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Monday, Apr 28, 2014
As a highly complex song that deals with anxieties about becoming an adult, "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)" was an unlikely hit single. But more than that, it stands as one of the most impressive songs in the Beach Boys' catalog.

In many ways, “When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)” not only stands as the most impressive track on The Beach Boys Today!, but the best track in the group’s entire catalog. Musically, the song is unusually structurally and harmonically complex: it changes keys, builds its main hook on an ambiguous, dissonant chord, it stretches the tempo, and climaxes on a long pause. In regards to its lyrics, Craig Slowinski notes that, as “one of the very first rock ‘n’ roll songs to explore the subject of impending adulthood, ‘When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)’ was a strangely melancholic choice for a single in a climate dominated by upbeat Beatles (and Bealtes-soundalike) songs.” But despite its oddities, “When I Grow Up” managed to become a Top 10 single in the U.S. when it was released in late 1964.


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Monday, Apr 21, 2014
Originally offered to Phil Spector to record with the Ronettes, the third track on The Beach Boys Today! presents a conflicted and guilt-ridden autobiographical narrative.

Undoubtedly, Brian Wilson’s biggest influence during this period of his life—and for most of his career, in fact—was Phil Spector. The songs that Spector wrote and produced for groups like the Crystals and the Ronettes would be a constant source of fascination for the Beach Boy. In the early part of his career, Wilson would go to Gold Star Studios to sit in on Spector’s recording sessions to see how he created his “wall of sound” production style in order to mimic it on the Beach Boys’ records. The production style utilizes layers of guitars, keyboards, and percussion instruments, often along with strings, brass, and woodwinds, all tracked together live in the same room to create a thick and chaotic yet wonderful sound. And this “bigger is better” philosophy to arranging and producing is what pushed Wilson towards much of the innovation we find on albums like The Beach Boys Today!, Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!), and Pet Sounds. But despite arguably surpassing Spector’s achievements in his own technique (which we’ll discuss later in this Between The Grooves Series), Wilson remained humble, saying in 1998, “I never considered [the Beach Boys] to be anything but just a messenger for his music.”


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Monday, Apr 14, 2014
With the second track of The Beach Boys Today!, we get a solidly written song reminiscent of the group's earlier singles: sophisticated but digestible and fun.

If opening The Beach Boys Today! with a cover of “Do You Wanna Dance” was intended to show off Brian Wilson’s skills as a producer and arranger, then following it up with “Good to My Baby” was meant to remind us where his band came from. It’s not that “Good to My Baby” isn’t musically exciting or complex, but of all the tracks on Today!, it’s the most similar to the beach Boys’ early music. So, just like covering a popular song provides a reference point to see their creative arrangements, the familiar songwriting on “Good to My Baby” acts as a reference point to compare the more innovative songs on the album against


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Monday, Apr 7, 2014
Diving into the first track on The Beach Boys Today!, we look at "Do You Wanna Dance", a re-interpretation of a 1958 Bobby Freeman song, and investigate the question of what exactly a Beach Boys song is.

This first track on The Beach Boys Today! is a cover of the 1958 Bobby Freeman song, “Do You Wanna Dance”. At first, this fact may seem ironic, as I stressed in my introduction that Today! raised Brian Wilson’s status as a “songwriter who deserved respect and admiration for his musical innovations”. But by opening the album with a cover, we are allowed to see more intimately what Wilson can really do with a song. Here, we have a reference point with the original, which can then be compared to the Beach Boys’ version, revealing Wilson’s’s skill as an arranger and interpreter more clearly.


Outside of the slap-back delay on the drums and an unusual false ending, there’s nothing particularly notable about the original 1958 recording (though it does feature a young Jerry Garcia on guitar, for whatever that’s worth). It’s a piano-driven rock track that features a standard I-IV-V chord progression, simple lyrics, and a loosely sung melody. The Beach Boys version, in contrast, is lushly orchestrated, tightly structured, and includes an instrumental bridge in a different key. Essentially, it sounds very little like the original version, and musicologist Philip Lambert notes that this track “highlights the difference between ‘a song covered by the Beach Boys’ and an existing song transformed into ‘a Beach Boys song’.”


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Monday, Mar 31, 2014
The often overlooked The Beach Boys Today! (1965) finds Brian Wilson and the rest of the band embracing the sophisticated musical experimentation we would later find on Pet Sounds while retaining the catchy accessibility of their early surf and car songs.

In the 1960s, there was a band that changed the way popular music was made forever. They challenged conventional ideas regarding harmony, form, and instrumentation in pop music. They innovated the way the recording studio could be used as an instrument just as crucially as a guitar or a piano. They stretched genres and blended styles while still churning out catchy hits that are as beloved today as they were when they were released. No, I’m not talking about the Beatles, I’m talking about America’s own: the Beach Boys.


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