5891-beachboysparty.jpg

Revisit:

The Beach Boys

Beach Boys’ Party!

1965

Revisit is a series of reviews highlighting past releases that now deserve a second look.

To the uninitiated, The Beach Boys are and always have been five Jiminy Crickets in matching shirts, singing gee-whiz cornball ditties about cars they didn’t own and popularizing sacred surf culture for the brainwashed masses.

This may or may not be true. But it’s not the whole story.

Brian Wilson’s genius has been discussed to death at this point. It is as mighty as the Pacific Ocean and nearly as unpredictable. It rises and falls, it creates and destroys, and sometimes it goes to bed for a couple of years. And before it gave us Pet Sounds, it gave us Beach Boys’ Party!.

Rushed by Capitol to release an album for the 1965 Christmas season, the band presented the album as a live recording of a – hey now! – Beach Boys party. Instead of new material, it featured (mostly) acoustic covers of old rock songs, a few Beatles tunes thrown in for good measure and a self-deprecating medley of “I Get Around/Little Deuce Coupe.” Someone let Al Jardine cover “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” The record landed with a resounding thud.

But on second (and third and fourth) listen, one realizes that there’s lots of interesting stuff at work here. The “party” format of course was hogwash: the album was meticulously crafted in the studio, with girlfriends and associates brought in to create the ambient party chatter that buzzes through the entire record (sample dialogue: “Hey, 7Up! I want some 7Up!/ Over here, I want some ice cubes!“). Freed from the pressure of having to churn out any real hits, the Boys are loose and limber, tearing into tracks like “Hully Gully” and “Alley Oop” with a carefree ferocity never present on any of their fun-in-the-sun singles. Dennis Wilson’s sweet, slightly tone-deaf version of John Lennon’s “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” is the highlight of the three selected Beatles cuts, and ends with Wilson yelling at a group of giggling girls to shut up and go home. And, all kidding aside, Jardine’s take on “The Times” is terribly sincere, and credited in the liner notes to “Al – man with a message,” making sure we all know that a protest song on a Beach Boys album is just as bizarre to the band as it is to the listener.

Beach Boys’ Party!’s shining jewel is its cover of The Crystals’ “There’s No Other (Like My Baby).” It soars with those classic Beach Boys harmonies that sound like nothing else. If recorded and released properly it could have been a hit, or at the very least a touchstone of the Beach Boys catalog. In reality, the lone hit from the album was “Barbara Ann,” whose infectious charm works well in the record’s rambling jam-session atmosphere.

Slowly but surely, over the years Beach Boys’ Party! has found its audience. (Rivers Cuomo has been a vocal fan of the album for many years, and it was reportedly his main influence for Weezer’s Hootenanny tour.) In the entire Beach Boys discography, it was the only album that let the boys shed their perfectly glossed sound and just jam. And – to the surprise of nobody who had been paying attention – there was a lot of summer magic still to be found.

by Ashley Thiry

  • Fleet Foxes: Shore

    After the dense and solemn Crack-Up, Robin Pecknold returns the Fleet Foxes to their roots…
  • Revisit: Idiocracy

    Just as Mike Judge’s lampooning of cubicle culture in Office Space feels like a relic fro…
  • Revisit: Donna Summer: The Wanderer

    A beginning, middle and end, this may not be Summer’s strongest album, but it contains all…
  • Fleet Foxes: Shore

    After the dense and solemn Crack-Up, Robin Pecknold returns the Fleet Foxes to their roots…
  • Revisit: Donna Summer: The Wanderer

    A beginning, middle and end, this may not be Summer’s strongest album, but it contains all…
  • Hen Ogledd: Free Humans

    This is a lot of trebly, upbeat music to stomach in one sitting, but Hen Ogledd has evolve…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

Marissa Nadler: Marissa Nadler

Marissa Nadler Marissa Nadler Rating: 2.8/5.0 Label: Box of Cedar Records Let’s get …