Beach Boys – The Height of Spiritual Music
Blog entry by Lars Muhl from 4 April 2014
Books have been written, yes, treatises on Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys and the masterpieces Pet Sounds and Smile. In Denmark, where I was born and raised, American artists in the early sixties, was often published six months to a year later than in the US and England, so the first song I heard with BB was I Get Around in 1964. And despite the fact that we had been brought up with everything American, from Davy Crockett and Walt Disney, Lucy Show, Frank Sinatra and Elvis, in the postwar period, it was clear that the sound of this new band, The Beach Boys, was completely revolutionary.
At the time, I did not think deeply about what was going on in BB’s music as it manifested itself in one hit after another, Don’t Worry Baby, Help Me Rhonda, California Girls, Barbara Ann, Sloop John B and Wouldn’t It Be Nice, just to name a few.
Then it was 1967 and The Beatles were on their way to unprecedented heights when something happened in the United States, that in every way beat all, one had ever heard before. The Beach Boys released the single Good Vibrations. It wasn’t just another great Brian Wilson song. It was a statement from an alien world. Not many were aware that this song not only was a masterpiece, at the time, but also something as exotic as the most outstanding musical effort to find God, in recent times. An attempt, that has not yet been surpassed,as far as I can see, and probably never will be.
It wasn’t until after this release that I became familiar with Pet Sounds. And anyone, who has tried to find the secret to the chords for God Only Knows, know what I’m talking about when I say that we must back to Johan Sebastian Bach, to find a similar complexity hidden behind an equally heavenly simplicity, which is present in this song. The rest is history, as they say. Most are familiar with The Beatles’ reaction when they heard Pet Sounds for the first time and how it inspired them to create Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.
On the other hand, only a few people are aware of Brian Wilson’s next initiative, the album Friends from 1968 which was released two months after the assassination of Martin Luther King and just a few weeks after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Maybe the Americans had else to do, but I cannot help thinking that, that album, in particular with those songs, those melodies and harmonies, was in fact not only what the U.S. but the rest of the world needed, at that moment. But very few noticed it.
The drummer in my band Daisy, had an uncle, who had a record store. Sometimes we went rampaging through the store, after hours and it was at such an occasion, we brought home a copy of Friends. The year was 1968 and that album became our musical education. We were all completely spellbound by that sound, and that inexplicable mood, flowing out of the speakers. It was simply through that, we got our teachings of harmony.
Since then, Friends has followed me, everywhere. It is one of the few albums that I can listen to over and over again, without ever getting tired of it. As earlier mentioned, I was not aware of what was going on in BB’s music, initially. I do now, however.
God’s healing music
Brian Wilson has pointed it out, from time to time. It was and is spiritual love that made and still makes him tick. It is one man’s incomparable ability to manifest on earth, what he hears in Heaven. However, it is also the combination of five to six voices in a choir that would be unthinkable, if just one of the voices, was absent. Beach Boys are, in the artistic plane, in that way, in all, one of God’s most perfect creations which reveals the secret of the rest of Creation, that, which the individual cannot unfold singlehandedly, comes to expression through the diversity and the fellowship. Carl Wilson’s angelic clarity is almost incomprehensible, like Al Jardine’s almost celestial ditto, is the sound of the ultimate freedom, not to mention Dennis Wilson’s heart-shattering unrefined sweetness or Mike Love’s energetic down-to-eathness. It is all present in this sound. Especially, since it all was crowned at one point by Brian Wilson’s strange instrument of a voice that was able to move freely from any depth to a ditto height, whichever was needed. It is in that community that The Beach Boy’s music takes and took wing. It is heard on the band’s albums from the late sixties to early seventies, Smiley Smile (which I believe is still at least as interesting as the matrix Smile), Pet Sounds, 20/20, Wild Honey, Sunflower, Surf’s Up, Carl & The Passions ‘So Tough’ and Holland. All these albums are pieces of documents in this testimony, of how The Beach Boys have created some of the most spiritual music, of our time.
However, the main evidence is the aforementioned album Friends. One may wonder about this music being created by people, who have had to go through so many troubles and the matter being for some of the members, to experience so much discord and abuse. But it only tells us, that we humans have a personality to wrestle with and that it is through the personality and the troubles, that we develop our abilities as humans, here on Earth, while we through our divine side, have opportunities to reach GOD through the music and the fellowship.
Now more than 45 years after its release, Friends is still the answer to man’s cry for help. Put it on and let its authentic, healing sound with the haiku-like words flow through you. Then, you know what I’m talking about. It is pure spiritual love. It’s also great to play it for children. All my children, stepchildren and grandchildren sing these songs by heart. Beach Boys’ music, should be played wherever, there is a need for healing. For example, in hospitals of all kinds, or in prisons and at various institutions, schools included.
Al Jardine carries the torch
May I also put to your attention Al Jardines solo-album Postcard from California, which was released last year. Al’s voice carries everything that the Beach Boys ever were, and Al’s album holds that legacy, as a torch that burns forever end ever end ever …