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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Beach Boys: Party!


1) Hully Gully; 2) I Should Have Known Better; 3) Tell Me Why; 4) Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow; 5) Mountain Of Love; 6) You've Got To Hide Your Love Away; 7) Devoted To You; 8) Alley Oop; 9) There's No Other (Like My Baby); 10) I Get Around/Little Deuce Coupe; 11) The Times They Are A-Changin'; 12) Barbara Ann.

Another odd experiment from the depths of Capitol Records. Another album was required from the band by Christmas time, in order to fulfill the regular three-LPs-per-year quota — but with Brian's reluctance to speed things up with standard studio production, it was clear that yet another bastard release would be in the works. Still, it would have to at least match the band's ten­dency for unpredictability and diversity. Since the «conceptual compilation» (Little Deuce Cou­pe), the live album (Concert), and the Christmas album slots were already occupied, some bright soul came up with the idea of The Beach Boys' Party!:

— everyone knows, of course, that if a bunch of musicians gives a party, what always happens is, at some point they inevitably end up dragging out the acoustic guitars and the maracas and the tambourines, and start goofing around covering their own and other people's materials, and the nonplussed guests simply continue chatting and laughing at top volume of their own voices, be­cause who the heck would want to stop and listen, provided the booze is still flowing freely? This is known, or should be known, as authentic party atmosphere, and this is exactly what Capitol Records has offered its clients on this Beach Boys album.

Of course, considering that such authentic party atmosphere does not actually exist, and even if it exis­ted, could hardly have been captured on record in 1965, one had to remain contended with a careful simulation. The Beach Boys did drag out their acoustic guitars, run through a rag-taggy set of songs, upon which the results were spliced together with «party sounds» — and the final product ends up being completely bizarre. Since the liner notes never stated explicitly that the «party» was a fake, many people probably wondered back in the day — how come all these laugh­ing idiots treat the band with such blatant irreverence, and what on earth prompted the boys to invite them to their party in the first place?

Upon disregarding all the giggles and the clinking glass, Party! remains a let-your-hair-down style curio, worth an occasional listen. It is interesting to see how much the Beach Boys were fascinated by the Beatles — covering a whoppin' three tunes, the last one featuring Dennis on vo­cals (a fourth one, 'Ticket To Ride', is said to have been left in the can) — and gets one to thinkin' wouldn't it be nice to see them actually contributing backing vocals to any real Beatles songs. An even bigger surprise is to hear Al Jardine passionately, if not very convincingly, battling his way through 'The Times They Are A-Changin', needlessly «deflated» by clownish exclamations like "RIGHT!" that sometimes punctuate the pauses between vocal lines. Although, if rumors be be­lie­ved, Al was a major folkie, back in those days at least, and fell under the Dylan charm easier than the rest of the guys. (Probably also had something to do with his vocal limitations — it is much harder to fall under the Dylan charm if you yourself are used to singing like an angel).

Everything else is more predictable: goofy novelty numbers for Mike's tummy ('Alley Oop'; ano­ther take on 'Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow'), pompous Phil Spector chorales for Brian's dummy ('There's No Other Like My Baby'), and tepid, but catchy pop oldies for your Mommy ('Mountain Of Love', 'Devoted To You'). The only bit of self-written material is a parodic medley take on 'I Get Aro­und' and 'Little Deuce Coupe', the latter bit recast as a moron's interpretation of an Elvis Presley bossanova recording. And the biggest technical surprise is that the closing number, 'Barbara Ann', with Dean Torrence of Jan & Dean guest starring on lead vocals, unexpectedly became one of the band's biggest hits — particularly in the UK, where, ironically, its commercial success became the lube that helped Pet Sounds effortlessly slide up the charts next year, despite the two having virtually nothing in common.

Maybe some day Capitol will come to its senses and release a Beach Boys Party Pooper! or something like that, with the moronic noises removed and extra acoustic tracks from the vaults thrown in — because, as an early representative of the «unplugged» genre, it is a nice enough, sometimes genuinely touching record. At this point, its importance is mostly historical: it shows clearly that the Beach Boys were not developing in a vacuum, and that, in 1965 at least, some of them were quite hip to the times, even if each such demonstration is consistently set back with a performance of a silly kiddie piece of fluff.

But 'Barbara Ann', which indeed sounds like one of the happiest, catchiest, lightest numbers ever recorded (no wonder even Keith Moon was a major fan), does serve as the perfect watermark to separate the pre-pubescent (figuratively speaking) Beach Boys from a musical ensemble that has made the transition to another plane of existence. You'll definitely know it when you put all their material into one continuous playlist — and then experience 'Wouldn't It Be Nice' a few seconds after the final applause and laughter of 'Barbara Ann' have died down.

Check "Party!" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Party!" (MP3) on Amazon


  1. Dean "I hate Party!" LaCapraraNovember 11, 2011 at 12:08 AM

    The name says it all: this remains abysmal, their worst record of the pre-1972 era when they ruled American rock/pop. Started a nasty trend of bands that release albums filled with only covers (albeit one track is a couple of their hits done parody-style).
    I admit having this on both vinyl and 2-fer CD, only because the completist in me would've have it any other way. Just for the record, still holding out even listening to BB albums from 1976/78/80 and post-1985. Having the best on the fabulous Good Vibrations box is enough torture...

  2. If you really want a Party sans the party overdubs, check out the excellent Sea of Tunes bootleg covering this era. The last disc is devoted to a clear album.

  3. "Party" is kind of a once in a lifetime album: not that it happens once in an artist's lifetime but that it happens once in...the lifetime of the universe. "Party" is an idea that is so bizarre in it's conception and so hideous in its execution that it could have only come out of the twisted and emotionally frail mind of Brian Wilson.

    Is it an album of fart noises? In a way, yes. This is mostly due to the constant and constantly annoying background noises. I know it was supposed to resemble a real party. And in a way it does: as a musician, with musician friends, I can safely say that shit like this has happened at parties. A few guys pass around an acoustic guitar, bash out some songs and sing them half assedly while nobody else pays attention.

    That said, I think I'd like to hear the album without the overdubs (where can you find those Sea Of Tunes bootlegs Imperator?) because the actual performance is fine. Nice solid rhythm playing, great percussion (when you can hear it) and great, fun group singing. The band never seemed this loose or carefree before or after. Strange to think it was obviously so well rehearsed and planned before hand.

    I like to give this a listen to now and then, and then immediately bop into "Stack-O-Tracks" on the two fer. Somehow they sound like poetry together.

  4. Barbara Ann reincarnated to Year 2013:

  5. It's worth mentioning that there is now an official "Party Pooper" edition of this album called Uncovered and Unplugged. It's got the original album scrubbed of the annoying crowd noises, and bonus tracks consisting of all(?) the album's sessions, for a slightly ridiculous 81 tracks across two discs. Party! is obviously never going to be a great album, but it's a way nicer listen like this. I haven't really dived into the sessions yet. There's a lot of repetition as you'd expect, but also some additional originals and covers that didn't make the album. They do Satisfaction twice, California Girls, a surprisingly pretty Blowin' in the Wind, etc.

    Although I gotta say, I did appreciate whoever assembled those two-fers putting this and Stack-O-Tracks together so you could have the two most useless 60s BB albums in one place.