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The Beach Boys Sunflower (Part III)

I left at “Got To Know the Woman” in Beach Boys Sunflower Part II. Am I getting carried away with this album? Yes, but why waste a lifetime of research? I’ve spent more time on these songs than the Beach Boys have.

Track five is “Deirdre,” a Bruce Johnstone song, with lead vocs by Bruce with help from Brian. This is a complete turn in style from the rest of Sunflower, going for soft romantic pop. The orchestration is similar to the rest of the tracks, employing half of LA’s session players including Larry Knechtel on piano, Daryl Dragon on vibes and John Guerin on drums. If you weren’t on this session it wasn’t because they couldn’t afford you.

Beach Boys Sunflower LP Gatefold
Sunflower LP Gatefold

Quite the lavish composition and recording. Old-fashioned sensibilities with a surprisingly aggressive drum track. It’s the antithesis of the hard-driving Dennis songs, particularly the one that follows.

It’s About Time is next. Dennis Wilson personified. Carl sings lead doing his best Dennis impersonation. For years I thought it was Dennis but realized it’s a vocal only Carl or Brian could deliver with that much elegance amidst the desperate resolve. You can still hear plenty of Dennis in the mix, adding the grit and later hysteria at the chaotic ending.

Brian Wilson Sunflower

Mike sings lead on the bridge and you hear Brian, Carl, and Dennis on backing vocs. Listen how it starts as a quiet, almost doo-wop passage. Complete about-face from the main melody, but then it quickly accelerates back into the original roar, setting up the guitar solo. Brilliant.

No, no, no, no, no, no

It's about time now

It's about time now

It's about time now

Don't you know now…

It's about time we get together

To be out front and love one another

Brothers, sisters, everybody

We better start to help each other now

We need it now

There are multiple songwriters credited, but it reads Dennis and Carl. It's a song of cleaning up and doing what’s right. Great message and unbelievable performances. We hear the female vocs again, but it’s a Wilson brothers showcase.

Earl Palmer
Earl Palmer

Earl Palmer plays drums with dozens of backing vocal tracks. The congas add an earthy groove to the whole thing. Lots of sophisticated production yet it sounds genuine. This album would have been good anyway, but the many intricate touches put it over the top. Great musicians and well worth whatever they paid for them.

Beach Boys Sunflower

Steve Desper must also take credit for what he did with such rich material and so many tracks. I can only imagine what it was like getting the performances out of the boys.

Tears in the Morning” is another radical departure from the album, again provided by Bruce.

Not exactly a toe-tapper, this song goes in a lot of directions. It’s all Bruce Johnston. There are a bunch of keyboard tracks and I don’t know who is playing what. Listen to the beautiful drumming and vibes, especially the ride cymbal during the bridge. Hal Blaine. Love the accordion complimented by the Spanish guitar. Dramatic vocal by Bruce and rich backing vocals by the guys - who would’ve thought?

Beach Boys Press Conference (Where's Brian?)
Beach Boys Press Conference (Where's Brian?)

Extravagant arrangement. Even more unusual ending of the song with an extended piano solo. This was never going to be an album to hit the Hot 100. No more evident than here.

More Dennis Wilson To Come

Let’s end this blog on that fine series of notes written and sung by Bruce. The album was recorded at Gold Star Studios, Sunset Sound Recorders, and the Boys’ Brother Studios.

The Beach Boys at Brother Studios
The Beach Boys at Brother Studios

Sadly, Dennis didn’t live the lifestyle he was rejoicing about, at least not long term. I will always equate a bit of sadness with this album for that reason. It was the Beach Boys like they should have been. It just wouldn’t continue.

One last thing for Brian Wilson, since he’s reading this: Do you ever think back on this album and marvel at it? Do you ever play any of the songs? Let me know. I’m sure you remember my number from the last time I wrote you.

Watch for The Beach Boys Sunflower Part IV as I close out the remainder of side two, including one of my favorite songs of all time.


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