THE BEACH BOYS: PARTY! (1965)
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.
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