Beach Boys – Today (1965)

FrontCover1The Beach Boys Today! is the eighth studio album by the American rock band the Beach Boys, released on March 8, 1965. The album signaled a departure from their previous records with its orchestral approach, intimate subject matter, and abandonment of themes related to surfing, cars, or superficial love. It peaked at number four on US record charts during a 50-week chart stay and 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. When issued in the UK one year later, Today! peaked at number six.

The album was produced, arranged, and largely written by Brian Wilson with additional lyrics by Mike Love. Shortly before recording began, the group completed their album All Summer Long (1964), intended to be their final statement on beach-themed music. In December 1964, Brian Wilson had a nervous breakdown while on a flight, and resigned from touring with the group to focus solely on writing and producing. He began using marijuana, which he later said had profound effects on his musical conceptions.

Today! established the Beach Boys as album artists rather than just a singles band. Side one features an uptempo sound that contrasts side two, which consists mostly of ballads. Author Scott Schinder referred to its “suite-like structure” as an early example of the rock album format being used to make a cohesive artistic statement.[3] In 2012, the album was voted 271 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. In 2005, it was included in the musical reference book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

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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”. Mid-1964 also saw the divorce of Mike Love from his first wife Frances St. Martin whom he had married in 1961. 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. Brian Wilson had written his last surf song in April 1964, intending All Summer Long (released July 1964) to be the group’s final statement on beach-themed music.

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 focus his attention solely on creating and producing music, to which the band reluctantly agreed.[5] 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][nb 1] According to Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, in early 1965, Wilson phoned the couple to congratulate them on their new song “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”, as Weil quotes Wilson: “Your song is the greatest record ever. I was ready to quit the music business, but this has inspired me to write again. I want to write with you guys.”

Singles

In songs like ‘She Knows Me Too Well’ and ‘In the Back of My Mind’, Wilson’s dream lovers were suddenly no longer simple happy souls harmonizing their sun-kissed innocence and dying devotion to each other over a honey-coated backdrop of surf and sand. Instead, they’d become highly vulnerable, slightly neurotic and riddled with telling insecurities. (Nick Kent, “The Last Beach Movie Revisited”, 2009)

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. British rock critic Nick Kent explained: “What was really happening was Brian’s approach to romance was becoming more and more personalized, more honest in a distinctly autobiographical way.”

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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.” It was thus the band’s first flirtation with the album-as-art form.[15] Brian’s recent introduction to marijuana, which he used as a stress reliever,[16] greatly influenced the album’s writing, as he later stated: “Pot made the music grow in my head.” Musicologist Philip Lambert disagrees with the notion that “Brian wrote B-side songs before his December catharsis and A-side songs in the sunny glow of his subsequent freedom”, believing that the compositions which preceded his plane episode still showed evidence of progressive ingenuity. (by wikipedia)

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Brian Wilson’s retirement from performing to concentrate on studio recording and production reaped immediate dividends with Today!, the first Beach Boys album that is strong almost from start to finish. “Dance, Dance, Dance” and “Do You Wanna Dance” were upbeat hits with Spector-influenced arrangements, but Wilson began to deal with more sophisticated themes on another smash 45, “When I Grow Up,” on which these eternal teenagers looked forward to the advancing years with fear and uncertainty. Surf/hot rod/beach themes were permanently retired in favor of late-adolescent, early-adult romance on this album, which included such decent outings in this vein as “She Knows Me Too Well,” “Kiss Me Baby,” and “In the Back of My Mind.” The true gem is “Please Let Me Wonder,” one of the group’s most delicate mid-’60s works, with heartbreaking melodies and harmonies.

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Be aware that the version of “Help Me, Rhonda” found here is an inferior, earlier, and slower rendition; the familiar hit single take was included on their next album, Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!). [Today!/Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!), a Capitol two-fer CD, combines this and Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) onto one disc, adding alternate takes of “Dance, Dance, Dance,” “I’m So Young,” and “Let Him Run Wild,” as well as a previously unreleased studio version of “Graduation Day.” Most significantly, it also adds the non-LP single from late 1965, “The Little Girl I Once Knew,” which looked forward to Pet Sounds in its studio experimentation and lyrical themes.] (by Richie Unterberger)

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Personnel:
Al Jardine (vocals. guitar, bass)
Mike Love (vocals)
Brian Wilson (vocals, bass. keyboards, harpsichord)
Carl Wilson (vocals, guitar, bass)
Dennis Wilson (vocals,  drums, percussion)
+
Hal Blaine (drums, percussion)
Glen Campbell (guitar)
Peter Christ (english horn)
Steve Douglas (saxophone)
David Duke (french horn)
John Gray (piano)
Carl Fortina (accordion)
Plas Johnson (saxophone)
Carol Kaye (bass guitar)
Barney Kessel (guitar)
Larry Knechtel (bass)
Carrol Lewis (harmonica)
“Louie” (last name unknown) (castanets)
Jack Nimitz (saxophone)
Jay Migliori (saxophone)
Earl Palmer (drums, timbales)
Don Randi (keyboards)
Bill Pitman (guitar)
Ray Pohlman (bass)
Billy Lee Riley (harmonica)
Leon Russell (keyboards)
Billy Strange (guitar, mandolin)
Ron Swallow (tambourine)
Tommy Tedesco (harp, guitar, mandolin)
Russ Titelman (percussion)
Julius Wechter (vibraphone, percussion)
Jerry Williams (vibraphone, timpani)
Marilyn Wilson (background vocals)
+
unknown: oboe, cellos, violins, violas, English horn

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Tracklist:
01. Do You Wanna Dance? (Freeman) 2.40
02. Good To My Baby  (B.Wilson/Love) 2.22
03. Don’t Hurt My Little Sister  (B.Wilson, Love) 2.10
04. When I Grow Up (To Be a Man) (B.Wilson/Love) 2.06
05. Help Me, Ronda (B.Wilson/Love) 3.07
06. Dance, Dance, Dance (B. Wilson/C.Wilson/Love) 2.05
07. Please Let Me Wonder (B.Wilson/Love) 2.49
08. I’m So Young  (Tyus) 2.35
09. Kiss Me, Baby (B.Wilson/Love) 2.44
10. She Knows Me Too Well (B.Wilson/Love) 2.32
11. In The Back Of My Mind (B.Wilson/Love) 2.12
12. Bull Session with the ‘Big Daddy’ (spoken word) 2.11

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