a requiem for those timeless good good good vibrations

THE MAJOR RECORD COMPANIES usu­ally re­leased new ti­tles on Monday, or at least they did in the ’60s. On April 12, 1965, I rushed home from school and ran up­stairs to my room and tossed my books on my bed and pulled my money out of my drawer and ran downstairs to the garage and picked up my bike and zoomed off to Joe Nar­done’s record shop and bought Mr. Tam­bourine Man by the Byrds and all was good good good that Monday!

I was one of the first cus­tomers to grab a copy as Howard put the ship­ment up on the wall for new re­leases. I had been hearing it on WARM radio (the “Mighty 590”) for weeks and couldn’t wait to make it part of my col­lec­tion.

 

With the Byrds, I fi­nally had an Amer­ican group that I could dig as much as I dug the Kinks and the Dave Clark 5.

 

I didn’t know then that records were re­leased on Mon­days, nor did it ever dawn on me to ask. Joe’s em­ployees, Howard and Ron, were adding in­ven­tory daily, so I as­sumed the records ar­rived daily.

When a new 45 or LP was due out that I wanted, I just showed up every day and waited for it.

From the mo­ment I got the record home, I played Mr. Tam­bourine Man over and over and over and then flipped it over and played the other side over and over and over! The record had an ef­fect on me that no pre­vious rock & roll could come close to! And I fi­nally had an Amer­ican group that I could dig as much as I dug the Kinks and the Dave Clark 5. 1

There were other Amer­ican groups out there, no­tably the Beach Boys and the Four Sea­sons, both of whom I hated. And hated the way only a pas­sionate ado­les­cent music-lover can hate an artist or a record. For­tu­nately, some­where along the way, I stopped being an ado­les­cent.

 

Good Good: picture sleeve for the Beach Boys' SLOOP JOHN B single.

When Sloop John B hit the air­waves in March 1966, I was amazed to find that I didn’t hate it as much as I nor­mally hated a Beach Boys record. Prob­ably be­cause it didn’t have any­thing to do with waves or cars and I didn’t have to listen to Mike’s nasal lead or Bri­an’s wimpy falsetto. Little did I know that this record was my gateway drug to a life­time of ad­dic­tion to the Beach Boys.

Beach Boys vs Four Seasons

In Jan­uary 1966, the Four Sea­sons re­leased Working My Way Back To You and I sud­denly found my­self liking it! They fol­lowed with a string of great records, in­cluding Opus 17, I’ve Got You Under My SkinTell It To The Rain, and the ex­tra­or­di­nary Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.

In March 1966, the Beach Boys re­leased Sloop John B and I sud­denly found my­self liking it! They fol­lowed with a string of great records, in­cluding Wouldn’t It Be Nice, God Only Knows, and Good Vi­bra­tions.

And I liked all of them!

I was hooked!

What was I to do?

These records made me think that maybe I had hated these two groups a wee bit too much, so I re­vis­ited their old stuff (used jukebox 45s were a nickel apiece in them days).

 

Ro­gan’s book is fac­tu­ally ac­cu­rate, rarely gets bogged down in trivia, and makes few chal­lenge­able state­ments.

 

While I be­came a fan of the Sea­sons, I had a com­pletely dif­ferent rap­port with the Byrds and the Beach Boys. For the past five decades, they have pro­vided me with count­less hours of joy and in­sight. Knowing their music has made my life richer.

Hell’s Belles, it may have even made me a better human being!

But based on the in­for­ma­tion that has come for­ward in var­ious books, I now be­lieve that knowing any of them per­son­ally would have been an or­deal.

Which brings me to a pair of mini-reviews of two bi­o­graph­ical books. Re­viewing books is not some­thing I do often, but I just read these two and they are linked con­cep­tu­ally.

 

Good Good: cover for Mike Love's GOOD VIBRATIONS book.

Not such good vibrations

Good Vi­bra­tions – My Life As A Beach Boy (Blue Rider Press, 2016 (448 pages) is the au­to­bi­og­raphy of the lead singer and chief lyri­cist of the Beach Boys, written with the as­sis­tance of James S. Hirsch. 3 This book does not exist so that Love can en­lighten readers on as­pects of the group’s his­tory or how it made so many won­derful records, al­though there is some info on both con­cerns. 2

This book seems to exist for three basic rea­sons for Mike Love to have done this book:

1. To es­tab­lish his im­por­tance in the Beach Boys’ legacy. 4
2. To get even with his many de­trac­tors. 5
3. To prove he’s not an ass­hole. 6

He ac­com­plishes his first goal handily (al­though I don’ think any knowl­edge­able fan or his­to­rian doubts his con­tri­bu­tions to the suc­cess of the Beach Boys).

He sort of ac­com­plishes the second goal, but in doing so he com­pletely un­der­mines the third. 7

My final thought when I fin­ished this book was, I wish Mike had asked me to as­sist him in writing this book.

 

Good Good: cover for Johnny Rogan's REQUIEM FOR THE TIMELESS book.

Endless accounts of abuse

Johnny Ro­gan’s Byrds — Re­quiem For The Time­less, Volume 1 (Rogan House, 2011 (1,216 pages) is a mas­sive bi­og­raphy that fo­cuses on the orig­inal 5-member group: Gene Clark, Michael Clarke, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, and Jim/Roger McGuinn. Rogan has been com­mu­ni­cating and cor­re­sponding with them as bi­og­ra­pher and friend, so he has a trea­sure trove of in­for­ma­tion and opin­ions through many, many in­ter­views and ca­sual con­ver­sa­tions. 9

If you’re a Byrds fan or in­ter­ested in ’60s rock, this book is fas­ci­nating. It’s fac­tu­ally ac­cu­rate, rarely gets bogged down in trivia, and makes very few chal­lenge­able state­ments. (This alone amazed me.) And Rogan is a very good writer, in­deed.

But as a bi­og­raphy of men I ad­mired, it’s tough reading. Sad reading, in fact, with seem­ingly end­less ac­counts of al­cohol abuse, co­caine abuse, and even heroin.

There are also end­less ac­counts of their enor­mous f*cking egos and their stag­gering in­se­cu­rity and im­ma­tu­rity (and it ain’t just Crosby). The crap these guys put each other through can be over­whelming to a ca­sual reader. I was ac­tu­ally angry reading of the many times and many ways they sab­o­taged them­selves through the years, and I’m not even sure the crap has ended be­tween the three sur­viving mem­bers!

My final thought when I fin­ished this book was, When it comes to being an ass­hole, Mike Love doesn’t hold a candle to these guys!

Mike Love wrote his book to es­tab­lish his im­por­tance in the Beach Boys’ legacy but prob­ably only pissed off more people. Click To Tweet

Good Good: photo off the five original members of the Byrds in 1965.

FEATURED IMAGE: The Byrds in 1965: David Crosby, Gene Clark, Mike Clarke, Chris Hillman, and Jim McGuinn. Ahhh, but they were so much younger then, they’re older than that now.

 


FOOTNOTES:

1   My love for the Byrds is qual­i­fied: I love the orig­inal group (1965−1967), not the latter-day “Byrds” led by sole orig­inal member Roger McGuinn (who is my fav­er­avest guitar player of all time). Them I merely like.

2   I want to ac­knowl­edge Mike’s use of irony in se­lecting Good Vi­bra­tions as his title.

3   While reading non-fiction books, I keep a note­book with me to jot down any er­rors that I find. This in­cludes fac­tual er­rors, de­bat­able state­ments, mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tions, etc. Reading Love’s book, I filled sev­eral pages with notes.

4   Please refer to my own “Mike Love’s Ex­ci­ta­tions And Good Vi­bra­tions” here on Rather Rare Records, where I argue that Love should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice, once as a member of the Beach Boys, and a second and sep­a­rate time as a co-writer and co-creator of some of the best music of the ’60s.

5   This is not nec­es­sarily a bad reason to write such a book—if you can write it and ei­ther prove everyone else wrong or not whine while failing to prove everyone else wrong.

6   Love is leg­endary for re­sponding to Pet Sounds by telling Brian Wilson, “Don’t f*ck with the for­mula.” Mike de­nies ever having said it. As this story has been making the rounds for decades, the de­nial is too late. As Love claims, no one can prove he ever said such a thing, but when dealing with a story this firmly en­trenched in his­tory, he sorta has to prove he didn’t say it.

Which, of course, he can’t.

Which, of course, ain’t fair.

From 1962 through 1965, the Beach Boys did have a for­mula of sorts: ex­tolling the fun and glory of girls on the beach, boys on the waves, and the cars that got them there. That for­mula made them and their record com­pany and their pub­lishers lots of money. Brian was f*cking with that for­mula, and po­ten­tially f*cking with the liveli­hoods of a lot of people!

Had I been his co-author, I would have im­plored Mike to em­brace the state­ment! Ex­plain why it made sense then and how he was right to make it at the time. Then ex­plain how he learned to love the music on Pet Sounds over time.

The book is in roughly chrono­log­ical order, and throughout Love makes un­nec­es­sary deroga­tory state­ments about the other Beach Boys. That is, Good Vi­bra­tions is filled with bad vi­bra­tions.

While searching for a use­able photo of the front cover to Love’s book, I came across a re­view of Love’s book along­side Brian Wilson’s newly pub­lished, second au­tho­rized au­to­bi­og­raphy by Jim Sheffield on Rolling Stone’s site:

“If you were hoping ei­ther book would make you feel warm and fuzzy about the Beach Boys—well, wouldn’t it be nice? But nei­ther is a watered-down product. Both are full of pain. For Love, the in­jus­tice is how the world still feels so much af­fec­tion for Wilson in all his fragile hu­manity. I saw a Wilson show this summer where he spaced on the second verse of I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times. He chuckled and said, ‘Oh, I forgot the words.’ The crowd sang it for him until he fig­ured out where to come in for the chorus. It could have been a pitiful mo­ment; in­stead, it was suf­fused with warmth. That’s a mo­ment I won’t forget—there isn’t a mo­ment like it in Love’s book. How can such trou­bled men create such beau­tiful music? God only knows.”

7   Rec­om­mended reading: Paul Bryan’s re­view of Good Vi­bra­tions for GoodReads.

8   Rec­om­mended reading: Paul Bryan’s re­view of Re­quiem For The Masses for GoodReads.

9   Later recording mem­bers of the Byrds in­clude (chrono­log­i­cally) Kevin Kelley, Gram Par­sons, Clarence White, John York, Gene Par­sons, and Skip Battin.

 

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Now you just need to en­counter the biggest ass­hole in pop, John Lennon

It’s GRAM Par­sons, not “Graham.” You re­ally AREN’T a fan of the later Byrds.

The ex­pres­sion is “Hell’s bells,” not “Hell’s Belles.”

A bit sur­prised to see a re­view of Re­quiem For The Time­less, Volume 1, which was pub­lished over six years ago, in the same month that Volume 2 has just been pub­lished. As­sumed you’d be doing Volume 2 in­stead. Maybe in 2023!

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