Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

Another day off for me and I spent it, as much as a I could, wallowing in pop culture. For starters I looked at some Rage music videos I recorded on the PVR. There were some pretty classic old-school clips and artists, including The Romantics (When I Look In Your Eyes), The Motels (Dangerous), The Pretenders (Kid), Larry Graham (History of Bass Thumping and Plucking), British Beat (Hands Off She’s Mine), Dexy’s Midnight Runners (Geno), Billy Preston and Syreeta (With You I’m Born Again), and Irene Cara (Fame). The Romantics song was another rocking tune in the same vein as their one hit What I Like About You. The clip even looked like it was from the same performance as that song, the group looking tough in their leather. I really like their early Kinks-like sound: I must get the album (which I believe contains a Kinks cover). Elsewhere Larry Graham, looking like a dandied pimp, surprised me with his entertaining and charismatic account of playing bass for Sly and the Family Stone like a funky mofo. The Billy Preston/Syreeta clip was simple but exquisite, Syreeta looking beautiful in a trendy sequined cap, her vocals dripping with honey. Sweet, sweet stuff. But my favourite was The Pretenders doing Kid at a colourful amusement park. On the song, James Honeyman Scott gives a masterclass in guitar versatility, adding power chords, arpeggios and aftertones. In the clip, Chrissy Hynde gives a similar masterclass in how to use a top hat as a prop and look cool.

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I did the last of my A/B analysis of Smile by The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson solo. This was the section from I Wanna Be Around/Workshop to Good Vibrations. The Beach Boys’ version of that weird little Workshop section includes, among the hammering and sawing, someone yelling ‘Ow!’, which sounds exactly right. Although both version of Vegetables sound great, I’ve gotta give it to Brian’s version because it sounds so much like a Brian song, he’s gotta sing it. The Beach Boys’ versions of Holidays and the later song Love To Say Dada (In Blue Hawaii in Brian’s version) are both unfinished, being merely instrumentals, so it’s Brian’s completed vocal versions that win out here. I especially like this full version of Holidays, or On A Holiday, as it’s called here. It really bounces along. Both versions of Wind Chimes are excellent, but I’ll give it to the Beach Boys simply because it’s the Beach Boys. The infamous instrumental (because it’s reportedly what did Brian’s head in), Mrs O’Leary’s Cow, is mostly a tie, but I’m leaning towards Brian’s more forceful and better-recorded version. Those drum fills are really smacko. That leaves Good Vibrations, and I’ve made it clear already I think the original’s the best. It doesn’t help that Brian’s solo version has different lyrics, presumably by Van Dyke Parks. I much prefer Mike’s lyrics, especially ‘I hear the sound of a gentle word/On the wind that lifts her perfume through the air’. It’s a slightly different, extended version here, but it’s still a classic.

And that’s the A/B analysis. Brian’s version really brings new and better things to the table, but the original Beach Boys version is the bedrock from which it springs. Yeah, I know that sentence has mixed metaphors, but I’m keeping it because I like the rhyme! There are other aspects about the two recordings I haven’t mentioned, like their different sound qualities, with Brian’s album having a sharper, harder sound, and the original having a softer, more muted sound. Thinking of both versions of the album as a whole, it’s a strange beast. The concept seems to aspire to some literary/musical grandeur, and it achieves that sometimes (Surf’s Up), while at other times it focuses on the beauty of simple things, like Vegetables and Wind Chimes. It may well be the story of the Beach Boys: the group that showed us the surfin’ good times, with an undercurrent of the depths of what life could be.

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