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Classic Album Reviews | The Beach Boys | The Albums: 1962-1965

Rewinding the first eight studio albums from Brian Wilson, Mike Love & co.

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These albums came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got them. Here’s what I said about them back then (with some minor editing):

 


Once upon a time there was a local music critic (not me, I swear) who reviewed a Beach Boys concert and mentioned that they played their classic single — and I quote — Little Two-Scoop.

Now there’s a guy who wasn’t up to speed on his Beach Boys history. For anybody in a similar boat, I suggest checking out Capitol’s newly upgraded reissues of Brian Wilson and co.’s first eight studio albums. First released in 1990, these four “two-fer” volumes were remastered last year using 24-bit HDCD technology, which is a fancy way of saying they sound great — more dynamic range, greater separation between instruments and near-perfect clarity. Along with that, you get rarities, original artwork, song-by-song liner notes and essays. Oh, and some of the finest ’60s pop ever written, including, ahem, Little Deuce Coupe. Here’s an overview:


Surfin’ Safari /
Surfin’ U.S.A.

I Woulda Called It: The First Ripples. The Boys’ first recordings aside from a regional hit called (what else?) Surfin’, these albums from 1962 and ’63 capture a band finding their studio legs, learning how to write songs and slowly crafting that harmony-laden signature sound. The Hits: Surfin’ Safari, 409, Surfin’ U.S.A. The Sleepers: Moon Dawg and Misirlou, two twangy instrumentals that show off their chops. The Extras: Three B-grade cuts: Cindy, Oh Cindy and Land Ahoy (basic surf-rockers) and Baker Man (a doo-woppy R&B stroll).


Surfer Girl /
Shut Down Volume 2

I Woulda Called It: Ups and Downs. Brian Wilson begins to come into his own, taking the producing reins and displaying the first flashes of genius — even as the strains of constant work take a toll on his productivity, forcing the band to record filler like Louie Louie and a drum solo. The Hits: Surfer Girl, Catch a Wave, Little Deuce Coupe, In My Room, Fun, Fun, Fun, Don’t Worry Baby. The Sleepers: Warmth of the Sun, a ballad inspired by the Kennedy assassination; Surfers Rule, one of Brian’s many competition songs. The Extras: A single version of Fun, Fun, Fun; a hilarious German version of In My Room; the romantic surfin’ pledge I Do.


Little Deuce Coupe / All Summer Long

I Woulda Called It: Cars and Girls. Little Deuce Coupe is a slate of hot-rod songs recorded barely a month after Surfer Girl. Not surprisingly, 1964’s All Summer Long finds the increasingly stressed Brian trying to expand beyond surfin’ and cruisin’ with more romantic fare. The Hits: Little Deuce Coupe, Be True to Your School, I Get Around, Little Honda. The Sleepers: A Young Man is Gone, a James Dean memorial; Do You Remember?, a rock ’n’ roll ode; Don’t Back Down, Brian’s most confessional song to date. The Extras: The single of Be True to Your School; the schoolgirl fantasy All Dressed Up For School, and alternate takes of Honda and Don’t Back Down.


Today! / Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!)

I Woulda Called It: Boys to Men. After a breakdown, Brian quits touring and focuses his attention on the studio, where he begins crafting the elaborate, adventurous fare on these two 1965 albums, laying the groundwork for his ’66 masterpiece Pet Sounds. The Hits: Dance, Dance, Dance, Help Me, Rhonda, California Girls. The Sleepers: Virtually all of Summer Days, from the rebellious I’m Bugged at My Old Man to the superb Let Him Run Wild and the a cappella coda And Your Dreams Come True. The Extras: Alternate takes of several tracks and the single Little Girl I Once Knew.