The Beach Boys 20 20

Celebrate the News by The Beach Boys: Great B-Sides

The Beach Boys Smile Sessions

The Beach Boys spent the first half of the 1960s becoming more sophisticated. Under the leadership of Brian Wilson, they grew from emulating Chuck Berry on ‘Surfin’ U.S.A.’ to creating masterpieces like Pet Sounds. When Brian Wilson’s mental health suffered after 1966’s Smile was shelved, The Beach Boys changed.

As Brian Wilson’s influence faded after 1966, the other members enjoyed more creative input. This was sometimes for the worse, as anyone who’s heard the Mike Love-written ‘Student Demonstration Time’ can attest. If you can handle some treacle, Bruce Johnston’s songs like ‘Disney Girls’ and ‘Deidre’ are enjoyable. Carl Wilson wasn’t prolific, but wrote gems like ‘Long Promised Road’ and ‘Feel Flows’. But surprisingly, the second-most creative Beach Boy was drummer Dennis Wilson. Dennis wasn’t a virtuoso drummer and his vocals were shaky and emotive. He emerged as a songwriter on 1968’s Friends, writing ‘Little Bird’ and ‘Be Still’.

1969’s 20/20 was a fascinating mishmash. ‘Cabinessence’ and ‘Our Prayer’ were slices of Brian Wilson genius resuscitated from Smile. The cover of Leadbelly’s ‘Cotton Fields’ felt like an attempt to relive the magic of ‘Sloop John B’, while Johnston’s ‘The Nearest Faraway Place’ was easy-listening lounge music. Most infamously, Dennis Wilson’s ‘Never Learn Not to Love’ was originally written by Charles Manson and titled ‘Cease To Exist’.

Dennis Wilson’s ‘Celebrate the News’ was recorded a fortnight after 20/20 was released. It was instead used on the b-side of the non-album single ‘Break Away’. The latter was written by Brian with his father Murry, and it’s a fine stab at a radio-friendly hit, evoking their early 1960s hits without being too self-consciously retro.

‘Celebrate the News’ is much more idiosyncratic – the opening section, based around an acoustic strum, is in 6/4 The second half ramps up into a more conventional 4/4 time signature, using the group’s harmonies. The quality of this live version is poor and is mostly the studio version. The live vocals are impressive, particularly Mike Love’s deep bass. Carl Wilson is on drums in the video.

Dennis Wilson went on to make the first (and arguably best) solo album to emerge from The Beach Boys’ camp. Pacific Ocean Blue was released in 1977 and showcased Wilson’s talents more effectively than scattered moments on Beach Boys albums. It only peaked at #96 on the US charts, but still out-perfomed contemporary Beach Boys albums. Frustratingly, Pacific Ocean Blue was out of print for much off the CD-era, but is now available. Dennis’ second album Bambu was shelved, as Wilson’s life disintegrated. He married Mike Love’s daughter, his first cousin once removed, in 1982, and drowned in 1983. He left a worthwhile legacy of music too, a strong solo album and a smattering of excellent Beach Boys tracks.

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17 Comments

  1. .I haven’t explored a lot of Beach Boys material after 67…The 6/4 is interesting with the bass in this song. Dennis is a guy I would like to know more about. I’ve read about the Manson ties and thankfully it didn’t last too long.
    I’ve liked what I’ve heard of Pacific Ocean Blue.

    This is an interesting B side.

    • If you’re into CDs, the one to get is the Sunflower/Surf’s Up twofer CD. Two albums from 1970 and 1971, lots of great songs like Brian’s ‘Til I Die, Carl’s Long Promised Road, Dennis’ Forever, Bruce’s Disney Girls.

        • I think this was the same show where Dennis sang The Charles Manson song. I saw a video once and that’s what he sang. I recognize the clothes they’re wearing. Except I think he was standing on some kind of platform. I’m gonna have to check that out and see if it’s the same show. But anyway, the sound was so bad I went and listened to the studio version. I never heard the song before but it wasn’t bad at all . And the second half sounds more Phil Spector-y then they ever did before. 20/20 would have benefited from this song probably. Actually two of my top 10 Beach Boys songs are on that album. Do It Again and I Can Hear Music. I also like Cotton Fields a lot. I don’t think there’s really anything else excellent on it but I like those ones. And I don’t know the A-side of this either. Even though it’s on some compilation I have I don’t really remember it.

          • Do It Again is stronger than Break Away IMO – they both revisit the early 1960s Beach Boys sound pretty effectively.

    • I checked on YouTube and it wasn’t the same show but it was exactly one month later on the same TV show. It was the Mike Douglas Show and they were on in July 69 and August 69. Now I remember he was wearing a shiny orange silk shirt with a scarf. How weird that they were on the show two times in a row.

        • Yep. And what’s even weirder is that he did that Manson song on TV right about at the same time as the Tate murders. I bet he regretted that all his life.

          • Yup, he had a pretty messed-up personal life generally. I think Dennis and Mike Love’s collection of failed marriages and kids put the pressure on Brian to keep the money rolling in.

          • Probably. I think they blew a lot of money. I don’t think Brian helped too much to keep the money rolling in. Their only big money makers after that was just compilations. I think their best seller ever was Endless Summer in the late 70s and they only had like two or hits in the entire 70s. I never realized how little Brian was involved with most of their stuff after a certain time. Like after the mid 60s. I didn’t know until I read your reviews that he wasn’t even involved with their best 70s songs. I think the only songs they did in the 70s that were as great as any of
            the 60s stuff are Sail on Sailor and Good Timing. I always thought that Sail on Sailor was the only great later thing they did that sounded contemporary to the music of the 70s. It didn’t have a trace of the 60s in it. Maybe they should have made more music with Blondie Chaplin because at least he made them sound contemporary. Good timing was a real throwback I guess, but I think it’s as good as any of their old classics. It’s hard to believe it’s from 1979

  2. I think those two songs sound really nice. But I don’t think they’re such great songs. But a lot of their songs that people really like aren’t the same ones that I like the most. I always seem to like different ones.

  3. Did you ever hear Brian Wilson and Carole King singing her old Herman’s Hermits hit I’m Into Something Good? It’s on YouTube and it must be not too old because she’s all auto-tuned and everything. It’s one of her greatest songs though. and I never realized how Beach Boys-y the song is. When he’s singing it you really notice how much it’s like a Beach boys song.

    • I didn’t realise it was a Carole King song. The vocal arrangement is pretty Beach Boys on the original.

      • It was first a girl group hit by The Cookies and then Herman’s Hermits did it in 1964 and it was a bigger hit. Herman’s Hermits are one of my favorite British invasion bands. and they were really lucky cuz they had a big long string of great hits in the states like Mrs Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter, No Milk Today, A Kind of Hush, Silhouettes, and a bunch of others.

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