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.
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.
“Here Today” comes from the wonderful album Pet Sounds, released by The Beach Boys in 1966. Regarded as a timeless classic, the album was seen as a prime example of just how far pop music could be taken during the 60s in terms of its lyrical content and musical arrangement. It was the one where everybody realised that Brian Wilson was practically a compositional genius if they hadn’t done so already, and also influenced many albums to come in the future.
The last song started during the album’s recording, “Here Today” is something of a warning about the unpredictability of love; being in a new relationship may be all fine and dandy initially, but there’s always the chance that it can quickly end in heartbreak and sorrow. Mike Love takes duty of lead vocal on the track, and does a fine job of it.
Like the rest of the songs on the album “Here Today” utilises a range of instruments to build a lush and ornate sonic landscape, with a piano, Hammond organ, and a variety of horns thrown into the track’s lavish mix. Of course the iconic backing harmonic vocals of the boys play a huge part too, I particularly like those that occur during the choruses. The ascending melodic scales provided by them played simultaneously with the downward melody on the horns makes for an enjoyable listen, but those make up only a few seconds of three minutes of beautifully constructed music.