WITHOUT PEER

Brian Wilson’s No Pier Pressure, Rich Paschall

When the Beach Boys finally got back together in 2012 for a 50th Anniversary Tour, Brian Wilson, the musical genius behind the sound, agreed to sign on.  Wilson had been a nervous performer over the years, and there were many years he could not perform.  His mental health history not only is well documented, but it will be played out soon on-screen in the biopic, Love and Mercy.  After decades away from the often feuding Beach Boys, Wilson was ready to go.

To start the anniversary year, Brian Wilson produced and arranged a brand new Beach Boys album, as well as having written most of the songs.  In true Beach Boys’ form, it was steeped in harmonies of the voices that had blended so well over the decades. Fans still revere their work for the unique sound.  The genius behind the Beach Boys had done it again.

Although Wilson did not originally want to perform many shows for an anniversary tour, he finally agreed to 50 shows for the 50th year.  The tour went so well, shows continued to be added.  There was talk of yet another Beach Boys album in the future and by the time the “boys” got to their 75th show in London, Wilson, who was usually cloistered in a studio, was willing to continue. True to the Beach Boys history, the tour ended on a sour note.

Mike Love, front man, lead singer on most of the hits, and owner of the name Beach Boys, fired Wilson, Al Jardine and most of his crew.  The mastermind of the tour was stunned.  For his part Love claimed he did not fire Wilson but had other commitments.  The other commitment was to tour with a stripped down show and a crew of replacement Beach Boys.  Yes, he booked his own tour even as the highly acclaimed, Wilson engineered, production was on the road.  Love, by the way, is Wilson’s cousin and a founding member of the Beach Boys along with Al Jardine.

The backlash was immediate.  Fans were outraged.  Love took to the LA Times to pen a letter claiming he would never fire Wilson.  He pleaded innocent.  Wilson fired back with his own letter: “What’s confusing is that by Mike not wanting or letting Al, David [Marks] and me tour with the band, it sort of feels like we’re being fired.”  David Marks is an original member of the Beach Boys and a neighbor to the Wilson Brothers and Love as they grew up.

The new album, That’s Why God Made The Radio, grew in popularity as the 50th Anniversary tour rolled on. “What’s a bummer to Al and me is that we have numerous offers to continue, so why wouldn’t we want to? We all poured our hearts and souls into that album and the fans rewarded us by giving us a Number Three debut on the Billboard charts and selling out our shows. We were all blown away by the response,” Wilson was reported in Rolling Stone as having written.

Wilson continued to perform over the next two years in a limited amount of shows.  Al Jardine and sometimes David Marks came along for the ride.  It is hard to say whether Love and his version of the Beach Boys or Wilson and Friends were more popular.

So was the idea of a new album dead?  Was Wilson near the end of a long and successful ride?  Was he ready to fade away while Love kept singing songs from the 1960’s.  The answer was delivered loud and clear.  Wilson is about to make 2015 one of the biggest years of his career.

Wilson went back to the studio and created a new album.  Perhaps it would have been one for the Beach Boys, but there are former Beach Boys and longtime Wilson musicians on hand to give it that Wilson arranged, Beach Boys sound. The album debuted this month to strong reviews.  It is filled with songs you would expect from Wilson, along with a few surprises.

Wilson clearly could not take the lead on all of these songs, so there are plenty of artists on hand to share the parts.  Lead vocal credits are given to Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, one-time Beach Boy Blondie Chaplin, country singer Kacey Musgraves, You Tube star Peter Hollens, Zooey Deschanel (She & Him), Sebu Simonian (Capital Cities) and Nate Ruess (Fun.)  Some of them also get a song writing credit and/or contribute background vocals.  David Marks contributed guitar work to two of the songs that featured Al Jardine.

A blast from the past comes from a new song, Sail Away, featuring the lead of Chaplin and Jardine.  It is reminiscent of Sloop John B and Sail On, Sailor and will evoke past Beach Boys hits.

Much of the new album is featured on a PBS Soundstage special, Brian Wilson & Friends.  There are also some other Wilson hits to thrill the live audience.  For some insights to other songs here’s the official Soundstage trailer:

Tomorrow: New Voices energize No Pier Pressure
Read more on the Mike Love, Brian Wilson letters: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/brian-wilson-to-mike-love-it-sort-of-feels-like-we-re-being-fired-20121009#ixzz3XWsts54u
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DANGEROUS UMBRELLAS AND NATHAN’S HOT DOGS

Once upon a time, my father had a business partner. I don’t remember his name, but he was a big, bluff Russian who used to come over the house and make gallons of cabbage soup. He must have thought there were a lot more of us than there were, because my mother couldn’t figure out how to store so much soup, even though we had a full size standing deep freezer in the basement and a huge fridge in the kitchen.

He and my father would go into the kitchen and produce these gallons of soup and laugh a lot. We all had to eat it for weeks until we were sure we were turning into little cabbages.

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Bob (or whatever his name was) was accident prone and an enthusiastic teller of stories, most of them about his own misadventures.

“So I was at the beach, at Coney Island” he says, almost shouting because he never said anything except very loud. “Very sunny. Blue sky. A nice day to take my mother to the beach, let her relax in the sun by the water. She is just settling down with her chair. And she asks me if I’ll set up the umbrella for her. I mean, she didn’t have to ask. I always do it, but she always asks anyway, like if she doesn’t ask I won’t do it. I took her to Coney Island, what did she think, I’m going to leave her to cook in the sun?”

We all nodded dutifully. Because he was my father’s partner and we were kids, so what else was there to do?

“It’s a big umbrella. With stripes. Red and yellow. I got it myself, on sale. Umbrellas are expensive and this was a good sturdy one and I paid bupkas for it. If you ever need an umbrella …” and he paused to remember what he was going to say. “Anyway, this was one of the good ones, with a heavy pole so it would stay put.”

We nodded some more. Our job. To nod. Look very interested.

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“I opened the umbrella and had to find the right place to put it because, you know, if it’s in the wrong place, the shade isn’t going to be where you want it. So I walked around a bit until I found just the right place. Then I took the pole and a jammed it into the sand as hard as I could and it went pretty deep. Seemed good and solid.”

We were still nodding. I must have been — maybe 10? — and had been taught to be polite, no matter what, to grown-ups. We did not call adults by their first name. I think my teeth would have cracked if I had tried or my tongue would have stuck to the roof of my mouth.

“What with everything looking okay and my mother settling down in her chair with a book, she looked happy. So I figured it would be a good time to get something to eat and I told her I would go get us some hot dogs — and something to drink. She said that was good, tell them to leave the mustard off because — she’s always reminding me but I know, I know — she doesn’t like mustard.

“I walked all the way over to Nathan’s — pretty long walk, all the way at the end of the boardwalk — because they have the best hot dogs” at which I was nodding with enthusiasm because Nathan’s does have the best hot dogs, “And fries. I got five, two for her — no mustard — and three for me. I was hungry,” and he paused to pat his substantial belly, “I started walking back. I could see where to go — I could see our striped umbrella all the way from the boardwalk.”

Nod, nod, nod.Nathans at Coney Island

“The weather suddenly began to change.  Suddenly. Big clouds coming in from the ocean. And getting windy. This was all happening fast while I was out getting the dogs. Funny how weather changes so fast at the beach, you know? So now, I’m almost there when up comes a big puff of wind. That umbrella pulls right out of the sand and flies at me. Whacks me over the head. Boom. I thought my head was gonna come off.

“I dropped the food and fell over. Like a rock I fell and just lay there. My whole brain was like scrambled eggs. They had to come and take me to the hospital. I was completely compost for TWO DAYS! Two days! Compost!”

Be careful of flying umbrellas at the beach. They will turn you into compost. That’s not good, especially when your hands are full of hot dogs.

A HALF HOUR RADIO SHOW

See on Scoop.itBooks, Writing, and Reviews

This site hosts the original broadcasts of the cult radio comedy show “A Half Hour Radio Show,” syndicated around the US in the early 1990’s.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

When I was in college, I worked at the radio station. The people I met there included two husbands and almost all the people I call friends today. Sometimes, I was part of this show. I wrote some stuff, did voices on and bits. Hung around, heckled, made suggestions, joined in when another body was needed.

It was the biggest hit our little college station ever had. We were young, silly, and frequently stoned. Since then, the show’s producer, Tom Curley,  has put it through, many iterations, refined and rewrote it. After all these years, it’s still funny. You don’t waste funny.

Welcome to my fondest remembered past, the audio time capsule of my youth. From when the world and I were young …

The Show Must Go On

See on captclerk.podbean.com

GET IT IN WRITING

When I was young and naïve, still trying to get established in my chosen profession, I happily accepted any job with a connection — no matter how tenuous — to writing. In those pre-Internet days, getting a job was simpler than it is now.

marilyn office desk computer

You called or wrote a letter. Included your résumé or brought it with you. You went for an interview. A day or two later, they called you back. It was either “Yes, you’re hired,” or “No, thank you.”

Every job didn’t require 30 hours of interviewing with everyone from the company president to the IT crew. There was a job to do. You were qualified to do it, or not. Whoever interviewed you had the authority to hire you. That was why he or she was doing the interviewing. Unlike today.

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I don’t remember the details of the particular job, but I remember it was in the city. Manhattan. I wasn’t thrilled about its location. I lived in Hempstead, on Long Island. Getting there and back meant taking the Long Island Railroad which was not comfortable or dependable in the 1960s. I’m told it has improved since I last rode it.

Back then, it was over-crowded. Hot in summer, cold in winter. Expensive, particularly for a kid earning a minimal salary at an entry-level position.

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I took the job because it was with a large corporation. I thought it might lead to something better. I was working, so I quit the job I had — whatever it was — and two weeks later, on the appointed day, I showed up for work.

The guy who had offered me the job was gone. No one had heard of me, or the job. I had nothing in writing. No job. I wasn’t sure I would even be eligible for unemployment. I eventually qualified, but I had learned the most critical life lesson of all.

GET IT IN WRITING.

Whatever it is. If it’s not written, dated, and signed, it’s as good as the paper it isn’t written on. Or less.

SNOW DAYS

Growing up in New York, snow days were a special treat. Of course, it snowed every winter, but snows deep enough to close school weren’t common. Once per winter, maybe.

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I would sit, nose pressed against the picture window, watching the snow pile up and hoping it wouldn’t stop. “Keep snowing, keep snowing,” I’d whisper. I wanted to wake up to a white world. To that hushed, near-silence of a morning following a heavy snow.

Finally, no school! We would put on all our winter clothing — at the same time. Back then, kids didn’t have as much clothing as they do now … and it wasn’t nearly as warm. When we were finally all bundled up, we’d clomp to the garage to get the sleds. Drag them to the hill at the end of the street.

And now, back to our snowstorm, about 14 hours in progress with another 12 to go.

And now, back to our snowstorm, about 14 hours in progress with another 12 to go.

It was quite a hill. Steep. Icy. You could go really fast if you were in the right position. If you got it perfect, you could almost fly. If you hit a rock or a ridge of ice, you might really fly. We didn’t think anything of it, no matter how many times we limped home, dragging our shattered Flexible Flyer behind us.

My feet always froze. They hadn’t invented insulated footwear or Uggs. Our coats were just cloth. Even wearing all the sweaters we owned, we were never entirely warm. I was usually the first kid to give up for the day. My feet would go from cold, to numb, to painful icy lumps. Hands, too. Galoshes leaked and my socks would freeze.

Worse, rubber boots had no tread. It was a thrill going downhill, but going back up would be increasingly difficult as the day wore on. Ice would glaze. Eventually, there was nowhere to walk where you could get any traction, not even along the curb.

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Sometimes I could get my big brother to haul my sled and me up the hill, but pretty quickly, he’d lose interest and go off with the big boys to do big boy stuff, whatever that was.

I was the smallest of the girls. Scrawny and short. I remember going home, and defrosting my feet in cool water. Wow, that hurt. I think I was minutes from actual frostbite. I don’t know how anyone lasted all day, but some kids did.

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That was almost 60 years ago. Hard to believe so much time has passed. I can still see it in my mind’s eye. A frozen memory. Especially on a day like this, the big picture window framing the snow as it falls. It’s falling fast and hard and has been for hours. Garry keeps going out to dig a path for the dogs. More than four feet of snow in just over a week.

It’s winter in New England. I live about 250 miles north of where I grew up. Snow days are a regular feature. When we have a particularly hard winter, kids have to go to school extra days at the end of the year to make lost time.

It’s snowing hard. I wonder how many inches this time?

WHAT IS YOUR SONG?

The Soundtrack of Your Life, Rich Paschall

You have probably heard that phrase before. Oldies radio stations love to use it. They want you to think they are playing the soundtrack of our lives. You know what they mean. They want you to think that they are playing the songs you remember from when you were younger.  That could mean a few years ago or a few decades ago, depending on who they are pitching their playlist at. What is the soundtrack of your life?

After you leave your twenties, your soundtrack is probably set with the most often played and most often heard music. We inevitably love the music of our teens and twenties. It is linked to those big moments that never leave our memory banks. They could be high school dances and proms. They could be college dances and parties. They probably include weddings and select family events. It certainly includes your record, tape, and/or CD collections. In future years our soundtracks will all be held in digital form in some cloud that you can download when you feel nostalgic.

It is certain that people from 16 years old to those who saw the beginning of the rock era can tell you the songs that meant the most to them, that held the greatest memories. I feel confident in saying that these songs will come from earlier years. This is not just because it holds true for me, but it does for many of my friends. This is reflected in the crowds that show up to concerts. In the two past years I have seen Fleetwood Mac, The Rolling Stones, Chicago, Reo Speedwagon as well as Barbara Streisand, Barry Manilow, Tony Bennett and Brian Wilson. These stars continue to fill concert venues across the country with people who may have seen them generations ago. The reason is not a mystery. They wrote and performed our soundtrack, and the people who connect with that music continue to go to see them.

Of course, I go to see current acts. I have also seen One Republic, Maroon 5, Hunter Hayes, Lifehouse, Bruno Mars and a few others with more current hits. I like their music, but their songs do not hold the nostalgic connection I feel when I see Paul McCartney or Neil Diamond.  When I saw The Monkees, minus the then recently departed Davy Jones, I heard screaming inside the Chicago Theater as I came through the door. It was as if the place was filled with teenagers and I rushed in to see what was the commotion. Mickey Dolenz was just starting Last Train to Clarksville as the AARP set were reacting as if it was 1966 and they were teenagers. Yes, there were younger people in the crowd.  These songs were not on their soundtrack, but they were ours.

While leaving the Davy Jones songs to a couple of music videos from their 1960’s television show, The Monkees delighted a crowd with an evening of hits. The band’s recording of a Neal Diamond composition, I’m a Believer, was the last number 1 song of 1966 and the biggest selling song of 1967.

One thing the Rolling Stones do not lack after all these decades is energy. Maroon 5 may want to Move Like Jagger, but only Mick can do that, and he still does.

The opening of Moves Like Jagger is shaky as everyone jumped to their feet, so of course I had to also:

Without a doubt, the number 1 song on my soundtrack is Beginnings by Chicago. The 1969 song, written by band member Robert Lamm, failed to chart on its first go around. A rerelease in 1971 when the band was red-hot brought success to a song that was featured at dances, proms, graduations and weddings for many years to come. The album version ran 7 minutes and 55 seconds while the “radio version” ran about 3 minutes. In July 2010 I did not have a camera that could zoom in close or record in HD, but it got decent sound so I have this piece of nostalgia:

THE DAILY POST:  Playlist of the Week

SHARING MY WORLD – WEEK #4

Share Your World – 2015 Week #4

Where did you live at age five? Is it the same place or town you live now?

I lived in a very old house in Queens, New York, when I was five. It was, as it this house, surrounded by oak trees. It had, as does this house (after remodeling) a big picture window in the front. Maybe I have — in some sense — gone home again.

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I lived there until I left for college. I never went back, except to visit. The house in which I now live, reminds me very much of the house in which I grew up, but it is in New England … quite far from my original home. I don’t even know anyone who lives in New York city any more. We have all moved somewhere else.

You are invited to a party that will be attended by many fascinating people you never met. Would you attend this party if you were to go by yourself?

These days, I don’t feel safe going places alone. I’m a bit fragile and I get fearful when I have no one to call for help. So the answer is these day, no. But I would have gone by myself in the past — without a second thought.

Did you grow up in a small or big town? Did you like it?

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I grew up in New York city, but the neighborhood was very much like a small town. The city had grown around it, leaving it’s semi rural nature intact.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A writer. I wanted to be a writer when I was studying to be a musician. There was never really a choice for me. I was born to be a writer.