By the end of 1964 the Beach Boys had had twelve Top 40 hits! Late that year Brian Wilson quit touring with the group due to a mental breakdown. For a short time Glen Campbell took his place on the road, and then it was Bruce Johnston. Brian stayed at home writing and working on tracks. David Leaf writes: “Working with one instrument at a time, Brian taught each musician his or her part”. Leaf adds: “Brian was fascinated by and obsessed with new sounds...Production-wise, Brian Wilson was way ahead of almost every other contemporary recordmaker”. In March of 1965 the group released TODAY! (Captitol Records). It peaked at #4 on the U.S. Billboard 200 Albums Chart. In the original album liner notes Dick Clark wrote: “Today they still care about the same things their audiences care about. Fame is important to them, but not as important as their music and their fans towards whom they feel a true allegiance”.
The opening song is a peppy rock ‘n’ roll one called ‘Do You Wanna Dance’. It’s a cover of a 1958 Bobby Freeman hit, with drummer Dennis Wilson on lead vocals here. It finds a guy propositioning a gal: “Do you wanna dance and hold my hand?/Tell me baby I’m your lover man/Oh baby, do you wanna dance?/Do you wanna dance under the moonlight?/Hold me baby all through the night/Oh baby, do you wanna dance?” ‘Good to My Baby’ is one of eight co-writes between Brian Wilson and Mike Love. They share lead vocals here. It’s about a strong relationship: “Some guys may think they’d be better for her/But she knows just what she wants for sure/And when we’re out with our friends now/You know that we never have to put on a show/And we stay together while other couples come and go/She’s my girl and I’m good to my baby (2X)/And I know she’s happy with me/Good to my baby (2X)”. ‘Don’t Hurt My Little Sister’ is a rock ‘n’ roll song from the perspective of a protective big brother: “There she goes, she ran in her room/She’ll probably stay in there the rest of the day/It sounds like it must have been something you said/You know she’s awful used to getting her way/Why don’t you kiss her?/And while you kiss her tell her you miss her/Why don’t you treat her nice?/Don’t hurt my little sister”.
‘When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)’ is a great song that makes use of the harpsichord and harmonica. It’s a song of reflection: “When I grow up to be man/Will I dig the same things that turn me on as a kid?/Will I look back and say that I wish I hadn’t done what I did?/Will I joke around and still dig those sounds?/When I grow up to be a man/Will I look for the same things in a woman that I dig in a girl?/Fourteen, fifteen/Will I settle down fast or will I first wanna travel the world?/Sixteen, seventeen/Now I’m young and free, but how will it be?/When I grow up to be a man”. Al Jardine sings lead on the LP version of ‘Help Me, Ronda’. It’s a danceable rock ‘n’roll song about heartache: “She was gonna be my wife and I was gonna be her man/But she let another guy come between us and it ruined our plan/Well, Ronda you caught my eye and I can give you lots of reasons why/You gotta help me Ronda/Help me get her out of my heart”. ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’ was the highest charting single from the album. It reached #8 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart. Mike Love sings lead and sleigh bells are used: “When I feel put down I try to shake it off quick/With my chick by my side the radio does the trick/I love to dance right on the spot/The beat’s really hot!”
‘Please Let Me Wonder’ is the ballad of a fellow yearning for a certain lady: “For so long I thought about it/And now I just can’t live without it/This beautiful image I have of you/Baby/Please let me wonder/If I’ve been the one you love/Please let me wonder/If I’m who you’re dreaming of/Please let me wonder, love”. ‘I’m So Young’ was penned by W.H. Tyrus Jr. It was previously recorded by the Students and then the Ronettes. It begins with these timeless words: “I have a girlfriend/She says I’m her only one/We wanna get married but we’re so young, so young/Can’t marry no one/They say our love is just a teenage affection/But no one knows our hearts’ direction”. ‘Kiss Me Baby’ is a post argument ballad: “As I drove away I felt a tear/It hit me/I was losing someone dear/Told my folks I would be alright/Tossed and I turned, my head was so heavy/Then I wondered as it got light/Were you still awake like me?/Woah baby, kiss me baby/Woah baby, love to only”.
Brian sings lead on ‘She Knows Me Too Well’ which again has timeless lyrics: “I get so jealous of the other guy/And then I’m not happy til I make her break down and cry/When I look at other girls it must kill her inside”. The oboe is one of the instruments used on the fifth ballad in a row, ‘In the Back of My Mind’. It’s a song that expresses vulnerability: “In the back of my mind I still have my fears/I live my life with her/Love her true she knows I’m sure/I make her happy just living so plain/In the back of my mind I’m ‘fraid it’s gonna change”. Last up is ‘Bull Sessions With Big Daddy’. According to David Leaf, this one’s about the band and Earl Leaf (no relation), a rock ‘n’ roll publicist, reflecting on the 1964 fall tour of Europe they’d went on.
On the 2001 CD re-issue of TODAY! and SUMMER DAYS (AND SUMMER NIGHTS!!) there are five bonus tracks. Two are alternate takes of ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’ and ‘I’m So Young’. The latter includes flute which isn’t used on the album version of the song. In 1964 the group had performed the Four Freshman classic ‘Graduation Day’ on their CONCERT record. Here, we have a studio recording of the sentimental song: “There’s a time for joy/A time for tears/A time we’ll treasure through the years/We’ll remember always/Graduation day/At the senior prom we danced ‘til three/And there you gave your heart to me/We’ll remember always/Graduation day”.
This is an interesting Beach Boys album. There is nary a mention of surfing or cars. There are three happy rock ‘n’ roll romantic relationship songs, but the vast majority of the songs here are sad songs about love. One could argue that instead of putting five ballads back to back at the end of the record, they should have been interspersed with the more upbeat songs. As presented here, they sound a bit the same. Nonetheless, the group’s vocal harmonies are great as usual and collectors such as I will want to make sure they have this album. I’m rating it 84%. For more info visit: www.thebeachboys.com.