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Monday, Jun 2, 2014
Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys continue side two of The Beach Boys Today! with a delicate and elegant ballad about coming to terms with lost love.

In his book, The Beach Boys FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About America’s Band, Beach Boys scholar Jon Stebbins keeps a fairly neutral tone in describing interesting tidbits about the group’s music and career. But he becomes uncharacteristically enthusiastic when discussing “Kiss Me, Baby”, the third track on side two of The Beach Boys Today!:


“Perhaps the pinnacle of balladry…is “Kiss Me, Baby”. It’s one of the Beach Boys’ most romantic and emotional songs. “Kiss Me, Baby” is also a mammoth artistic achievement. There is something so penetrating about this recording that it can make the hairs on your neck stand up, or even bring tears. The level of quality that Brian [Wilson] and the Beach Boys could produce in bunches is astounding, and this song is more proof of that. “Kiss Me, Baby” would be a career achievement that any musical artist would be proud of, but for the Beach Boys it was just another album track on another album of great ones.”


It would be hard to get more glowing about a song than this, but it’s also hard to disagree with him. “Kiss Me, Baby” is truly something special, and it’s because every aspect of the song from composition to arrangement to performance is so flawlessly executed.


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Tuesday, May 27, 2014
"I'm So Young" may not be a Brian Wilson original, but this elegant cover version is one of the high points of The Beach Boys Today!

When your band has a songwriter as talented and inventive as Brian Wilson, why do you record covers? “I’m So Young”, the second cover song featured on The Beach Boys Today!, serves a very different purpose than “Do You Wanna Dance?” As we saw in our discussion of the latter, that track was used to show off Wilson’s creativity and skill as a producer and arranger. By taking a familiar song as a starting point, Wilson’s extensive changes to the track could stand out as impressive displays of his budding genius. But the arrangement of “I’m So Young”—originally recorded by the Students in 1958 and covered by the Ronettes in 1964—doesn’t change much.


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Monday, May 19, 2014
Opening a side full of lush ballads, "Please Let Me Wonder" presents a multi-layered lyric about the difficulties of intimacy and pursuing creative fulfillment.

As discussed in previous posts, the b-side of The Beach Boys Today! is comprised entirely of ballads, contrasting with the up-tempo songs of the a-side. And although both sides contain complex, introspective lyrics, the slow and densely orchestrated songs of the album’s second half inherently feel more personal. So it’s perfect, then, that the side opens with “Please Let Me Wonder”, possibly the most sentimental of the Beach Boys’ songs up to this point in their career. Like so many of the other songs we’ve looked at on Today!, “Please Let Me Wonder” is a layered narrative exposing personal anxieties. Here, Brian Wilson explores ideas of intimacy and love along with the difficulty of growing up and pursuing creative fulfillment.


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Monday, May 12, 2014
To close out Side A, the Beach Boys give us a seemingly straightforward dance song about hedonistic escapism, and, of course, dancing!

To close the a-side of The Beach Boys Today!, the group includes another straight-forward dance song. And just to be sure you got the message, they titled it three times: “Dance, Dance, Dance”. In many ways, it feels like the band trying to create another hit in the same vein as “I Get Around”, and while it never reached number one, it was a sizable top 10 hit for the group at the end of 1964. But like so many of their fun, up-tempo songs, “Dance, Dance, Dance” is surprisingly sophisticated.


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Monday, May 5, 2014
Before there was "Rhonda", there was "Ronda". Not quite the beloved single released later in 1965, the original version of "Help Me, Ronda" that appears on The Beach Boys Today! still has its strengths.

When “Help Me, Rhonda” was released as a single in mid-1965, it became the Beach Boys’ second number one hit, following “I Get Around” from the previous year. But it’s not “Help Me, Rhonda” that’s on The Beach Boys Today!, it’s “Help Me, Ronda”. After recording the original version of the song in January of 1965, the Rip Chords—a band featuring Bruce Johnston, who would later join the Beach Boys officially in 1966—expressed interest in recording a version to release as a single. Instead, Brian Wilson reworked the song, added an “h”, and the Beach Boys released it for themselves. But the first recording still ended up on side one of Today! After the success of “Rhonda” as a single, the group placed it on its next album, Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!), and the Rip Chords did record the song, but never ended up releasing it.


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