The Beach Boys Today!

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The Beach Boys TodayThe Beach Boys Today! was the 1965 eighth overall studio album by The Beach Boys. It marked a subtle shift in production technique and lyrical themes for the California based group. These changes were brought together by producer, composer, and vocalist Brian Wilson who had decided to move away from the surfing / cars / girls themes that had brought super-stardom to the group in the early 1960s and moved towards more mature themes with richer accompanying orchestration. This shift did not seem to deter the record’s pop success, as it reached the Top 10 in album charts on both sides of the Atlantic and spawned a trio of hit singles.

The origins of the Beach Boys date back to the late 1950s in when teenage brothers Brian, Dennis Wilson and Carl Wilson began mimicking the harmonies of vocal groups such as the Four Freshmen. Soon the Wilsons’ cousin Mike Love and Brian’s high school friend Al Jardine were writing and seeking a publishing deal under the name “The Pendletones”. In 1961, the band recorded a demo of their first original “Surfin'” and the following year the group signed with Capitol Records under their new name, The Beach Boys. Over the next two and a half years the group released seven studio albums and had seven Top 10 hits in the United States, an incredible streak of productivity and success which left the group exhausted. This stress, along with the difficult decision to dismiss the Brothers’ father Murray Wilson as the group’s manager, ultimately contributed to Brian suffering a panic attack in late 1964.

During the recording sessions for The Beach Boys Today! in January 1965, Wilson announced that he would stop touring with the group and concentrate solely on songwriting and record production. Brian also wanted to start separating the Beach Boys from their surfer image and more towards complex music with the use of richer instrumentation. When released in March 1965, The Beach Boys Today! featured a first side with mainly uptempo songs and a second side with mostly emotional ballads.

The Beach Boys Today! by The Beach Boys
Released: March 8, 1965 (Capitol)
Produced by: Brian Wilson
Recorded: United Western Recorders, Gold Star Studios, & RCA Victor Studios, Hollywood, CA
Side One Side Two
Do You Wanna Dance?
Good to My Baby
Don’t Hurt My Little Sister
When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)
Help Me, Rhonda
Dance, Dance, Dance
Please Let Me Wonder
I’m So Young
Kiss Me, Baby
She Knows Me Too Well
In the Back of My Mind
Bull Session with the ‘Big Daddy
Group Musicians
Brian Wilson – Piano, Organ, Bass, Vocals
Mike Love – Vocals, Percussion
Al Jardine – Guitars, Vocals
Carl Wilson – Guitars, Vocals
Dennis Wilson – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

The album starts immediately with “Do You Wanna Dance?”, a late fifties song by Bobby Freeman, updated with rich production and featuring drummer Dennis Wilson on lead vocals. Despite being released as the B-side of a single, this Beach Boys’ version reached the Top 20 in the United States. “Good to My Baby” follows with an interesting rotating guitar riff and dual lead vocals by Love and Brian Wilson. “Don’t Hurt My Little Sister” is the most complex composition of the early tracks, an upbeat rocker with a bright guitar riff, that dissolves into an air of sadness as the descending chorus pattern progresses. The lyrics are based on Wilson’s complicated feelings for his wife Marilyn and her younger sisters.

“When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)” is a crossroads song lyrically as Brian discusses his anxieties about becoming an adult. Musically this track is rich with melodic harmonies and with the presence of a vibraphone throughout. “Help Me, Rhonda” is the definitive hit from the album as well as the first and only song to reach three minutes in length. With Jardine on lead vocals, this single reached number one in the US, the second chart-topper by the group. On “Dance, Dance, Dance” the group progresses further in the pure rock direction with the strong presence of co-writer Carl Wilson’s guitar and a consistently upward motion overall.

The Beach Boys

The ballad filled second side begins with “Please Let Me Wonder”, with this mellow track featuring a Western-like backing and the usual over-the-top harmonies. The William Tyus cover “I’m So Young” is a doo-wop ballad with Phil Spector-like snare/tambourine hits, as “Kiss Me, Baby” vocals are exquisitely delivered. On “She Knows Me Too Well” Brian Wilson stretches the upper limit of his vocal range in the choruses, while “In the Back of My Mind” is a complete departure from the rest of the song as Dennis Wilson providing solo lead vocals on this melancholy track in 6/8 time.

The Beach Boys Today! was a commercial success as it climbed into the Top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic. Brian Wilson was replaced temporarily by Glen Campbell and then permanently Bruce Johnson for live performances while he delved even deeper into developing new studio methods.


Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration 1965 albums.

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3 thoughts on “The Beach Boys Today!

  1. Great that you’re covering The Beach Boys, but there are way too many mistakes in this article about one of the group’s best albums. For one, how did Hugh Grundy (!!!!) get listed as being the fifth member of the group rather than Dennis Wilson? WTF?????

    The group recorded a demo of “Surfin’?” Uh, they also recorded an actual version of the song that became their first hit, albeit more of a local one in California than anywhere else. That’s more important than the fact that they recorded a demo, unless you’re going to mention how the demo caught the attention of somebody before there was an actual finished song.

    “When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)” does not have “the presence of a vibraphone throughout.” That is a harpsichord, and the two instruments sound NOTHING alike.

    “Help Me, Ronda” was NOT “the definitive hit from the album.” It was a lackluster version that Brian later re-cut, and that SECOND version was the number one hit, which was featured on the NEXT album, “Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!,” with the name “Rhonda” having an “h” in it.

    And it wasn’t their first song “to reach three minutes in length.” There were two songs of that length on the previous year’s Christmas album.

    “Please Let Me Wonder” features “a Western-like backing and the usual over-the-top harmonies?” Not sure what western music you listen to, but I’ve never heard any that sounds like this. And as for “the usual over-the-top harmonies,” if that is meant to be a criticism, WHAT? That’s what makes The Beach Boys so great.

    There are some other errors in the piece, but I don’t want to sound like I’m nit-picking. It’s important to get your facts right before you publish something like this…

    1. Thanks for your input, David. We have corrected some of the technical errors you found in the review but left other opinions and assertions.

    2. David:
      Just came across this review and after going nuts how inaccurate it was came across your well-written corrections. Thanks for your ACCURATE AND WELL-INFORMED comments. “Western-like backing”. WTF. This is probably one of the 4-5 best BB albums of all time (I would say the 3rd best behind “Sounds” and “Sunflower”) and side two is an exquisite precursor to “Let Him Run Wild”, “The Little Girl I Once Knew” and of course all that would become “Pet Sounds. Although it is true that the album was “released” in 1965 it was almost all recorded in 1964. Think about that as you listen to these songs and production. The classy production and rich arrangements on this album are superior to any other rock album in 1964. Period. Reviewer obviously not well versed in the music of America’s most important band of the 60’s. Again, nice to see somebody accurately call out bad reviews. Thanks. You called it right. Catch a Wave Dave!

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