Monday 8 October 2012

News, Views and Music Issue 165 (Intro)

October 17th:

Dear all, it’s a tiring task running a website, as I’m sure you’ll imagine what with cfs lapses and everything, and one thing I’ve been neglecting recently is trawling through the search engines to see what people are saying/proclaiming/praising/debating my site. I haven’t done it for a few months what with one thing or another and I’m surprised by a lot of what I’ve found; there’s several entries for individual reviews on my ‘blogspot’ site ( I wasn’t expecting for starters. My main discovery, though, is a page about my moonfruit site ( on ‘Web Stats Domain’ (you can visit yourself here at According to this site, we are now worth $57,814USD though I’m not quite sure how they arrived at that figure (it must be by the word because I’m not seeing any of that money!) To be honest I haven’t got a clue what the rest of it means (I’m no computer genius, as no doubt you’ll have realised by now), but I am intrigued by the statistics of whose been visiting the site, something I haven’t found out before at this first site. 30% UK and 22% US hits aren’t that far removed from the Blogspot site statistics although the rest is pretty amazing: 11% India, 3% China and 2% each Spain and Pakistan. I hadn’t realised our site had become so multinational! Anyway a big hello to you wherever you read this and whatever music you have access to – apologies if some of the local cultural references are a bit confusing to you (they are to me, in truth) but we’re glad to have you aboard, wherever in the world you are.

Unless, of course, you’re David Cameron or George Osbourne. Despite the fact that several hundred people die every month from the Government’s insane welfare cuts the Coalition have just announced more – and have abandoned plans to add a mansion tax on the rich to boot. What kind of insane, backward, nasty, ludicrous, moronic, outrageously dispassionate idiot could think that such a scheme could be acceptable? Most of the cabinet, apparently, who still think that paying ATOS and G4S millions of pounds instead of spending it on people or jobs is the way to go. This is despite the fact that there is now proof that both the unemployed and the poorly are suffering from targeted sanctions – not because they’ve done anything wrong, but simply because each job centre has to hit specific targets each week or lose their licenses. George Orwell wasn’t that many years out in his view of ‘1984’ now was he?! Honestly, make sure you use our twitter hashtag #CoalitionOutByXmas and let your feelings be known because we cannot tolerate this despicable betrayal of our British citizens, simply because the Government want to waste more money on their friends at a time of recession.

As per the last two issues we’re transporting to you to the golden world of our web address for the majority of this week’s news stories (you can access it by clicking this button):

Although there’s one heck of a lot of TV and radio news for you this week...

♫ Beatles News: A whole plethora of Beatle-related TV and radio goodies to tell you about, either linked with the new ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ DVD release or the – gulp – 50th anniversary of ‘Love Me Do’ on October 10th. First up ‘A Year In The Life: The Beatles 1962’ was broadcast this Wednesday, October 3rd on Radio 2 at 10pm, with Roger McGough following the Beatles’ story from their failed Decca audition on January 1st to their triumphant tour of Scotland with Helen Shapiro at the year’s end. Second is/was ‘The Blagger’s Guide To The Beatles’ again on Radio 2 at 9.30pm Thursday, October 4th. David Quantick offers a ‘beginner’s guide’ to the band – and given that he’s only got a half hour to fit all that history in its likely to be a whirlwind ride. Third up is the special one – the Arena documentary on the making of ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ taken direct from next week’s DVD re-release. The programme is being broadcast on BBC2 at 10.45pm on Saturday, October 6th and should be available on I-player for a week or after. Stuart Marconie then presents ‘Love Me Do – The Beatles in 62’ on BBC4 this Sunday, October 7th at 10pm and looks back at the band’s ‘legacy’ (let’s hope that means sites like this one and not more godawful interviews with modern so-called celebrities).Then there’s ‘Beatleland’ on Radio 2 Wednesday, October 10th at 10pm finds Red Dwarf star Craig Charles (why?!) tracing the fab four’s legacy in their home town (err, that’ll be one statue and a Cavern Club on the wrong side of the road then!) Finally, BBC6 have their own two part documentary about John Lennon’s time in New York City – which has been well served these past few years already what with the ‘Lennonyc’ and ‘US Vs Lennon’ films. It’s on next Tuesday and Wednesday, October 16th and 17th at 4AM in their ‘documentary’ slot.

Since writing the above paragraph, we’ve seen the Arena documentary on MMTour and here are our thoughts:
‘I’m an erudite and sophisticated documentary here to tell you why the Beatles’ much maligned 1967 Boxing Day special charted new waters and had the pulse on the nation’s real thoughts and feelings’ said the documentary’s pr team. ‘Oh no you’re not’ said little Nicola – and half the audience left scratching their heads. There was a great documentary to be had here and the glimpses of unseen footage was wonderful: more of Ringo arguing with his Aunt Jessie, hundreds of extras being herded into place and – in a special minute added over the restoration credits on the new screening of the TV special itself – a fascinating fly-on-the-wall feel of what it really must have felt like to be on the Beatle bus in September 1967. The new interviews with Paul and Ringo were fascinating too, Paul still proud and defensive of the Beatles moment he was most in charge of and loving the chance to fig out what little remains of his mid-60s home movies and even Ringo added a few jokes and seemed less, well, arrogantly grumpy than he has of late. But whole great chunks of the documentary were given over to ‘explaining’ the TV special and the influence its had over the decades – so much so that it took a good half hour before the cast had even got on the bus, so to speak. There was very little about the actual nuts and bolts of the filming, with even the famous stories about the coach not being ready on time for the first day’s filming (because the psychedelic paint was still drying) or the Beatles having to re-work their original planned journey at the last minute when the coach became lodged under a bridge. Worst of all there was hardly anything about the music – no mention of how ‘MMTour’ was recorded as early as the Spring in the ‘Sgt Peppers’ period to give the band ‘something in the can’, Macca’s conviction that he’d just met the new messiah while out walking his dog (a thought that led to the creation of ‘Fool On The Hill’) or the wonderful mix of bile and sarcastic taunting of Lennon’s old English teachers that is ‘I Am The Walrus’. There wasn’t even a mention of the long running Beatle myth #38: who was in the walrus costume during the shooting? (Both the MMTour EP booklet and the White Album track ‘Glass Onion’ claim it was Paul). A frustratingly lost opportunity, then, which – like the special – tries so hard to be hip that it rather gets in the way of all the real magic that’s there.

The ‘Love Me Do’ special on the year 1962 was so much better in every way that it’s a shame it was shunted to BBC4. Longterm fans know the gist of the story backwards, but giving a whole hour over to the crucial moptop year of 1962 meant that we got much more detail than given in the Anthology documentary and the programme makers dug out several intriguing interviewees who have rarely spoken about their Beatles connection before. These included Rory Storm’s sister Iris Caldwell, who also happened to be one of Paul’s many short-term girlfriends before Jane Asher came along (although she bravely disputes the long-term claim that ‘Love Me Do’ was written for her) and session drummer Andy White (who played on the original UK single of ‘Love Me Do’ as heard on the ‘Past Masters’ set). Sacked drummer Pete Best also notches up another moving and informative interview, although sadly the documentary doesn’t have the space to tell what happens next (Pete ends up working for the Liverpool job centre helping clients recently made redundant and empathising about their loss). Add in some top quality audio and video footage (almost a complete print of the 1962 Beatles playing ‘Some Other Guy’ at the Cavern, lots of choice cuts from the Decca audition and Starclub Hamburg tapes) and you had probably the best AAA documentary of the year so far (although the hilarious ‘Blagger’s Guide To The Beatles’ on radio cut it close, simply for its sheer verve and audacity!)

ANNIVERSARIES: Birthday greetings to you if you’re born between October 10th and 16th. So are this lot from AAA bands - Paul Simon who turns 71 on October 13th, Justin Hayward (guitarist with The Moody Blues 1967-present) who turns 66 on October 14th and Bob Weir (guitarist with The Grateful Dead 1965-95) who turns 65 on October 16th. Anniversaries of events include: The Beatles receive their first ever gold disc, for ‘She Loves You’ a year and a week after their first ‘proper’ release (October 11th 1963); The Beatles’ prestigious TV gig on ‘Saturday Night At The London Palladium’ (October 13th 1963); The Who release their milestone single ‘I Can See For Miles’ (October 13th 1967); Janis Joplin’s ashes are scattered off the coast of California after nearly a year of legal hold-ups (October 13th 1971); Grace Slick, then still with her first band The Great Society, makes her first on-stage appearance with the Jefferson Airplane after their singer Signe Anderson leaves to have a baby (October 14th 1966); Pink Floyd play their first major gig at the launch party for underground newspaper International Times (October 15th 1966) and finally, The Kinks release their all important follow-up to ‘You Really Got Me’, ‘All Day And All Of The Night’ (October 16th 1964).

The Beach Boys "All Summer Long" (1964)

You can now buy 'Add Some Music To Your Day - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of The Beach Boys' in e-book form by clicking here

The Beach Boys “All Summer Long” (1964)

I Get Around/All Summer Long/Hushabye/Little Honda/We’ll Run Away/Carl’s Big Chance//Wendy/Do You Remember?/Girls On The Beach/Drive-In/Our Favourite Recording Sessions/Don’t Back Down

Do you remember that feeling you get heading into Autumn, when you know the Summer won’t be around for another nine months? If you do then either you’ve got a really good memory (the UK hasn’t seen sunshine for longer than 24 hours in about five years now) or you live somewhere with a decent chance of sunshine all the time (lucky you). Anyways, there’s no better album that sums up those bittersweet feelings of having lived life to the full, with a trunk full of stored up memories and the awful thought that that part of your life is now (literally come the Winter) put on ice again than sixth Beach Boys album ‘All Summer Long’. Most non and even casual fans assume that every Beach Boys ever made is a cornucopia of beaches, surfboards and cars – but actually this BB album is a last hurrah for all those subjects, which from now on will either be revisited in a postmodernist philosophical metaphorical way (the glorious ‘Surf’s Up’ from ‘Smile’) or will be on one of the band’s increasingly backwards-looking wannabe Beach Boys albums from the 1980s. In other words, this is the last time the Beach Boys sound young and innocent, a world away from the more adult themes they’ll be tackling in the late 60s.

Brian Wilson, the unquestionable king of surf writing despite having only tried the sport once in his life, hangs up his board and his woodie for good after this album, which might be why the whole LP has such a mournful, melancholic air throughout in both cover and contents. (The front sleeve looks like a scrapbook of holiday photos, the sort everyone sighs longingly at come Autumn when the summer heat is long gone even if they hated it at the time – the back sleeve features ‘memories’ from each of the band on their first couple of years of the band together, with carefree Dennis, of all people, acknowledging how ‘[this life] won’t last forever, but the memories will’; in retrospect its very eerie that the band are waving goodbye to their past in such a blatant manner). There’s even a ‘goodbye’ song celebrating the fading rockers of the 1950s, decades before anyone else thought to say farewell to them and years before the rockers themselves noticed that Beatle and Beach Boy mania was seeping them aside, not to mention the ‘last’ of many surf instrumentals, the ‘last’ cover material on a BB album till ‘Wild Honey’ and the last glorious songs written directly about the beach and about summer.

Probably not co-incidentally, given the ‘end of summer’ feel, it’s the last album of original material recorded before Brian’s much discussed nervous breakdown, caused not by drugs as many assume but by a ridiculously tight schedule that saw Brian in an un-relenting round of writing, rehearsing, producing and touring. The turning point came in December 1964 when Brian got on board a plane due to fly to Houston for yet another show he was ill prepared for and didn’t want to play (strapped in a seat next to a hapless Al Jardine in what must have been one of his least favourite moments as a Beach Boy). When the plane was turned round and Brian got off, he was never the same again, his music deeper, more complex and less teenage-orientated than before and – against all odds – he’s actually given time off the road to concentrate on writing, recording and producing his masterpieces, with this album the last to contain such a large percentage of ‘filler’. In retrospect, ‘All Summer Long’ sounds like a long goodbye note from Brian to a way of life that had made him famous, but that he knew would be unable to sustain; a unique blend of childish innocence and adult knowing, with shadows darting from several corners (the title track especially sounds distinctly edgy despite the happy lyrics celebrating the summer). At times you can believe this is the same band that appeared on the ‘Surfin’ Safari’ back in October 1962, goofy teenagers with having a good time the only thing on their minds; on others Brian is already going further out into the adult world of pop music than ever before, the band growing up before your ears. As a result ‘All Summer Long’ sounds like all the earlier Beach Boys writ large, with more sun, fun, girls and cars per square inch than perhaps any of their other records.

Many critics, like me, have gone to town on how the breakdown caused the change in Brian’s music – but it’s far from the only significant factor that changed the elder Wilson brother’s outlook on life. December 1964 was a busy time for Brian as ‘All Summer Long’ is also the last album to be made before Brian gets married for the first time, to girlfriend Marilyn Rovell, the same month as his breakdown (no jokes about marriages and breakdowns please). There are multiple references to getting married and settling down on this album and it may be that, as a newly married man looking for stability rather than escape, Brian never wanted to go back to the ‘girls on the beach’ style lyrics of this album; he’s a ‘grown up’ now. Note the fact that an old song, ‘We’ll Run Away’ written a couple years earlier, finally make the album now that Brian really is getting married and can open his heart about such things and the fact that the nostalgic title track comes complete with the line ‘Remember when I spilt coke all over your blouse?’ (exactly what a nervous Brian did the night he met Marilyn, a Beach Boys fan, backstage at an early gig!) In 1964 marriage was the most grown-up thing a young-ish person in America could legally do (apart from join the army at least), so it’s no surprise how ‘adult’ many of these songs are becoming, a point often missed in discussions of this album.

A third factor is that it was during early sessions for this record – during the recording of ‘I Get Around’ in fact – that the band parted ways with their manager and (for 3/5ths of the band) father Murray (they do work with him again on isolated songs, notably ‘Help Me, Rhonda’, but he’s on call when and if they want him rather than part of the studio furniture, as it were). If Murray had had his way the band would still have been doing clones of ‘Surfin’ for every single since 1961, so his absence means that for the first time Brian feels ‘free’ to experiment with his sound without having to be catchy and commercial every single time – although its notable how, for this first ‘solo’ album at least, the band are sticking rigidly to their successful formula. Murray was always difficult to work with, especially for Brian and the rest of the band but also for the engineers and sound mixers who kept being interrupted trying to do their jobs, so the break was inevitable sooner rather than later. That said, it shouldn’t be underestimated how hard it was for the band to finally bring things to a head and call time on their ‘partnership’ – Daddy Wilson was a force to be reckoned with and seemed to approach the band with a confusing mix of pride and jealousy (a filed songwriter himself, with only one pre-Beach Boys recording to his credit, he must have looked on Brian’s sudden swirly rise in the business particularly bitterly). The end result of this divide is not good: Murray, betrayed, fumed at home for a few years in a great depression and then, when the band began to fall commercially in 1967, sold the publishing writes to Brian and Mike’s songs for a paltry sum without even consulting his son and nephew first, although he does make sort of peace with his sons over the next few years (one of the band’s greatest ever songs and their last for Capitol, ‘Break Away’, is the sole collaboration between father and son in the band’s canon). Freed of the need to be a ‘teenager’ for the sake of selling records because his dad told him to, Brian did what every teenager with free choice has always done – he grows into an adult. As a result there are songs and topics on this album that wouldn’t even have been considered in albums past (is that why the two-year old and faintly risqué song about teenagers running away to get marries ends up on the album?) and the first few tentative steps into writing and recording something deeper.

A fourth and final factor is the spectre of Beatlemania reaching America and giving the band serious competition as feel good purveyors of youthful energy and pop records for the first time. The two bands were linked together from the first (this week marks not only 50 years since the first Beatles single ‘Love Me Do’, it marks 50 years since the Beach Boys’ first album ‘Surfin’ Safari’) although sadly the band’s lack of credibility after the failure of Smile and the no-show at the Monterey Pop Festival means few fans today remember that in their homeland the Boys had a two and a half year advantage before the Beatles' first American appearance on the Ed Sullivan show in February 1964. Brian really ups his game from hereon in, wanting to match the fab four with his fab five note for note and in retrospect its amazing how Beatlely the next run of singles from this album’s ‘I Get Around’ sounds. What’s less reported is how much the Beatles and indeed the whole of the British Invasion were influenced by the Beach Boys who – in the years up to 1967 – were exotic and ‘cool’ in Europe despite those dated striped shirts (Mick Jagger plugged this album’s ‘I Get Around’ almost as much as his own songs in mid 1964 and helped make it the band’s first top 10 hit in the UK). Listen to ‘Beatles For Sale’ released six months after this album, with its mix of melancholy, determination and goodtime fun and its interesting clearer ringing production and you can hear more than a few similarities (this album in turn seems to lead on from ‘I’ll Be Back’, the downbeat finale to ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ released in tandem with this record).

‘All Summer Long’ is, also not coincidentally, the last Beach Boys album to sound ‘rushed’ - the band’s ninth album in a little under two years (counting the ‘In Concert’ and ‘Christmas’ records), it’s the last to feature surfing instrumentals and almost the last of those weird filler what-the-hell-is-this-doing-on-the-record? moments with the outtake special ‘Our Favourite Recording Sessions’. Brian and the gang will really start to grow from the next record ‘Today’ (a real fan favourite full of orchestral ballads and more adult lyrics about love and life) and within another year will be making the most grown up music of any band ever made, so much so that even by Christmas 1964 albums like ‘All Summer Long’ were becoming forgotten along the way. Ignore it at your peril however: as the first Beach Boys album recorded after Beatlemania reached American shores (and gave Brian serious competition for the first time), it shows signs of a band straining at the leash to get into heavier, harder material. Like all Beach Boys albums released in the first half of the 60s, half of this album is majestic inspiration – the other is hurried hackneyed perspiration (and fans have argued ever since about which is which).

For me the biggest practical development on this album is that Brian and cousin Mike Love have gone back to working together again. For much of 1963 and 64 Brian had been writing with partners – the Love’s neighbour Gary Usher and radio DJ and car enthusiast Roger Christian, two men who helped Brian develop a teenage vernacular and breathless enthusiasm for life that he didn’t always share (and who both failed to get on with band manager ‘Dad’ Murray Wilson). He’ll go on to work on songs with more ‘adult’ writers like Tony Asher (‘Pet Sounds’) and Van Dyke Parks (‘Smile’), but for a couple of years his closest companion for his feelings was cousin Mike. Despite the bad press Love gets from fans and critics (his decision to ‘split’ the reformed band and go back to ‘his’ line-up this very month hasn’t exactly warmed the band’s audiences towards him either), his lyrics on this album and the next two (‘Today’ and ‘Summer Nights’) are perfect fits for the music, adding a more upbeat feel that still doesn’t overwhelm or obscure the slight melancholy in Brian’s choice of melody. ‘I Get Around’ is the best known example from this album, turning teenage frustration about being trapped into a groovy song about escaping to new horizons, but it’s by no means the only one on the album which marks perhaps the high point (along with ‘Today’) of the cousin’s ability to get the best out of each other.
In fact, frustration and regret is a bit of a recurring them on this album, for all the images of summer living, loving and laughter. ‘All Summer Long’ doesn’t simply celebrate summer, it mourns the fact that it can’t last forever; ‘We’ll Run Away’ is a template for ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice?’ where a teenage couple wish they were old enough to marry without their parent’s permission; ‘Wendy’ is a girl who no longer cares for the narrator the way she once used to; ‘Do You Remember?’ sounds surprisingly nostalgic and upset that the way of life of the 1950s is fading while even the use of outtakes on ‘Our Favourite Recording Sessions’ is about the frustrations of the band trying time after time to make things perfect (as well as the chance to have fun with the sound effects cupboard). Considering that this album came out in mid 1964 – as a near contemporary of such albums as ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ ‘Stay With The Hollies’ ‘Rolling Stones’ and ‘The Kinks’ – its impressively ahead of its time in treating pop music as a medium to express ‘real’ emotions, not simply escapist fun. The Beach Boys had already reached further than most bands in trying to encapsulate the joy and energy of being a teenager in early 1960s America, and seemingly with this record they’re trying to capture the ‘full’ range of life, not just the ‘good’ bits.

To be honest, though, ‘All Summer Long’ is also and simply really good fun – albeit with melancholic twinges. Songs like ‘I Get Around’ and ‘Little Honda’ feature the same old Beach Boys energy and enthusiasm sounding louder than ever before, thanks to some cooking backing tracks (this album is one of the last to feature the band playing their own parts) and a particularly sparkling production (the Capitol Beach Boys start off in 1962 sounding a long way behind, say, EMI, but catch up quickly – unlike Decca, who don’t quite twig how to record rock and roll groups in a different way to classical music till at least 1967!) The mass band harmonies are almost always used here for energy and extra pizzazz, something that Brian knew his rivals couldn’t compete with, and even silly songs like ‘Drive-In’ sound amazingly big and ‘heavy’ for the day and age. In fact, for all the talk now about what a ‘stepping stone’ to greatness and depth this album represents, if you’d been around in 1964 and bought this album you’d probably be shocked most by how upbeat and powerful ‘All Summer Long’ is, even on its saddest moments.

Talking of sad moments (and boy did this band have their fair share of those!) as I write this article about a week or so after the news that, yet again, the Beach Boys are split and the differences between cousins Brian Wilson and Mike Love have put an end to an unexpected treat of a reunion. In terms of recording, it’s no great loss – the newest (as I write) Beach Boys album ‘That’s Why God Made The Radio’ is almost all garbage and not even up to the last handful of Brian Wilson solo albums, never mind the band’s own high standards (the fact that fans are calling it ‘the band’s best album since 1981’ merely shows up how bad the albums from ‘Keepin’ The Summer Alive’ onwards are). But in terms of the band’s history it’s a devastating blow as, time after time, this band have overcome obstacle and obstacle and still refused to ‘back down’ and – at long last – they appeared to be heading back into Summer away from the cold dark Winter that’s existed since about 1967. What’s interesting to me is that, by and large, the themes of the record follow on where ‘All Summer Long’ left off, returning to this album’s themes of departing sun shine and bad times around the corner (it even ends with a song called ‘Summer Gone’). In Brian’s head, at least, this album is where people’s idea of what the Beach Boys sounded like ended – and the album he wanted to return to some 48 years on.

In a nutshell, then, ‘All Summer long’ is the latest in a series of gradually improving Beach Boys albums that all show gradually increasing sophistication, nous and intelligence (although I must admit I still have a soft spot for ‘Surfin’ Safari’, the earliest AAA album of all and the template for so much of what’s to come). If you’re a modern fan, though, then you’re still better off collecting what comes after this album: ‘Pet Sounds’ is the album everyone tells you is the masterpiece but it’s actually the four albums either side of it that represent the best of this band in their heyday (‘Today’ ‘Summer Nights’ ‘Wild Honey’ and ‘Friends’ – we’ll ignore the troubled history of Smile/Smiley Smile for now) and later albums like ‘Sunflower’ and ‘Holland’ that have the most staying power. If it’s an understanding of what life was like in 1964, however (happiness and excitement, tinged with a fear of the future) then it’s this album and ‘Beatles For Sale’ you want to go straight out and buy, bittersweet albums both. And if you’re here simply for the sea and surf songs then you’ve made the perfect choice, with some of the best songs on the subject the band ever made – along with a few instances of hurried filler. Yes ‘All Summer Long’ is far from a perfect record, but it’s easier to excuse its faults than most, both because of the OTT recording schedule (four albums a year – artists are hard working with an album every four years now) and for its sheer likeability.

‘I Get Around’ is a masterpiece in miniature, an urgent driven song that on first hearing seems to be prime period upbeat Beach Boys, with shimmering harmonies a catchy chorus and a dynamic arrangement that makes each section of the song hit you flat in the ears. It’s like the Beach Boys of the past two years but amplified and exaggerated, so that all the elements here are really designed to knock out the listener, rather than merely entice them into buying the record. However the more you analyse this song the more you sense an air of unease and discontent: the narrator isn’t driving around for fun like he did on ‘Little Deuce Coupe’ et al, he’s frustrated, ‘tired of driving up and down the same old strip’. Mike Love’s lyrics about wanting to ‘find a new place where the kids are hip’ are interesting, the closest he came to channelling his cousin’s feelings and might well have been written after talking with Brian about the Beatles coming along and shaking up the music scene in 1964. In fact, it’s tempting to see this whole song as a metaphor for the band’s position in the music charts, ‘left alone’ by their local competitors and ‘making real good bread’ (that’s money to you and me) but wanting more. It’s probably no coincidence that the Beach Boys all but leave their career-long California setting after recording this song and really do find a ‘new place’ to write about – but then again it might just be that, as touring went on and the band got ever bigger, they had less time to stay at home and be influenced by life in Hawthorne, CA. Irrespective of what inspired it, this is one of the more arresting Beach Boys songs, making the most of Mike’s angry lead, Brian’s sweet falsetto and some of the best group harmonies the band ever gave. The use of a stomping percussion-heavy feel on the verses helps add a real punchy feel to the song, too, while the hand-clapping and foot stomping bring s to mind the teenage gangs of the 1950s rather than the slightly more laidback 60s. A fine melody that mixes frustration with hope and optimism is the icing on the cake of what was, deservedly, one of the band’s biggest hits of the period, both their first #1 in America and their first top 10 single in the UK. Disappointingly the song has only ever been released in stereo and the master tapes are missing from the archives so it can’t be remixed (the backing track released on the ’30 Years Of Good Vibrations’ box set is actually the ‘re-recording’ made for the ‘In Concert’ album and smothered in screams!)

‘All Summer Long’ is best known to modern audiences from its appearance in the film ‘American Graffiti’, where it appears over the credits as a slightly edgy goodbye to innocence (as well as Summer). At the time of release, however, it would surely have been taken on face value as a very Beach Boysy song full of references to summer activities and endless fun, one with several familiar trademarks (glossy band harmonies, dappy lyrics, a cute tune) and some new ideas (a xylophone accompaniment and a curious orchestral solo where a saxophone answers some passing flutes that are never heard again the rest of the song. Many fans rate it as a favourite, although I can’t say its high on my list of favourite Beach Boys songs – the lyrics are too generic , the tempo too ploddy and the vocals too disinterested for one thing. But what I do like is the idea that now the summer is over all the couple have left are memories and the various autobiographical allusions that give this song a little extra sophistication (as mentioned above, Brian really did accidentally spill coke over his date – who turned out later to be his wife). It’s hard to imagine Mike’s narrator character being that clumsy and apologetic, however, and by Beach Boys standards even the backing vocals are lacklustre (Dennis has been brought to the front – that’s him on the ‘not for us now!’ tag – and sounds as if he’s worse for wear and has been out drinking all night; an event not all that unlikely to be honest!) The melody too seems to be all on one note, with simplistic descending chords that don’t really compare to the rest of the album – certainly the track we’ve just had. A bit of a disappointment to be honest. You can hear a 15 second snippet of an outtake from this song on the forthcoming ‘Our Favourite Recording Sessions’ where the band sound in a particularly tired and ratty mood – perhaps that explains why this song never quite gets going?

‘Hushabye’ is a glorious lullaby ballad of the type you just don’t hear past about 1966 (when the nation’s youth never slept!) It’s actually an obscure song by a band named The Mystics who just about scraped into the top 20 in 1959, which probably caught Brian’s ear because of the similarities to his own beloved Four Freshman. The Beach Boys cover is superior in every way, speeding up the tempo to make the most of the song’s pretty tune and turning in some of their sweetest and most complex harmonies in the backing. It’s Brian’s who really shines, however, with a jaw-droppingly fragile and difficult falsetto part that carries on a fulltwo octaves higher than the rest of the band (who, admittedly, do sing in a lower register than normal). The melody is a good one and the band make the most out of it, with even Mike Love turning down his anger and energy to sound sufficiently sensitive and romantic on the middle eight. All that said, though, this song fails as a lullaby: surely anyone hearing this would be too excited to go to sleep?! This song is best heard on the ’30 Years Of Good Vibrations’ box set where a curious vocal/band split means you can listen to the stunning harmonies a capella if you hold only one headphone in your ear – this, surely, is the sound of heaven.

‘Little Honda’ is another of my favourites, a simplistic song about a scooter rescued by virtue of a stunning band performance and a dynamic arrangement that makes even a non-car owning pedestrian like me want to take to the road. The band planned it as their Spring 1964 single before getting cold feet (they were probably right not to release it despite its commerciality; it appeared on the EP ‘4 By The Beach Boys’ which did well in the charts, but with ‘Wendy’ the song most fans bought it for according to over-the-counter requests; a cover by Brian’s old friend and writing partner Gary Usher under the name ‘The Hondells’ struggled to #10 in the charts; many radio stations would probably have banned it fort advertising too – ‘Honda’ being a manufacturing name – indeed the band actually sang ‘Little Cycle’ when plugging this song on the Andy Williams show in 1964). I love it though, as this track sums up everything the Beach Boys were so good at, namely making the ordinary seem extraordinary; the driving echo-drenched guitar work gives Phil Spector a ride for his money, the central guitar riff would sound at home on any heavy metal album and the Mike Love’s double tracked lead is perhaps his masterpiece, warm and enthusiastic and effortlessly handles what’s a pretty difficult part to sing (just listen to how much Ray Davies struggles double-tracking on the first two Kinks albums from this period). Listen out too for Brian’s subtle use of the band humming their way throughout the song, making the occasionally difficult chord changes pretty easy to navigate around and Dennis’ double-tracked second vocal (‘Faster!’) that’s one of his earliest lead parts on a Beach Boys record. The end result is a fantastic piece of craftsmanship that overcomes the often simplified words (it’s certainly no ‘I Get Around’) and a shoe-in for the band’s best car/bike song (along with the forgotten ‘Our Car Club’). Every Beach Boys reference book I’ve consulted seems to be in some doubt as to who shouts ‘Go!’ at the start of the song – surely it’s Mike, not Dennis as most of them suspect; what do you think?

‘We’ll Run Away’ is another strong song and one of the band’s prettiest early period ballads if you’re in the right mood of all that treacle. Effectively a first version of ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice?’, another song where a loving couple discuss how great it would be to be older, I actually prefer it as its innocence seems more genuine and heartfelt (whereas the Pet Sounds epic always sounded forced, ugly and angular and badly arranged to my ears). The writing co-credit to Gary Usher suggests that its probably one of Brian’s earlier songs from 1962 or thereabouts, although it might have been re-written since. It’s actually among Brian’s more sophisticated pieces of the era, with a lovely sing-songy melody that sounds like one of Paul McCartney’s and perfectly cast for Brian’s sighing lead part. The lyrics, too, are pretty special, full of complicated rhymes halfway through each line that’s awfully hard to pull of across a full song and yet sound entirely heartfelt, especially when the teenagers turn on their sets of parents and point out that they too married young and ‘ran away’ to get married. The only thing that lets this song down is a rather boring ‘aaaah’ backing harmony part and a slightly cloying backing of strummed acoustic guitar and organ that sounds like its walked out of a 1950s beach movie. Still, there’s a great song in here somewhere and it would be odd indeed if this song was left off five earlier horribly rushed and tight-to-deadline albums (did Murray worry that the song might encourage teenagers to actually ‘run away and get married’ – and did Brian push for its inclusion on an album after his dad was fired?)

‘Carl’s Big Chance’ is the band’s last surfing instrumental and possibly their best (along with the forgotten ‘Moon Dawg’ from their first album). The band have come a long way from ‘Surfin’ USA’ where instrumentals (originals and covers) make up for half the record and its noticeable how out of place this song sounds, like a relic from another era. Like many instrumentals, it goes on too long and would have benefitted from lyrics, but there’s a nice Chuck Berry-ish groove to enjoy, a terrific drum break every few bars (probably not Dennis by the sound of it) and the chance to enjoy Carl Wilson playing unadorned (even if he muffs up about three notes in and has to correct it). A kind of ‘brother’ song to Denny’s Drums’, it could be that Brian is trying to put his siblings into the spotlight a bit more across these records or simply that the band are pushed for time and need something quick. The song was originally titled ‘Memphis Beach’ apparently, although who changed it and why is sadly not recorded. Filler you won’t want to hear too many times, but not as obnoxious as some of the filler on earlier Beach Boys albums (the run of ‘nothing’ songs towards the end of previous LP ‘Shut Down Volume 2’ all but brought that album to a halt).

‘Wendy’ is one of the album’s better known tracks, an ominous tale of betrayal by a girl that the narrator thought loved him madly that definitely points the lyrical path forward to ‘Pet Sounds’ and ‘Smile’ by acknowledging slightly deeper emotions than the norm. Like the forthcoming ‘California Girls’ it features a fascinating ‘slow-motion’ opening that bears no resemblance to the rest of the song but certainly catches the ear and may well have been an experiment by Brian to seed what he could ‘get away with’. The lyrics and melody to this song are a tad more generic than the opening suggests, with such awful rhymes as ‘I can’t picture you with him, the future looks awful dim’ and the production is sloppy (there’s a much discussed cough in the middle eight that’s mixed louder than anything else on the record and some murmuring in the background that illustrates how time must have been running short). Not content to ruin ‘We’ll Run Away’ with an unnecessary organ part the band another one here, too, as a solo of all things – cheap and hammy it ruins the rest of the song. But for all her faults ‘Wendy’ is still quite a likeable song, full of exotic and unexpected shifts in chord and key that only a mass choir like The Beach Boys en masse could make compelling. It was also a big hit – well, it helped get the ‘4 by 4’ EP up to 44 in the charts on the back of fans asking specifically for this song anyway! Brian obviously had a fondness for this song as he named his second daughter (born 1969) after this song (she ended up part of the hit trio Wilson-Phillips in the 1990s along with her sister Carnie and Papa John Phillips’ daughter Chynna).

‘Do You Remember?’ is surely unique among albums released in 1964 – while everyone else is looking ahead to the future with excitement and knows that rock and will never die, the Beach Boys look to the past and admit that, yes, old rockers can fade away in obscurity (a brave idea in 1960s America). The band are clearly enjoying themselves on a song that musically sounds more like Jerry Lee Lewis despite lyrical references to Little Richard and Chuck Berry. Many fans have disputed this song’s distorted take on rock history (Dick Clark mentioned not Alan Freed and no references to Buddy Holly or Bill Haley) but remember this is 1964 and we hadn’t had any of the hundreds of documentaries about the roots of rock and roll and magazine articles published both sides of the channel. This is very much Brian Wilson’s take on rock history and in fact he only has a verse to mention anybody – the rest of the song uses the familiar in-concert trick of getting each of the band to sing a part a line at a time. The result is a lot of fun and a good chance to hear the band’s influences, although you’d have to look till ‘Add Some Music To Your Day’ in 1970 to hear Brian properly writing about what music means to him – this is just a bit of fun for the band and fans. Mike Love again turns in one of his career best vocals and its fun to hear the rest of the band sound like a 1950s doo wop group, although Brian sounds unusually ropey here, struggling to cope with the double-tracking Mike seems to have taken to so fast.

‘The Girls On The Beach’ is pure Beach Boys, however, a soft (some would say soppy) Four Freshman type song about, well, girls on the beach. Musically this is ‘Surfer Girl’ with some lyrics from ‘California Girls’ attached, but sadly neither words nor melody are all that inspired. The highlight of the song is the chance for Dennis Wilson to get a whole middle eight to himself and he out-sings even brother Brian on a song that’s become something of a retrospective hit (it might amaze new fans to learn that this song never came out as a single – and wasn’t even thought strong enough to include on the EP). There are some truly questionable rhymes here (‘On the beach you’ll find them there, in the sun and salty air’) and the song manages to last the full distance without actually saying anything (except that, gosh, girls like to go to beaches) and yet the more you analyse this simple-sounding song the more you realise how ridiculously complex and complicated it is. Despite nicking the tune from Disney hit ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ for the second time (see ‘Surfer Girl’) this song passes through more chord and key changes than the Coalition Government go through U-turns and is wonderfully difficult and challenging by mid-1964 standards (The Beatles won’t be hitting songs this difficult until ‘Revolver’ two years later!) For all that, though, this song is one you admire rather than like or indeed love, with some of the worst lyrics of any Beach Boys song and a woefully slow tempo that slows the while thing to a crawl. Perhaps Brian was getting just a little bit too clever for his own good here? The Beach Boys appeared in their own film in this period, named ‘Girls On The Beach’ where they sing this song, ‘Little Honda’ and the past classic ‘Lonely Sea’ – it’s pretty awful and not recommended viewing unless you’re a real surfer yourself but what’s interesting is how quickly the band got away with disowning it (you’d expect this record to be named after the film, for instance). Complex filler.

‘Drive-In’ is one of the simplest and possibly dumbest songs the Beach Boys ever did – in fact the lyrics, celebrating kissing girls at drive-in movie theatres sounds more like a spoof lyric than a real effort, especially the knowing way Mike Love sings the lead vocal. But heartfelt or jokey, it’s still a great song with a driving rocking backing track and some of the best band harmonies on the record. The band sound like they had a lot of fun recording this song – they even re-use the melody for an aborted version of ‘Little Saint Nick’ they record during the band’s next album ‘Beach Boys Christmas’ that comes close to eclipsing the real thing (unreleased till the 1990s its now on most of the interminable re-issues of the Beach Boys’ festive material every Xmas). The song’s lyrics find the narrator being teased for forgetting the film plot (he was too busy kissing his girlfriend to notice!), fogging up the windows of his car with his warm breath and getting scared by the security guard, spending all his money on expensive food and – ridiculously – hiding his buddies in the boot of his car and watching them ‘look awful stupid getting chased through the lot’. Listen out for the daring ‘silence’ before the last verse (Brian played around with gaps a lot in this period – the single ‘The Little Girl I Once Knew’ from 1965 goes even further and was a real no-no at the time because so many radio stations would play albums all the way through and weren’t allowed to have silence on the air in case listeners changed stations). The line ‘Only you can prevent forest fires’ has confused many a modern fan, but I know my animation and its actually from a Barney Bear education short shown before a lot of teenage fans in the early 60s (fires in forests are an occupational hazard in America and can become unmanageable really quickly; that’s not the case over here in the UK where our dumbwit politicians have sold most of it off to developers). This isn’t the Beach Boys at their deepest, as you can probably tell, but if I have to listen to filler songs then I’d rather hear a daft but fun piece like this than the auto-pilot of the last song – and the sheer weirdness of the next.

‘Our Favourite Recording Sessions’ is the middle of – gulp – three spoken word pieces show-horned onto Beach Boys albums in order to fill up another three minutes of precious space. This set of outtakes is at least less arch than the previous album’s ‘Sonny Love vs Cassius Wilson’ (where a very stagey fight takes place between Mike and Brian) and slightly more entertaining than the rather dull interview that appears on next album ‘Today’ (‘Bull Session With The Big Daddy’) but it’s no great revelation. The piece starts with tape engineer Chuck Britz re-winding tape at high speed ( a very sci-fi effect as you can hear), Mike attempting the first verse of ‘Do You Remember?’ and getting the words wrong before breaking off and jokingly suggesting overdubbing some finger popping on the song; Brian tells him his hat ‘makes you look like George Washington’ (this is the period when Mike began wearing hats to hide his bald spot) – Mike less jokingly adopts his best film voice and announces he’ll ‘throw you across the room’; a take of the title track breaks down when Carl accidentally sings the second verse instead of the first (coming up with the rather risqué ‘Teachers in my car, outside your house’ which sets the others into fits of laughter); somebody unknown accidentally breaks a surprisingly husky Brian’s tie-pin; Brian uses the echo chamber to announce Carl Wilson ‘has flown all the way from Hawthorne, California to jump into a 2-bit cup’; finally Brian looks for the note he needs (actually the one that starts the next song on the album) and does some mock-operatic singing. The end result is a fascinating glimpse of the band at work having a bit of joke and speaks volumes about their personal relationships. That said, it really doesn’t belong on a ‘proper’ studio record and spoken word pieces like this are the first to go the moment Brian gets a little extra time to craft his music and make the album he wants to make.

The final track on the album, ‘Don’t Back Down’, is almost eerie in the way it depicts Brian as the hapless surfer fighting overwhelming odds and struggling to overcome his insecurities. The ideas of the song is ‘Don’t back down from that wave’, but seeing as this is the last time surfing or waves are mentioned by the band for some time, it’s clear his thoughts are elsewhere (he’s probably thinking of the competition the Beatles have given him). The band spent a lot more time on this song than they did on most album tracks not earmarked as singles and a completely different (new tune, new words) version mesmerised many when it appeared as a bonus track on the ‘two-fer’ CD re-issue of the ‘All Summer Long’ album in the 1990s because it was so staggeringly different. Interestingly, the ‘cuteness’ of the early version is long gone by the time of this finished version, with some ‘de-dum-de-dum’ harmonies replaced by a chanting ‘Don’t Back Down’ and some new lyrics adding that to fight back waves that big ‘takes guts’ but ‘you’ve got to be a little nuts’. It makes for a very downbeat end to the album and indeed sounds very like The Beatles’ ‘I’ll Be Back’ from ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ from a month earlier, a sad quiet reflective ending to an album ;largely full of amusement and energy. What’s sad, too, is that this is the last time we’ll hear a completely ‘stable’ Brian Wilson on a Beach Boys album and already he seems to know what kind of rollercoaster ride he’s in for for the rest of his life, full of obstacles to be overcome. Eerily Capitol’s first printing of the record sleeve lists this song as ‘Don’t Break Down’, almost as if the record company almost singlehandedly funded by Brian’s band were warning him to do just that. It’s an unsettling song this, without the usual bounce and optimism of the Beach Boys in the pre-1966 days and makes for a rather sad and lonely end to a long string of albums where the band encapsulate everything that was great about being young in the 1960s.

Overall, then, ‘All Summer Long’ reaches both forward and back, building on past success while trying tentatively to add the complexity and the melancholy of later albums for the first time. Despite having the word ‘Summer’ in the title, the summer on this album is all in the past, a ghostly memory that won’t be around much longer when the Winter hits. Brian is progressing at an alarming rate and, for now, the band are just about keeping pace with him (especially cousin Mike whose at his best on this album and ‘Today’), but he doesn’t have the time yet to make his grand opus and while parts of this album hint at what might have been given more time and energy other parts merely point to how tired and fed-up the band must have been six studio albums into a stomach-churningly aggressive record contract. With the two sides scattered randomly across the LP its hard sometimes to realise that it’s by the same band and the problem is that its hard to reconcile the genius of ‘I Get Around’ and ‘Hushabye’ with the amateurs of the title track and ‘Our Favourite Recording Session’. Ignore this album at your peril, however, because it still remains one of the best albums about summer fun and happiness ever written – even with the darker shadows of what’s about to come intact. Overall rating: ♫♫♫♫♫♫ (6/10).

Other Beach Boys reviews on this site you might be interested in:

'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

Essay: The Beach Boys and The American Dream
Five Landmark Concerts and Three Key Cover Versions

Spoken Word Passages On AAA Songs (News, Views and Music Top Ten Issue 165)

The human singing voice carries with it a vast array of emotions, thoughts that cannot be expressed in any other way except opening the lungs and screaming or singing softly to express great loss. But occasionally musicians use their voices (and those of others) in quite different ways, using a normal speaking voice for variety, for comedy, for weirdness or to make a statement. Here, then, are the eight best examples of this we could think of, plus two good tries that, arguably, don’t work very well (keep your hand ready for the ‘skip’ button...) Only one entry per artist (or we’d have a top 50 with Pink Floyd alone) and each entry is listed in order of successfulness (in our opinion, anyway).

Pink Floyd “The Great Gig In The Sky” (from ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ 1973; ‘I am not frightened of dying, anytime will do, I don’t mind’)

‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ is a remarkable album in many ways, but for me its lasting claim to fame isn’t Roger Waters’ acerbic lyrics about the pressures of modern life or David Gilmour’s astonishing guitar solos. It’s the very adult, unique way that spoken word is used throughout the album. In an attempt to make their album more ‘universal’ the band invited a bundle of guests and local faces down to Abbey Road to answer some questions Roger had written out on sheets of cardboard and speak their answers into a microphone. Interviewees included members of Wings (recording ‘Red Rose Speedway’ next door) including Paul McCartney, although only guitarist Henry McCullouch was eventually used. The voice that works best, however, is Jerry Driscoll, the doorman at the famous studios, whose distinctive philosophy is all over this album. This is his crowning moment on the album, ruminating on death when asked by Roger ‘what are your thoughts about dying?’ with his usual aplomb, speech that makes for a great double act with Rick Wright’s beautiful chord sequences.

Small Faces “Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake” side two (an album from 1968; ‘Are you sitting two square fold on you botty? Then we’ll begin...’)

‘Professor’ Stanley Unwin, master of gobbledegook and star of the 1950s, doesn’t seem the obvious choice for a rock and roll album, but then again ‘Ogden’s’ is not your usual rock album. A spoof of every rock opera of the day, its second side tale of Happiness Stan searching for the other half of the moon (which has disappeared in the sky) is taken by many fans at face value today. A very quirky, eccentric English album full of charabancs and hermits and talking flies, it’s the perfect match for Unwin’s ‘upside down’ dialogue, which links all six songs of the suite. Unwin reaches his peak during his link before closer ‘Happydoystoytown’, relating the party that’s taking place to celebrate the return of the moon ‘and dangly’ (‘Little Boy Blue brought his mellotron and left his horn at home’). It’s Unwin’s thoughtful, funny narration that keeps Stan’s story interesting and – though not made for repeated listening – makes ‘Ogden’s the memorable little album it is.

Moody Blues “Late Night Lament” (from ‘Days Of Future Passed’ 1967; ‘Breathe deep the gathering gloom, watch lights fade from every room...’)

The first – and best – spoken word passage from the Moody Blues works best because, more than any other Moodies album, this work really is a ‘suite’ of songs linked by one theme (a period of 24 hours from first light to dusk). Despite containing some of the Moodies’ weakest songs, this album is well loved – partly because it contains ‘ Nights In White Satin’, no doubt, but also partly because of this haunting poem written by drummer Graeme Edge and spoken by keyboardist Mike Pinder. Edge’s poetic words ring more true here than on some of his later, more tongue-in-cheek efforts and the lines about the light of the day disappearing and flickering shadows across the room, leaving onlookers to decide ‘which is right...and which is an illusion’ is one of the band’s most haunting images.

Belle and Sebastian “A Century Of Elvis” (from the EP ‘Lazy Line Painter Jane’ 1997; ‘We were sitting in the living room, on a sofa the wrong way round...’)

‘Oh look there’s Elvis, by the bike sheds...’ The best of the two eccentric spoken word comedy pieces bassist Stuart David came up with for Belle and Sebastian (we covered his spin-off ‘Looper’ albums on these pages a couple of issues back), this song tells the unlikely tale of how the narrator is convinced that a local dog is the re-incarnation of Elvis. Taking the dog home and adopting him, the narrator shows him some conspiracy programmes about Elvis’ demise and adds how much his dad looks like Elvis (both the dog and the rock icon). Stuart’s broad Scottish accent is muted throughout the song, causing the listener to really turn the sound up loud and it’s the whole straightforward ‘well, why wouldn’t he?’ ness of the song that makes it work so well. If the tune sound familiar that’s because its identical to the Stuart Murdoch song ‘A Century Of Fakers’, a track that didn’t actually appear until the next Belle and Sebastian EP ‘3...6...9...Seconds Of Light’ (both pieces are collected on the EP collection ‘Push Barman To Heal Old Wounds’).

The Monkees “Zilch” (from ‘Headquarters’ 1967; ‘Mr Doboliona, Mr Bob Dobalina...’)

The Monkees wasn’t like most television series then or now; improvisation and energy were the name of the game, with the foursome making up many of their lines and ad lobbing their way through often second-rate scripts (especially in the second series). Alas that energy didn’t often make its way onto the band’s albums, which are surprisingly comedy free for a band known for their laughs-a-minute on TV. ‘Headquarters’, the album where the band had the most control over their own work, comes the closest and even though songs like ‘Zilch’ and ‘Band 6’ confused as many people as they entertained they comes the closest to capturing that free-wheeling Monkees spirit on tape. ‘Zilch’ is my favourite, all four Monkees writing down various random phrases and in-jokes they’d come across while touring or listening to the radio and reciting them all at the same time while trying (unsuccessfully) to fend off the giggles. ‘Never mind the furthermore, the pleas is self defence’ is a phrase Micky had to learn for the TV series and hated; ‘It is of my opinion that the people are intending’ is a phrase Mike heard on the news; ‘Cghina Clipper Calling Alamita’ is something Davy heard while waiting for an aeroplane flight and goodness only knows where Peter first heard ‘Mr Dobolina, Mr Bob Dobolina’. There’s a shocking edit halfway through the piece and a lot of giggles towards the end (the ‘Rhino handmade’ edition of ‘Headquarters’ reveals that its probably because Davy improvises the lines ‘chickens...elephants’ instead of what he should be singing and Micky is busy making up gibberish words). The end result is very 60s and wouldn’t have been attempted today, but as with so much of this website, that’s no bad thing.

Jefferson Airplane “A Small Package Of Great Value Will Come To You Shortly”
(from ‘After Bathing AT Baxters’ 1967; ‘No man is an island...he’s a peninsular!’)

Another very 60s piece, this collage of noise and sound effects by drummer Spencer Dryden is a fascinating insight into life in a recording studio circa 1967. It’s mainly Dryden, Jorma Kaukanen and Jack Casady you hear trading nonsense words and blowing raspberries. The whole piece seems to be going nowhere until the band start trying to go all Shakespeare with the line ‘No man is an island...’ His serious reverie is interrupted by Dryden’s quick wit, adding ‘he’s a peninsular!’ in one of the best punchlines of any AAA album. Truly bizarre, although heard between the equally far-out but rather more serious songs either side of it (‘The Ballad Of You And Me And Pooneil’ and ‘Young Girl Sunday Blues’) its deliciously intoxicating, sounding like the start of an exciting journey that could literally go anywhere (‘Baxters’ remains my favourite Airplane album because, for all its faults, its the freest and most exciting of all the band’s albums, perhaps the most 1967 album of all the albums released that groundbreaking year).

The Kinks “You Make It All Worthwhile” (from ‘A Soap Opera’ 1974; ‘Would you like steam pudding and custard for afters? Darling that would be marvellous!...’)

Ray Davies’ concept album about the ‘star maker’s slow descent across an album from rock icon to tired and jealous office worker crops up a lot on these pages. A cod-musical, it works best on the unscreened television special (still the best thing I’ve ever found on Youtube) where so much more spoken word is added to get the storyline across. While words are used throughout on the lyric booklet and often on album, it’s not until the turning point of ‘You Make It All Worthwhile’ that the loose concept really comes together. The starmaker, aka Norman, comes home tired and stressed from the office and hates his wife’s cooking, before coming to his senses and realising he shouldn’t set his sights so high (her offer of ‘steam pudding and custard for afters’ is met with the line ‘darling, that would be marvellous!’ If nothing else, this little section adds a poignancy and warmth to a record that doesn’t sustain it across the whole LP.

Oasis “Fuckin’ In The Bushes” (from ‘Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants’ 2000; ‘Nice, life, bright, music...I’m all for it!’)

Noel Gallagher has always been one of rock’s biggest historians, knowing not just his Beatles and Stones and Sex Pistols but interested in all the key changing points of the past five decades. The Isle Of Wight Festival might not strike the average worldwide fan as the most important nexus point in time, but for us UK fans its the closest we had to a ‘Woodstock’. Unseen for 25 years, the film of the festival (‘Message To Love’) was finally finished and screened in 1995 – just when Oasis were at their commercial peak – and the 1960s were all around once more (its no coincidence that the Stones’ Rock’ n’ Roll Circus, unseen since being filmed in 1968, was also screened a year later). The organisers thought audience members breaking down security put up for their own good and sitting on hills to avoid paying the entrance fees were a con; some of the audience, thrilled by tales of Woodstock and the idea that ‘music should be free’ tore them down and set burger vans alight. The result was more like a war zone than a peace and love festival, although what’s curious if you’ve seen the film is how supportive the (mainly OAP) locals are of the own affair. The quote above is from an elderly lady who loves the idea that the youth of the day hate war (she’s of a generation to be toiuched by both world wars), but its set against the rather more sneering tones of a festival organiser who adds ‘We put this festival on with a lot of love for you pigs...if you want to break our walls down, then you can go to hell’). A complete one-off in the Oasis canon, this largely instrumental song sounds like a war being fought between good and evil, with neither gaining the upper hand – a bit like the troubled (but under-rated) fourth album it comes from.

Simon and Garfunkel “Voices Of Old People” (from ‘Bookends’ 1968; ‘I got little in this world; I give honestly without regret...’)

‘Bookends’ first side is Paul Simon’s writing at its best. Looking at the lifespan of a human being, it looks at youth growing older and reaching old age, his ideals worn out, his passion spent. It’s a masterful creation for a songwriter only aged 26 and is spoilt by just this one song. Art Garfunkel, in love with the idea of the album, takes it upon himself to visit a local old folk’s home in America and capture the lost enthusiasm for life and the narrowed vision of small struggles for survival on tape for real. Alas his four minutes’ worth of war veterans bad-mouthing the care they’ve been given and re-counting all the unhappy moments in their lives works better on paper than it does on the record, where it rather undoes the good work of the middle-aged song ‘Overs’. The sad fact is, none of these people had the chance for redemption – some died before the record came out and certainly all of them are long since dead now – and somehow that gets in the way of the record’s main motif, which is basically ‘seize the moment before it goes’. Something of a mistake and in retrospect I’m surprised the record label Columbia allowed it through.

The Beach Boys “Cassius Love vs Sonny Wilson” (from ‘Shut Down Volume 2’ 1964; ‘A fight suddenly breaks out between Brian and Mike...’)

However the worst spoken word moment on an AAA record must surely be this staged fight between Mike Love and Brian Wilson, who were just beginning to have fights for real in the studio. Al Jardine introduces the latest (and worst) spoken word moment made to fill up another three minutes on a Beach Boys record recorded in a hurry (other examples include outtakes and an interview) in such an uncomfortable I-don’t-want-to-do-this-manner that yoiu know something is up and so it proves. Brian attacks Mike for singing through his nose, Mike attacks Brian for sounding like Mickey Mouse, Carl and Dennis chip in half-heartedly on different sides and so it rumbles on, on and on. At last the pair appear to make up, admitting basically that they need each other, but the fade-out of the record still features the two copying each other’s styles (parting shot from Brian ‘at least my nose isn’t on the critical list!’) A truly awful moment. The title refers to a real boxing fight of 1963 by the way – Cassius Clay is better known today as Muhammad Ali, but as he’s never been forced to sing ‘Fun Fun Fun’ for the world to hear (to the best of my knowledge anyway) the comparison seems rather pointless.

A NOW COMPLETE List Of Top Five/Top Ten/TOP TWENTY  Entries 2008-2019
1) Chronic Fatigue songs

2) Songs For The Face Of Bo

3) Credit Crunch Songs

4) Songs For The Autumn

5) National Wombat Week

6) AAA Box Sets

7) Virus Songs

8) Worst AAA-Related DVDs

9) Self-Punctuating Superstar Classics

10) Ways To Know You Have Turned Into A Collector

11) Political Songs

12) Totally Bonkers Concept Albums

13) Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

14) Still Celebrating 40 Years Of The Beatles' White Album

15) AAA Existential Questions

16) Releases Of The Year 2008

17) Top AAA Xmas Songs

18) Notable AAA Gigs

19) All things '20' related for our 20th issue

20) Romantic odes for Valentine's Day

21) Hollies B sides

22) 'Other' BBC Session Albums

23) Beach Boys Rarities Still Not Available On CD

24) Songs John, Paul and George wrote for Ringo's solo albums

25) 5 of the Best Rock 'n' Roll Tracks From The Pre-Beatles Era

26) AAA Autobiographies

27) Rolling Stones B-sides

28) Beatles B-Sides

29) The lllloooonnngggeesssttt AAA songs of all time

30) Kinks B-Sides

31) Abandoned CSNY projects 'wasted on the way'

32) Best AAA Rarities and Outtakes Sets

33) News We've Missed While We've Been Away

34) Birthday Songs for our 1st Anniversary

35) Brightest Album Covers

36) Biggest Recorded Arguments

37) Songs About Superheroes

38) AAA TV Networks That Should Exist

39) AAA Woodtsock Moments

40) Top Moments Of The Past Year As Voted For By Readers

41) Music Segues

42) AAA Foreign Language Songs

43) 'Other' Groups In Need Of Re-Mastering

44) The Kinks Preservation Rock Opera - Was It Really About The Forthcoming UK General Election?

45) Mono and Stereo Mixes - Biggest Differences

46) Weirdest Things To Do When A Band Member Leaves

47) Video Clips Exclusive To Youtube (#1)

48) Top AAA Releases Of 2009

49) Songs About Trains

50) Songs about Winter

51) Songs about astrology plus horoscopes for selected AAA members

52) The Worst Five Groups Ever!

53) The Most Over-Rated AAA Albums

54) Top AAA Rarities Exclusive To EPs

55) Random Recent Purchases (#1)

56) AAA Party Political Slogans

57) Songs To Celebrate 'Rock Sunday'

58) Strange But True (?) AAA Ghost Stories

59) AAA Artists In Song

60) Songs About Dogs

61) Sunshiney Songs

62) The AAA Staff Play Their Own Version Of Monoploy/Mornington Crescent!

63) What 'Other' British Invasion DVDs We'd Like To See

64) What We Want To Place In Our AAA Time Capsule

65) AAA Conspiracy Theroies

66) Weirdest Things To Do Before - And After - Becoming A Star

67) Songs To Tweet To

68) Greatest Ever AAA Solos

69) John Lennon Musical Tributes

70) Songs For Halloween

71) Earliest Examples Of Psychedelia

72) Purely Instrumental Albums

73) AAA Utopias

74) AAA Imaginary Bands

75) Unexpected AAA Cover Versions

76) Top Releases of 2010

77) Songs About Snow

78) Predictions For 2011

79) AAA Fugitives

80) AAA Home Towns

81) The Biggest Non-Musical Influences On The 1960s

82) AAA Groups Covering Other AAA Groups

83) Strange Censorship Decisions

84) AAA Albums Still Unreleased on CD

85) Random Recent Purchases (#2)

86) Top AAA Music Videos

87) 30 Day Facebook Music Challenge

88) AAA Documentaries

89) Unfinished and 'Lost' AAA Albums

90) Strangest AAA Album Covers

91) AAA Performers Live From Mars (!)

92) Songs Including The Number '100' for our 100th Issue

93) Most Songs Recorded In A Single Day

94) Most Revealing AAA Interviews

95) Top 10 Pre-Fame Recordings

96) The Shortest And Longest AAA Albums

97) The AAA Allstars Ultimate Band Line-Up

98) Top Songs About Sports

99) AAA Conversations With God

100) AAA Managers: The Good, The Bad and the Financially Ugly

101) Unexpected AAA Cameos

102) AAA Words You can Type Into A Caluclator

103) AAA Court Cases

104) Postmodern Songs About Songwriting

105) Biggest Stylistic Leaps Between Albums

106) 20 Reasons Why Cameron Should Go!

107) The AAA Pun-Filled Cookbook

108) Classic Debut Releases

109) Five Uses Of Bird Sound Effects

110) AAA Classic Youtube Clips Part #1

111) Part #2

112) Part #3

113) AAA Facts You Might Not Know

114) The 20 Rarest AAA Records

115) AAA Instrumental Songs

116) Musical Tarot

117) Christmas Carols

118) Top AAA Releases Of 2011

119) AAA Bands In The Beano/The Dandy

120) Top 20 Guitarists #1

121) #2

122) 'Shorty' Nomination Award Questionairre

123) Top Best-Selling AAA Albums

124) AAA Songs Featuring Bagpipes

125) A (Hopefully) Complete List Of AAA Musicians On Twitter

126) Beatles Albums That Might Have Been 1970-74 and 1980

127) DVD/Computer Games We've Just Invented

128) The AAA Albums With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

129) The AAA Singles With The Most Weeks At #1 in the UK

130) Lyric Competition (Questions)

131) Top Crooning Classics

132) Funeral Songs

133) AAA Songs For When Your Phone Is On Hold

134) Random Recent Purchases (#3)

135) Lyric Competition (Answers)

136) Bee Gees Songs/AAA Goes Disco!

137) The Best AAA Sleevenotes (And Worst)

138) A Short Precise Of The Years 1962-70

139) More Wacky AAA-Related Films And Their Soundtracks

140) AAA Appearances On Desert Island Discs

141) Songs Exclusive To Live Albums

142) More AAA Songs About Armageddon

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This week’s top ten honours the humble motor car. The death trap on wheels, the metaphor for freedom, the put-down of capitalism, a source of...

This week we’re going to have a look at the 10 AAA singles that spent the most weeks at number on the American chart ‘Billboard’ – and it makes for...

Following on from last issue’s study of the American Billboard charts, here’s a look at which AAA albums spent the most weeks on the chart. The...

There are many dying arts in our modern world: incorruptible politicians, faith that things are going to get better and the ability to make decent...

This week we’ve decided to dedicate our top ten to those unsung heroes of music, the session musicians, whose playing often brings AAA artists (and...

Naturally we hold our AAA bands in high esteem in these articles: after all, without their good taste, intelligence and humanity we’d have nothing to...

What do you do when you’ve left a multi-million selling band and yet you still feel the pull of the road and the tours and the playing to audiences...

‘The ATOS Song’ (You’re Not Fit To Live)’ (Mini-Review) Dear readers, we don’t often feature reviews of singles over albums or musicians who aren’t...

In honour of this week’s review of an album released to cash in on a movie soundtrack (only one of these songs actually appears in ‘Easy Rider’...and...

Hic! Everyone raise a glass to the rock stars of the past and to this week’s feature...songs about alcolholic beverages! Yes that’s right, everything...

154) The human singing voice carries with it a vast array of emotions, thoughts that cannot be expressed in any other way except opening the lungs and...

Everyone has a spiritual home, even if they don’t actually live there. Mine is in a windy, rainy city where the weather is always awful but the...

Having a family does funny things to some musicians, as we’ve already seen in this week’s review (surely the only AAA album actually written around...

Some artists just have no idea what their best work really is. One thing that amazes me as a collector is how consistently excellent many of the...

159) A (Not That) Short Guide To The 15 Best Non-AAA Bands
160) The Greatest AAA Drum Solos (Or Near Solos!)
161) AAA Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame Acceptance Speeches
162) AAA Re-Recordings Of Past Songs
163) A Coalition Christmas (A Fairy Tale)
164) AAA Songs About Islands
165) The AAA Review Of The Year 2012

166) The Best AAA Concerts I Attended
167) Tributes To The 10 AAA Stars Who Died The Youngest

168) The First 10 AAA Songs Listed Alphabetically

171) The 10 Best Songs From The Psychedelia Box-Sets ‘Nuggets’ and ‘Nuggets Two’

172) The 20 Most Common Girl’s Names In AAA Song Titles (With Definitions) 

180) First Recordings By Future AAA Stars

185) A Tribute To Storm Thorgerson Via The Five AAA Bands He Worked With

188) Surprise! Celebrating 300 Album Reviews With The Biggest 'Surprises' Of The Past Five Years Of Alan's Album Archives!

190) Comparatively Obscure First Compositions By AAA Stars

193) Evolution Of A Band: Comparing First Lyric With Last Lyric:

200) The Monkees In Relation To Postmodernism (University Dissertation)

202) Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain': Was It About One Of The AAA Crew?

217) AAA 'Christmas Presents' we'd most like to have next year

221) Dr Who and the AAA (Five Musical Links)

222) Five Random Recent Purchases

223) AAA Grammy Nominees

224) Ten AAA songs that are better heard unedited and in full

225) The shortest gaps between AAA albums

226) The longest gaps between AAA albums

227) Top ten AAA drummers

228) Top Ten AAA Singles (In Terms of 'A' and 'B' Sides)

229) The Stories Behind Six AAA Logos

230) AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!! The Best Ten AAA Screams

231) An AAA Pack Of Horses

232) AAA Granamas - Sorry, Anagrams!

233) AAA Surnames and Their Meanings

234) 20 Erroneous AAA Album Titles

235) The Best AAA Orchestral Arrangements

236) Top 30 Hilariously Misheard Album Titles/Lyrics

237) Ten controversial AAA sackings - and whether they were right

238) A Critique On Critiquing - In Response To Brian Wilson

239) The Ten MusicianS Who've Played On The Most AAA Albums

240) Thoughts on #CameronMustGo

241) Random Recent Purchases (Kinks/Grateful Dead/Nils Lofgren/Rolling Stones/Hollies) 

242) AAA Christmas Number Ones 

243) AAA Review Of The Year 2014 (Top Releases/Re-issues/Documentaries/DVDs/Books/Songs/ Articles  plus worst releases of the year)

244) Me/CFS Awareness Week 2015

245) Why The Tory 2015 Victory Seems A Little...Suspicious

246) A Plea For Peace and Tolerance After The Attacks on Paris - and Syria

247) AAA Review Of The Year 2015

248) The Fifty Most Read AAA Articles (as of December 31st 2015)

249) The Revised AAA Crossword!

251) Half-A-Dozen Berries Plus One (An AAA Tribute To Chuck Berry)

252) Guest Post: ‘The Skids – Joy’ (1981) by Kenny Brown

254) Guest Post: ‘Supertramp – Some Things Never Change’ by Kenny Brown

255) AAA Review Of The Year 2018

256) AAA Review Of The Year 2019 plus Review Of The Decade 2010-2019

257) Tiermaker

258) #Coronastock

259) #Coronadocstock