Monday 4 July 2016

"The Beach Boys Love You" (1977)

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The Beach Boys "Love You" (1977)

Let Us Go On This Way/Roller Skating Child/Mona/Johnny Carson/Good Time/Honkin' Down The Highway/Ding Dang//Solar System/The Night Was So Young/I'll Bet He's Nice/Let's Put Our Hearts Together/I Wanna Pick You Up/Airplane/Love Is A Woman

For the third review in a row (see the new Monkees and Paul Simon albums last week) the world has gone made for an AAA album I only consider so-so. As it happens, though, this week it's not a new album but an old one: yep, it's the 50th anniversary of 'Pet Sounds', an album the record business insists on telling me is 'everyone's favourite Beach Boys' album' even though the  four or five really big Beach Boys fans I know don't consider it much of an album at all. Rather than grumpily sitting there saying 'huh, I don't think so!' to the world for a third week in a row, though, we've leapt forwards in time another decade to an album that's rather more like 'Pet Sounds' than people give it credit for. Unlike the nine albums made in the interim 'Beach Boys Love You' is very much a Brian Wilson solo record, with other Beach Boys making cameo appearances on middle eights or guest slots. It's an album that's very much written from the heart with the emotions on high. It's a deeply romantic record that features Brian trying to come to terms with what the future might hold for him and his marriage (the album's last track is the only time you can hear wife Marilyn on a Beach Boys recording in fact). It's also an album featuring some incredible contradictions between how the songs were written and how they sound thanks to the differences between what's going on in Brian's head and in his body and voice, with the other Beach Boys not far behind. Imagine Tim Burton making a My Little Pony or a Care Bears film - every word is pure, childlike and cute, but the execution is dark, brooding and horrific. The Beach Boys may love you, but they also hate you at the same time and they didn't do that on 'Pet Sounds'.

The previous album '15 Big Ones' had been touted as a big Brian 'comeback', though in truth it was a warm-up session of oldies that taught the band how to sing again and new originals where Brian was clearly learning how to write once more. This is the era when the cult status of 'Pet Sounds' was really beginning to breakthrough into American culture (though the album had always done well in Europe) and everyone was eager for Brian to write another one. So Brian did: 'Love You' is a scattershot collection of fading memories of love and lust, fears of the future, random folk heroes (chatshow host Johnny Carson replacing the captain of the Sloop John B), instrumentals that don't fit and quirky songs that defy description but are clearly about looking for answers ('I Just Wasn't Made For These Times' meets 'Solar System', both of them the best on their respective albums though they couldn't be more different). Yes, ok, so 'Honkin' Down The Gosh Darn Highway' isn't exactly as multi-faceted as 'God Only Knows' and 'Caroline, No' is a far more successful why-do-things-have-to-change? rant than 'I'll Bet He's Nice'. But 'Beach Boys Love You' is, by and large, as emotional as Pet Sounds without the cloying sentimentality, the sugary strings or the feeling that the guys in the studio would rather be anywhere else than here right now. Brian never did make a true sequel to 'Pet Sounds' (Smile's a whole other kettle of surfboarding fish), but 'Love You' features a similar collection of raw quivering emotion masquerading as confidence. Moreover, both albums were made with Brian given (more or less) complete control and for a while both records were planned more as solo albums than Beach Boys albums.

However the big difference between the two albums - and the reason most fans dismiss this rather eccentric record - is that while both records are about Brian's world in 1966 and 1977 respectively, those worlds couldn't have been more different. The twenty-four-year-old Brian was already being hailed as a musical genius, with a crew of session musicians eager to work with him and the whole world was there for The Beach Boys' taking, with a mixture of fear and excitement. By contrast the thirty-five-year-old Brian's world consists almost solely of his bedroom walls, the TV always on at the end of the bed and his darkest innermost thoughts. Johnny Carson, this album's unlikely 'hero', is a case in point - he's everything the isolated, alienated Brian wants to be: sociable, popular and with a quip for every occasion (much like the 1966 model Brian, in fact). Though older in physical terms, Brian is also far less of an adult than he used to be, with years of decent money and his nervous breakdown giving him the means to hide from the world. Brian's been struggling to come to terms with what people want him to be since childhood and has been absent from public life for over a decade by this stage (bar a slight return across 1968). Asked to share his inner world with the public again, Brian shares the world of a child, with songs about childhood passions like astronomy, cars, roller skates, airplanes and whatever the heck 'Ding Dang' (one of the strangest Beach Boys songs) is really all about. For the most part this is charming: 'Solar System' especially is delightful, a young Brian leaning out his window trying to name the planets and dreaming big of the future and what speck of life out there his future bride might grow up on (it's 'Wouldn't It Be Nice?', but less irritating and more, umm, universal). The 'Sunflower' outtake from 1970 'Good Time' may well be the best teenage song The Beach Boys ever wrote, carefree and sweet (whereas when the band really were teenagers they were more often than not trying to sound much older and wiser). Mona's namecheck for Brian's beloved Phil Spector is an ear-warming moment that's perfectly cast as the 'killer' moment at the end of a song when a love interest can live or die.

At other times though it all feels a tad uncomfortable: 'Roller Skating Child' was Brian's imagination running overtime as he stared out his bedroom window at his daughters' roller skating friends and wondered what it might be like for him to be part of the crowd, the scene turning into an adolescent for of hormones and romance in true Beach Boys tradition. 'I Wanna Pick You Up' has Brian alternating between treating a real baby and his 'baby' lover in the same way, with a guesting Uncle Dennis adding extra un-savouryness with his creepy vocal. 'Love Is A Woman' reveals that Brian has learnt nothing much about love or responsibility, the moral being that all you have to do to make your partner loyal is pay them the odd compliment about how good they smell. These three songs - and a few bits here and there on similar lines - are I think the reason 'Love You' gets a poor reputation; the problem though is more that it's chief creator is very very ill and being forced to work very very hard (is this the worst period for Brian, forced back into work long before he's ready with no way out and without his brothers and bandmates to cover for him as much? There are so many tough periods it's hard to tell...); if you accept that Brian's vision is understandably flawed and that he doesn't mean this album to sound quite so 'wrong' as it sometimes comes out then you can appreciate it better.

Not that a couple of questionable lyrics are the only thing working against this album: 'Beach Boys Love You' is an uncomfortable and rather unique mix of prog rock and punk. Unwilling to work with either hardened session musician veterans or his own band for long hours, Brian is thrilled to discover the invention of the synthesiser in the years since he was away. Brian's been chasing unusual other-worldly sounds since 'Good Vibrations' so it should come as no real surprise, but what is quite shocking is how much Brian uses these synthesisers. Other than 'Good Time' (a revived song very out of place here) the synth purrs through everything and though other instruments appear here and there it's very much the dominant force. Brian being Brian, he's also using the instrument in a way that's quite different to the way anyone else was using it: usually the synths are here for colour, but in Brian's inner musical mind the synth has become the canvas on which the paints are displayed and frame everything, even if the sound is basically a handful of gruff chords and stabbing bleeps. The synth sounds weirdly aggressive here, turning even the prettier songs into angry bursts of noise and passion - which is where the 'punk' bit comes in. Where 'Pet Sounds' was, quite often, overly lush and ridiculously sentimental 'Love You' is harsh and as raw as The Beach Boys ever got, their massive sound reduced effectively to synthesisers, simple drumming (Dennis for the most part) and occasional overdubs and sporadic harmonies. This isn't a warm loving 1960s world anymore where everyone is open and free; it's a cold one full of barriers that have to be broken and where every chord change comes with a risk that the narrator could be wiped off his feet with a cruel angry noise any second. In many ways this is an album ironically named: originally titled 'Brian Loves You' before the record company got involved, it might as well have come with the subtitle: '...But he doesn't think you love him'. Together with the childish open-ness of some of the lyrics, it makes for quite a unique experience, the sound of a child who wants to love the world and can't understand why the world doesn't love him back.

Love, of course, comes in many forms. Like 'Pet Sounds' too this is a romantic album - but far more troubled than many people notice, where love is fickle and fluid and about to disappear the whole time. That made some kind of sense on 'Pet Sounds' - Brian and Marilyn had been married all of 18 months and the couple were already growing apart to some extent, mainly thanks to Brian's hanger-on friends and his new interest in drugs (Marilyn, remember, was still a teenager herself at the time and had never stayed away from the family home much before marrying Brian). By 1977 the couple have been married thirteen years, which is longer than most rockstar marriages (certainly longer than most Beach Boys marriages), but if anything Brian feels even less stable and happy. The late nights of insomnia of this 'bed' period lead to all sorts of worried as the elder Wilson puts his wife through the 'wringer' even more than on 'Caroline, No' though the pair were, at the time, pretty happily married: Brian worries about falling out of love with her, pleads with God to keep her in his life, fears letting her down, shares with us his memories of their meeting when he was so different, his jealousy allowing him to imagine her with someone new and wondering what he'll say to her and him and ultimately some kind of understanding that he's 'just gotta treat her nice'.  Elsewhere Brian loves airplanes, planets, cars, even chat shows with the same zest and zeal as if they're on the same importance, like a child who loves his toys as much as his parents and not quite understanding the distinction.

One other thing that puts many people off this album is less easy to explain. Even compared to '15 Big Ones' The Beach Boys sound mighty rough on this album. A combination of being away from recording studios for so long, the slightly rushed sessions, the blaring synthesisers giving the band less to sing against and (most especially) years of significant drug, cigarettes and booze taking (Brian and Dennis especially, but the others too to some degree) mean that the band who could once soar, glide and shimmer now croak, honk and rasp. Dennis sounds simply terrible, like a parody of his old self with all the subtleties and romantic overtones replaced by a raw desperation that doesn't quite fit on Brian's childish tracks (though it will come in handy for Dennis' own glorious solo LP 'Pacific Ocean Blue' out this same year where he sounds considerably more together). Mike and Al sound like they need a long rest. Even smooky smooth Carl sounds oddly feathery and ruffled across this album, singing more with gusto than accuracy. Worst of all, though, is Brian's voice whose suffered so much during the past ten years that his sweet high falsetto is now carries so much emotional baggage he sounds like he's now several octaves lower. He certainly doesn't as gorgeously innocent and pure anymore, even though his songs are coming from an even more childlike place. Fans of vocal harmony should all own several Beach Boys records in their collection, but if harmonies is all you're after then feel free to skip this album.

That's a shame because this album could certainly be a bit easier on the ear. Some of the songs too are deeply sub-standard, enough to make you wish that the other Beach Boys had been allowed more input into this record a la 'Sunflower' (the better half of this album with half an album by the others would have made for a truly sublime record; this one is ultimately rather patchy). While some Beach Boys songs are occasionally bland and a couple as misguided as the worst excesses on this record, no other BB record has an irritant level quite as high as this one. 'Honkin' Down The Highway' 'Ding Dang' most of 'Airplane' and a majority of 'Love Is A Woman' will haunt your worst nightmares for a long time to come. Only the next album 'MIU' comes close from the days when Brian was still in the band. That's small fry though compared to what does work: 'Let Us Go On This Way' opens with a guttural roar from Carl and is as blunt and desperate as The Beach Boys ever got, almost chillingly real. 'Roller Skating Child' may have its ages mixed up, but it rocks better than anything The Beach Boys had done since 'Marcella' five years before. 'Good Time' is as cute as a button, a carefree song about enjoying a new love and not worrying about the future, with some typical Brian humour - even compared to the rest of 'Sunflower' (the best Beach Boys album?) this outtake should have made the album. 'Solar System' is the greatest way of learning the names of the planets ever and brings not just 'wisdom' but love too. And even if you can't bear the sound of the 'new' look Beach Boys, 'The Night Was So Young' is as tight, adult and gorgeous as anything from the band's past. Even the much-maligned 'Johnny Carson' is quite fun when heard without prejudice, if downright bonkers. That lot may not be enough for you to love 'Beach Boys Love You' but if you're a Beach Boys fan already then you should at least like a bit of it, which is a step up from '15 Big Ones' for starters.

If you can unlock these 'keys' then 'Love You' makes a lot more sense, which might explain why so many true Beach Boys fans rate it so highly, while casual music fans come away believing that this record is meant as a joke. It really isn't: though Brian wasn't above the odd self-deprecating giggle ('A Day In The Life Of A Tree' from Surf's Up' is widely considered as an example of him seeing how much he can get away with without someone questioning it), he means pretty much every single word on this album. To the untrained ear who cares nothing for Brian's world, his courageousness in overthrowing his demons and the excitement of getting such a full-on peek into his world, this album is a drunken shambles where a band who can no longer sing pretend to be children for fourteen deeply odd sounding songs. If you love Brian though and accept his uniqueness and eccentricity as a writer then the chance to hear our hero about as undiluted as he ever was, with no attempt to plaster colour over the bare walls or pretend that this is a brighter happier world than it really is, then 'Beach Boys Love You' is a treat. Above all else, it feels 'real' in a way that 'Pet Sounds' never quite did, rawer and more authentic without the need to 'connect' with or make sense to anyone outside Brian's bedroom. In turns mad, sad, bad and glad, this is a record that has a sound all of it's own. Brian certainly put his heart into it, in a way that he hadn't put his heart into any project since 'Friends' back in 1968 and those terms alone this album is a big success. Yes musically it's often disappointingly simple, lyrically it borders genius and nursery rhyme and performance wise it's probably the most atrocious album The Beach Boys ever made. But there's a charm and a wonder about 'Love You' that makes all its flaws pale into insignificance. By the end of the record you're pleading with the record company to please let them go on this way - but sadly no, the next album (the even more young/old schizophrenic album 'Adult Child') will be rejected for release, Reprise will run out of patience with the band and the band with Brian and one of the greatest and most inventive writers of the 20th century will return, unloved, to bed for the rest of the decade and much of the next one, ready to make just occasional cameos on every single future Beach Boys band album until as late as 2012. That, dear readers, isn't love at all and is a poor reply to the superhuman effort it took for someone so poorly and scared to make this album. It's a wonder Brian ever came back to us at all.

Any thought that this might be one of The Beach Boys' prettier albums is dispelled as early as the first few bars of opening track 'Let Us Go On This Way'. Brian plays a naggingly aggressive keyboard part, the drums crash with wild abandon and the first word heard on this album is Carl Wilson screaming 'hey!' The song doesn't let up from there either, with a lyric that confirms that all the fears of 'Pet Sounds' is true and love is hard work. 'To get you baby I went through the wringer - ain't gonna let you slip through my fingers!' is the opening couplet before the narrator reveals how depressed he is when his love is not around, even if her presence doesn't necessarily make him happy. Like 'God Only Knows' (another song given to Carl) this song figures that love must be heaven sent, but this time the mood is very different: 'God, please, let us go on!' intone multiple Brians and other Beach Boys behind his younger brother. Throughout the song love isn't something light and hopeful but something dark and claustrophobic, suffocating the narrator as those wide open drum sounds makes him sound as if he's hitting his head into a brick wall repeatedly. So far so funky, but like many of the lyrics on this album there's something a little...odd going on. Brian's most adult (i.e. imperfect) love song yet is given a lyric about sitting in class and having a teenage crush, which just feels so wrong in the context of this song - not just because The Beach Boys are audibly older than they were the last time they tried this sort of thing circa 1964 but because this isn't a song about frothy teenage love or crushes at all. The change in lyric may well have been a last minute substitution: Mike Love, the Beach Boy always most loyal to the band's formula, convinced his cousin to write this song near the end of the session when he realised they needed a strong opener. Love probably encouraged Wilson to go younger and more 'Beach Boysy' too, as well as adding the song's most underwhelming moment, the middle eight ('Now we can fly, high in the sky, we'll live forever and never die!') Still, even if this is two songs in one, the stronger tougher half of this combination is powerful indeed and harks back to the longstanding tradition of terrific album openers (something rather passed over by the limp cover of 'Rock and Roll Music' on '15 Big Ones').

'Roller Skating Child' would have made a fine opener anyway though. Styled like the last track with a vaguely threatening backing track and an impressive sense of urgency, the mood is however much lighter. Mike Love has clearly been wondering what The Beach Boys might have sounded like had they been children of the 1970s rather than the 1960s and so decides to jump on the era's current bandwagon: rollerskating. Most fans switch off right then and there, especially given the slightly unsavoury fact that the song's first inspiration was daddy Brian wanting to join in with his daughters' parties (Carnie was nine when this album was made, while Wendy was eight). but the toughness of the backing actually makes this one work by making the passion and fire sound like true commitment and love rather than merely a date on skates. The lyrics are pretty fun too if you take them in a tongue-in-cheek way, seemingly parodying the Beach Boys' younger sillier selves: 'Well oh my oh gosh oh gee, she really sets chills inside of me' is a cute chorus line, while 'I go and get my skates on and catch up with her - we do it holding hands, it's co cold I go brrr!' is either the single greatest or single worst line in Beach Boys history. The use of synth is also impressive considering how new Brian was to all this, the elder Wilson swiping at the instrument for colour while adding a bass-synth warning note of doom underneath everything which works well against Carl's melodic guitar. Better yet, (nearly) everyone (no Dennis!) gets a chance to shine on this one: Carl's as cool yet passionate as ever, Mike grooves on a song so suited to his strengths, Al provides the sweet romantic tone and Brian's gruff vocal adds the slightly scary tag. Yes, ok, so it's a song about rollerskating so it's hardly 'Surf's Up' (and one of the few album tracks here without a 'Pet Sounds' equivalent), but at 2:18 this song doesn't last long enough to fool you with how frivolous it all is. Rather good fun.

'Mona' makes it three uptempo songs in a row, although it's easily the most Beach Boysy out of the opening trilogy. Sweetly retro, this song of innocent dating is a less irritating 'Wouldn't It Be Nice?' or 'Disney Girls' sped up. Even the name 'Mona' is curiously 50s, used in a song by Bo Diddley and covered by the Rolling Stones a decade later (how come you never see any grown-up Monas these days?!) Dennis sounds great as he uses all his charm to try and get Mona to go out with him, serenading her with what every well-brought up teenager in the 1950s wanted: an eight o clock dinner, a nine o'clock movie (won't it be groovy?), her boyfriend's loving arms around her neck, a glass of wine...The pay-off line though, and the one that the songs built up to, is the last verse which is the make or break moment: 'Let me play Da Doo Ron Ron' gushes Dennis on Brian's behalf, 'How about 'Be My Baby?' I know you're gonna love Phil Spector!' You sense that even after two minutes of Dennis' best coo-ing if the girl says she hates him then she'll be out the door...The twist of course is that this song continues '15 Big Ones' attempt at re-creating the Spector style on modern instruments. There exists in the vaults (unheard until the 'Made In California' box set) an outtake from between these two albums of Brian working out how to re-arrange The Righteous Brothers' 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' for a cold and dispassionate synth. Brian never quite got that cover right, but you can hear the influence in this song which tries hard to re-create the same sense of scale and drama out of elements that are actually quite small and draping them with lots of echo and brass. The difference is, though, this isn't some burning epic romance played out on raw guitars bass and drums but on a heartless artificial synthesiser. Like the rest of the album this gives 'Mona' a slightly creepy vibe, even though on the surface the song itself couldn't be sweeter and sounds much like the 'childish' Brian longing to go back to a time when love meant movies and dating, not babies and responsibility. Not quite as original as the first two songs perhaps (the song needs an extra little something too with no real chorus or variation), but a much under-rated number nonetheless.

'Johnny Carson', though, is a perfect example of a Brian Wilson song that no one else would ever come up with. Many people have wondered why Brian felt the need to write about a second-tier (in 1977 anyway - he got bigger later though the song probably hurt his career rather than helped it!) chat show host: that The Beach Boys were trying to wangle some free appearances (which never happened - The Beach Boys did no TV for this album after doing quite a lot for '15 Big Ones'); that Brian was told to write something in a hurry while he had the TV on (possible); that Brian felt a sense of fellowship with the chat show host (unlikely - the only line that rings true is 'The network makes him break his back!'.  Actually the extrovert and pushy Carson with a quip for every occasion couldn't have been less like the 1977 model Brian, which leads me to my diagnosis: Johnny Carson was Brian's idea of a man who had it together and he wanted to be like. To put that in context, 1977 is the era of Brian's first meetings with his 'therapist/friend/blackmailer' Dr Eugene Landy. We haven't mentioned Landy much in this review so far because a) that's all the other 'Love You' reviews out there seem to talk about and b) his influence was pretty minimal this first time around - Marilyn sacked him after a few months when he started charging too much (he'll be back in the 1980s though in a big way). 'Johnny Carson' sounds like a typical Landy therapy practice: if you feel as if you haven't got your life together then pretend that you have and learn from people who have. Suddenly in Brian's brain Johnny Carson is perfect and free of all the troubles Wilson feels he has: he has a 'manly tone' (Brian was always a little embarrassed by his pure falsetto, though goodness knows anyone else would be proud to sing like that), he's oh so funny (Brian's autobiography, admittedly since disowned thanks to Landy's re-writing, includes several examples of him cracking jokes he thought were hilarious only to be told 'don't say that Brian, it's inappropriate'), he makes boring people look more interesting, he's a 'natural guy' and he's a 'real live wire' with the stamina to 'keep it up' that could 'make you cry' (Brian exhausted quickly, hence the bed). Brian, so shy, so awkward, so desperate to hide away from people in case they make him uncomfortable or upset him or confuse him, wants to be a chat show host who can deal with anything the network or the guests throw at him. Of course what the 1977 Brian doesn't know is that Carson struggled no end to get on television, starting off with a graveyard shift show that was quickly pulled. Reading a few interviews down the years he arguably only had his stuff together compared to Brian, not to most people and was far more nervous than he ever let on (a point people pick up on when they think Brian found a like-minded soul in Carson, which is kind of true for the 1966 Brian who was equally with-it in the studio but perhaps not the full story?; surely Brian would have gone with cheerful and friendly but rather bashful chat show host Dick Cavett if that was the case?) No, my take is that Brian genuinely admired Johnny Carson and considered him as 'outtasite' as he does in the song. It's the other Beach Boys who added the song's slightly tongue-in-cheek feel, with Mike especially having a whale of a time on the lead vocal. Quite unlike any other song ever written by anybody, this could easily have been awful but again the tension and aggression in the backing make it clear that this song is from the heart, not the funny-bone.

'Good Time' has almost nothing in common with the rest of this album. Brian recorded it in late 1969 as one of many rejected contributions to the band's first Warner Brothers album 'Sunflower'. It's rather a shock hearing The Beach Boys reverting back to their good humoured carefree sound, as performed on proper instruments and with Brian sounding a full seventy years younger than his 1977 model, not a mere seven. The song has never quite sounded as if it belongs here at this point in the album - but hear it out of context with the rest of the album (say, tacked onto the end of 'Sunflower') and it's one of the most charming things The Beach Boys ever did. Brian's narrator has several suitors and can't choose between them, but who cares - he doesn't want a commitment that will last forever, just a 'good time' for him and whichever girl he's with. Brian's childish glee comes to the fore as he offers us a nursery rhyme-like vocal full of slightly misogynistic lines: Betty is good looking and likes her cooking, while Penny is kind of skinny ('so she needs her falsies on', whatever Brian means by that - I don't want to know...) and can't cook but can dance the 'dirty boogie' like no other. Brian may have been reminded of his song by another early Landy 'therapy' rhyming session, matching people's names with simple words ('My friend Bob, he got a job!' is a much quoted phrase from this era): it's revival from the vaults may have been to 'prove' to Landy that Brian had been down this road before. The 1977 Brian's sole overdub to this recoding (a slightly proprietorial 'hey!' right at the end of the song) sounds like either a message to Landy or a shocked 'that wasn't bad!' from a man who once sounded every bit as confident and charismatic as Johnny Carson if not a little more. While, again, hardly in the major league of Beach Boys philosophical songs of depth and nuance, this cute little track more than deserves release on something and would have made the final line-up of every classic Beach Boys album up to the high-point of 'Sunflower' without question. Cute and clever, with an impressive backing track that combines simplicity (one chord most of the way through) and complexity (how the heck did Brian come up with that complex brass arrangement?!) and some sumptuous Beach Boys harmonies from the period when they were arguably at their peak, this is a good time indeed.

Which is probably just was well because 'Honkin' Down The Highway' is the first album track that doesn't really come off. Wanting to return to the innocence of the band's earlier records, Brian writes a 'car' song far blander than any of the filler material he came up with on 'Little Deuce Coupe'. While the melody is groovy enough and Al's happy-go-lucky narrator is well suited to the song's cheeky grin, the lyrics are poor even by this album's standards and tell us precious little except that the narrator wants to get home in a hurry and there are some cars in his way. What's more the melody and idea also sound a little bit like a 'steal' from The Beatles' 'When I Get Home', a song from 'A Hard Day's Night' in 1964 9and an album we know The Beach Boys knew well - they performed two other songs from that record on 'Beach Boys Party!') The narrator's also a little pleased with himself compared to most other Beach Boy narrators of this period, telling us he's 'got a way with girls' which sounds like more Brian Wilson acting to me, while the 'Honk! Honk! Honkin' down the highway' chorus may well be the most tuneless moment in the Beach Boys' canon (released, anyway), with Brian and Dennis sounding downright ill. This is no 'Little Deuce Coupe' or 'Shut Down' or even a '409', just a song that rhymes 'money' with 'funny' and 'tight' and 'light' and thinks it can get away with it. Even a rocking backing track with more synth grit can't rescue this one, which is one of the biggest car-crashes on the album.

The biggest, however, is 'Ding Dang', 58 pointless seconds of your life you will never get back again. The song is so short I've just played it eleven times straight to write something for this paragraph and I'm definitely on the verge of a breakdown; after all it's not as if that minute is the most inventive thing The Beach Boys ever did anyway and features one couplet sung four times. What is it doing here? Well, it all relates to early days in the Landy therapy when Brian realised he couldn't take anymore and ran (some sources say screaming, others by stealth) out of the front door and down the road. Landy figured Brian didn't know anybody down the road and would be back in minutes but he was wrong; newly moved to the Californian neighbourhood was Byrd Jim/Roger McGuinn. Roger had long wanted to meet Brian but knew that the Beach Boy wasn't up to receiving visitors so kindly kept his distance. When he saw a shoeless Brian hobbling down the road, though, he went to help - after telling his new friend he was a fellow musician and he could stay at his house, Brian promptly asked for the drugs and sugar he wasn't 'allowed' at home and had probably the best evening of the entire second half of the 1970s while Landy fruitlessly searched for his patient to bring him home. Naturally the pair got to talking about music and Roger invited Brian to use his piano and play his favourite song. This being Brian in 1977, his favourite tune was 'Shortenin' Bread', which he would play for hours (The Beach Boys cut their own version of the traditional tune on 1979's 'LA Light Album'). However, Brian - his mind temporarily freed from his daily routine torture and enjoying a rare sugar/drug rush - got the inspiration for this song's daft words: 'I love my girl, I love her so madly, though I treat her so fine, she treats me so badly'. Roger felt the groove and joined in with the odd 'ding' and 'dang' here and there (Carl's wild counterpart to Brian's melody is almost certainly Roger's contribution - many of the late period Byrd tracks have the same jaunty country feel with wide open spaces between the notes). After an hour of this he got bored and as it was late told Brian he was going to bed and he was welcome to sleep wherever; legend has it for the rest of the night Brian was still singing the same verse over and over until the drugs and sugar finally wore off and he slumped back to a panicked Landy. Amazingly he still remembered this track the next morning despite the state he was in! To be honest the story behind 'Ding Dang' is way more interesting than actually listening to it, with both Mike's subdued vocal and Carl's slightly crazed backing suggesting that the rest of the band didn't like it much either. Brian still cites it as a favourite, though.

'Pet Sounds' spends its track-listing searching for a perfect romantic union in this world and fears that it can never be. 'Solar System', at the start of 'Beach Boys Love You' side two, has kind of realised perfection cannot be found - so Brian does the natural Beach Boys thing and spreads his search to the universe instead. 'Solar System' is one of the album highlights, a charming song that mixes Brian's good-natured childish humour with a lyric that finds new wonder and awe with information that, actually, most of us learnt long ago. It would take a heart of stone to begrudge Brian his chance to pass on his childhood hobby, though, and while you won't learn much astronomically here ('Saturn has rings all around it'), this is a good example of how profound Brian can be when he's keeping things simple ('Sunrise in the morn, it shined when you were born'). Through Brian's eyes the universe really doesn't look different, full of angels playing and a sense that however chaotic our lives seem down on Earth that there really is a plan, of sorts, for us up there in the cosmos if only we hang on long enough for it to work. This album's one true song of comfort, Brian puts his faith in the 'solar system' and wonders if there's life on Mars and whether he'll meet his wife there one day. The song's quirky melody is a good fit for the words, suggesting more time spent on matching the two than some of the other songs on this album, eager yet reflective. Brian's lead vocal is the best on the album (excepting outtake 'Good Time'), Brian enthusiasm enough to overcome the gruffness and lack of elasticity in his voice, while behind the massed choir of overdubbed Brians is truly out of this world. A true lost classic, quite unlike anything else in the Beach Boys catalogue.

Straight away we get the album's other biggest highlight 'The Night Was So Young'. This album's 'I'm Waiting For The Day' but, once again, better, this delightful yearning romantic song both praises and admits to being puzzled by a loved one. Like so many of Brian's heartfelt songs it's less about love than about companionship: he's tired of being alone in the house all day and is looking out on a perfect romantic night and wondering why he's spending it alone. Eventually the skies darken and the night grows old so Brian goes back to bed, his romantic longing unfulfilled, mad at his partner for not being as love with him as he is with her. The second half of the song then gets silly - at three o'clock Brian's narrator is drinking milk from the carton by the sink (which rhymes with 'think', inevitably) but does feature a lovely nod of the head to one of Brian's first love songs for Marilyn ('Kiss Me Baby' from 'Beach Boys Today'), wondering if she's as sad after their tiff as he is and suffering from the same heavy-hearted insomnia. Like many of Brian's best songs, though, what isn't said in the simple lyrics is told in the multi-dimensional music which is a return to the pocket symphonies of old, built on peaks and troughs and long hanging keyboard notes that are just longing to turn the corner and find their 'home' on a resolving chord. Despite being again played mainly on synthesisers, this song also has a real warmth and beauty that's nicely handled by Carl effectively duetting with himself on two very different voices (the 'crooner' vocal that will be heard more on 'Adult Child' and his rockier 'Darlin' style voice), while the mass Wilson choir (Brian, Carl and Dennis) is truly gorgeous. Though this is just a short 2:19 song with lots of repetition, it says just enough to hit you in the heartstrings and tell you everything you need to know about its creators big heart.

The Wilsons again take the lead for 'I'll Bet He's Nice', this album's angry 'I Know There's An Answer', with Dennis the optimist to Brian's pessimist and Carl wrapping things up in the middle eight. By now Brian's curiosity and jealousy have been piqued: just where is Marilyn all this time? (The answer, more than often than not, is that she's liaising with the other Beach Boys over Dr Landy's actions). Brian tries, for the first time in a while, to be grown up about things. He's assumed she has another lover and wishes his loved one a happy life with a man who can offer her things he never could and who is 'twice' as kind as he is. But his emotions are too raw and too powerful for him to simply leave the song at that so what most comes over most from this song is the hurt, with Dennis saying what Brian's 'mind' wants to say to be kind and Brian himself saying how broken his heart is. Though keen for an answer, Brian also admits he really doesn't want to hear if his suspicions are true and that he's still very very much in love with his wife. Melodically this song tries hard to be a typical Beach Boys pop song, but in one of the best uses of the synthesiser on the record this sweet little tune sounds prematurely aged and sad, uncomfortable and awkward even while it tries hard to be brave and supportive. Dennis, especially, seems to have been inspired by this song's clever mix of dynamics as his 'Pacific Ocean Blues' album from later in the year features many of the same tricks of trying to offer us hidden meanings and promising to look out for an ex. Perhaps too simple to be up to the best of the album, but this is another strong and overlooked song.

'Let's Put Our Hearts Together' tries the same trick in reverse, near enough. Brian pledges his love to his wife directly, with Marilyn making her one and only appearance on a Beach Boy album (though Brian sang her with her and sisters Diane and Barbara on the rare 'American Spring' album). Sadly this isn't the sort of duet where they sing together (their voices go together pretty well on 'American Spring') but one where husband and wife 'sing-talk' to each other a la Elton John and Kiki Dee. The sentiments are, like much of this album, sweet but rather forced and in context with the denser backing scarier than they're probably meant to be. What's more, this isn't the heartfelt tete a tete we've been waiting for since 'Pet Sounds' but the least autobiographical track on the album: 'I know you've had so much experience that you don't need another person in your life' coos Marilyn to a deeply inexperienced Brian. 'This may sound funny, but you're the kind of woman who would make a very sweet wife' replies Brian to his, erm, wife. More moving are the lines where Brian again sings about hurt when he's ignored or when he's urging his lover to let go of the hurt in her past 'and if they've never understood you', the implication being that Brian oh so does. By the end the song comes to the conclusion that, damaged and naive as both halves of the couple are, together they can 'cook up' anything between them, which is perhaps the single most 'Pet Sounds' moment on the album. This time Brian sings as if he means it, though and while Marilyn's not at her best it feels 'real' enough despite all the acting. However it's still slightly force and uncomfortable somehow with REM guitarist Peter Buck's otherwise glowing sleevenotes admitting 'It's so personal that it's hard to listen to'.

Talking of hard to listen to, 'I Wanna Pick You Up' scores big in two departments. First up, Dennis' rasp which even recently was a thing of beauty is now uncomfortably out-of-tune. Secondly, these lyrics take innocence to whole new levels even past 'Roller Skating Child' and maybe even 'Hey Little Tomboy'. Creepy Uncle Dennis is singing - we hope - to a newborn baby (though it's worth pointing out that none of the Beach Boys family had had any children for a while - is this an old song?) though more than one commentator has wondered if Dennis is getting kinky with a lover. No, we're going with the baby theory given that this is, like the rest of the album, primarily a Brian song with lines about washing a girl's face, change her clothes, shampoo her hair, 'wrestle' and, in tones that sound like a Godfather movie, 'then I'm gonna make you sing'. By the last verse baby girl is going to sleep, but not before Brian finds himself giving in to the urge to spank her bottom. It's that kind of a song on that kind of an album, easily misunderstood and downright peculiar while the slow tempo and melodic wobble don't help the creepyness factor at all. There are, however a few things going for this downright odd song. The first is that, despite tradition, Dennis and Brian both sing straight and the love in their voices can't be doubted, whoever it's intended for. As the last real time we'll get to hear Brian and Dennis together except in full Beach Boys choruses (Dennis wasn't around for much of 'Adult Child' or 'MIU' and Brian went to sleep for most albums thereafter up to Dennis' untimely death in 1983), it's a sweet way to say goodbye, with the eldest Wilsons both being true to their natural selves whilst being supportive of the other. The other great thing about this song is the slightly wobbly full band tag when baby finally gets to sleep and coaxes an outpouring of love and passion in the form of a lullaby that suggests that, yes, this song is a heartfelt song for a baby after all. I still wouldn't sing this song to your offspring in front of social services though, they might get the wrong idea.

You can say many things against 'Love You' but the only song that's bland rather than controversial or odd is 'Airplane'. Mainly a Mike Love song, it's a poor re-write of the then-still unreleased (deep breath) 'Loop De Loop Flip Flop Flyin' In An Aeroplane' from 1969 which lacks both the fun and the point of the earlier song. Mike is up in the sky, fifteen minutes away from landing, watching the people who look like dots. Plausibly Brian's co-write means he added the touch of autobiography in the lyric as the narrator rather nervously prepares to land and meet the loved ones waiting for him on the runway (with shades of his own nervous breakdown in December 1964). However if that's what The Beach Boys were aiming for, they let the moment run through their fingers: suddenly this songs reverts to being a typical 1960s Beach Boys song of being kissed by cute girls twinned with a typical 1970s Beach Boys verse about mysticism and passengers 'needing God' as their 'guide'. Things get worse with the irritating boogie woogie tag where Brian admits he 'can't wait' to see his girl's 'face' while Carl grooves alongside sounding like he's having a bit too much fun during the session. Though barely thirty seconds long, I'm not the first reviewer to point out how much this part of the song undoes even the slight good of the two minutes that came before, reducing a spiritual moment into yet another Beach Boys spin-off of the 'Boogie Woodie' instrumental from their second album. Far from giving this album wings, 'Airplane' is - with the exception of 'Ding Dang' and 'Honkin' Down The Highway' - the place where it crash-lands the most.

'Love Is A Woman' ends the album on a confusing note too. Judging by the lyrics Brian isn't quite sure what he means by that phrase: this is really a song about how we should all be kind to the girls in our lives, followed by a lot of patronising advice that probably won't please about 90% of The Beach Boys' fanbase. Brian sounds hoarse even by his standards while Mike's wooing really isn't working, though both come out of the song with more dignity than poor Al who gets lumbered with a truly terrible nursery rhyme middle eight ('1,2,3, she's fallen in love with me! 4,5, 6, She fell for all my tricks!') The trouble is, this typically childish passage belongs to a quite different song to the adult and grown-up one Brian thinks he's writing in his head. After all, the main sentiment about being kind and remembering to pay compliments instead of taking your loved one for granted is far more mature than any lyric Brian's written in a while, far more understanding of what it takes to please another person than his usual childishly (if understandably, given his illness) self-centred thoughts. The trouble is, randomly telling your loved one 'gee, you smell good - you don't normally!' and the rather vague advice to 'make her feel like a woman' is more likely to get you a slap than the undying love Brian's after here. Put it down to yet another example of this album having it's heart in the right place but clumsily getting things a bit wrong in execution. This is also a song that hasn't dated terribly well, with its right-on feminist intent that makes it more troubling to modern ears than 'California Girls' or 'Surfer Girl'. The slow tempo and heavy-handed synth also, yet again, make this song sound far creepier than it should.

Overall, then, it's hard to tell if The Beach Boys really do love us or hate us, as this is one of those albums that's often telling us two entirely different things at the same time. As we've seen, casual music fans assume this record is either a bad joke or evidence that The Beach Boys never were much good. Neither is true: Brian's trying his best and is trying to write as well as he can having a) barely tried to write anything at all in the past five years ('Holland' and '15 Big Ones' tend to feature old Brian songs re-worked by other writers) and b) having barely heard any music made by anyone else in a similar time. Brian doesn't know the world has moved on to 1977 standards and values - heck, he's barely made it out of bed in the last decade and retreated to an even earlier childhood of the 1950s when things were more black-and-white and people took less offense. Told to go back to crafting songs from the heart and about the way he sees the world, the band and record label alike were eager for that second 'Pet Sounds', but Brian is a different person to the man he was in 1966 and while this album features several similar emotional ingredients the two come out sounding very different. That's not necessarily a bad thing though: 'Love You' has a lot more heart and a lot less cloying string arrangements than its predecessor and even if the bare-bones songs aren't as good overall (albeit nothing here is quite as bland as the two instrumentals or as poor as 'Wouldn't It Be Nice?') 'Love You' feels more natural and poignant, to these ears at least. One thing most certainly isn't natural though: the Carl-written 'tribute' to Brian on the album's original inner sleeve is even more patronising than 'Love Is A Woman' and 'I Wanna Pick You Up' combined and isn't fooling anyone ('We wish to express and acknowledge your willingness to create and support totally the completion of these songs', which is undersigned by the same band who told Brian to write better and more natural songs *or else* and pushed him into making this album long before he was ready in the hope his name would sell more copies). Brian needed an assistant, here now more than ever. Instead he got The Beach Boys at their worst, full of infighting and booze. Perhaps the most 'lifelike' part of the whole enterprise is the accompanying picture which shows a rather shocked and scared and hyper Brian being kissed awkwardly by Marilyn at The Beach Boys' 'Sweet 16' party/concert in 1976 (Brian's big return to the stage - which he hated) and wishing he was anywhere but there. The pictures used on the other side of the booklet suggest it was a look Brian had on his face rather a lot in this period. It's still not as strange as the main album packaging though, which features the most hip digital trendy with-it cover of the entire Beach Boys run (a set of computer-generated lettering) and couldn't be less like the retro album inside. The design was by none other than Dean Torrence, Brian's old sparring partner from Jan and Dean who was trying to make a new living for himself a decade after the #1 Brian-written hit 'Sidewalk Surfin' and a guest appearance on 'Barbara Ann'. A very different period for both sides of the rivalry. Forget the packaging though and this album's reputation as a slightly silly, scatterbrained album: 'Love You' is, fittingly, all heart and was the very best Brian could do in the circumstances, better really (and certainly more consistent) than anyone had a right to expect. 'Love' is perhaps too strong a word, but I for one like 'Beach Boys Love You' a lot - and if you can look over a few clumsy mistakes you should too.

The current crop of Beach Boys articles at this site now looks like this:

'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

The Moody Blues - Non-Album Recordings Part One: 1964-1967

You can now buy 'New Horizons - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Moody Blues' in e-book form by clicking here!

Does the first Moody Blues release [  ] 'Steal  Your Heart Away' have anything to do with the band to come? A curious choice as a debut single, it's a very English take on an American R and B standard written by guitarist Bobby Parker (better known for the slightly tougher song 'Watch Your Step'). It's typical of The Moody Blues in this period that they should cover the obscure song rather than the well known one, but the trouble is there's less immediacy about 'Steal Your Heart Away' than almost any other R and B song they could have chosen. The band also replace the slow dramatic smoky mood of the original for a very 'tidy' production that tidies up all the loose ends. The song, too, is completely unlike anything else the band were playing at the time (with most of the debut album already in the band's setlists by this point), which makes it a daft choice for a style-setting first single - before the band had a following it inevitably flopped. And yet The Moody Blues already sound right at home in the studio. Despite being teenagers and early-somethings with no prior knowledge of the studio and how it works, no doubt pushed to make this recording quickly so Decca could get on with working with a name band, it's a remarkable recording. Denny Laine's vocals crackles with real energy as he purrs his way through this song about getting a lover no matter what. His R and B guitar-work is highly eccentric for the time (it sounds more like Pete Townshend's than his usual style, but it's not a copy - this is so early in the 1960s Keith Moon hasn't even joined the band's rivals yet), while the loudest noise in the band is Mike Pinder's karate chopped piano lines, a sound still comparatively rare in Britain at the time (Mike's closest rival, Alan Price in The Animals, plays the melody to everyone else's chopped karate stabs - it's a world away from the long held notes of the mellotron to come). A case of very much right band then, but the wrong song. An earlier version released on the deluxe edition of the band's first album 'The Magnificent Moodies' - which really is the first thing the band ever taped in a studio - is understandably much more tentative and sounds as if the band are still going for the wild crowds, with a few clumsy mistakes, long periods of silence where nothing happens but lots of big gestures. Find both versions on: 'The Magnificent Moodies' (deluxe edition)

Much more Moodies-ish is the B-side [  ] 'Lose Your Money (But Don't Lose Your Mind)', which manages to sound straight down the middle between James Brown and The Beatles, with overtones of Bob Dylan in Denny's vocal's sly mumbled delivery and Ray's harmonica swigging. Though the piano doesn't feature much, this first band original was written by Mike alone, before his songwriting partnership with Denny got in full gear, and it is significant that already this early on in the 1960s the band are keen to be seen to be writing their own songs. Mike clearly still had a lot to learn judging by this lumpy and rather ugly song which is based around a simple rock riff, but already he's nailed the band's greatest feature (their already spine-tingling harmonies) and the lyrics are fun, a sort of parody of R and B songs about people spending too much money on their girls. Even back in 1964 this is as 'turned on' a song as it gets, vaguely fighting capitalism while the talk about 'losing minds' sounds more like hippie drug parlance. For now, though, this is all incredibly rootsy with Denny turning in a thrilling R and B guitar solo offhand as if he did this sort of thing in front of a bunch of Abbey Road engineers everyday. Once again the band had another aborted ago first, left in the vaults until the 2015 deluxe re-issue of the debut album, which doesn't really6 compare except for curiosity's sake. Slower and more 'normal', you can even hear Denny's words in this one and the guitar work and piano both emphasis every fourth beat in the bar without the natural grace of the finished version. Ray rather messes up his harmonica part too. Find both versions on: 'The Magnificent Moodies' (deluxe edition)

It's strange to think that, for three years until 'Tuesday Afternoon' came along, the curious R and B cover [17] 'It's Easy Child' was, as the flipside of 'Go Now', arguably the second most known Moody Blues song. The sort of yin to 'Go Now's yang, this isn't about the awful heartbreak of leaving but the easy comfortable thrill of hello. Denny does his best with this odd little ballad by a group of previously unknown writers (Redd, Sandler and 'Go Now's co-writer Milton Bennett) and there's a lovely choral backing in the middle where the band stop playing which is really quite effective and is Ray's first time in the spotlight as a singer. However the curiously lacklustre melody is one that's born of plodding so, unable to work out what to do to bring it to life, the band simply plod on. It's not actually easy, child, at all this song which sounds like a disaster waiting to happen that's been through an afternoon of takes too many, with the band sounding as if they're about to crack if they're forced through any more. A slightly clumsy BBC sessions also exists, with Denny getting shriller and shriller by the end. Find both versions on: 'The Magnificent Moodies' (deluxe edition)

The young Moody Blues promoted their records the usual way for stars of the day, including several sessions for BBC radio. In common with most of their peers, by and large the band just played faithful renditions of their hit record and a few other stage favourites, but like a few other bands the Moodies threw in a few 'exclusives' too. One of these is a moody cover of Arthur Alexander's classic [  ] 'You Better Move On', a popular song of the period given distinctive stamps and branding by The Rolling Stones and The Hollies among others. The Moodies, interestingly, are the most faithful to the original, with Denny singing with the same shrill intensity as the original and Pinder finding a an R and B groove somewhere between pop and rock. It's a good cover, especially for radio, but you long for the band do something a little more Moody-ish with it: there are very few harmonies, for instance, and this song lacks the passion of a 'Go Now' even though Alexander was, arguably, exactly the sort of hot/cold songwriter the band should have been covering. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies' 

Alas the drippy [14] 'I Don't Want To Go On Without You' is the worst possible follow-up to 'Go Now' the band could possibly have made and stalled at an embarrassing #33 in the UK charts a mere few months on. The trouble is so many other bands have covered this rather drippy Drifters tune already by early 1965 (including fellow AAA band The Searchers, who don't do it much better) and it's even less suited to The Moodies than other R and B acts. Denny shines when the song he's singing is sincere and this slice of  polite pleading is anything but. Even his guitar solo sounds more like he's decided to tune it mid-song. The only part that stands out is Mike's delicate piano part, but even this makes the song sound uncomfortably pretty: this song should be life and death, but there's no urgency in this version played at funeral speed. I can see why the band released this - they must have been under big pressure from Decca to cover another R and B ballad in the same vein and preferably with a strong piano part - but 'Go Now' was a very different beast, the sort of sound that no other band been able to offer the world back in 1964. The trouble is 'Go Now' was unique and the band will scratch their heads for the next couple of years trying to work out how to re-capture the magic of their previous song. Easily the worst recording of the Denny Laine era. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

B-side [19] 'Time Is On My Side', though equally well known and too 'safe' a choice to excite the record buying public of 1964 (The Rolling Stones did it this time in terms of AAA bands), does at least suit the band a little more. Denny has a nice Jagger-style sneer, even if he isn't primal enough to sing it quite as well just yet, while the piano part makes for an ear-catching opening as it sounds like Pinder is trying to zoom from 0-60 in twenty notes. However Pinder's falsetto harmony part is already an acquired taste, while Thomas sounds like he's terribly bored and the whole thing is again far too slow. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

 [15] 'From The Bottom Of My Heart I Love You' is a brave choice at a fourth single, with the early Moodies at their most ambitious. Lasting a full three and a half minutes, with a slow burning fuse, it's clearly based on the similar 'House Of The Rising Sun' by old rivals The Animals, with a melody lifted from Goffin and King's 'Where Have You Been?' thrown in for good measure. This is also a key moment as the first original composition released as a single, with Laine and Pinder's effort certainly on a par with their first and third singles, even if they lack the sophistication of 'Go Now'. The lyrics certainly push Denny to the limit, as he starts the song with a growl from the bottom of his diaphragm and gradually keeps getting louder and higher until he hits his favoured high-pitches falsetto note by the song's end. A simple plea to never go away because the narrator loves his girl so completely, it could have sounded tacky but the melody hints at just what a tall ordeal it is for the narrator to melt his beloved's heart of ice. Far from sounding deliriously happy at being in love, Laine sounds petrified by just how far he's been pushed out of his comfort zone. Though not an obvious candidate as a single, this is a cracking song and even with many radio stations refusing to play it because of its length ('Rising Sun' had the same problem at first till it sold in such droves the stations had to back down to public demand) the single did well to reverse the band's fortunes and head back up the charts to a UK peak of #22.  Shockingly, this is the highest the band will manage right up until 'Nights In White Satin' two years later, another slow dramatic song that might not have been possible without tracks like this one to pave the way. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

The song's flip and one of the better Laine/Pinder originals around, [20] 'And My Baby's Gone' deserved a better fate than to be abandoned on the B-side of yet another flop single. In a way this song sounds like a sequel to 'Go Now', the narrator struggling to come to terms with the fact that someone he really loved has walked out of his life. 'Without your love any more I'm not a rich man' the narrator sighs, telling the listener about all the treasures he's 'lost'. A jumpy piano part from Pinder is the backbeat to a beat-heavy song filled with lots of clapping and stomping from the rest of the band that points to the Moodies' R and B past, but it's Laine's heavily psychedelic guitar part that positions this song firmly in 1966. Not so much played as droned, it's one of the more interesting solos he plays while in the band (in fact he'll be under-used as a guitarist in the Wings years). The result is one of the better Laine-era recordings, catchy but slightly deeper and more inventive than a lot of their other songs of the time. A terrifically raw finger-snapping BBC session featuring the song is much better than the album and one of the highlights of the  jam-packed-with-rarities 'Magnificent Moodies' second disc. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

The jolly [  ] 'Everyday' is to mid-1965 what 'Go Now' was to mid-1964 and as such I'm surprise it didn't sell better despite being a comparatively forgettable song. The first two Byrds albums are full of folk-rockers like this, while the tune shares a passing resemblance with The Beatles' own Byrdsy 'It's Only Love' from the 'Help!' soundtrack. In contrast to 'Bottom Of My Heart', this Pinder/Laine song is about how the narrator finds it easy to fall casually in love before and vowing that people shouldn't take it too seriously. Pinder uses his favourite stop-start rhythms (see 'Stop!' and 'Thinking Is The Best Way To Travel' in particular) which are probably the main reason this song didn't sell as they are a tad disruptive when used this often, while clocking in at just 1:48 this song feels like it needs a little something else. Still, it's a good song, even a great one for the time period, with some lovely harmonies between Denny, Ray and Mike uncomfortably perched at the top end and a catchy singalong melody. For those keeping score, this song did worse, falling to #44 in the UK charts. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

B-side [ ] 'You Don't (All The Time)' sounds suspiciously like the early songs by fellow Brummies The Move, with a similar folk-rock sound (with some very early Ray Thomas flute playing), hammy lyrics and a music hall/Herman's Hermits style nursery rhyme melody. Given the context that makes sense: as the band dropped further out of sight their management spent more and more time trying to break The Move and never seemed to be available for the Moodies any more, a fact which must have made them, well, moody. The Moodies remain superior to 'The Move' if only for their natural melodic instincts (it speaks volumes that The Move stuck with three minute pop singles while The Moodies progressed to full albums whose songs are longer and deeper in scope) and though this chirpy song about a tiff between lovers is on a par with 'I Can Hear The Grass Grow' and 'Fire Brigade', it's not deep enough even for early Moodies. You still don't hear this rare flipside song enough, though, none of the time. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

Meanwhile, over at the BBC, The Moodies have decided to have a bash at popular R and B song [  ] 'Jump Back', a Rufus Thomas novelty song not unlike his biggest hit 'Walkin' The Dog'. Goodness knows why - it's not a great song and certainly not a great Moody Blues song, with only Mike's additional piano part and falsetto and Denny's growling frenetic guitar twirls catching the ear. Perhaps sensibly realising they were onto a loser, the band never tried to record this song in the studio although it sounds as if the band know this song fairly well, suggesting it was in their early setlist before being revived for a 'Saturday Club' session. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

[  ] 'I Want You To Know' is a welcome release at last of the band's first coca-cola commercial, under a different name (oops I think I've got this one in my 'unreleased' list still - rewrites ahoy!) Though secret communists The Moody Blues seem unlikely choices for capitalism's favourite soft-drink the jingle was actually highly popular - enough for Coke to come calling again in a couple of years' time for two more adverts with Justin Hayward on lead. All three are great but especially this first one, with Denny sounding greatly expressive as he salutes being 'on the right track' with a girl and how much fun he's going to have - so much so that he decides to have a drink he just happens to have with him and sighs 'you never get tired of this taste!' This could have been a great song in other circumstances, with some great Pinder piano once again and the band play it impressively straight, with Denny sounding as if his heart is pounding. Either he's a great actor or his veins have just been filled with too many bottles of sugary goodness! Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

The year is now 1966 and things are getting serious. The Moody Blues have now been without a top ten hit for eighteen months - a lifetime in this timezone - and the last, rather desperate choice of single ('Stop!', resurrected from the debut album) was the first band release to miss the charts. The musical mood of the world is now progressively more psychedelic and this year more than any other in the decade made sure to prune back the deadwood left over from previous years so that new bands with even stranger names than 'The Moody Blues' can blossom forth. It was in this climate that the band released  [22] 'This Is My House (But Nobody Calls)', a Pinder/Laine song that 's recognisably like before (with the same shuffle rhythms as 'Lose Your Money' at a slightly faster speed) but also recognisably like what's to come. The slightly ragged harmonies of previous years are now a real thing of love and beauty, while Denny's guitar, Mike's chopped guitar and Graeme's wildest drumming yet really puts some pace into the song (Graeme gets his first really classic moment too, mimicking the 'knocking on the door' that Denny long for but never hears). Though some of the band's Laine-era singles are a bit lightweight and this one too has some rather dodgy lyrics that rhyme 'there' with 'a mouse on a chair' - did this song start out life as a cover of 'A Windmill In Old Amsterdam' as both have similar chords and come at a similar pace?), it is in many ways a breakthrough with the first Moody Blues song of many about isolation, desperation and loneliness. Using the house as a metaphor for the narrator's love life is a good idea too, putting a distance between the narrator and his own misery so he doesn't quite as 'love-struck teenager' as some of the band's earlier songs. It's still very dramatic though: 'If I can't have human company then at least I can pretend!' moans Denny, welcoming his furry friend from the skirting boards. It really isn't too big a leap to go from here to Justin in his bedsitter flat writing 'Nights' about his loneliness (oddly enough at more or less this exact time) - this is the first of the Denny-era songs to really sound like the later Justin 'n' John band and proof that Denny might have well had a future in this band if he'd had just that little more patience. However the seeds of his departure in a year or so's time are already being sown here, with perhaps the most telling complaint in the whole song coming at the end: 'Nobody gets to see me in the limelight!' Perhaps second only to 'Go Now' as the Laine-era's best song, typically all that hard work went unrewarded and this became the first 'new' Moodies song not to chart. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

Cannily, The Moody Blues decided to reach out to the one fanbase that was still - by and large - loyal. For some reason The Moody Blues always went down in France from the beginning (even before 'Go Now', debut single 'Steal Your Heart Away' did rather better there), the same way that Germany flipped for The Hollies out of all proportion to most of Europe and Scandanavia really seemed to 'get' The Kinks. With TV appearances and tour audiences dying up in Britain and America across 1965 and 1966, The Moodies spent a lot of time there and picked up a lot of the feel of the local music. [23] 'Boulevard De Madeleine' is, on the surface, another great Laine/Pinder song. The perfect accompaniment to 'This Is My House', it's a tango with accordions as Denny complains about being left behind in a dingy Parisian street, jilted by a girl he really fancied and feeling depressed 'like a part of me died'. However the band clearly hadn't been around France that long - the band simply spotted Boulevard De Madleine on a sign and thought it sounded good for a song lyric. What they didn't know was that this run down part of town was actually famous for its brothels, giving the song a sleazy reputation it didn't deserve and putting the song in a whole new place altogether! France was always slightly prim and proper when it came to rock and roll (The Beatles' shows in France are said to be the moment the band decided to quit touring, because suddenly there was no screaming and they could hear how bad they sounded!) - you'd have to be a very rebellious teenager in 1966 to actually go out and buy this song! Back to the drawing board then...  Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

The last Denny Laine/Moody Blues single is another step forward on the band's great journey. [24] 'Life's Not Life' is to 1966 what 'Go Now' was to 1964 and 'Everydays' was to 1965, psychedelic but in the peculiarly tough sense of other 1966 songs (ie its more 'Paint It Black' and 'Paperback Writer/Rain' than 'Ruby Tuesday' or 'Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds'). A curious blend of R and B, music hall, folk, blues and psychedelia, it sounds very like the first taste of flower power heard across the 'Nuggets' series of psychedelic one-shots. Lyrically, this last Pinder/Laine song sounds not unlike a drug experience (both men were users by now) and like many sneaky songs of the period includes references to a 'fall' without using the word 'trip' while talking about 'altered perceptions'. 'Life's not life no more, I've slipped up for sure, but not enough to fall' is a great lyric, cute enough for audiences who didn't 'get' it while sure to get nodding winks from those who already knew their Haights from their Ashburys and their weed from their flowerpot men. Interestingly it's a third straight original in a row about isolation and depression and is very much on a career trajectory from 'Go Now' to 'Nights In White Satin' and even '#I Know You're Out There Somewhere', with lyrics about someone suddenly leaving and the narrator feeling guilty for years (decades even) afterwards. A cute performance is more playful and livelier than the last two songs but still suited to the material, with Denny and Mike in tandem spiralling downwards while Ray's sad flute is left in the middle, desperately trying to keep up with the others. Another under-rated classic. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

Only released on a Moody Blues EP (the only Moody Blues EP, 'Boulevard De Madeliene', released as a 'cash-in' only in France in 1966) [22] 'People Gotta Go' sounds suspiciously like an older song exhumed from the vaults with a much heavier R and B feel. Though the backing is plodding, with an oom-pah melody and Graeme smacking a tambourine with all the subtlety of a gorilla, the vocals are really coming on a treat with Denny and Ray sounding so great in harmony you wonder why they didn't try the technique more often. Lyrically this Pinder/Laine song is, well, odd: though I thought for years that the lyrics were a comment on either stardom (a la Buffalo Springfield) or population control (a la The Hollies in this period), actually a few close listens studying the lyrics reveal that the narrator means a specific group of people who keep hanging around his girlfriend. She's moved house recently - a shared bedsitter flat or a uni accommodation? - and the narrator wants some alone time, 'just come up from town to see ya and all the things I dread to see, yeah!' Denny sounds wonderfully pompous and you can just picture him standing in a doorway, arms folded, sneering 'what are you looking at me like that for? I deserve to know their names!' Too good to leave in the vaults or abandoned on a French EP, if perhaps a little too weird for release as a single in its own right, it's a shame the band try a few more experiments like this one as they really have a feel for this sort of 'comical' R and B. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

The B-side of the band's final Denny/Clint single is [25] 'He Can Win' which is another rather odd song which sounds like Herman's Hermits would if they'd ever taken marijuana. A plea to women not to put their men down, they ask the girls to 'give him all he needs and he can win win win win' and that if they 'get everything right you'll be in in in in'. Later lyrics make out that man is just an animal trying to be polite and it's up to the girl to make the first move and show her that she wants him to unleash his inner beast. Umm, is everything alright at home, chaps? Is this an early sign of Denny's infamously troubled love life? Is Mike's marriage (he married very young and it will only just last the rest of the decade) already in trouble? This song sounds like two bachelors soothing their sorrows in a bar somewhere and as such is highly revealing - alas it's also rather patronising when sobered up the next morning and ends the Laine and Warwick era on something of an anti-climactic note. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

Definitely the weirdest song from the Moodies' early years is a Ray Thomas-led cover of [  ] '23rd Psalm' (the one that runs 'The Lord Is My Shepherd'). Though played in earnest at first, with Ray singing the way he did on 'It Ain't Necessarily So' (big and loud and expressive!), the song switches mood halfway through to become a groovy gospel party with Denny trying to get the band to join him in 'shouting my fears as I fear no pain'. Though you can hear what the band were trying to do, this song and performance falls between two stools: it's not pretty enough to be reverential and not rock and roll enough to be cheeky. This is, however, a great starring role for Clint Warwick's under-rated bass playing and he manages to throw in some great rock and roll runs, while Graeme similarly strains at the leash to break free. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'The Magnificent Moodies'
The year 1966 has long been a blurry one for Moodycologists, a blurred time that saw the band move away from one sound into another, further confused by the loss of two band members (Clint left in the middle of the year, Denny at the end, with temporary bassist Rod Clark also leaving after a few months)  and a new producer in Denny Cordwell (best known for his work with fellow Brummies The Move later on in the decade). For years us fans assumed that the handful of singles released across the year was all the band had recorded but no - the 'Magnificent Moodies' album revealed a near-whole album's worth of discarded material recorded in this trying period (it would have been a whole album if you'd added the period  singles into the equation anyway) - so unexpectedly I've had to re-write this whole flipping section of the book! (Not that I mind hearing new music - would that there were more vintage recordings to find from all the AAA bands, I'd gladly write another seventy). If it seems odd that Decca should go to the expense of having a band spend all that time and effort without much to show for it, then that's a sign of how quickly record contracts have moved on in the years since The Moody Blues signed to Decca for at least a three year deal. The plan was the band had to record a certain number of allocated album and single tracks or else they could be sued for breach of copyright, while on their side of the fence it was up to Decca if it was worth the expense of releasing them or not. Several bands suffered similar in the period, though few had ever fallen from grace at quite the speed of the early Moody Blues. Understandably the band sound half-hearted across this untitled 'second' album, torn between a desire to stretch themselves musically and prove they can keep up with the opposition and feeling fed-up that only a few choice extracts from the sessions are ever likely to be heard (and those are up to the whims of their new producer). To be fair, Cordwell chose for release not only the 'best' songs but the ones with the best chances of success in the commercial market of 1966; even so, there are some excellent lost gems here too good to leave behind and all of them are intriguing from a collector's point of view, filling in more of the 'gap' between the R and B and psychedelic eras of the band.

First up is [  ] 'Sad Song', a very pretty lament which Denny wails more than he sings, although it also has a more 'upright' R and B feel than the band's period singles like 'Boulevard De Madeleine' and 'Life's Not Life'. Perhaps a little too retro for 1966, with a very Beatley sound, it is nevertheless a great song for release in 2015 with gorgeous harmonies and some excellent early Ray Thomas flute. The song is another collaboration between Mike and Pinder and feature lots of heartbroken lyrics as Denny tries to get a loved one to stay (it's much closer to Denny's future solo style than anything Mike will write, incidentally). However there's a twist, seemingly aimed squarely at the Decca executives who will likely be the only ones to hear this material: 'Sad you should think of the bad things about me, what have you been thinking about leaving without me, what can I do to make up to someone I don't want to lose?' The rest of the song deals more with motive and career than love too: 'I'm not too proud to cry if I don't succeed ...' A nice period piece. Find it on: the deluxe re-issue of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

I'm surprised that The Moodies were allowed to have two separate goes at covering the Tim Hardin song [  ] 'How Can We Hang On To A Dream?' given the circumstances. A lovely slow sad sighing ballad, it's very much in the vein of the songs Justin will soon be bringing to the band, although Denny does a great job adding his usual take-it-by-the-throat vocals with just the right tinge of haze and helplessness. Mike turns in a variation on the 'Go Now' piano solo that's far scarier and sadder, while outgoing Clint Warwick gets a last chance to shine on a quick solo (presumably the band are taking off The Who's 'My Generation' here,  using the bass instead of the harder-edged guitar). The second version, with new boy Rod Clarke on bass, has a little more going on than the first (flutes, backing vocals and bass flourishes across the song rather than just near the end) and is taken quite a bit faster too, so is the one I'd have chosen for release at the time as a 'hit'. However sitting here all these years later, with no regard for hits of the music of the day, the first take sounds better: Denny has a better grasp of the 'how can this be happening?' shocked lyrics while this is as heart a simple song that sounds better delivered as simply as possible. Find it on: the deluxe re-issue of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

Pinder and Laine's own 'Jago and Jilly' is either the greatest song of the period or the worst - I still can't quite tell. A waltz ripped wholesale off The Beatles' 'Baby's In Black' with weird words, it somehow just comes up with enough ideas to keep you on your toes (including a bass and guitar duel an octave apart, with Ray's flute flying between them, an extra 'arum bum bum' drum solo from Graeme on particularly good form and some more excellent backing vocals). Jago is 'free' - presumably after a drink binge or a drug trip - and wants to tell Jilly that he's long fancied her; she can't stand him and turns him down. However is he being 'silly' (nice rhyme there) or is it best to get his feelings out into the open so they can carry on? The Moodies really making unrequited love their 'thing' aren't they, even before 'Nights In White Satin' comes along and though a bit more clod-hopping than later classics, this song has a real swing to it and a tongue-in-cheek style (the narrator ends the chorus by telling Jago 'keep her for me!') that's refreshing compared to the band's other songs. They'd have either had a big hit with this song or seen their careers killed off for good had they released it, I'm not quite sure which! Find it on: the deluxe re-issue of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

However the best of these second album sessions - and perhaps the best song of the entire Denny Laine era after 'Go Now' - is the Pinder/Laine collaboration [  ] 'We're Broken'. Though still based around Mike's R and B piano licks and those same lovely harmonies, this is a very different sound indeed with a fuzz guitar and wild rock thrashing. Again it sounds like the heavier moments of the 'Nuggets' psychedelia one-hit-wonders sets, full of the same unfocussed thrashing rhythms and simple lyrics conjoined to complex melodic structures with the message that life will never be the same again. Denny wishes he didn't have to feel as discarded and betrayed as he does, but the more he tries to calm himself down the more histrionic he gets, with an eerie 'weeeeee're broken!' hookline interrupting his thoughts and bringing him back to his knees every-time he thinks he's got over the loss and moved on. fans of the peculiar 1966 branch of psychedelia (with heavy rock overtones) will love this song, which is a classic of the genre. There's even a terrific scat piano solo from Mike which really does sound like what he was meant to be playing - his usual solos from similar songs - has been broken and scattered across the keyboard, as fragmented as the couple's relationship. Denny is just great, holding things together till near the end with a more understated performance than normal and only a wild squeal near the end, while Ray's backing vocals are already the glue holding the song together and stopping it flying away. For once Decca messed up - with the right promotion this surely had to be a hit - and the Moody Blues' career (not to mention Wings') might have been oh so different if it had. Sensational and worth the price of the 'deluxe' set alone. Find it on: the deluxe re-issue of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

Not much is known about [  ] 'Red Wine', an unusual song which could be a PInder/Laine original but if so sounds more like what the band were offering on the first album. I also can't tell whose singing the lead vocal to Denny's falsetto harmony. Is it Rod Clarke because he's the only Moody vocal I don't know (it isn't Denny, Mike or Ray and it doesn't sound much like Graeme's 'whispered' voice of later recordings either). Not unlike 'Send Me No Wine' to come, it's a frenetic retro rocker full of clipped sentences about the good and bad of an alcohol-involved meeting ('Red wine, good time, send you outta your mind!') although am I the only person to think the band are actually singing an 'ode' to something stronger as the 'mind blown' imagery is more like a 'drug' song ('Won't go in a straight line!') Graeme has fun getting out months of pent up aggression on the song and like much of the 1966 sessions the band are noticeably tighter than they were in 1965, rescuing a so-so song with a terrific band performance. Like the other songs unreleased from the sessions, this song deserved better than to be stuck in a box for a full fifty years. Find it on: the deluxe re-issue of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

Meanwhile, over in a bedsit down South, a still-teenage Justin Hayward has just signed to Pye Records, thanks to his friend and mentor Marty Wilde pulling a few strings, before being dropped and switching to Parlophone (meaning that Justin has gone from being a stablemate of The Kinks and The Searchers to The Beatles and The Hollies before ending up at Decca alongside The Rolling Stones when he joins The Moody Blues - what a great career trajectory!) Though the two sides of both singles Justin recorded for the label are less remarkable musically than what's to come - and still rather behind what his Moody colleagues are up to - they are nevertheless pretty darn amazing for someone so young and inexperienced. Justin writes all four track himself, which is impressive enough by itself for 1966, but what really comes across is the sense that Justin has already 'found' his inner voice - the world-weary shrug and questioning doubt of so many future Hayward classics is already here intact, it's just the means of getting that voice across that isn't quite there yet. None of the recordings quite match the songs, with Justin still easing into that sugar-coated voice and the playing os the session musicians erratic, sounding like nobody else in the room is quite comfortable with this hybrid of rock 'n' folk. Many of the songs are performed with an OTT orchestra and drumming best described as 'eccentric', which will be good practice for times to come, but somehow none of these performances sound as 'real' as the Moodies will in a few years and if ever there was proof that Justin needed the band as much as they needed him, then it's here. Both records flopped, despite as much publicity as Justin and Marty could muster, partly perhaps because of the indifferent performances but more likely because these songs are, however good, slightly old hat by 1966. These songs sound like the folk-rock of 1965 - The Byrds and The Beatles' soundtrack album for 'Help!'- and Justin was unlucky at coming along just as the world was rather spoilt for choice for talented young songwriters. His loss was The Moody Blues' gain though and you can trace a real line from these solo recordings to 'Fly Me High', just as you can hear the Justin 'n' John era Moody Blues in the Denny Laine recordings of the year. Sadly, to date, none of the four tracks have ever been re-issued or have appeared on CD (well officially anyway - they're a favourite of bootleggers): Justin has always been slightly embarrassed about them, but he really shouldn't: they're a fascinating, insightful and perfectly respectable part of his development as singer, writer and guitarist.

[  ] 'London Is Behind Me' is the A-side of the first single, sung by Justin apparently doing everything he can not to sound like himself and adding a Nashville twang to his voice. However the mood is still predominantly English: Justin's narrator is alone, travelling down one of those new-fangled motorways (the first one had only opened in the UK in 1959) and wishing his girl was by his side. At first the despondent way that Justin sings the song makes you think that this is an early 'Nights In White Satin' 'Who Are You Now?' or 'I Know You're Out There Somewhere', the first song addressed to the mystery partner he lost touch with early on, but the song veers somewhere different by the middle picturing Justin's girl anxiously waiting for him as he turns up late (no mobiles in those days to let her know he's got a puncture you see). Interestingly this song is a rare case of the Moodies mentioning money and a lack of it (they'll be above such worldly things in another year or two), complaining 'The car's laid up and I haven't got the bus fare, all I've got's a quid and I'll save it till I got there'.  Played on folk instruments but with a rock pounding, it sounds more like early Simon and Garfunkel than anything, especially the twin-part harmonies with an un-credited backing singer. Symbolically, of course, Justin is about to turn his back on a career in London for one in...Birmingham with the other Moodies (ninety-nine times out of a hundred it was the other way around!) Find it on: Befriend your local millionaire, turn him onto the Moody Blues and plead with him to buy a copy of this rare single. Either that or spend a fortune on e-bay.

The B-side [  ] 'Day Must Come' is a little more derivative, the sort of breathy orchestral ballad-with-drums that was big at the time (well, actually, a little before this: think the Righteous Brothers or Tom Jones in 1965). Justin is already having fun with his stop-start time signatures, but the melody is nearly non-existent and the words very repetitive and ordinary (Alone at night without you near, I can see you oh so clear, did you leave me here to wonder days must come and I'll forget you till the night falls and day must come again'). However, for Moody fans this is a fascinating song: the first Justin recording about loss and a track that just happens to be set late at night full of desperation and loneliness - it's not that big a jump thematically from here to 'Nights In White Satin', although in quality there's a chasm between the two. For a start the drummer never hits the same beat in the bar twice which is incredibly wearing (unless you're at the level of a Keith Moon where you can hit every beat at once!) and makes Graeme look like a virtuoso! Find it on: It's a golden day. The sun is shining - look at the view. You've decided to head to your local rummage sale/record fair/read an ad in the paper when suddenly your eyes spot this long lost Justin Hayward classic in good condition at a reasonable price. It's a scenario that could happen I suppose - but only if you're really really lucky!

Justin's second single has a heavier, rockier feel than his first and is a little more sophisticated. I've grown rather fond of A-side [  ] 'I Can't Face The World Without You', which sounds like period Searchers or Peter and Gordon (breathy orchestral ballads with a real rock stomp and a touch of echoey Phil Spector about the production). Justin sounds oddly deep on this song and still hasn't quite found his voice yet, but the chorus line features him reaching for the notes and flying, rather than simply walking, on the line 'pleeeeease' for the first time and it really knocks a slightly awkward song into first gear. A dose of George Harrison-esque guitar switches the backing to Beatles, but the orchestra is pure Scott Walker, with Justin caught somewhere between 'Fly Me High' and 'Nights' again (while Justin's guitar solo is played more like a sitar, impressively early for mid-1966!) Lyrically it's another song of loss, though you get the sense that Justin is writing this song to step in line with the expected theme of songs in this era rather than because he's writing from the 'heart' as yet. Find it on: You have a choice - a roof over your head, a complete collection of Alan's Album Archives books or owning this very rare single. Our advice is go with the books - they'll keep the rain off you when you lose your house and they'll probably release this on CD anyway one day, just maybe.

The B-side [  ] 'I'll Be Here Tomorrow' is more like the early Moody Blues, a fun and funky rocker with a very 1950s riff. Justin is trying to woo a girl with promises of always being there for her and sharing sighed miseries over 'love gone wrong', but strangely his commitment to 'being here tomorrow' comes across as slightly hollow. The second verse, after all, is basically a nagging set of words about how she messed up (the 'hidden' message of the song is 'well, that's what you get for dating him when you could have had me!') while there's nothing about this song that makes you think 'what a great guy!' just yet (don't worry, it will come). Find it on: I know you're out there somewhere, somewhere somewhere, I know I'll find you somehow somehow and somehow you'll return again to the Moody Blued discography.

Non-Album Recordings Part #4: 1967

Entry number [26] 'Fly Me High' is a red letter day for The Moody Blues. Their second single of 1967 but their first to feature Justin Hayward and John Lodge, no matter how much they try to shape this song like the R and B styles of the past it's still clearly a 'new' sound and a new direction. Pinder having exhausted all his ideas for the moment it's the new boy who gets a first shot at an A side and it's the two new boys who dominate the sound, with Justin playing a hypnotic guitar riff and a bouncy vocal while John Lodge's falsetto harmonies warble away behind him. It's a sound that's going to reap huge rewards in years to come and the band's brave move in nominating their two newbies centre stage almost pays off. 'Fly Me High' is a fascinating song about a sudden feeling of joy that sweeps over the narrator for reasons he never explains to us, with Justin determined to make the most of it now because 'in a few hours more it'll be gone'. There are two obvious interpretations to make here, given that Justin offers no clues as to 'why'. The first one is drugs: even the title seems to hint at 'getting high'. The question then is what has Justin taken? Some lyrics refer to 'loving everyone' (a key proponent of LSD), while  the idea of 'whoops here I come, I've travelled too fast' suggests amphetamines (the sort of things The Beatles took in Hamburg to keep them awake all night). If all this conjecture is true than it makes 'Fly Me High' the only overtly drug song in the Moodies' canon - and a really brave move for a band whose reputation in 1967 was a little bit stuffy and behind the times. The other possibility is that Justin, after years and years of knocking at the gates of success, has finally been welcomed into a 'hit' band. At times the lyric to 'Fly Me High' sounds like a lecture, a determination to fly 'straight' rather than mess up a golden opportunity. A warm and sweet little song, with psychedelic overtones but also a strong R and B beat, this is a perfect stepping stone from the band's 'old' sound to the 'new'. Alas it flopped as badly at the time as any of the past year's efforts with Denny Laine, only becoming a sort of 'retrospective classic' in the CD age where it became the welcome opening number to many a Moodies compilation. Funny, sunny and right on the money, it's one of the band's better ideas from their 'golden year' of 1967. Find it on: the 1987 compilation 'Prelude', the two box sets 'TimeTraveller' and 'Timeless Flight' and the deluxe edition of 'Days Of Future Passed'

Relegated both to writing solo songs and to the B-side, Mike Pinder's [27] 'Really Haven't Got The Time' is still firmly inside the band's traditions. A rushed pounding four-bar-blues with a rock and roll beat, this busy song cleverly mimic's the narrator's rushed impatience. Pinder even plays a striking piano solo that's both jazzier and more scatterbrained than anything else he's played for the Moodies so far. The lyric is probably just about the narrator being rushed off his feet, but notice that the opening line to this B-side is 'I don't want to ride...', another bit of drug slang (which is interesting given that in time Pinder will get more, shall we say, 'psychedelic' than anyone, even if he is still the self-styled keeper of the flame for the band's traditions right now). A fun backing vocal which is so busy it can't even spit the words out in full ('I Really! I really haven't! I really haven't got the time!') offers an early glimpse at how the band's new backing vocals now sound (the above song featured only Justin and John; this one features Ray Thomas loudest but John and Justin are in there too). Apart from some misguided blues hollering at the end and a loudly chanted 'hey!' in the middle, this is more fine, fun stuff from a band who sound as if they finally know what their direction is after a year or more of trying to find it. It's certainly an improvement on an earlier version cut at one of the last recording sessions with Denny in September 1966 (who sings falsetto backing alongside Mike's lead and provides some chunky but ill-suited Chuck Berry style guitar) and which comes off as more novelty music hall than hard-hitting rocker. Find the released version on the deluxe edition of 'Days Of Future Passed' and the earlier outtake on the deluxe set of 'The Magnificent Moodies'

[28] 'Love and Beauty' is where the Moodies' sound fully changes forever: while here more for a bit of colour than the cornerstone of the band's sound as it will become Pinder's mellotron is now present and correct. Perhaps inspired by Justin, Mike is fully in charge again on this track, falling head-first for the sounds of psychedelia with lyrics about 'helping every man as a friend' and a slightly wonky, wobbly backing that's edging ever closer to the band's famous style. Like many a Pinder song, this one comes in 'sections', with each one signposted by a twinkly piano arpeggio and a loud whallop from Graeme's drums which rather disrupts the sound, but the song itself is a good one. The narrator walks around in crowds of people every day but feels alienated from them, glancing at the weather, looking at their shoes (It's a quirk of environment that practically all of American psychedelia is set in sunshine and all of British psychedelia set in rain, with many 'trippers' rushing out to experience what always used to seem a nasty experience afresh and seeing it through different eyes; Pinder may have been inspired by classic Beatles B-side 'Rain' here, released the previous Summer). 'If only they could see what I see!' this song loves to yell, urging them to look up 'and realise we're not the only ones alive'. That's a very Moodies theme - the first in this book that if anyone else had sung it we'd be saying 'gosh that's a very Moodies song!' -and they'll return to the theme some 19 years later with 'The Other Side Of Life', another composition about a world that exists in parallel to 'our' one. With one of Pinder's better vocals and a backing track that's confident on the mysterious verses (if less so on the poppy chorus, which arrives with a lurch each time - perhaps mimicking the narrator finding himself back on 'Earth') this is another strong step forward for the band searching for that winning sound and a much under-rated song. Find it on: 'Prelude' (1987), 'Time Traveller' (1990) and the deluxe edition of 'Days Of Future Passed'

This time it's Justin whose decided to give the band something more in keeping with their R and B past. [29] 'Leave This Man Alone' is a great gutsy rocker hammered home by a fierce riff and another tight backing performance with a rare chance for John Lodge to show what he was actually hired to do - play R and B with a distinctive walking bass part to hold the band together. Justin's lyric is defensive, full of indignation and fury at being made to feel small by persons unknown and he rattles the lyrics off at a million miles an hour, still seething at some injustice. 'Leave my mind alone!' he cries as people try to put him down, young girls who 'stand and stare' with 'their faces' (a very psychedelic line, suggesting that the 'face' is somehow separate from the 'soul') taunting him. While ostensibly a song about wanting a date and not getting one (hard to imagine for Justin even before he was famous!) this song seems to be a little deeper than that, with the key perhaps in the second verse where someone recognises the narrator but 'can't think where', rabbiting on about how he 'knows so much about me'. This was a common experience among drug takers in the 1960s so I'm told, with people assuming that they 'knew' people on more than just an artificial level, perhaps exaggerated by what might have been the first taste of 'fame' Justin ever got (The Moodies' records still weren't selling but would have been recognisable from TV and concerts). This would 'fit' with what we know about the band circa 1972/73, effectively splitting up because they hated being taken for prophets when they were 'just singers in a rock and roll band', but seems awfully early to be making an appearance in this book. A great snappy riff, a terrific punchy band performance (especially Edge's eccentric drumming), a wonderful guitar sound right on the cusp of R and B and psychedelia plus a great vocal from Justin make for one of the band's finest flip sides, an unusually aggressive and harsh song which proves that they could do 'tough' as well as any other band when the right song came along.  A slightly differently arrangement appeared on a BBC recording of the song, which benefits from the raw power of a 'live' performance (bar Justin's double-tracking) but loses out thanks to a faster arrangement and some random tootling from Pinder on the mellotron, clearly bored without anything to play on the original song. Find it on: 'Prelude' (1987) and the deluxe edition of 'Days Of Future Passed'

A deeply unusual Justin Hayward song, [30]'Cities' - the best-selling B-side of 'Nights In White Satin' - is the only one of his songs to deliberately sound 'ugly'. A rare protest song about a dark and dingy city 'filled with smells and noise and darkness', it's more like something The Kinks would write, laughing at the idea that filling towns with smoky factories and grimy rivers turned into sewers somehow represents 'progress'. The golden moment of the record, though, is the middle eight when Justin screams 'no, not for me, no no I don't believe you!' on the middle eight and the song changes key, the musical equivalent of going from black and white into technicolour. This is one of the first time Justin has used what will become one of his favourite tricks of contrasting moods (a key theme of every song from the A-side 'Nights' to 'Question') and it's one of the best, delivering realism and escapism all at the same time. I'd love to know if Justin had a specific city in mind - is he singing about his joy at turning his back on London after a difficult and unrewarding year as a solo singer in 1966 or is he being rude about a visit to the band's spiritual home in Birmingham?! Whatever the cause, it's unfortunate that the band do such a comprehensive job of capturing the slow, boring slog of a city that's impenetrable. The actual sound of this record is impressive, with Mike playing a harpischord for the one and only time (perhaps it's that which gives this B-side such a 'Kinks' feel?), while John's bass against Graeme's drums make the song sound as if it's stuck in place and immoveable. The highlight are the echo-drenched backing voices that sound surreal and scary, like an L S Lowry painting of workers traipsing along their futile existence with their heads hung low. However by Moody standards this is a hard song to love and does rather too good a job at keeping us 'out' and emotionally unconnected apart from that all too-brief middle eight. Still, if nothing else, it's the perfect accompaniment to 'Nights' as a single, with the isolation and loneliness of the 'A' side kind of the result of the 'B' side's dark dingy grey sprawling urban surroundings. Find it on: 'Prelude' (1987), 'Time Traveller' (1990) and the deluxe re-issue of 'Days Of Future Passed'

Rather lost amidst the other great material on offer across 1967, [31] 'Long Summer Days' is the most generic songs Justin recorded with the Moody Blues and sounds more like his 1966 singles. The band sensibly didn't put as much time and effort into this song as usual and the track sounds unfinished (Justin would surely have been made to change the very different ways his double-tracked selves sing 'what to do with my time' had the song got any further). The band were also probably right to dump this song in favour of 'Love and Beauty' a couple of months later, but like most Moodies songs of the immediate pre-'Future Passed' sessions there is still a large dollop of Moody magic where the sheer excitement of watching things turn out right infects the band. The long held notes on the middle eight really test the band's recently-formed four-part harmony (with a rare case of both Mike and John singing falsetto) but sound great, while Justin is again using his masterstroke of contrasts, turning the middle eight into a demonstration of all the great times his girl and he specifically but also the world in general could be enjoying had life been slightly different. 'Take me back - and let me start again' is the theme of the song and a rather apt on in the circumstances given that the Moody Blues are still re-inventing themselves in front of our ears. The song was later dug out for the 'Caught Live+5' album of 1977, one of the first 'outtakes' sets released where it surprised many people more used to the later, sophisticated band with both its naiveté and its charm. Find it on: 'Caught Live+5' (1977), 'Prelude' (1987) and the deluxe edition of 'Days Of Future Passed'

Recorded the same day as 'Leave This Man Alone', Pinder's [32] 'Please Think About It' lost out to that song and 'Love and Beauty' perhaps because it sounded so much like the 'old' band rather than the 'new' one. Apart from Justin and John's prominent backing vocals you could easily believe that this was one of the band's early follow-up attempts to 'Go Now', with a double-tracked Mike doing a good job at trying to re-create the slow burning intensity of Denny's original. On one of his last 'normal' piano parts, with no mellotron attached, Mike also dominated the sound like never before, going through slow R and B crawl to soft shoe jazz shuffle on the solo, while neither Justin nor Ray appear to play at all on what is for the time a very empty (and un-1967 like) backing track. Many fans don't like it and the song is perhaps a shade too slow, while it seems unlikely knowing the band's perfectionism that this was ever intended as a last take (Mike messes up his lines towards the end). However the song's slow sad shuffle of a melody, fitting lyrics (again pleading with a lover to take the narrator back - what were the band up to?) and some excellent harmonies raise this song to the rank of good, if not quite great. Another 'Caught Live+5' outtake that, without any sleeve notes or credits back then, everyone assumed was a Denny Laine era leftover. Find it on: 'Caught Live+5' (1977) 'Prelude' (1987) and the deluxe re-issue of 'Days Of Future Passed'

Recorded for a BBC session but never featured on record, the band's cover of Nina Simone's  [33] 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood' was a popular live number, surprisingly only recorded this once for posterity. Compared to the most famous version (by The Animals, although fellow AAA member Cat Stevens will go on to record it too) The Moodies' version offers both torment and solution. Justin's edgy vocal does a good job at conveying guilt and worry but the rest of the band seem to be trying to 'heal' the song: one of Ray's earliest flute solos is delicate and light, while Ray, Mike and John offer some empathetic 'oohs' that take the sting out of the song. The result is a nicely dressed up version of the band's old R and B sound, captured for nearly the last time, with a strong song done justice by the Moodies. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'Days Of Future Passed' and 'At The BBC'

A Now Complete List Of Moody Blues Related Articles At Alan’s Album Archives:

'The Magnificent Moodies' (1965)

'Days Of Future Passed' (1967)

'In Search Of The Lost Chord' (1968)

'On The Threshold Of A Dream' (1969)

'To Our Children's Children's Children' (1969)

‘A Question Of Balance’ (1970)

'Every Good Boy Deserves Favour' (1971)

'Seventh Sojourn' (1972)

'Blue Jays' (Hayward/Lodge) (1976)

'Songwriter' (Hayward) (1977)

'Long Distance Voyager' (1981)

'The Present' (1983)

'The Other Side Of This Life' (1986) http://alansalbu

‘Keys To The Kingdom’ (1991)

'Strange Times' (1999)


Surviving TV Clips 1964-2015:

The Best Unreleased Recordings 1961-2009:

Non-Album Recordings Part One 1964-1967:

Non-Album Recordings Part Two 1968-2009:

Solo/Live/Compilation Albums Part One 1969-1977:

Solo/Live/Compilation Albums Part Two: 1979-2015

Essay: Why Being A Moodies Fan Means You Can Never Go Home