#576: The Beach Boys – I Know There’s an Answer

Hey everybody. Been a while since the last post…. I dunno… Just been lacking in motivation recently. With all this music you’d think I’d have stuff to say all the time, and at a consistent rate too. Sometimes I have to really be into it to even open WordPress up. It’s all good today though. Also, I graduated this week. Tuesday to be exact. The ceremony was great, but if it wasn’t clear that I had finished university since I moved out in June it definitely is now. And it’s all slowly setting in. Quietly catching up. An existential crisis looms. So that’s what’s up with me.

The last post on here was another song by The Beach Boys, I know. That’s just the way it’s sorted on my phone, can’t to anything about it. ‘Tis a fine one though, to be sure.

‘I Know There’s an Answer’ is the ninth song on the group’s seminal 1966 album Pet Sounds, and again showcases Brian Wilson’s prodigious musicality with a soundscape of woodwind, horns and booming percussion. Originally the track was written as ‘Hang on to Your Ego’, in reaction to the effects that Brian Wilson – and many, many others in those times – would experience when taking LSD. I’ll put that version down below.

Not being one to partake in those activities, Wilson’s bandmate and cousin Mike Love objected to the song’s drug references and suggested that its title and some lyrics be changed. ‘Ego’ became ‘Answer’ and the beat goes on. I do prefer ‘Answer’ all the way. Something about it just sounds a lot fuller. The vocals in particular. Love sings the first line of the song, Al Jardine sings the following lines, and then Wilson takes on the track’s main refrain. It’s a very cool delivery. Not only do all three members sound like the same person, but I particularly dig how the vocals climb from Love’s trademark low voice to Wilson’s higher key. The instrumentation behind them builds and builds to kinda release itself during the chorus too. It’s very well done. Quite cathartic in some ways. Other things to note when listening is that bass harmonica solo and when, during the song’s fade out, things seem to start speeding up – though it’s just someone getting a bit too eager on a tambourine…… Oh, and a chord on a banjo is played earlier than it should be at one point too. That’s enough.

Below is ‘Hang on to Your Ego’, and if you want to observe just how the song was produced there’s a little making of video too.

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#575: The Beach Boys – I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times

You won’t find a lot of Beach Boys on my playlist. I have written a post about two of their songs before; those that I’ve yet to come to can all be listened to on the album Pet Sounds. Gotta love that album, very much a milestone in popular music.

At a time when artists were creating some far out music in the 60s, breaking boundaries and going an extra mile in terms of their sound and production, The Beach Boys – led by musical genius Brian Wilson – were drifting away from their usual surf-pop style and into a more grandiose and symphonic soundscape. People weren’t ready for that change. Not even a few of the group’s members themselves, which really got Brian Wilson down and continued to do so until he had a bit of a breakdown due to drugs and intense pressure. It was clear that something massive was happening, though why couldn’t anyone else see it?

That’s really what today’s track is about. Not solely about Wilson himself (well, obviously it is in a way), but for anyone who feel their ideas are to advanced for their peers to understand, are frustrated by the situation, and think that in another time their work would be appreciated. Quite the sticky subject. A very universal one too, I’m sure.

Took me a while to actually get into this track. It’s the most recent one from the album I decided to put on my phone. When I first listened to Pet Sounds the whole way through and proceeded to again a further few times, ‘These Times’ would start and I’d really wait for it to finish instead of really listening to its message and melodies. That was a mistake. I realised that, just like (almost) every other song on there, you give enough time to it and it slowly seeps into your mind. You’ve got the tremendous vocal group that overlap in that build-up to the chorus, and the instrumentation provided by The Wrecking Crew is perfect to a tee. And all of it was constructed by that expansive mind Brian Wilson possessed. Very admirable. Quite scary too.

#574: The White Stripes – I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself

Gotta say I don’t have much on the brain about this one….. Nothing on the personal side of things anyway. I think the song’s great don’t get me wrong, The White Stripes achieve a fantastic cover of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s composition (originally made popular by Dusty Springfield in 1964), but I think I just saw the music video on MTV when I was about nine and thought it was cool. And because I was only nine and still thought girls were icky, I never got the appeal of Kate Moss pole dancing and writhing on a table. The song just simply sounded awesome. That is the official music video by the way for any new readers or listeners, not my doing.

The White Stripes were alright. They have great songs but I’m not a huuuge fan… It always was a big thing when they announced a new single or album though. I recall the video for ‘Icky Thump’ being shown almost every hour on MTV2 in 2007 when it was released. Good times being 12 and everything. Good tune too. Though you wouldn’t find me being the first in line to buy their albums. Was a shame when they split though. Probably still had so much to give.

So anyway ‘I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself’ appears on the band’s 2003 album Elephant as its fourth track. This track’s tone is what pulls me in every time. There’s something very slinky, sneaky and sly in the way it’s performed. Jack White gets that ashy tone on his guitars and sounds like he’s wailing his vocals about in an empty corridor. Meg White gets all primal on the drums. The contrast between the quiet verses and the sudden release in the choruses. That triumphant ending where the song title’s repeated and everything fades out. Man. This is a great track. Whenever anyone attempts a cover of an old track, I feel they should always adapt it to their style whilst trying to capture the magic of what makes the original. The White Stripes did it here. This is one of those good covers.