Category Archives: The Beach Boys
I first learned about Stephen Kalinich from a bootleg Brian Wilson CD that Bobb Bruno loaned to me years ago. I never imagined that the unknown man behind this strange, disembodied, beautiful voice would someday be a friend. This is a guy who writes poetry that feels like warm sunshine coming into your kitchen window in the morning. As a poet, he’s graced the steps of our nation’s capitol and the grooves of my favorite Beach Boys albums. I’m so happy that he’s now graced our presence twice at A Rrose in a Prose.
This time, he could only stay briefly: he was on his way from a recording studio and on his way to another reading, or vice versa, or something–I can’t keep up with the guy! I hope once I’ve lived as long and as thoughtful a life as Stevie has that I’ll still have this kind of enthusiasm and joy in sharing my work with others.
It’s going to be Ogden Nash’s birthday, and you know what that means: wacky witticisms will abound, like poached eggs nicely brown’d.
And this time, we have a headliner: Stephen Kalinich, who recorded a fantastic album of poetry in 1968 with Brian Wilson, and also contributed many wonderful songs to the Beach Boys. Most of them have an almost child-like innocence, or rather maybe a defiant, radical optimism and sense of hope. But this one, co-written with Dennis Wilson, is anything but innocent; do you know how hard it must be to make Mike Love sound sexy?
Anyway, come out August 19th to the Hedgehog and see all these amazing writers, poets, memoirists, etc… Martin Matamoros, Paloma Alexandra Parfrey, Earnest Pettie, Marianne Stewart, Gabriel Hart, Erin West, Susan Burke, Katie something-or-other, and myself.
I know, I know, the Beatles were better at the music, the Beach Boys were better at major sevenths, Chuck Berry was better at the lyrics, and Little Richard was better at falsetto. Carl Perkins was better at being down-home, Billy Lee Riley was better at crazed-cat rockabilly, Buddy Holly was better at bringing pop into his rock, and Bo Diddley had a better beat. Even among the Sun Records cats, Johnny Cash did more drugs, and Jerry Lee Lewis was more dangerous.
But Elvis was an amazing performer–the biggest shining personality of the fifties–with all the moves, lots of style, great looks, and a wild personality. The fact that he had bad management, mental problems, and an addiction to food and drugs shouldn’t tarnish that amongst modern myth-makers who tend to prefer the Bolans and Joneses to this man.
I mean, fuck, Elvis sang better than Frank Sinatra. Last night, to celebrate Elvis’ 74th birthday, my gal TiVo’d Fun in Acapulco. Goddam, could that boy sing! Listen to this shit!
Fuck all contenders! This man is the KING! F U C K !!!
I’m so sad to hear what Texas and the Gulf have gone through in the wake of Hurricane Ike. True, it’s not nearly as bad in terms of human loss as what happened with Katrina–and I’m glad to hear the population of Galveston has undergone only four reported deaths, a far cry from the 8,000 or so that died in the “Storm of 1900.”
Still, this town was my vacation spot as a kid, and I’m sad everytime I see the headlines this week. Galveston was the home of Jean Lafitte in the early 1800’s (I got to see the ruins of his house once), and it was where my ancestors from Ireland landed in 1830 when they wisely moved to the States, though I think it was still part of Mexico at the time. It’s a lovely beach community, one that took great pains a century ago to make itself hurricane-proof by building a sea wall and raising the whole town by as much as seventeen feet! It’s such a cultural and financial travesty to see it wrecked by mother nature.
Jimmy Webb wrote a song about it once, that Glen Campbell covered and made into a hit. True, it’s a weird Vietnam ballad, and not the most country of country songs. But this week it’s ringing loud and clear for me.
I’ve been commissioned to write a review of Inara George and Van Dyke Parks, and I’m pretty stoked. This dude worked on Smile, which is one of my favorite albums of all time (and I own thousands). Most people put Pet Sounds in that category, but in my opinion, while Pet Sounds was a pioneering album, its formula was retooled into better albums by the Zombies and Bee Gees (and to a lesser extent by Bowie, the Beatles, and virtually everybody else).
But Smile, I mean, wow. What wonders the world might have wrought if it had been released on time, before Sgt. Pepper and before the Beach Boys lost the head of steam they’d built with Pet Sounds. While Pet Sounds is melancholy and lovely, Smile is transcendent, spiritual, American, orchestral, and utterly unique. It’s accessible but wears well with each repeated listening, and Van Dyke Parks’ lyricism is a big part of what makes it so interesting.
Anyway, I have to stop writing, before I scoop myself! But take a look at Van Dyke Parks waxing nostalgic about the Troubadour. Doesn’t he talk like David Lynch?
P.S. I’m not talking about Brian Wilson’s SMiLE album that came out a couple years ago. It’s really good, and I own the DVD and all that. But it’s no more the “real” Smile than seeing a concert by Al Jardine and Friends is the same as seeing the Beach Boys.
Over the holiday weekend, I revisited the movie Shampoo with my gal-pal. I’d watched this years ago, probably during my college years and probably drunk enough that I thought the thing was set and filmed in roughly 1971 or so. Turns out it was filmed in ’75 and set in ’68, making it a period piece at the time it came out.
That means that not only were the fashions in Shampoo supposed to be highly laughable even to its initial viewers, but the music (selected, it seems, by Phil Ramone and buddies) was cleverly chosen to represent the “sixties.” And I think they did a great job of it–during the Nixon election party, we hear a classy Tijuana-brass type version of an early Beatles song, and the shift to a hippie party afterwards is accompanied by a shift in Beatles music–this time by the abrasive, hard guitar sound of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” signalling the changes wrought in the mix-sixties that took rock and youth culture past the point where it could be used as simple evening wear.
We also hear snippets of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” by the Beach Boys at the movie’s start and end. It feels a little forced: one of those typical, Pavlovian book-ends they often do in movies to hammer home a conclusion (“Remember this song from the beginning, fair viewer? Clearly we’re concluding now!”) but it does serve to contrast nicely with all the brash hippiedom we’ve heard throughout. If the Beach Boys are the older, more innocent brothers of the Beatles, then they are wary enemies of neighborhood toughs like Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane and pretty much every other band we heard in the film. Here, Brian Wilson’s sonorous voice champions an idyllic and wide-eyed America that Warren Beatty’s hairdresser somehow has at his core, even though he’s at the same time deceitful and sluttish. He’s full of that yearning, and the simple American dream of starting his own business, but he fritters it away somehow in endless entwining lies and affairs (though, admittedly, every other character seems busy doing the same).
However, what really really bugged me about the movie was the original music by Paul Simon. In one of the few touches of the movie that remind you of the then-present 1975 (the others being Nixon and Agnew on television and the foreshadowing of a Vietnam casualty), whenever there’s a poignant moment for Beatty’s character to be, say, riding a motorcycle and thinking about the meaning of it all, we hear soft guitars and Simon’s gay-ass voice singing bee-weep bee-woos and crooning us softly. See, this scene is poignant, man! Just as poignant as if we had Clapton here to hold that one bluesy note and then do a soft little noodle.
That’s one of the things that annoys me so about Woodstock-era rock, and the softer or rootsier rock that followed in the early and mid-seventies in this country. It’s as though all that came before was classic but dated, and somehow rock had broken past those silly trappings such as hooks and into a bright dawn where we let it all hang out into the true and serious meanings of real life. Simon even throws his own “Feeling Groovy” into the soundtrack earlier, seemingly in a deliberate contrast between his earlier, “goofier” work and his modern “deep” stuff.
Urg. Anyway, Paul Simon was great when he was writing songs for the Cyrkle, and even pretty good with Garfunkel on them there folky songs. But his solo career is perhaps only slightly better than a wet fart wrapped up in a baby seal hide and stuffed into your dead grandmother’s vagina.
I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. I’ve had a sore throat now for seven days or so and it has been one bad trip all the way through, especially now that I’ve run out of Naproxen. I wish someone would bash my brains out and put an end to the shreeeking, clawing parasite that has laid its hooks in my throat.
And what really pisses me off is that I was so looking forward to sitting on a blanket with my baby at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery and watching The T.A.M.I. Show, as part of the Don’t Knock the Rock Film Festival.
There’s also a couple cool films at the Egyptian Theater I’ll be missing, including Love Story (about Arthur Lee and Love).
But one freak benefit of being sick is that I went to bed early for once on a Saturday night, and am up in time to hear Dominic Priore do his show “Riot on Sunset Strip” on LuxuriaMusic. So I’m listening to Love and Gary McFarland on his show, which is making my morning not so horrific.
Ryan at losanjealous.com reports that Brian Wilson is putting out a studio release at Capitol Records on Sept 2 (and will be following up with some shows at the Hollywood Bowl).
This news is getting me all hot and bothered, not necessarily because Brian is being active again, but because I’m such a huge fan of the Beach Boys, and Smile in particular, and this means Capitol might finally do an official release of it.
Though I like the Wondermints and applaud them for helping Brian release Smile and tour it out a couple years back, the version they recorded with him was definitely “Brian Wilson’s Smile” and not Smile as it was originally intended to be heard. I mean, they had modern instrumentation, Of-Montreal-esque vocals, and synths instead of toy pianos. And nobody made them put the grand piano in a sandbox. And they had a woman singing Carl’s parts, for cryin’ out loud!
The Beach Boys were about more than just Wilson’s genius songwriting–they were also about the beauty of those blended voices, brotherly voices, the voices of children raised by a very violent hand to sing odd falsetto notes in such perfect harmony. The elderly Brian’s voice, though sometimes pitifully beautiful in its sadness, doesn’t match the acid Lutheranism that shows up in those sixties sessions. Even Mike Love’s gentle bass ba ba ba’s contributed so much to their sound. The Beach Boys were actually at the height of their harmonizing powers, which is why the implosion of Smile was such a tragedy at the time.
Luckily, most Beach Boys enthusiasts out there have heard bootleg Smile sessions, and know that pretty much every part of the final 2004 arrangements was originally recorded at some point or another with Mike, Carl, Denny, Al, and Brian on the mike back in 1967 or so. And because we’ve heard the bootlegs, we know that the masters are sitting in the Capitol vaults somewhere, just waiting to be unearthed, spliced, edited, tinkered with, and released in a super badassed amazing box set, with the final arrangement put together, plus bonus stuff, a historical booklet, liner notes with a Van Dyke Parks introduction, “stacks of vocals,” etc. I actually never thought I’d see this possibility come together so soon, and who knows, there may be some legal wrangling on Mike Love’s part to keep it from happening. But if Brian could re-release Pet Sounds, maybe his new alliance with Capitol means we’ll get Smile as well.
In the meantime, enjoy “Cool, Cool, Water,” which was pieced together from material written during the Smile era and finally released as a single in the early seventies:
The Marcel Duchamp Redux exhibit is showing at the Norton Simon right now, the museum that once was the Pasadena Art Museum and which hosted Duchamp’s spectacular first retrospective in 1963. And this Sunday at 4 there’ll be lectures and fun to be had, so I’m definitely going.
They’re showing a dozen pieces from Duchamp’s history, including some “rotoreliefs” from 1953: motor-driven constructions with rotating color disks that haven’t been exhibited since that first retrospective 45 years ago.
They’re also going to be showing memorabilia from the time of his trip, but I doubt they’ll be recreating the famous image of Duchamp playing chess with a nude:
When you go to the museum, they may tell you some bullshit story about this photo, that it was taken as a visual pun in response to a 1922 Francis Picabia book cover.
But actually Duchamp had almost nothing to do with it: the concept for the photo came from photographer Julian Wasser. The model was writer and art-groupie Eve Babitz, who apparently met Duchamp and Wasser guerilla-style, in the early hours of morning, partly to get revenge on the curator, who snubbed her at a party, and partly because of the Beach Boys!
MS. BABITZ: Yeah. At the Pasadena Art Museum, [Wasser] said he had this great idea that I should play chess naked with Marcel Duchamp and it seem to be such a great idea that it was just like the best idea I’d ever heard in my life. It was like a great idea. I mean, it was, not only was it vengeance, it was art, and it was like a great idea. And even if it didn’t get any vengeance, it would still turn out okay with me because, you know, it would be sort of immortalized. I would be this, you know, here’s this Nude Descending the Staircase guy and now he’s going to be The Nude in the Pasadena Art Museum. But, of course, I said, you know, I didn’t think that the Pasadena Art Museum old ladies would go along with this. So-
MR. KARLSTROM: Was that part of what attracted you to the idea?
MS. BABITZ: Yes. Yeah, because it was like the Little Old Ladies from Pasadena, you know that Beach Boys’ song.