November 10, 2009

The Beatles And The Beach Boys Present: Sgt. Pepper

Update (May 5, 2015): I discovered to my dismay that the original video that accompanies this blog post no longer worked correctly. It should work now. Enjoy, music lovers! 

On May 16, 1966, The Beach Boys released Pet Sounds, their most ambitious work to date and one of the most influential pop albums ever recorded. The album had been inspired in part by The Beatles' album Rubber Soul. Brian later recalled, "I really wasn't quite ready for the unity. It felt like it all belonged together. Rubber Soul was a collection of songs ... that somehow went together like no album ever made before, and I was very impressed. I said, "That's it. I really am challenged to do a great album."

Over in England, Paul McCartney heard Pet Sounds and it changed the course of Beatles music forever. It is well known that Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was primarily influenced by Pet Sounds. The following quote from Sir Paul sums it up:

It was Pet Sounds that blew me out of the water. I love the album so much. I've just bought my kids each a copy of it for their education in life ... I figure no one is educated musically 'til they've heard that album ... I love the orchestra, the arrangements ... it may be going overboard to say it's the classic of the century ... but to me, it certainly is a total, classic record that is unbeatable in many ways ... I've often played Pet Sounds and cried. I played it to John [Lennon] so much that it would be difficult for him to escape the influence ... it was the record of the time. The thing that really made me sit up and take notice was the bass lines ... and also, putting melodies in the bass line. That I think was probably the big influence that set me thinking when we recorded Pepper, it set me off on a period I had then for a couple of years of nearly always writing quite melodic bass lines. "God Only Knows" is a big favourite of mine ... very emotional, always a bit of a choker for me, that one. On "You Still Believe in Me", I love that melody - that kills me ... that's my favourite, I think ... it's so beautiful right at the end ... comes surging back in these multi-coloured harmonies ... sends shivers up my spine.

After Pet Sounds, Brian Wilson, at the height of his musical powers, planned an even more ambitious follow-up, tentatively titled Dumb Angel. The project, termed "a teenage symphony to God" by Brian was to be comprised of musically and thematically linked songs, using unique arrangements. "Good Vibrations" was the first result, and a good example of how amazing and profoundly impactful the final project, which would come to be known as Smile, could have been.

Unfortunately, Smile was not properly released by The Beach Boys in 1967, or any other year, and the legends surrounding it's demise are as harrowing as they are legendary. For years, fans have circulated recordings of these sessions and many feel that Smile is THE "great lost album." After Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released, Brian felt that The Beatles had beaten him to the punch conceptually, and it was the last nail in the coffin for Smile. An inferior work, Smiley Smile was released, to little fanfare. From this point on The Beach Boys entered a slow but steady decline. Brian Wilson suffered a breakdown from which he was slow to recover before his triumphant return much later. Meanwhile, Sgt. Pepper became, like Pet Sounds, one of the greatest pop albums ever made.

All of this you may know already. It is well documented fact.

But what if it hadn't happened that way?

Perhaps, in a parallel universe, the course of history ran slightly differently.

The following presentation, while based on real people and events, is a dramatization, totally fictitious. It is also one fan's tribute to two of the greatest groups of musicians that ever were. Thanks for teaching me about love and true happiness.

May 1966 - Paul McCartney, upon hearing Pet Sounds, becomes possessed of a strong desire to meet and possibly collaborate with Brian Wilson.

August 1966 - The Beatles' album Revolver is released.

August 29 1966 - The Beatles play their final concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. After the show, a party is arranged at which both The Beatles and The Beach Boys are present. The Beatles hear the just completed "Good Vibrations" and are quite captivated. Comparing notes, the bands decide to collaborate on their next project, as yet unnamed. The "Good Vibrations" single is halted from release.

November 1966 - The Beach Boys and Brian's lyricist Van Dyke Parks arrive in England and secretly meet with The Beatles to develop the concept of the new album.
It is decided that the album will be presented as a friendly "battle of the bands", and also as a celebration of life, love, and spirituality.

December 1966 - Recording begins in earnest, "Strawberry Fields Forever", "Penny Lane", and "Heroes And Villains" being the first songs recorded.

June 1, 1967 - The double album is released. The track listing is as follows:

Record 1 Side A

1. Our Prayer
2. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band
3. With A Little Help From My Friends ( lead vocal: Bruce Johnston)
4. Good Morning Good Morning/Barnyard
5. Heroes And Villains

Record 1 Side B

1. Penny Lane
2. Wind Chimes
3. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
4. Good Vibrations
5. It's All Too Much

Record 2 Side C

1. When I'm 64
2. Cabinessence
3. All Together Now
4. The Old Master Painter/ You Are My Sunshine
5. Strawberry Fields Forever

Record 2 Side D

1. Getting Better
2. Surf's Up/Child Is Father Of The Man
3. Within You/ Without You/ Mellotron Music #4
4. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
5. A Day In The Life/Vegetables

And here is a reconstruction of how this album might have sounded, if it had ever existed.


Matt said...

Thanks for this post.

wingy said...

this is a really cool idea, especially for someone like me who is kind of obsessed with beatles/beach boys connections. thanks for posting.

also, in the spirit of both the beatles and beach boys, i've done a mixtape with both groups in it. hope you enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Is there anyway I can download this?

John Glenn Taylor said...

Thanks for your interest. I have no plans to make this downloadable. It was just a fun creative exercise.

John Glenn Taylor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeremy Alexander said...

Can you please post on YouTube?

Josh the Kook said...

The Beach Boys were so much more advanced than the Beatles. Superior ability to create flawless harmony and better crafted records. The only reason the Beatles received a high commercial viability was Capitol giving them better marketing due to a lawsuit at the time giving the Beach Boys their Brother label; the Beatles later with Apple Corp.