Monday 24 August 2015

"The Beach Boys Party!" (1965)

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"The Beach Boys Party!" (1965)

Hully Gully/I Should Have Known Better/Tell Me Why/Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow/Mountain Of Love/You've Got To Hide Your Love Away//Devoted To You/Alley Oop/There's No Other (Like My Baby)/I Get Around-Little Deuce Coupe/The Times They Are A-Changin'/Barbara Ann

Aww Max, you fig, you forgot the potato chips! No don't worry I got it, I got it. Ooh baby, having some fun tonight! Greenwich Village? Hah! This is more like, erm, Trumpton. Nahh, turn it up the neighbours won't mind. Baa Baa Singing Dog have you any top hats?!...Watch out for that clickety schnar-schnar!...Right!...Wrong!...Well I'm not bragging babe, wo-ah yeah!...What the record stopped playing hours ago and everyone's gone home?

Hello dear readers! Youremybesthestreadersinthewholewidworldyesyouare...hic! I'm having a bit of a party this week and you're all invited! (Well those of you who this record anyway). You see, I'm finally at the end of the longest extended writing run of my life (well, longest extended writing run of my life so far - ominous thought). No don't worry, the AAA isn't going anywhere and I'm so many weeks you won't notice the difference anyway. But against all the odds I've made my deadline of completing the first drafts of half the thirty AAA books (Lindisfarne were dispatched last night - and what a mess they left!) four days before the halfway point in the time I've given myself to write them. Frankly I'm written out after four very hectic writing months that's seen some thousand odd pages written and I'm a few News, Views and Musics ahead of myself now so I can afford to take it a bit easier during the fortnight when the tennis is on (and yes I am enough of a anorak to organise it so that the issue printed while Wimbledon starts is the Beach Boys 'MIU Album' with 'Matchpoint Of Your Love' on it!) However before I go there's time for one last review before I go and only one album that can fit my end-of-term-itis slightly-silly Friday-Afternoon mood: 'The Beach Boys Party'.
Remember those 1980s sets that had 'the best party album in the world ever!' plastered all over them? Well they were all wrong. 'The Beach Boys Party' is the world's greatest party album, full of singalongs, jokes and harmonies that will put even the best karaoke singer to shame. Is it a full on artistic statement? Probably not. is it the best thing The Beach Boys ever did? Heck no. Is it a proper Beach Boys album? Heck don't ask me man, I'm having too much fun to care! Am I glad that this is the only bona fide AAA party album? Erm...I'll come back to you on that one, though I'm willing to bet 'The Who Instant Party' got ugly quick, The CSNY Party became political fast, The Beatles Party Album got weird quick and ended with everyone arguing over paying the bill and that at least one of the Gallagher Brothers threw a piece of fruit during the 'Oasis Party Album'. Ray Davies probably didn't even turn up to The Kinks Party Album, while every Janis Joplin album was a party album. The Spice Girls could probably hold one, but it would be one of those awfully all-pink affairs where people randomly insult each other's clothes and personalities and where everything ends in kung-fu kicks. That leaves The Beach Boys like you've never heard them before, endlessly goofing off in between playing singalong favourites obvious and not so obvious and parodying everyone along the way including themselves. Just be grateful it was recorded in 1965 not 2015 or it would surely have had 'Jools Holland Hootenanny' plastered all over it and none of us want that.

Four months before Brian Wilson released his devastatingly serious single 'Caroline, No' and just five months before 'Pet Sounds' The Beach Boys were having a happening at their house and everyone was invited - rivals like Jan and Dean, various wives and girlfriends and sweethearts (sometimes all three depending on the Beach Boy in question!) and even the band's fans. To the album's critics it's an appalling waste of vinyl where the band waste their vocal talents on a series of ropey covers you can't hear anyway because of all the chattering going on and is one of the most frivolous albums a mainstream act ever released. To its fans the album is a welcome chance to hear the band doing something they wouldn't normally do that's a wonderful last moment of innocence and fun before 'Pet Sounds' and all its moodier sequels came along which proves that even when in a hurry and a bit messy The Beach Boys were a great band who never gave a bad performance (well, not in the 1960s at least). In one sense this album is colossally important: it gave the band the breathing space they needed to make 'Pet Sounds' the album they wanted and it invented the 'unplugged' format some twenty years before everyone thinks MTV did, with just acoustic guitars, an acoustic bass and randomly struck bongos throughout. And in another it's the silliest, stupidest album in my collection full of corny jokes, spoof versions of old hits and much messing about between songs. It's a tough album to think about - but a great album to singalong to.

The record makes more sense when you realise why it exists. Back in late 1965 Brian Wilson had just started work on 'Pet Sounds', an album he was determined was going to be the best he'd ever make and was going to spend hours on to make it just right. Only he'd hit two major problems - a writing block (solved only when he met up with jingle-writer Tony Asher early the next year) and a demand with menaces from record label Capitol who demanded another Beach Boys product for the Christmas market and didn't care what it was (yes it seems odd doesn't it - 'Beach Boys Party!' is such a 'mid-summer' record and yet it came out In December, a week before The Beatles' 'Rubber Soul'!) So far Brian had only got as far as two backing tracks - for 'Sloop John B' and a song he realised he already hated 'In My Childhood' (revived and revamped as 'You Still Believe In Me' the following year). The Beach Boys could have released a compilation - but they thought that was a terrible thing to do and would spell the end to their career (they'll change their mind when 'Smile' is late too). They could have released a live album - but they'd already done one of those before. They could have done a Christmas record but they'd already done one of those too. Whatever it was they needed to do it quick in as few sessions as possible - Capitol weren't about to wait and had less interest in the Beach Boys making a masterpiece as they did having a product to sell.

Whoever came up with the party format in this situation deserves a medal (though no one can agree on whose idea it was, with Brian Mike Carl Dennis Al and Bruce all suggested as coming up with it down the years)- it enabled the band to record something fast and as sloppily as they liked (though typically, the perfectionist Brian didn't record the songs as heard here - he drilled the band as much as he dared given the time limits and the 'party' atmosphere was added on later at the mixing stage where the band sat around listening to the performances and chattering through them and eating the food they brought with them especially - that's why if you listen closely you can Brian and Mike especially talking and singing at the same time, which is a very clever party trick!) It also demonstrated a whole new string to The Beach Boys' bow - establishing them as acoustic folkies alongside their surfer image back at a time when folk was 'in' thanks to the rise of Bob Dylan and The Byrds, although The Beach Boys were probably unique in rock and roll for recording a folk-rock album using acoustic traditionally folk instruments. The record also helped them keep pace with the fans they'd lost after going all modern and deep on 'Beach Boys Today', cementing the following won back on last poppier album 'Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!!)' - despite the traditional that The Beach Boys 'only' lost their fanbase when 'Pet Sounds' passed them by actually they'd already begun to wane slightly in the charts before 'California Girls' and 'Help Me Rhonda' helped them out (this album's 'Barbara Ann' was a big relief actually, returning the band to the top three after previous single, the standalone 'Little Girl I Once Knew', peaked at a lowly #20 in the States - which in hindsight is perhaps a little too ambitious for its own good, great as it is).

In another sense it's a huge two fingers up to recently departed 'manager' Murray Wilson who'd always been on at the band to quit goofing around in the studio because their fans wouldn't like it and was 'fired' after an emotional fall-out during the recording of 'Help Me, Rhonda' when his sons and nephew and friends got told what to play too many times for comfort (what better way to get your own back on your dad than saying 'see - we got a top six album and a top three single from our messing around!') Best of all it made The Beach Boys a unit again, for the last time before Brian's breakdown and healing a slight rift that had been growing between the band 'out on tour' (with new kid Bruce Johnston filling in for Brian) and the band 'in the studio' (which consisted of Brian and a load of veteran session musicians, with the band's vocals being dubbed afterwards - a formula that had worked well for a year but was showing signs of wear and tear, especially between cousins Brian and Mike who had different ideas of where to take the band's sound). After all this is how The Beach Boys started and - the 1962 tapes aside - the closest we'll ever get to hearing how the band sounded singing a capella at Christmas get-togethers and singing late into the night on sleepovers when they were all meant to be asleep. 'Party' features a band genuinely having fun together, laughing at each other's jokes, applauding each other's contributions and improvising with each other liked mad. From the outside The Beach Boys doesn't often seem like a 'happy' band to be in - you wouldn't want to run away and sign up like you would The Beatles or The Monkees for instance - but this record is the exception, with all the band genuinely funny (the gleeful sabotage of 'I Get Around' and 'Little Deuce Coupe' may not be the best Beach Boys moment but it's one of my favourites, the band having hysterics as they parody their serious image). This is Mike's finest hour as the band's frontman and his one-liners are frequently hilarious, with him sending himself up as much as everyone else. Brian too dispels his reputation for being a bit 'gloomy' and serious by letting his hair down in lots of hilarious ways, even if his mock-anguished 'shushes' suggest that he's still the band member taking this record the most seriously.

There's one big question I have about this album though. Before I bought it and just from reading about it my instant thought was 'boy Dennis will be having fun on this album!' The band's hell raiser and non-comformist party animal, this album should be right down his surfing sidewalk - and yet he only gets one lead vocal on the moodiest cover on the album 'You've Got To Hide Your Love Away'. Did he really not believe in the project to that extent? (This isn't the first Beach Boy album Dennis will go 'missing' on - and it certainly won't be the last!) Was he having one of his periodic fallings out with the rest of the band and didn't want to be heard singing and joking? Was his choice of song rejected? (Something risque probably knowing Dennis!) Or was he making the ultimate rebellion by being serious for the first time in his Beach Boy career - just as everyone else decided to joke around? You sense that Al Jardine too is probably not that keen on this record. Already given the hardest musical role (struggling with an acoustic bass that's been dumped on him while Brian plays guitar) he gets only his third lead vocal in the band's history on 'The Times They Are A Changin' - and the band promptly laugh at his lengthy introduction and start singing silly words in the background. Gee guys, it takes a lot to stand up at a party and do your party piece - cool it will ya? As for poor Carl, he's still very much the junior member of the band and gets very little to do just one album on from his first lead vocal with the group ('Girl Don't Tell Me'), not given the chance to blossom until 'God Only Knows' the following year. This is a party, but it's on the terms of the 'adults' Mike and Brian and not quite the cathartic creative chaotic free-for-all the chatter and the many pictures (taken at the actual 'party' session rather than the basic tracks one) suggest.

Even so, it's still a delightfully silly album with some delightfully silly gags. 'I feel like I'm in Greenwich Village' quips Brian at the start of the album. Mike introduces 'Times' as 'a test song - it used to be a 'protest' song but it's no longer pro!' 'Barbara Ann - The Album Version' starts in not the way you expect at all, with an a capella version of 'Baa Baa Black Sheep'. Al is introduced for his percussive abilities 'on his famous ash tray!' 'What key is this in? I don't know - you know I can't read!' grins Mike at the start of 'No Other Like My Baby'. The list of girl's names in 'No Other Like My Baby' gets a bit confusing ('Cindy, Sherry, Wendy...err, Louie?!') Mike ends the deep and emotional cover of 'You've Got To Hide Your Love Away' by asking where he's put his teeth! The medley of car songs is hilariously and mercilessly spot on, sounding like a Who Line Is It Anyway?' or 'Just A Minute' episode where the singer can't say the same word twice. 'I'm getting awfully mad driving down the street, I just don't want to be bugged sitting next to my sweets!' Another verse runs as follows: 'We always take my car although it's a heap!' Mike has never been funnier. Brian and Mike's careful cover of 'Devoted To You' is also cheekily credited on the sleeve to 'The Cleverly Brothers'. For me, though, the funniest moment is at the start of 'No Other Like My Baby' when the band are chatting and joking and being silly, taking no notice of Brian at all as he starts up one of the album's sadder songs. Suddenly, without missing a beat, the entire band are right there with him spot on cue singing that chorus line, perfectly in synch with each other. Even accounting for the fact that these are from two entirely different sessions, still it boggles belief - how the hell did they just do that?

One of my favourite recordings from the sessions really sums up the party feel well, although sadly it's one that never made the final album (please add it as a bonus track on the next CD re-issue that comes out - it would make my day!) 'Ruby Baby' never got as far as the overdub party, probably because Brian messes up this Leiber/Stoller song's last verse. However the band are having such fun it seems sad to let the track go just because of one inconsequential mistake (if there's ever an album you can get away with making mistakes on it's this one!) and The Beach Boys are having so much fun, their usual pristinely perfect backing vocals slowly making way to 'oinks'. As serious as we try to be on this website a lot of the time, there's a place in music for laughter and few records are funnier than this one. Apparently the band recorded lots of other songs at these sessions too which have never seen the light of day: versions of 'Riot In Cell Block H', 'Blowin' In The Wind', '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction' and even 'Ticket To Ride'. Heck there's a double CD in there somewhere if all this stuff can be located in The Beach Boys' generous and overflowing vaults.

While I'm not sure any record of covers can ever be truly revealing, it's also interesting to hear what was in The Beach Boys' record collection at the time. All the band brought their own choices to the table, though some got more than others: Mike loved the simple garage rock of The Rivington's one hit wonder 'Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow' (already an in-concert favourite), The Olympics' 'Hully Gully' and The Hollywood' Argyles' caveman calamity 'Alley Oop'. Brian probably provided the Phil Spector cover 'There's No Other Like My Baby' and one of his favourite Everly Brothers songs 'Devoted To You' (the two album highlights). Beatles nut Carl simply kept submitting fab four songs until the band relented and he got three on the album (he's clearly a fan as he's not gone for the obvious choices at all: 'Tell Me Why' 'I Should Have Known Better' and 'You've Got To Hide Your Love Away'. Though all are performed as 'a bit of fun' rather than as something serious, they're still faithful versions done with a lot of love and especially the last of these three - it's hard to imagine The Beatles making the same tribute the other way around!) Al provided the Dylan covers. And it was guest Dean Torrence who suggested 'Barbara Ann' when the band were running short of ideas - they didn't know it too well so he tried to teach it to them despite the fact that legal disputes (ie the fact the pair were on different record labels) meant that dean was never contributed for his co-lead on the album (instead Brian says 'thanks Carl!' in a loud voice and almost whispers 'thanks Dean' straight after, at least on the album version). This was in effect payback for Brian giving his first number one hit away to his surfing rivals ('Sidewalkin' Surfin' in 1964) and another neat way of getting back at dad Murray who hated the pair for taking away all of Brian's poppier songs! Fascinatingly not one of the band suggests a 'surfing song' and for the first time (aside from the car-filled 'Shut Down Volume Two') there isn't a single mention of the beach or the sea - or girls hardly (instead we get a caveman, social change and whatever the heck 'Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow is really all about!) One quick point before we go:

The end result is an album like no other, don't mean maybe, no no no. The Beach Boys are in a party mood and for the last time are wide-eyed innocents taking one last stroll to the beach before it all gets serious, waving goodbye to their childhood along the way. Though The Beach Boys will try to get back to this stage in their careers many many times over the years - especially after Brian can no longer lead them - they'll never again capture the purity of these performances. Sadly most of the marriages heard on this album won't last (many won't continue to the end of the decade), while the same goes for girlfriends (many of whom won't last to the end of the album), while it remains either a comedy or a tragedy that this hurried shoe-string budgeted thrown-away album remains the last big seller The Beach Boys ever had in their homeland, with the public going off The Beach Boys in a big way a mere year later. Just picture how a 'Post Pet Sounds' party might have been, with everyone in the corner sobbing for lost loves or up in the bathroom doing drugs (for a time it looked for one awful moment as if the excellent Capitol to-w-fer-one CD series was going to release this album and 'Pet Sounds' together, which would have been chronologically logical but would have resulted in one of the weirdest contrasting emotional experiences of our times. Thankfully common sense prevailed and it was paired with fellow oddity 'Stack-O-Tracks', the Beach Boys backing track album instead). This record may not have had the painstaking care and attention devoted to it of almost all the albums to come (well, perhaps not '15 Big Ones'!) but then it didn't need to - it proved that The Beach Boys had such natural talent and were still so in tune with each other that they could turn the musical magic on at a moment's notice, even with the odd mistake creeping in. Of course 'Pet Sounds' has more time spent on it and song for song even as a slightly sceptical fan of that album the later record is clearly superior (the Beach Boys fanbase can be divided down the middle between who loves 'Pet Sounds' and hate 'Smile' and vice versa - while 'Pet Sounds' sometimes makes me cry if I'm in the right mood, 'Smile' always makes me cry and laugh and love and live). However I've had more fun times and probably learnt more from this forgotten party record, which managed to do three things with as little effort as possible: it gave Brian the breathing room he needed to get back in control of his career, it invented a whole new genre without even knowing it and its one hell of a lot of fun. Pass the potato chips I'm putting the album back on again...

In the chatter at the start of this song you can just about hear Marilyn Wilson, Brian's wife, asks for a song 'you haven't done in a while' and she gets what she asked for, a forgotten 1960 single by one-hit wonder The Olympics (though 'Hully Gully' isn't actually the 'hit' - that's 'Western Movies' from 1958 though most people today remember this song better thanks to The Beach Boys). According to Brian's CD Sleevenotes he and cousin Mike used to entertain their friends with when they were still at school (though as with a few  of Brian's sleevenotes it should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt given that they were both eighteen when the song came out, which is a problem given that Mike left at fifteen, and neither of them went to the same school anyway. Great story though!) Whatever the cause it's perfect for this band and this album, with lots of opportunities for stunning harmonies and some great rattled bongos (probably played by Brian). It's decidedly not at all like 'Greenwich Village' as Brian proposes, more like a punk band who can't afford their electricity bill and have had to play with acoustic instruments, but it's great fun for all that. The song was actually split into two parts and released over both sides of a vinyl single, though The Beach Boys only do the first. It's one of those songs that isn't really up to analysing as it makes no sense at all (something about an infectious dance, which given the way its described in the first verse makes it sound like ebola; apparently the lyrics come from a game called 'hully gully guess how many nuts I'm holding' and no I'm not making this up!) but the lyrics are really just something to sing along with the great tune. Someone lets off what sounds like a firecracker near the end but it can't overpower the firecracker of the performance which is stunning, from Mike's borderline-giggles vocal to the glossy harmonies. Why don't my parties ever sound like this?

Next up is Carl Wilson's favourite Beatles track 'of all time' according to the fade - and yes I'm surprised as well. I mean 'I Should Have Known Better is nice and all, but it's not even the best thing on the first side of their 'A Hard Day's Night' album never mind a song demanding a cover version. It's a tad too serious for the occasion too, but the band rev it up into a lovable goofy comedy song all the same, with Carl singing affectionately and Brian less so, the tempo gradually getting faster and faster as the song gets going. It works rather well as a communal singalong, actually, with its long held 'I_I_I_I_I_I', although you miss the harmonica lick. You wonder if Brian Wilson ever brings it up during his modern-day collaborations with Paul and Ringo?

'Tell Me Why' from the second side of the 'A Hard Day's Night' album (had the band not bought 'Beatles For Sale' yet?) is more of the same, with carl primarily on lead but everyone singing along with him - twice in Brian's case as he adds some 'doo doos' as well. Once again this isn't the first fab four song that's crying out to be re-hashed in this way and the Beach Boys play it a bit too 'safe' without the glorious sneer in Lennon's voice, but against all the odds it works rather well. The Beach Boys even remember to sing the 'is there anything I can do?' part in a cheery falsetto, although like many a song on this album you wish everyone in the room would just shut up a little so you could hear what the heck is going on.

Perhaps that's why they decide to do 'Papa Oom Mow Mow' next, one of the loudest and most aggressive recordings in the band's back catalogue which could cut through paper, never mind the noise going on in the room. Beach Boys fans would have been familiar with this song already after its appearance on most of the band's tours up to this point and its central role on the 'Beach Boys Concert' record. In many ways this is the song's big farewell (it really wouldn't have worked in the band's set lists from 'Pet Sounds' on!) and can best be described as infectious chaos. Mike sings grittily like a heavy metaller on steroids and jokingly quits singing the repetitive 'papa-oom-mow-mow' chorus to exclaim jokingly 'I can't remember all the words!' Brian meanwhile is really going for it too and it's strange to hear the on-form on-top-of-the-world Brian singing with the same put-on gruffness he'll have for real on his sadder, more doubtful performances on Beach Boy records to come. The song will horrify fans who like their Beach Boys all nice and tidy and perfect, but I've always said that there was a tasty rock and roll band inside this group waiting to get out behind the Four Freshman front and its unleashed here like never before.

The band sound far tighter and sober for the Harold Doorman and later Johnny Rivers hit  'Mountain Of Love', with less chatter and distractions than normal going on and nobody getting the words wrong (was it earmarked as the single before 'Barbara Ann' came along? If so then it would have been a rotten choice). The session tapes reveal that this was more like take thirteen of the song (although many of the takes are giggling one-note performances so it's hard to keep track!) which suggests that the band really wanted to take their time and get this one right. It's hard to work out why they should care more for this piece of disposable country-rock-ish pop compared to the rankly better material around it, but the band clearly relish singing it. Mike especially is having a great time on the quick-stepping lyric, even though it's a long way outside his normal comfort zone and Carl and Brian have fun on the twin acoustic guitars, but the performance is actually way above the level of quality of the song which is one of those generic 'where did it all go wrong?' types.

The Beach Boys next play the chorus of 'Long Tall Sally' but frustratingly don't get anywhere past an 'oh baby' and a 'woo-oo-oo'. Al Jardine comes to the aid with a few strummed lines of the third and final Beatles track, the stunningly gorgeous 'You've Got To Hide Your Love Away' from 'Help!' At first it seems too moody and magnificent to be sent up in this way but the playful 'hey!' chorus gives the improvised backing vocalists a lot to play around with. However in an odd move Al is shooed off the vocals and Dennis is roped into sing, the middle Wilson's only contribution to the entire album (he doesn't play anything either) and he sings it just a sleepy wispy voice that you wonder whether he got the directions wrong and went to a 'real' party the night before leaving him the worst for wear. Regular readers will know how much I adore Dennis for both his voice and his songs, but this really isn't his greatest moment and he's badly out-sung by everyone (a Carl version of this one would have been great, while Brian is moved enough to stop chattering at the top of the song and just listen, adding a mournful 'hey hey' in response). The result is one of odd moments that only exists on this album because there is no other album like it - someone trying so hard to be serious on a deeply moving and serious song while everyone behind laughs and jokes throughout. In a way though it's a fitting accompaniment to a top Lennon song about layers and barriers, with the narrator haunted by the fact that he can't demonstrate his love openly for whatever reason (English reserve? Because she's already married? Or - the more modern take on this song - because it was written for manager Brian Epstein's hidden homosexual love life).

'If you don't know it then shut up and go home!' Brian snaps as everyone starts talking at once including his cousin goes into a strange rap about looking for his teeth and a mock comedy routine (Mike: 'Do you happen to have your guitar with you Carl?' Carl: 'Why yes, do you know I happen to have it right here!). There's a second's pause and then he snickers, breaking the tension for a second. He's right to complain though because next up is 'Devoted To You', a stunning duet between Mike and Brian who have never been more in tune than here and whose vocal range and dexterity matches even the original. The party revellers naturally go quiet at this point and even future-Brian (hearing these tapes back at the 'real' party) is impressed enough to shout 'Oh My God!' over the singing. Perhaps he's just realised how gorgeously fresh and innocent his voice sounds - or how equally tender his cousin can sound when he wants to be. The song is a lovely one, an Everly classic by their unsung hero and regular writer Broudleaux Bryant that's just sweet and innocent enough on the one hand and yet gritty enough on the other enough not to be false or sentimental, turning out the way all love songs in the hands of a master band. Even with the missing instruments (which leaves Brian making the noise of the extra guitar part with his final bah bah bahs) The Beach Boys' version is a thing of beauty - all the more so on the 'Hawthorne, CA' rarities CD where you can hear the 'original' version of the album before the party effects were added (please let them release this complete one day!) At last, after a continuous nineteen minute sequence, the first side rounds off under a round of spontaneous applause.

Meanwhile on side two Mike is at his best again on 'Alley Oop', a sort of Flintstones style song about a caveman teenager who has all the same loves as modern teenagers (dancing and girls, basically). It's a top-drawer rocking performance where the band answer their lead singer with  an infectious 'alley oop oop shoop-boop' chorus that sounds like The Surpremes having a laughter transplant. Actually it's from an obscure single by the Dyna Sores which didn't do anything in 1960 until the band Dante and the Evergreens released it a year later and The Hollywood Argyles scored a number one hit with it the year later. The backing vocalists finally get something to get their teeth into - well actually its a dinosaur about to get its teeth into them as everyone screams at all the relevant moment. Mike stops singing at one point and admits 'I forgot my words', while the band struggle with even the song's simply bass and acoustic guitar parts, but it doesn't matter - not for the first or last time the glorious vocals get The Beach Boys out of trouble and it's one of the group's funniest recordings. Mike even adds a camp tag where he goes all Kenneth Williams and says 'oh my goodness, how would you like a dinosaur like that for your very own?'

Next up there's a bit of a debate about what to play next, which sounds almost as staged as the 'Cassius Love v Sonny Wilson' and 'Our Favourite Recording Sessions' parts from earlier records but no matter. Because next up is a group chorus harmony that's perfection. It goes without saying that Heaven must be full of beautiful music, not least all the great singers they've got up there, but I still can't decide which beautiful music its full of. CSN on 'Find The Cost Of Freedom'? The Beatles on 'Because'? The Hollies on 'Love Is The Thing'? Or The Beach Boys' own 'Our Prayer'? Well here's another one - the stunning intro into 'There's No Other Like My Baby', a big hit for The Crystals in 1962 and produced - and here's the important bit in Brian's mind - by Phil Spector. The pair had a real love-hate relationship down the years, Brian idolising but frequently being insulted and ignored by his production rival. For my money Spector had one of the greatest production techniques in the toybox, the echo that makes everything sound bigger than life and which no other producer ever captured (The Searchers come closest on their similar-feel 'Take Me For What It's Worth' album released the same month as 'The Beach Boys Party'). However while Brian couldn't do that he could do a lot of things besides; he had a multi-stringed production bow, with curiosity and perfectionism pushing on him long past the point Spector settled for. Though meant quite genuinely as an affectionate tribute to Spector, Brian's 'No Other' also comes off as a bit of a slap in the face, a so-so song re-arranged to suddenly sound stunning and turning the same ingredients into a much lovelier aural meal thanks to a quite different recipe that Phil would never have thought of. The result is a tribute to his arrangement gifts and the band's glossy harmonies which they suddenly turn on and off throughout the song, going from dispassionate to living this song within bars of each other. Even when the band mess around and get the girl's names wrong (this is such a Beach Boys song!) it still manages to sound utterly sincere and heartfelt. Truly beautiful. Sob! I always cry at parties! (Especially when the music's really bad).

Next up is the silliest moment on the album, a sketchy acoustic remake of two of the band's biggest hits, parodied affectionately. Mike reworks the words to both 'I Get Around' and 'Little Deuce Coupe' (you can hear the originals of these songs on, respectively on 'All Summer Long' 1964 and, erm, umm, 'Little Deuce Coupe' surprisingly from 1963) to hilarious effect, alternating between a posh authoritarian voice ('The guys over there are pretty tough so those other cats over there better not get tough!) and a spoof Elvis voice ('I'm not bragging babe...oh yeah!') as the band wreak havoc behind him. Interestingly Dennis is very prominent on this one (has he just woken up?) while the band are amazingly together considering that this arrangement of the song is very different to the one they'd been playing on stage for years, even if Carl messes up his twirly solo rather. Along the way the band joke about singing 'Luau' (pronounced 'doobedoodooluau!') from their pre-fame Morgan tapes but instead Mike starts singing lines from Leiber and Stoller's 'Poison Ivy'. Despite not quite going into either The Beach Boys still somehow find their way at the same end point - an a capella rendering of one final chorus. Can you imagine any other band quite so ready to take the mickey out of themselves as this? (The Monkees perhaps?) A glorious reminder that not everything about the 1960s was po-faced or serious and that being a teenager in 1965 was one hell of a lot of fun!

One bad edit later and Al Jardine is building up steam for the most conscientious song of the night and going for a long piano intro. However the rest of the band are in too giggly a mood, Brian adapting a stern 'I can't hear you Ally!' tone and the massed chorus of people interrupting Al by singing 'Right!' and occasionally 'Wrong!' as Jardine grapples with one of Bob Dylan's better lyrics. many fans have wondered how Al kept such a straight face - but of course that wasn't how this album was made. As far as Al in the first session was concerned he was singing this song straight, live, in Western Studios. He hasn't got a clue that his so-called friends and their girlfriends are going to be taking the mickey out of him on the 'party' overdubs. And take the mickey they do - 'you'll sink like a stone' a stern Al warns. 'Glug!' Mike replies. Someone even starts playing a xylophone, badly, through the last verse, while there's a brief jam of a fade-out featuring Brian on piano and somebody whose clearly tone deaf and incompetent accidentally hiccuping into a mouthorgan as everyone tries very very hard not to play 'chopsticks' which is the piece everyone played on piano back then. You could say that Al should have realised everyone would be taking the pistachios out of him given the album they were making, but to be fair he probably thought that he would be able to do his one contribution to the album 'his' way. Al has as strong a sense of humour as any of the rest of the band (see 'Take A Load Off Your Feet, Pete') and the song would have been funnier still had he been in on the joke, especially given that its actually a rather good performance underneath all that bumph and surface noise. This feels like those nasty moments towards an end of a party when everyone's got too drunk and the banter has gone that bit too far (and just to make that sentence even weirder I was probably about six the last time I got invited to a party and yes everyone still got drunk- there's a lot of sugar in Vimto and Irn Bru ok?!) Poor Al deserved better.

However the album still has one last turn to make and it's the album's famous moment. Fans of 'Barbara Ann' the single will be in for a shock at the way this version starts, with the band being led into the song by special guest Dean Torrence who practices the band's vocals by teasing them with the first line of 'Baa Baa Black Sheep' (The Beach Boys bite and turn in a sudden rush of tight harmonies, ending in a squeal as they try to compete with each other as to who can go the highest - Brian wins, of course, but it's a close fight with the girls in the room; this is also of course why Brian seemingly randomly sings 'Baa Baa Black Sheep' in the middle of the single, so now you know!) After some giggling the song starts as normal as the band tackle a song they barely knew with the album's customary aplomb. Actually it's a surprise they hadn't considered The Regents' 1961 single before - the single peaked at #13 but was better known than that even before the band took their version to #2 (held off the spot by first 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' and then 'The Sounds Of Silence'. What a fab fortnight for AAA fans!)  It's the sort of thing the band do so well: lots of room for mass harmonies, a 'ba ba ba' singalong chorus and a girl's name in the lyric. Luckily its also a song that the band can afford to 'mess up' a bit - it's clearly a bit of harmless fluff so the fact that Mike comes in at the wrong time ('Saw... Cried...Danced with Betty Lou') or that Carl messes up yet another guitar solo ('Scratch it Carl, scratch it!' sings Mike to his cousin in desperation) doesn't matter one bit. After all this is a party and mistakes happen - who cares, especially when it sounds as good as this. Certainly not the record buyers who made this cover song (completed in a single hour) the band's biggest hit since 'Help Me, Rhonda' three releases back (skipping three songs that had collectively taken weeks if not months in the studio). However the 'original' ending as heard on album was too much for even Capitol who faded it early - a wrong note that ends the song prematurely, so the band set about adding a new end section to edit in later. Only it doesn't quite end like that, with the golden harmonies suddenly overbalancing and falling over so the band try it again with more of a 'Las Vegas' swing, ending with a lengthy 'tah-dah!' flourish.  It may not be the best single The Beach Boys ever made and in many ways is more disposable than even 'Surfin' Safari' but its a whole lot of fun and played with just the right level of luck versus skill.  'Not bad' grins Mike at the song's end. Not 'arf. You can hear the full original unadorned version of 'Barbara Ann' without the party overdubs on 'Hawthorne, CA', although its actually less different than you might expect.

Overall, then, it's not always pretty and it's rarely serious but few albums give you the party 'lift' that this record does. Whether it's forgotten garage rock and roll songs from the 1950s, sensitive pop songs about love from the band's childhood or nods of the hat to contemporary heroes like The Beatles, Phil Spector and Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys come out of the experience surprisingly well compared to the fact that this whole album was conceived, arranged, recorded and mixed within the time The Beach Boys were now used to recording single songs. Though 'Party' never quite transcends its origins as a filler meant to appeal to a Christmas market and to allow the band more time to get on with something they really wanted to do, in the circumstances it was the best solution possible, reminding the world of just how funny, sunny and punny the band could be when they wanted to be. The Beach Boys could have happily sat out the rest of their careers like this, making fun party records for fun partying teenagers - but even while he played the role of a squeaky dinosaur and sang the words 'papa-Oom-Mow-Mow' like he meant it (no mean feat!) a part of Brian Wilson's brain was probably already thinking about the record to follow. And there'll be no partying around on 'Pet Sounds', no sirree. Am I the only person (Mike Love aside) to be ever so slightly sad about that?

Hic! Did I ever tell you how much I love you? Blimey them wine-gums are strong! Where did the party go then? Why are you all hiding? Come back, I haven't told you about my review #55 yet in which Brian Wilson turns into a grinch radio and starts talking to a magical prince and...ooh my head! See you after the break AAA fans, which in my case means two weeks of recovering on the sofa while plotting the Paul McCartney book and doing a bit of 'text tidying' but in your case will mean we're back before you know it - why next week in fact...

Other Beach Boys related articles from this site you might be interested in reading:

'Surfin' USA' (1963)

'Surfer Girl' (1963)

'Little Deuce Coupe' (1963)

'Shut Down Volume Two' (1964)

‘All Summer Long’ (1964)

'Beach Boys Christmas' (1964)

'Today' (1965)

'Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!!!!!!!) (1965)

'Party!' (1965)

'Pet Sounds' (1966)

'Surf's Up' (1971)

’15 Big Ones’ (1976)

'Love You' (1977)

'Pacific Ocean Blue' (Dennis Wilson solo) (1977)

'Merry Xmas From The Beach Boys!' (Unreleased) (1977)

'M.I.U Album' (1978)

'L.A.Light Album' (1979)

'Keeping The Summer Alive' (1980)

'The Beach Boys' (1985)

'Still Cruisin' (1989)

'Summer In Paradise' (1992)

'Smile' (Brian Wilson solo) (2004)

'That Lucky Old Sun' (Brian Wilson solo) (2008)

'Smile Sessions' (band outtakes)(2011)

'That's Why God Made The Radio' (2012)

The Best Unreleased Beach Boys Recordings

A Complete (ish) Guide To The Beach Boys' Surviving TV Clips

Solo/Live/Compilation/Rarities Albums Part One 1962-86

Solo/Live/Compilation/Rarities Albums Part Two 1988-2014

Non-Album Songs Part One 1962-1969

Non-Album Songs Part Two 1970-2012

Five Landmark Concerts and Three Key Cover Versions

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