0052. The Beach Boys – Today! [1965]

BeachBoysTodayCover

Ehhh… Still haven’t acquired my taste for these guys.  Maybe I’m missing something, but these guys just seem too squeaky clean to hold my interest.  I know these guys have sold a lot of records over the years, but that doesn’t mean they’re particularly good.  If you’re into it, maybe you can help me understand why.  Feel free to comment and tell me why you’re so fond of these guys, and I’ll consider your opinion.

Wikipedia Says:

The Beach Boys Today!, also known simply as Today!,[2][3] is the eighth studio album by the American rockgroup the Beach Boys, and their first of three 1965 releases. It peaked at number four on US record chartsand was preceded by the top 10 singles “When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)” and “Dance, Dance, Dance“, along with “Do You Wanna Dance?” which reached number 12.

The album marked a major transition point for the band through Brian Wilson‘s sophisticated, orchestral approach.[4] In December 1964, Wilson suffered through a nervous breakdown while on a plane, and was introduced to marijuana as a stress reliever.[citation needed] He then became a regular user after he realized the profound effect it had on the way he perceived music, subsequently resigning from touring with the group in order to focus solely on songwriting and producing.

The tracks on the first half of Today! feature an electric guitar-rock oriented sound that contrasts the second half consisting of ballads, showing an increased mature lyrical depth that would foreshadow future efforts likePet Sounds.[1][3] The second side marks Wilson’s continuing maturation as a recording artist; all the songs showcase creatively developed vocal & instrumental arrangements, complex Wall of Sound production, and lyrically introspective subject matter.

In 2012, the album was voted 271 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time“.[5] In 2005, it was included in the musical reference book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Background[edit]

By the end of a particularly stressful 1964, the Beach Boys had released four albums in 12 months, dismissed the Wilsons’ father Murry from his managerial position and recorded the advance hit singles “When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)” and “Dance, Dance, Dance.”[4] Mid-1964 also saw the divorce of Mike Love from his first wife Frances St. Martin whom he had married in 1961.[6] During the album’s recording sessions, Love told Melody Maker that he and the band wanted to look beyond surf rock, wanting to avoid living in the past or resting on the band’s laurels.[7] Brian Wilson had written his last surf song in April 1964,[8]intending All Summer Long (released July 1964) to be the group’s final statement on beach-themed music.[9]

Wilson became physically and emotionally exhausted to a point that he suffered an anxiety attack on December 23, 1964. During the recording sessions of Today! in January 1965, he informed the band that he intended to retire from touring and solely focus his attention on creating and producing music, to which the band reluctantly agreed.[4] Wilson expressed regret over not having done this sooner so that he could do “justice” to the band’s recordings, saying “I was run down mentally and emotionally because I was running around, jumping on jets from one city to another on one-night stands, also producing, writing, arranging, singing, planning, teaching – to the point where I had no peace of mind and no chance to actually sit down and think or even rest.”[10]

Music and lyrics[edit]

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When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)” was one of the first rock songs to explore the subject of impending adulthood.[1]According to Van Dyke Parks, Brian had a “fervent desire to reinvent himself as an individual, not as a boy.”[11]

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Today! marked a maturation in the Beach Boys’ lyric content by abandoning themes related to surfing, cars, or teenage love. Some love songs remained, but with a marked increase in depth, along with introspective tracks accompanied by adventurous and distinct arrangements.[12][13] According to author Scott Schinder, “Today! ’​s suite-like structure, with the album divided into a side of fast songs and a side of ballads, presented an early manifestation of the rock album format being used to make a cohesive artistic statement – an idea that Brian would soon explore more fully.”[12] It was thus the band’s first flirtation with the album-as-art form.[14] Brian’s recent introduction to marijuana greatly influenced the album’s writing, as he would later claim: “Pot made the music grow in my head.”[15]

PopMatters notes that even though the A-side is filled with uptempo numbers, “it would be a mistake to assume that the ballads are more sophisticated. … Wilson proves that he can be just as harmonically and structurally inventive with catchy dance songs as he can with emotional ballads.”[16]

The front cover lists nine of the album’s tracks, followed by “plus three great new songs written by Brian Wilson.” However, of the remaining three tracks, only “In the Back of My Mind” was another original composition.[citation needed] In the book Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop, Bob Stanley ofSaint Etienne wrote of the song’s lyricism:

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The music in “She Knows Me Too Well” is exceptionally sparse compared to otherToday! tracks. Its dissonant harmonic development helps convey the song’s lyricism about a man who struggles with his treatment of women.[17]

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“[The narrator’s] emotions, whatever really was in the back of his mind, seemed to come out without any filter for what was deemed cool, or appropriate, or even musically acceptable … The same album’s ‘She Knows Me Too Well‘ opened with ‘Sometimes I have a weird way of showing my love’, a line that wouldn’t shock in the catalogues of Nick Cave or the Jesus and Mary Chain, but was pretty unsettling in the hands of the car-crazy Californians. Brian was aiming for Johnny Mercer but coming up proto-indie.”[18]

“Help Me, Ronda” would later be re-recorded as “Help Me, Rhonda” to deliver the Beach Boys their second number one hit in May.[19]

Recording and production[edit]

Begun on June 22, 1964 in between sessions for The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album, “Don’t Hurt My Little Sister” was the earliest song tracked for the album. August was devoted to the singles “When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)” and “She Knows Me Too Well”; followed by “I’m So Young”, the outtake “All Dressed Up for School“, and “Dance, Dance, Dance” in September.[nb 1] Only one session occurred in October for a remake of “Dance, Dance, Dance”, being the first session date labelled for Today!, and the only session which was conducted at RCA Victor Studios.[nb 2] “Kiss Me Baby” was then tracked two months later in December.[20] Following Brian’s return to the studio on January 7, 1965, the rest of the album was completed in less than two weeks, ending on January 19.[21] As documented by Craig Slowinski, the extent of the album’s instrumentation features:

In comparison to previous albums, Today! necessitated Brian’s use of session musicians to a greater extent. Despite this, Carl Wilson was still employed on lead guitar for many of the album’s tracks, and usually played alongside these session musicians[1] which would later be informally known as the Wrecking Crew, comprising many of the same musicians whom played on Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound productions that Wilson idolized.[12] The recording process typically involved recording an instrumental on two tracks of 3-track tape with one remaining track left for the first vocal overdub. This tape was then dubbed down to a second tape for an additional layer of vocal overdubs. The LP was finally issued in mono, their first album not to be issued in stereosince Surfin’ U.S.A. (1963).[1]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[3]
Blender 4/5 stars[22]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 5/5 stars[23]
The Guardian positive[24]
Rolling Stone 5/5 stars[25]

Despite being a departure from the Beach Boys sound that pervaded prior efforts, the album was a commercial success; Today! climbed to number four in the US chart during a chart stay of 50 weeks[26] and also reached number six in the British chart during the summer of 1966.[27][28] Singles “Do You Wanna Dance?”, “When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)” and “Dance, Dance, Dance” had all charted.[citation needed]

The album is often described as a foreshadowing of the later Beach Boys’ album Pet Sounds.[1][4][14][16] Alice Bolin writes: “Pet Sounds was released only a little over a year after Today!, and it can be hard to separateToday! from the masterpiece it led to—so much so that Today! can feel like a rehearsal for Pet Sounds, with its themes and ideas repeated and perfected in the later album.”[14] PopMatters adds “Pet Sounds is about growing up and moving on, and as such, it’s melancholic and reflective. But Today! is about the optimism, not the sadness, of leaving adolescence. Even on the more sentimental b-side songs, there’s a sense of excitement and longing for what the future has in store.”[16]

In 2005, Today! was included in Robert Dimery’s 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[29] In 2007, The Guardian named it one of “1000 Albums to Hear Before You Die”.[30] In 2012, a variety of musicians and writers voted the album at 271 for Rolling Stones “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list, with it stating: “The Beach Boys were still into cars, girls and surfboards, [sic] but Brian Wilson was already a genius. He writes sweet California tunes here, and the haunting ‘She Knows Me Too Well’ hits Pet Sounds-deep.”[5]

Release history[edit]

In the early 1980s, as part of Capitol Records’ repackage series of their Beach Boys albums, Today! was retitled Dance Dance Dance and had two tracks deleted: “In the Back of My Mind” and “Bull Session with the ‘Big Daddy'”. This was one of several Beach Boys releases not to be issued in truestereophonic sound. Originally, Capitol issued the album in mono, as well as “duophonic“. In 2012, a complete stereo mix of Today! was finally released for the first time.[31]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Brian Wilson and Mike Love, except where noted.

Side one
No. Title Lead vocals Length
1. Do You Wanna Dance?” (Bobby Freeman) Dennis Wilson 2:19
2. Good to My Baby B. Wilson with Love 2:16
3. Don’t Hurt My Little Sister Love with B. Wilson 2:07
4. When I Grow Up (To Be a Man) Love with B. Wilson 2:01
5. Help Me, Ronda Al Jardine 3:08
6. Dance, Dance, Dance” (B. Wilson/Carl Wilson/Love) Love with B. Wilson 1:59
Side two
No. Title Lead vocals Length
1. Please Let Me Wonder B. Wilson with Love 2:45
2. I’m So Young” (William H. “Prez” Tyus, Jr.) B. Wilson 2:30
3. Kiss Me, Baby B. Wilson with Love 2:35
4. She Knows Me Too Well B. Wilson 2:27
5. In the Back of My Mind D. Wilson 2:07
6. Bull Session with the ‘Big Daddy’” (The Beach Boys) none (spoken word) 2:10

Personnel[edit]

The Beach Boys in 1964

Sourced from Musician’s Union AFM contract sheets and surviving session audio, documented by Craig Slowinski.[1]

The Beach Boys
Additional musicians and production staff

Charts[edit]

Albums
Year Chart Position
1965 German Albums Chart[32] 14
1965 US Billboard 200 Albums Chart[26] 4
1965 UK Top 40 Album Chart[33] 6
Singles
Year Single Chart Position
1964 “Dance, Dance, Dance” US Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart 8
1964 “When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)” US Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart 9
1965 “Do You Wanna Dance?” US Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart 12
1965 “Please Let Me Wonder” US Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart 52
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