audience, the nervous tightness of the band, and the silly banter of Mike Love

The 1970 Live In London captures a fuller sound with the addition of a horn section and keyboards. And this recording also captures the adoration of the audience, and the bold a cappella performance of “Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring.”

In 1973, the double album offering The Beach Boys In Concert captures a balance of the band’s oldies with their new songs, plus a few songs rarely performed in concert. If you doubt the band was cherished in America, listen to the audience’s reaction when Carl Wilson sings the opening “I” to “Good Vibrations.”

And, I’ll toss in one more live album—“Good Timin’” Live at Knebworth.” This concert in England was recorded in 1980, but was not released until 2003. This performance was captured on film too. The concert is noteworthy in that the three Wilson brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl were all present as were Mike Love, Al Jardine, and Bruce Johnston. Song selections for this concert were predictable.

I’m sure archivist Mark Linett and Alan Boyd have found in the vaults plenty of live recordings to sift through.

An example of this took place over the last few years when to protect copyrights, Capitol Records released several live recordings and studio sessions from the mid to late sixties. This included Lei’d In Hawaii concert recordings.

And yes, the Beach Boys 2012 50th Anniversary Tour did birth a live album capturing forty one songs from the fifty song set. However, I will stubbornly hang on to the premise that the live recordings from the 1970s are better.

Linett and Boyd’s work from the Sunflower and Surf’s Up Sessions included a sprinkling of live tracks that really showcased how strong the band’s concert performances were in the early 1970s. It is remarkable how the group performed the very beautiful and complicated song “Surf’s Up” in concert.

For me, my favorite years as a fan were from 1970-75. I thought the group was at their best in the studio and in concert. I will never forget seeing the Beach Boys concert in November of 1972 at Appalachian State University.

The architect of their resurgence in the early 1970s was their manager, Jack Rieley.

Before the start of the show, Mr. Rieley introduced the band by gently telling the audience that the concert would be in two sets. He asked that all requests be held until the end of the second set. Then, he would call each band member by name, and ask the audience to welcome the Beach Boys.

That concert was fifty years ago. The performance has never left my gray matter. That night, the Beach Boys were exceptional, and the audience could feel the passion of their performance.

So, Capitol Records, thanks, but I will not be among the purchasers of this June 17 release. My old ears probably can’t detect any enhancements from new technology tweaks in the remixing of the songs. Plus, I know I have all of the songs featured in this release.

And I’ll agitate Capitol executives a bit further. You should have used Bruce Johnston’s “Endless Harmony” to close out the eighty songs, not “California Feeling.”

But, if it makes you feel any better, I was excited to read in the press release that Mr. Linett and Mr. Boyd have been readying for a fall 2022 release archival sessions featuring two more Beach Boys’ albums: Carl and the Passions “So Tough” from 1972 and Holland from 1973.

You can put me down for a pre-order on that set.

And finally, if you’ve never been a fan of the Beach Boys, this eighty song compilation would be worth adding to your record collection. The endurance of their sound, the legendary vocals, the songwriting, the production, and musicianship are captured here.

Who knows maybe these songs will touch your heart and moisten your eyes too.

Staging and photo of album covers by Elizabeth Pike

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