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Happy Birthday, Brian Wilson!

Guest Blogger: Ian Rusten is the co-author of The Beach Boys in Concert (along with Jon Stebbins). 

The Beach Boys’ leader, Brian Wilson, turns 71 today.  For many people that knew him in the darkest period of his life (the late 1970s and early 1980s), the sheer fact that Brian is still alive is something to be celebrated.  But, what is more astounding is that Brian has overcome the demons and depression that drove him into years of drug and alcohol addiction and taken back the musical legacy that he created as leader of the Beach Boys in the 1960s.  Brian completed a highly successful 50th Anniversary Tour with the surviving Beach Boys last year and recently announced the impending release of his eleventh solo album (the first was in 1988).

In honor of Brian’s birthday, enjoy this excerpt from The Beach Boys In Concert: The Ultimate History of America’s Band On Tour and Onstage by Ian Rusten and Jon Stebbins.  The book chronicles in great detail the long stage career of the band Brian created with his brothers, a cousin and a high school friend in 1961.  As the excerpt shows, by 1963, Brian, at the ridiculously young age of 21, was already developing into one of the most important composers and producers in the Los Angeles music scene:

“It was soon after their (first) Midwest tour that the group began recording their third album, Surfer Girl.   The album was the first on which Brian had complete control with no interference and was listed as producer on the album’s cover.  The move to Western (Studios) allowed Brian to keep working on a song until he was satisfied.  Late nights in the studio became the norm.  According to (Capitol Records Executive) Nick Venet, Brian “was the first guy to do it until it was right.  He damned everyone till it was right and then he gave them the record; he took his chances.  A lot of us would get chicken after four hours, and say, ‘we’d better get off the tune.’  Brian would hang in there for nine hours, no matter what the cost.  I used to think he was crazy, but he was right.”  As a result of his growing perfectionism, the Surfer Girl LP also marked the first album on which Brian used outside musicians on several of the tracks.  Al Jardine, still not an “official” Beach Boy again, played bass on a few tracks, freeing Brian to play piano.  More importantly, Brian had session musician Hal Blaine come in to add drums to “Our Car Club.”

Blaine was a member of the famous “Wrecking Crew” that “Boy-Genius” Phil Spector used to create his famous “Wall of Sound.”  If the Four Freshmen were the biggest influence on the development of The Beach Boys vocal style, Phil Spector was the most important influence on Brian as a producer.  Spector developed his “Wall of Sound” by combining large numbers of instruments all playing together to create a dense, layered sound.  Just as Brian double tracked vocals, Phil would often double or triple a bass part or electric guitar line.  As a result, he created an enormous, thunderous sound that overwhelmed the listener.  Songs like the Crystals, “There’s No Other like My Baby” and “He’s a Rebel,” were productions, as writer Timothy White described “with an almost preternatural sensory impact…”.  Spector’s productions fascinated Brian.  When he met Hal Blaine, he pumped him for information about the reclusive “Tycoon of Teen.”  Soon, Brian was attending Spector sessions, soaking up how he achieved the dynamic sound on his records.  As Brian recalled, “I was unable to really think as a producer up until the time where I really got familiar with Phil Spector’s work…then I started to see the point of making records…You design the experience to be a record rather than just a song…It’s the overall sound, what they’re going to hear and experience in two and a half minutes that counts.”  When Spector released the Ronettes “Be My Baby” that summer, Brian became obsessed with the song, playing it over and over again on his turntable, until he knew how every inch of sound on it was made.  Brian applied the Spector influence to his own productions, but with a one of a kind Wilson twist, and in the process produced something uniquely his own.

The improvements in production and arrangement were quite noticeable on the Surfer Girl LP.  If the (Beach Boys 2nd LP) Surfin’ USA suggested that the Beach Boys might have a future as a surf garage band, the Surfer Girl LP gave notice that the Beach Boys were a fantastic vocal group.  The title track contained an incredibly lush aural appeal, soon becoming an evergreen classic.  “Catch a Wave,” a new composition written by Brian and Mike, spotlighted Brian’s swooping falsetto, the group’s dynamic harmonies, and Dennis’ thumping drums.  As writer Philip Lambert stated, Brian was finally confidant enough to place “total faith in the sound and force of the vocal presentation.”  It was clear that Brian’s time listening to the sophisticated jazzy vocals of the Four Freshmen had not been wasted.  (Brian’s brother) Carl believed that an important element of their vocal style was the fact that, “Vocals were voiced like horn parts, the way those R&B records made background vocals sound like a sax section.  They’re all within the same octave; that’s really the secret to it.  We didn’t just duplicate parts; we used a lot of counterpoint, a lot of layered sound.”  The Beach Boys vocal style blended especially beautifully on the melancholy “In My Room,” one of Brian’s last collaborations with Gary Usher.  The song was one of the first to highlight Brian’s amazing ability to express his deepest feelings within a pop song. With lines like “Now it’s dark and I’m alone, but I won’t be afraid” the song expressed a naked vulnerability that was rare in pop music.  Brian’s aching voice seemed tailor made to express such sentiments and his introspective ballads were often the creative highlight of Beach Boys albums.”

The Beach Boys in Concert is an exhilarating day-by-day journey through the triumphs and tribulations of one of rock’s most legendary acts. More than ten years of exhaustive research has produced an unprecedented window into the Beach Boys’ thrilling successes, personal tragedies, inter-band dramas, and globe-trotting, rock-and-roll adventures from 1961 to 2012.

The Beach Boys in Concert is a solidly factual and highly entertaining ride from their humble beginnings of driving to local gigs in their mom’s station wagon to touring the world in private jets with a massive entourage in tow, from nervously playing to a dozen unimpressed Southern California surfers to performing for a half-million worshipping fans on the National Mall. The evolution and growth of an entertainment phenomenon is captured here in a far more detailed way than ever before.

The Beach Boys in Concert is the ultimate document for fans when it comes to the group’s career as concert performers; no other publication comes close to this tome in scope, detail, and definitive quality. Adding to the feast is an extensive collection of unpublished photos and rare memorabilia images that bring fans deeper into the context of any given era covered in the book. This detailed, illustrated 50-year Surfin’ Safari will blow your mind!

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Win The Beach Boys FAQ!

Time for some Beach Boys trivia. We’re giving away one free copy of The Beach Boys FAQ by Jon Stebbins to the first person who posts all five correct answers to our questions. Don’t forget to leave an email address so we can contact you if you win!

1. Who originally suggested the band change its name from the Pendletones to the Beach Boys?

2. Side Two of Holland’s opens with Carl Wilson’s track, “The Trader” and a voice that says “Hi.” Whose voice is it?

3. Who was Brian Wilson’s first wife?

4. Which member of the band drowned in December 1983?

5. Who was the oldest Wilson brother?

Music From Rikky Rooksby

Guest Blogger: Rikky Rooksby is an author and musician. To enjoy all of his works please visit his author page.

The writing of my best-selling series of books on guitar-based songwriting was grounded in my practical experience of writing and recording my own songs as well as listening carefully to those of others. I’ve now put a selection of songs in various styles on SoundCloud.com for listening. One song comes from an album of Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys type songs. There’s another from an EP of songs marking the 25th anniversary of Led Zeppelin’s five nights at Earl’s Court in London in 1975. There are two free downloads,  out-takes from my forthcoming guitar instrumental album Atlantic Canticles. I’ve also included some extracts from my classical composing, including the first movements of a string quartet and a piano quartet, a string orchestra setting of the traditional folk tune ‘The Gaelic Waltz’, two extracts from commissioned music, and a short elegiac organ piece ‘For The Few’ written for the RAF pilots of the 1940 Battle of Britain. After the release of Atlantic Canticles I will release an album of songs.

Rikky Rooksby

Rikky Rooksby is a guitar teacher, songwriter/composer, and writer on popular music. Considered the premiere author of songwriting guides, Rooksby has also written numerous music history and guitar instruction books and has published over 200 interviews, reviews, articles, and transcriptions in music magazines. He has also transcribed and arranged more than 40 chord songbooks, including music by Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, The Beatles, and many other artists.

A member of the Guild of International Songwriters and Composers, Rooksby is also a sought-after teacher who leads courses on music at The Oxford Experience and other international continuing education summer schools.

Ringo Starr’s Birthday

Robert Rodriguez is the author of Revolver. Since it is Ringo’s birthday we would like to celebrate with this recent interview that was conducted by Rock Cellar Magazine.

ROCK CELLAR MAGAZINE: There are lots of books about the Beatles, and even a couple of recent ones about this album, Revolver.  What makes yours different?

Robert Rodriguez:  With this book, I tried to bring people into the world in which this music was produced.  I made the effort to place readers into 1965-66-67, showing what was going on in the Beatles’ world, as well as in pop/rock generally. I think it’s pretty crucial to understanding this album’s greatness to know who was listening to whom. What sort of developments were affecting what.

RCM:  So you’re talking about artists of the time that had an influence on the Beatles, and vice-versa.  Like Dylan, or…?

RR:  For one.  The Beatles were fans of Dylan’s going back at least as far as Freewheelin.’ In 1964, the Beatles and Dylan occupied entirely separate worlds, yet they each saw in each other elements that they could sort of…repurpose to their own ends.  Dylan saw past the bubble-gum elements of the Beatles’ music – and the screaming fans – and recognized that something sophisticated was going on.  To his credit.

Meanwhile the Beatles saw that something deeper and more satisfying could be heard in Dylan’s lyrics than they were accustomed to putting into their own.  So, say, by the end of 1964 you can see his influence beginning to manifest itself in their music.  I think John and George began to see Beatle music as more of a means of self-expression…less as a purely commercial vehicle.

ROCK CELLAR MAGAZINE: There are lots of books about the Beatles, and even a couple of recent ones about this album, Revolver.  What makes yours different ?

Robert Rodriguez:  With this book, I tried to bring people into the world in which this music was produced.  I made the effort to place readers into 1965-66-67, showing what was going on in the Beatles’ world, as well as in pop/rock generally. I think it’s pretty crucial to understanding this album’s greatness to know who was listening to whom. What sort of developments were affecting what.

RCM:  So you’re talking about artists of the time that had an influence on the Beatles, and vice-versaLike Dylan, or…?

RR:  For one.  The Beatles were fans of Dylan’s going back at least as far as Freewheelin.’ In 1964, the Beatles and Dylan occupied entirely separate worlds, yet they each saw in each other elements that they could sort of…repurpose to their own ends.  Dylan saw past the bubble-gum elements of the Beatles’ music – and the screaming fans – and recognized that something sophisticated was going on.  To his credit.

Meanwhile the Beatles saw that something deeper and more satisfying could be heard in Dylan’s lyrics than they were accustomed to putting into their own.  So, say, by the end of 1964 you can see his influence beginning to manifest itself in their music.  I think John and George began to see Beatle music as more of a means of self-expression…less as a purely commercial vehicle.

RCM:  Who else at the time do you think was important.  Or influential?

RR:  Well of course, Brian Wilson.  He’d had his breakdown, retired from the road in 1964, and in his quest to chase Phil Spector…he began crafting these ornate backings to Beach Boys music – this was due his being allowed to take his time, and not compromise his vision.

And the Beatles were paying close attention to this – what could be achieved by using the studio fully, augmenting their sound – beyond what you were expected to pull off live.  Both sides were following each other’s artistic development.

For more please visit Rock Cellar Magazine.

Revolver

The making of Revolver – hunkered down in Abbey Road with George Martin – is in itself a great Beatles story, but would be nothing if the results weren’t so impactful. More than even Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds, Revolver fed directly into the rock ‘n’ roll zeitgeist, and its influence could be heard everywhere: from the psychedelic San Francisco sound (Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead); to the first wave of post-blues hard rock (Sabbath, Zeppelin); through movie soundtracks and pretty much everything that followed it – including every generation of guitar-based pop music and even heavy metal. More than any record before or after, Revolver was the game-changer, and this is, finally, the detailed telling of its storied recording and enormous impact.

‘Tis the Season: Holiday Gift Ideas for the Music and Arts Lover on Your Shopping List

It’s that time of year again, and we here at Hal Leonard wanted to make sure our readers didn’t miss out on gift opportunities this holiday season. We’ve made our list (and checked it twice) of great holiday gift ideas for the music and performing arts lover on your shopping list. Whether your mother-in-law prefers Lucille Ball or Led Zeppelin, Hal Leonard has just the book you’re looking for. Read on for our list of holiday must-haves:

DELUXE BOXED SETS

Show-by-Show Deluxe Set
By Stanley Green

Broadway Musicals: Show-by-Showis the bestselling, most comprehensive Broadway reference book today. In this new and expanded edition you’ll find over 300 of the most important and memorable productions of the American musical theatre. You’ll also find over 300 movies documented including writer, director, choreographer, cast and song lists, plot summary and more. Available for purchase here.

Unlocking the Masters Deluxe Set
Bach’s Keyboard Music, Beethoven’s Symphonies, and Brahms, A Listener’s Guide

The big three – Bach, Beethoven and Brahms – all together in one deluxe set! Each volume presents an in-depth exploration of the composer’s world of musical intimacies in an easy-to-read, nuts-and-bolts manner. Available for purchase here.

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The Musician’s Ultimate Toolbox
How to Make Your Band Sound Great and The Studio Musician’s Handbook

By Bobby Owsinski

These two volumes offer the practicing musician great titles from the Bobby Owsinski Handbook series of titles. How to Make Your Band Sound Great explores every aspect of playing with other musicians, including the equipment, hardware and software used in today’s increasingly technological world. The Studio Musician’s Handbook, reveals the inner workings of a major Hollywood recording session. Available for purchase here.

The Actor’s Ultimate Toolbox
Duo! The Best Scenes for the ’90s and Duo! The Best Scenes for Two for the 21st Century

These two volumes offer a full spectrum of scenes from the ’90s and the 2000s. Each scene has a synopsis of the play, character descriptions and notes on how to propel the scene to full power! Includes: Angles in America, Burn This, Lettice and Lovage, Driving Miss Daisy, Other People’s Money, M. Butterfly, August: Osage County, George & Martha, Intimate Apparel, Take Me Out, and Water Music. Available for purchase here.

Fab Four FAQ Deluxe Set
Fab Four FAQ and Fab Four FAQ 2.0, The Solo Years

Fab Four FAQ contains everything left to know about the Beatles. Stories unknown by most fans, trends unseen and history revealed. Fab Four FAQ 2.0, The Solo Years, picks up where Fab Four FAQ left off, presenting in-depth information on their careers as solo artists. Both books are loaded with images of rare period ephemera, including periodicals, single sleeves, and movie stills. This is the first comprehensive biography of all four ex-Beatles. Available for purchase here.

The Songwriter’s Ultimate Toolbox Boxed Set
How to Write Songs on Guitar, Songwriting Sourcebook, How to Write Songs in Altered Guitar Tunings

By Rikky Rooksby

The bestselling How to Write Songs on Guitar shows you tips and tricks by classic songwriters, from Bob Dylan to the Beatles to Tori Amos. The Songwriting Sourcebook shows you how to turn chords into great songs and compliments How to Write Songs on Guitar. How to Write Songs in Altered Guitar Tunings is the latest installment from Rikky Rooksby and is the only book that explains how to write songs with altered tunings. Available for purchase here.

Stevie Ray Vaughan – Day by Day, Night After Night
Deluxe Box Set

By Craig Hopkins

This boxed set combines both volumes of Stevie Ray Vaughan: Day by Day, Night After Night, one of the most lavishly illustrated and detailed musician biographies ever written. In a day-by-day format, Craig Hopkins presents an award-winning and unprecedented celebration of Vaughan’s life and music. His Early Years, 1954-1982, the first volume in this deluxe set, covers the complete history of the guitar legend’s roots, from his childhood to the eve of his first major record release. The second volume, His Final Years, 1983-1990, covers Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble’s recording career, from their debut release through their rise to international stardom. Available for purchase here.

The Dream Factory: Fender Custom Shop
By Tom Wheeler

This third in a series of hardcover books joins the award-winning titles The Stratocaster Chronicles and The Soul of Tone by author/historian Tom Wheeler. In nearly 600 pages, The Dream Factory features hundreds of full-color photos of incredibly rare, collectible, and limited-edition handcrafted guitars. Learn how the Fender Custom Shop, originally intended to employ just two master craftsmen, grew into the most prolific custom instrument shop in the music industry. Available for purchase here.

FOR MUSIC AND MOVIE LOVERS

Led Zeppelin FAQ

Bad Reputation

The Beach Boys FAQ



Screen World 62

A Hard Day's Night

The Vampire Film