Posts Tagged ‘Brian Wilson’

Cygnus Radio playlist 6/21/13: ‘Cause it’s summer

June 25, 2013

SummerSolstice7Franorama 2.0 airs live from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT (9 a.m.-noon CDT/7-10 a.m. PDT/2-5 p.m. GMT) on Cygnus Radio, and in the archives in perpetuity. For the link to the archives, click here.

The summer solstice took place at 1:04 a.m. Friday, while most of you were sleeping. But not here at Franorama 2.0 World Domination Headquarters, where the staff (okay, it’s just me, but please do pay attention to the woman behind the curtain) worked feverishly rounding up songs that screamed summer. Well, maybe not all of them screamed, but emoted it melodically. And it did serve to launch your summer — and mine — in a fun way.

And not all of it was The Beach Boys. In fact, very little of it had to do with The Beach Boys — though the summer tribute show did dovetail nicely into acknowledgements of both Brian Wilson’s 71st birthday, and the 69th birthday of another of my faves, Ray Davies¬† of The Kinks.

Get SlimBut there were also a couple of small tributes to people who left the mortal coil ahead of the show. The musical bed for most of the show was A3’s “Woke Up This Morning” — aka the theme to The Sopranos — as my small nod to that acting giant, James Gandolfini. (And as an aside, one of the bands I played actually did appear on The Sopranos — The Swingin’ Neckbreakers once performed in a scene in Adriana’s nightclub.) And a singer who died earlier Wednesday, who was part of my late-night TV repertoire for years — the man who sold more records on late-night TV than Elvis or The Beatles, the man who saved the planet from a Martian invasion! — Slim Whitman.

Anyway, no theme, rhyme or reason planned for this Friday’s show — and hopefully, no tributes to the dearly departed for once. Pass the sunscreen …

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Cygnus Radio playlist 6/14/13: The rain, Newtown and other things

June 17, 2013

Franorama 2.0 airs live from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. EDT Fridays (7-10 a.m. PDT, 2-5 p.m. GMT) on Cygnus Radio, and forever and ever in the archives. To listen to the archived link to this and all other Cygnus shows, click here.

Last Friday’s episode of Franorama 2.0 on Cygnus Radio revolved around three spheres

The Rain. It had rained heavily the two previous days, and Friday began just as dark and wet until the sky cleared considerably just around lunchtime. In fact, as I sat here in the cellar home studio, I would leave the laptop aside every half-hour or so and turn on the wet-vac and suck another buckets of water from the carpet near the cellar door. (Yes, multitasking.)

The spring here in Connecticut has been full of weather stops-starts like this, with intermittent storms and sharp temperature drops

Anyway, I had a lot more songs about rain , both literally and metaphorically, than I realized, but I kept it to two sets’ worth. Notables: ending one set with the Dead (“Box of Rain”) and beginning the next with the Dead, from their earliest recording session as The Warlocks (“Early Morning Rain”). And, of course, I had to play The Cowsills.

Sandy Hook SchoolNewtown. It was six months to the very hour — also on a Friday morning — that the news crawls on local TVs began running the news that there were reports of a shooting at an elementary school in Newtown. And as morning progressed into lunchtime into afternoon into mourning, the disbelief that usually goes with such horrific events — and Newtown, as well as most of western Connecticut really IS a sleepy town where little ever happens — was countered by the wretched enormity of what had happened.

And living a half-hour away, and having the privilege of having a microphone on this milestone day — and having known a couple whose daughter was one of the murdered teachers — I couldn’t let the day pass unnoticed. But how to commemorate it? The TV stations were gonna milk it for all they could — the maudlin piano chords, the “Tragedy at Sandy Hook” graphics, all of which I find pretty damn offensive.

I didn’t want to get bogged down in the politics of it, but I read aloud the eloquent-but-angry op-ed piece in the morning;s Newtown Bee. It came from Tucson — from Gabby Giffords and Roxanna Green. (Green’s young daughter, Christina-Taylor Green, was killed in the shooting that critically wounded Giffords.) The words speak for themselves.

I don’t have a lot of kid-related music. But I do have parts of They Might Be Giants’ album NO! It was a children’s album, and my favorite song on the album was a Lovin’ Spoonful-style tune written about one of the great many questions a curious kid would ask about the world. And it sounded as if it were something that a first-grader would ask. Where do they make balloons? So that’s what I led with.

I also played one of Marvin Gaye’s most poignant songs from one of his most troubled and brilliant times, along with some of the childlike innocence from Brian Wilson at his most vulnerable and troubled period, and finished the set with Judy Garland. It was all I could do to not lose it. Had I played the version of “Over the Rainbow” that the surviving Sandy Hook students recorded (at Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth’s home studio in Fairfield), I most definitely would never have made it through the song.

And other things. Well, some of the other threads:

Arturo Vega. The Saturday before, Arturo Vega died. Technically, there were eight men who were Ramones at one point or another — Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, Tommy, Marky, Richie, the short-stinted Clem Burke (aka Elvis Ramone) and C.J. But in reality, Arturo was the fifth Ramone. He designed their iconic logo; he was a confidant; the band rehearsed and recorded demos at his East Village loft; and Joey and Dee Dee lived with him at various points. I remembered him by playing some better-known songs and some early and little-heard demos as well.

Jet-setting. Saw Los Straitjackets a few nights before at Cafe Nine in New Haven, and since their latest album is Jet Set, I put together the three songs I have with those words in the title — them, Joe Jackson and The Fleshtones.

Dock Ellis. Last Wednesday was the 43rd anniversary of one of the greatest feats in baseball history — Dock Ellis of the Pittsburgh Pirates throwing a no-hitter against the Padres in San Diego while tripping his brains out. Barbara Manning and her group, The SF Seals (named after San Francisco’s legendary pre-Giants minor league team, whose most famous alum was hometown boy Joe DiMaggio), recorded a three-song 7-inch Baseball Trilogy single for Matador 20 years ago already. A wild trip of a song called “Dock Ellis” was part of it.

The Style Council: It was 30 summers ago already, about this time, that Paul Weller’s post-Jam group made its American vinyl debut with the EP Introducing … The Style Council, a compilation of songs already released as singles in England. Still a favorite piece of my library. Played three SC songs — a killer instrumental called “Mick’s Up” from the EP, plus two of my favorite later tunes. From 1983-85, Weller, Mick Talbot and Dee C. Lee were the shit.

So that’s it. On to this Friday’s show, the first show of summer. Get your sunscreen ready …

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Five Songs, Part 82 (Beach Boys edition)

June 1, 2012

Bruce Johnston, Al Jardine, Brian Wilson, Mike Love and David Marks — together again for the first time for the last time.

Five Songs this week comes out the day I head to Berkeley to see The Beach Boys at the Greek Theatre, a gift from a friend (thanks again, kid!).

The Beach Boys were my first big concert, at the New Haven Coliseum as a teen in the summer of ’78; they were then touring then to support The M.I.U. Album, and I don’t believe Brian was with them at that point, or even Dennis; I was sitting in the nosebleeds and couldn’t tell, anyway. The next June, they returned to New Haven the Saturday after I graduated from high school to headline a huge concert at the Yale Bowl. (Also on the bill: The Cars, Eddie Money and The Henry Paul Band, with Flo & Eddie as the emcees.)

Now, I’m seeing The Beach Boys on what will probably be their final tour.

I mean, there were millions of reasons for the group to put aside all their bygones and get together again and tour to celebrate their 50th anniversary. But I can’t imagine this lasting forever. I can’t imagine Brian will want to do this much longer, nor will he have to.

Look — I was spoiled when he took to the road again in 1999. And did so again with a Pet Sounds tour the next year. (I saw him and his band do the album in full twice — with a 54-piece orchestra at one of the shows of my life, at Mohegan Sun in July 2000, and his last American performance of the album, at the Oakland Paramount in February 2007, with Al Jardine and Rikki Fataar among the backing singers.)

I was spoiled further when Brian decided to complete a version of SMiLE with his band in 2004 — and then fully spoiled when he and The Beach Boys pieced together the shards of the original SMiLE and released it as a box set last fall.

Neither he nor the band owe me anything. They’ve given me joy and pain and everything in between since I was a teenager. They’ve given me some of the soundtrack of my life.

So anyway, I’m spoiled one more time — getting to see them one final time. And here’s an extended Five Songs to commemorate. Few of these songs will be played tonight, but that’s fine. I really don’t know what to expect from a bunch of guys at or near 70 except maybe the equivalent of a valedictory lap or a lifetime achievement award. I don’t know if we’ll be applauding talent or the ghostly memories of it. I just don’t know. I just know that there will be some finality about things.

(And in the spirit of last-minute additions to Five Songs: I’ve included the nostalgia-trippin’ title tune of the new Beach Boys album, which comes out Tuesday …)

Let’s Go Away for Awhile

You Still Believe in Me

That’s Not Me

God Only Knows

I Know There’s an Answer

I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times

Wonderful

Surf’s Up

This Whole World

‘Til I Die

That’s Why God Made the Radio

My God, my God … The Beach Boys: “The SMiLE Sessions” (Capitol)

January 4, 2012

"Quiet, numbskull! We're making a masterpiece!" Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks are busy working on writing "SMiLE" in 1966 while the rest of The Beach Boys are out having fun fun fun.

Note, Jan. 2, 2012: I didn’t intend for this to be a long childbirth. I never do. I started this two months ago yesterday, the day the box set was released (which was the day it arrived at the front door). Things happen — having to scramble to buy a car, having to run around getting said car fixed, working pretty much a full schedule leading into Christmas, doing a couple of holiday things here and there. Besides, this long-awaited collection was my Christmas gift to myself, anyway, so I guess it was appropriate to wait ’til after Christmas to run this. And on the good side, this didn’t become an albatross that took 45 years to come out.

Nov. 1, 2011

All Saints’ Day. All Smiles’ Day.

This is the one luxury I’m allowing myself as I slowly climb back into the realm of the employed and the solvent. Today is my Christmas. And I can’t believe my gift to myself came early on the appointed day.

Sitting in the foyer this morning was a package containing the deluxe version of The Beach Boys’ “The SMiLE Sessions,” the final, long, looooooooooooong-awaited, shattered — then painstakingly restored and reassembled — jigsaw pieces of one of the most beautiful, saddening, maddening episodes in the history of popular music.

The deluxe five-CD version in a box with 3-D cover art, along with a two-LP version of the album with some extras, two 45s, a fancy hardcover booklet and a poster. There's also a much less expensive, less comprehensive two-CD version.

An album that was begun before I even started kindergarten, when Brian Wilson started working on “Good Vibrations,” finally, officially arrived in a completed form today.

Diehard Brian fans have heard many of the pieces in one form or another in countless bootleg versions through the years, versions of the album as compiled by fans; many shards were included on Capitol’s “Good Vibrations” Beach Boys box set in 1993 and, of course, there’s the fine 2004 studio version Brian recorded with his current band. (I was so scared to hear it that I didn’t buy it for three months, then finally gave in and listened and was stunned.)

But this is different. The 2004 “SMiLE’ was sung by a 62-year-old Brian, with plenty of help from his band, not the 26-year-old Brian at his creative and vocal peaks; it was a bargain I willfully accepted — and it was a brilliant piece of work — but it wasn’t The Beach Boys.

This is The Beach Boys — Brian, Carl, Dennis, Mike, Al, Bruce — as they would never be again. Granted, the album in this here box set was put together and sequenced by a 69-year-old Brian (along with his “SMiLE” lyricist, Van Dyke Parks, and his co-producers, Mark Linnett and Alan Boyd). But hey, it was his creation in the first place. This was, and is, his vision. And this is as close to what he might have been thinking at the time as we’ll ever hear.

My work schedule precludes me listening to the five CDs right now,¬† but I sat there at my desk today, I felt a strange emotion hit me as I was listening to “Do You Like Worms? (Roll Plymouth Rock).” Maybe, as a tune that taps into American history and the exploration of the West, it was a direct connection to “Rio Grande” and the absolute joy I felt when I first listened to Brian’s solo album in the summer of 1988. Except out of nowhere, I felt myself choke up. It was momentary, but its suddenness startled me.

And eight songs later, it was “Surf’s Up.” I thought it was beautiful the first time I heard it as a teenager — one of the most beautiful songs I had ever heard — with its melancholy piano, abstract lyrics (“Columnnated ruins domino/Canvas the town and brush the backdrop/Are you sleeping/Brother John?”) and Brian’s soaring, angelic falsetto. But sitting here today listening to it — remastered and cleaned-up, in the context of an officially sanctioned “SMiLE” masterminded by Brian? I started shaking. And then it became sobs.

My God, my God …

In my 50 years, I had never experienced the dichotomy of tears of joy until this point. The joy of both Brian and myself having stuck around long enough to see and hear this happen — and knowing what he had gone through emotionally to get to this point. Plus the sadness that comes with knowing this is the end of something.

I don’t believe in the concept of “closure” — to me, it’s a senseless word tossed around carelessly by outsiders — but if something comes close, I guess this is it. It’s the glorious end of a glorious chapter of music, of a story that’s full of what sells books: joy, pain, angst, sadness, loss, mystery, redemption, paradise lost and found. The conclusion of a book that’s been written in fits and starts most of my life. And as a fan, when you carry a book around for three decades, even just spiritually and emotionally, if not physically, it’s hard to let go.

And I thought back to the spring of 1990, when Garry Trudeau ran that incredible week of Pulitzer-winning Doonesbury strips — Joanie’s lawyer friend, Andy Lippincott, getting to hear the remastered “Pet Sounds” on CD (which, along with Capitol’s first CD remastering of the entire Beach Boys catalog, was a huge deal at the time) as he lay on his deathbed from AIDS. I’m not ready to die (well, I certainly hope not), but now I can die knowing I’ve heard an official, honest-to-goodness version of “SMiLE,” the great lost album. (more…)

New Haven Register archives: Playing his Pet Sounds: Once-reclusive Beach Boy legend Brian Wilson really seems to be back these days. And he’s coming to Connecticut.

March 10, 2011

ABOVE: Brian Wilson will be quite visible on Sunday, his 57th birthday, with show at Mohegan Sun Casino and a new, two-hour A&E "biography" installment, "Brian Wilson: A Beach Boy's Tale." both start at 8 p.m. Photo by Neal Preston.

This interview with Brian Wilson ran as the Weekend section lead of the New Haven Register Friday, June 18, 1999. It was an advance to his performance two nights later, on his 57th birthday, at Mohegan Sun Casino. I got the chance to meet him that night, after his soundcheck. It was as simple and short as a handshake and a “Hi Brian. Happy birthday” and “Thank you very much.”

It was one of my more nerve-wracking and challenging interviews. How do you come up with interesting questions for someone whose life — both the glories and the dirty laundry — has long been in public view? And how do you interview your all-time favorite musician without coming off like a gushing fanboy?

Anyway, the interview took place a couple weeks before the show, on a Friday evening, and it went really well. I actually was able to keep his interest for a half-hour before he said he had to go, and I thought it was cool to be able to tell my friends afterward, “I was talking to Brian Wilson in my kitchen …”

I actually got to interview him again a couple years later in advance of a return show. But there was something special about this first one. And in my 11 1/2 years of talking to performers for the Register, this was one of just two interviews (the other being Ray Charles in 1993) that I kept in Q-and-A format.

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