Saturday, January 10, 2015

Other Voices, Part 16: "Good Vibrations"

I was reading a 2001 book, The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds:  The Greatest Album of the Twentieth Century by Kingsley Abbot.  It chronicles The Beach Boys' Brian Wilson's gargantuan effort to, basically, out-Beatle The Beatles.

The Beach Boys recorded for Capitol records.  Capitol was owned by EMI, the record company The Beatles recorded for.  Capitol--after a few fumbles--released The Beatles' recordings.  The Beatles made massive inroads on the American pop scene from 1964-on, so you can imagine that Brian Wilson would have been curious as to what The Beatles would be planning for future music, and--with a little poking around Capitol's Los Angeles headquarters--would have gotten some advance knowledge.

It's also more than possible that Brian Wilson was "tuning into" the gossip about The Beatles that was floating around Capitol records.  The Beach Boys also hired Derek Taylor, fresh from being The Beatles publicist, as their publicist, so Brian Wilson had more insider knowledge about The Beatles.

While the other Beach Boys were off touring, Brian with an English advertising man turned lyricist, Tony Asher [!], and a heavy contingent of studio musicians, put together the album, Pet Sounds.

They had three hits from the album:  "Wouldn't It Be Nice", "Sloop John B", and "God Only Knows".  Brian worked on the album from the fall of 1965 through the spring of 1966.

On May 16, 1966, Pet Sounds was released in the U.S.  The album and the single "Sloop John B" sold better in Europe than it did in the U.S.

Given all the efforts Brian Wilson made to outdo The Beatles, I thought he might have slipped in a few comments on the state of The Beatles, late 1965 and 1966.

He did.

I'll talk about the Pet Sounds hints in a coming post.  (I still have to do a little more research on them.)

But, a track that Brian considered for Pet Sounds and held off the album for "more work" was the song, "Good Vibrations."  Brian, according to the Pet Sounds book, "proceeded to experiment with different feels and arrangements for some 90 hours of tape, in four different studios, before finally constructing a finished master from many separate, quite disparate fragments."  This sounded, to me, like it had backmasking written all over it.  I thought the backmasked song would directly mention our Paul.  Instead--and, remember, the song was released in November, 1966, a month before the new, new Beatles were beginning to record what would become the Sgt. Pepper album--the main backmasked words throughout the song are:  "she's . . . shear", as in "the one and only Billy Shears" mentioned in the first track on Sgt. Pepper.

People have interpreted the Billy Shears passage as, "Billy's here":  a new Beatle OR "Billy Shears" as in the real name of the new Beatle Paul.  It follows that "she's shear" would mean "she's here" by the first interpretation.

But "Good Vibrations" preceded Sgt. Pepper.  How did Brian Wilson know?


Anonymous said...

Wow. Now that's some new information that can be directly tied in to Paul's death. But why would Brian Wilson know about Paul's death? And this begs the question, what Month did Paul die? The November, 1966 date wouldn't fit if Brian Wilson already knew a month before November, 1966. Damn.

paulumbo said...

Billy Shears was on the scene as early as 1965. He definitely was around during the Japanese tour of late June and early July, 1966.