Updated: Nov 25
By Bob Deakin
I'll cover the final five tracks to cap off the final installment of my Beach Boys Sunflower album breakdown. Brian and Mike’s “All I Wanna Do,” Dennis’s epic “Forever,” and Brian, Carl, and Al’s “Our Sweet Love” put Sunflower over the top as the Beach Boys' best all-time collaboration.
It was the first Beach Boys album I’d ever heard, even before their car and surf songs of the 60s. It was a time for youth and eternal optimism, at least for me. I thought that’s what they always were and what they’d always be.
All I Wanna Do
I arrive at All I Wanna Do as I continue through the album. If you like fuzz distortion, electric sitar, Moog, and lots of reverb, this one’s for you. It must have been mind-bending in 1970 to realize this was the Beach Boys. The sound is so unusual with the bizarre echo and lumbering bass lines.
When you think the Beach Boys are going in too many directions on Sunflower, you get this. Soft psychedelic rock sung by Mike Love. I wanted to say ‘simple,’ but listen to the backing vocals. There’s nothing simple about it. As soon as the second verse begins, a layer of backing vocs rip your heart out. I can barely hear the separation of the voices, but I feel it.
This is a thick wash of vocals and instrumentation, but Mike carries it. It’s so nice when you just sit back and listen. It is a nice chill melody and just right at the beach with the waves rolling in. The stoners must have loved this, even if they didn’t want to admit to their stoner buddies that they were listening to the Beach Boys.
The fuzz distortion on the guitars and the reverb are still ringing five decades later.
Another Dennis Wilson masterpiece and yet another about-face of styles on this album. A slow, soulful love song with a touch of blues and gospel. Where did this come from? Pretty sure Brian arranged the vocals but who’s keeping score?
Just when “Forever” seems so simple, you hear the talents of the band singing in unison. All of them sing on this, Brian and Carl most prominently. It is so rich. One of the most complicated sections of the song is the refrain, with the most simple lyrics.
Baby just let me sing it my baby
I want to be singin' my baby
Baby baby baby my baby
I want to be singin'
I want to be singin' my baby
Oh oh oh oh
My my my my my my
Again, with the acoustic guitar. So unlike the Beach Boys. This sounds even further out of their element. Can we call it soul? Dennis sings this like no one else could. It’s hard to walk away after one listen - an emotional highwire act. It sounds as if Dennis was singing it a foot away from his audience, whoever she was.
There is a Portuguese style of folk called ‘Fado,’ which is essentially pleasurable melancholy; a beautiful sadness. The structure of a Fado song is as important as the notes, and “Forever” would fit the bill with its simple verses followed by dramatic highs and lows. It ends with Dennis practically gasping for breath as Brian kills it with a crying backing vocal off in the distance.
This is real. These guys were feeling it. Think the Boys were all surf songs and T-birds? Think again.
Our Sweet Love
Where do I start? My favorite after “In My Room,” "Our Sweet Love" is a world all its own. Carl Wilson on lead vocal on a song credited to him, Al Jardine, and Brian. Where did this one come from?
Another about-face in style from the rest of the album. I’ll call this an upbeat ballad. From the piano's first strike (however many piano tracks there are), I’m lost in the melody.
I thought about a summer day
And how the time just floats away
Pretty things like incense and flowers
I wanna make them part of
Our Sweet love
Full orchestra and who knows how many players. Listen to the piano and bass on this. It is flawless. They sound like one instrument.
Each verse begins so delicately, like you’re being sung a nursery rhyme with the most gentle melody and sentiment. Carl sings it like no one (except Brian). This works on so many levels. The strings stand by themselves and listen to the subtle backing vocals.
Not only is this arranged brilliantly, but we get an extra verse when you think it’s almost over.
Lord knows I love her so
I feel it down inside my soul
A precious love like this can flower
There's nothing in this world like
It gets no better than this. I never want this song to end.
At My Window
Musical style number 11 checking in. "At My Window" is the second song on Sunflower with an accordion credited as a French Concertina. Brian and Al Jardine composed it, Brian speaks part of it in French, his daughter Carnie sings in the background, and the lead vocals are Bruce and Brian. It certainly has a European feel but builds to a classic rise with the whole band on vocals and many others playing many instruments.
The rhythm is slow but steady, a unique contribution to the album. It’s the second-to-last track on the original release and the last one seemingly meant for it. Not a toe-tapper but the vocal highs hint at a church choir. Nice do do do do do do do fade with all the guys back in the mix. With a definite air of finality, this could easily have worked as the final song.
Cool, Cool Water
This was originally for the Smile album a couple of years earlier, and it is a toe-tapper. In fact, it’s a finger snapper, and all the guys are credited with snaps.
You immediately hear the difference in the sonic and melodic structure of the track. It sounds like nothing else on the album, and there was probably a better choice to close out Sunflower, namely, “At My Window.” “Cool, Cool Water” has many changes, and breaks out the old psychedelic sound from the 60s Beach Boys.
It is beautifully arranged, but I’m always musically confused after the rest of the album. Sunflower was a masterpiece with the 11 previous tracks. They were all radically different yet so sunny outdoors 70s. Perhaps that’s because I remember it from a sunny backyard in my youth.
Whoever remembers this album likely has their own set of images to go along with it. I’m grateful for mine, and that’s good because I’ll never get them out of my head.