God Only Knows – The Beach Boys

Maybe a surprising choice, us growing up in the punk scene and all. But as I said previously, the punk back-to-year-zero ethic had gone, thankfully, and I, for one, was having a ball discovering all these old bands. Around the mid-80’s there were re-runs of Ready Steady Go, the 60’s pop music show. Rolling Stones live doing Under My Thumb and Satisfaction were favourites of mine I would play over and over (I taped the shows on my video recorder). When the Beach Boys played live on the show I loved the understated music and attitude (not the shirts, which were loud even on a black and white TV) and the harmonies were wonderful. They had some great rhythms too. And that backwards drumming style by Dennis Wilson was primal. I started reading up about Brian Wilson and got to know a bit about the early Beach Boys and the move from the band singing Brian’s songs to the likes of Pet Sounds, a masterpiece of a 60’s studio recording. I loved the quietness of Brian and the genius that eventually broke him. A Beach Boys documentary I hired from a video shop (remember them?) around that time had John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd from Saturday Night Live TV show in the US dragging Brian Wilson from his bed and forcing him to surf, something he’d never done. I thought that was a perfect prank which showed that Brian had a sense of humour about his own problems (he allegedly took to bed for a long, long time after Smile album was ditched).

At that time I was working hard on my songs trying to get melodies, trying to write half-decent pop songs. A song a hundredth of the impact of one of Brian Wilson’s would have sent me to my grave happy. On Another Age album, Brian Wilson is everywhere: I stole the intro to I Can Hear Music and used it as the building block for Nothing Can Stop Me (play them both together and see for yourself), Brian is one of the characters in my story that is Living Out Your Dreams and the singing is always understated, never preachy, a big break from the way I’d sung some songs in the past. I finally got to see Brian Wilson performing Pet Sounds in full in Glasgow in the early 2000’s. Thank you Brian – Surf’s Up…

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