23
Aug 06

THE BEACH BOYS – “Do It Again”

FT + Popular31 comments • 3,877 views

#256, 31st August 1968

 

A bittersweet record, intentionally and otherwise.

The sixties may not be my favourite decade for pop music – hardly surprising since I didn’t live them – but that doesn’t mean I’m not impressed by the pace of their change. The Beach Boys’ surfin heyday was only five or six years behind them, but the way they sing the verses of “Do It Again” – stiff, tentative, maybe even slightly embarassed – it might have been twenty or thirty. Of course it wasn’t just pop that had changed: it was them as brothers, friends, musicians, a group. Mike Love’s lyric might be an open hand – c’mon fellas, let’s bring the good times back – but the barest knowledge of the band’s internal struggles shows you the edge: the good times are the simple times, full of simple songs, a retreat from the disasterous complexities of the Smile era. Love saw the Beach Boys as a brand as much as a band – summer, surf, hot rods and pretty girls – and he was acutely aware of how easily genius Brian might fuck that branding up. But his own lyric, and the way the song is structured like a museum tour of Beach Boys styles (upbeat singalong; dreamy ballad; harmonic overload), means you know he knows going back won’t be easy, might even be impossible. The tides have turned strange, there are new boys on the beaches.

The fact is, though, I’m having to write about this song and not “Heroes And Villains” or “Friends”, which shows that Mike Love had a commercial point. Or does it? The Beach Boys had no nostalgic clout in Britain – their surfing material barely registered (British surf music starts with the Aphex Twin). The specific past Love’s lyric is reaching towards couldn’t have won the band a number one in the UK – it must be the shameful, sweet feelings coming through the performance; their exhaustion and their overcoming of it, for now.

For me as a Beach Boys fan, the biggest gulf in the song isn’t between its now and its then but between its now and its maybe. The record opens and closes with percussion: Wilson was apparently very proud of the jerky, rigid robot drums which open the track, and so he should have been: not only ahead of their time, they dramatise the difficulty of recovering what’s past. But on the album mix, over the fade comes an incongruous snatch of “Workshop” from the Smile project, a bitter reminder of what the back-to-basics approach was reacting to and pushing aside.

6

Comments

  1. 1
    Pete Baran on 23 Aug 2006 #

    Surely UK surf has to give Wipeout by the Fat Boys a look in. (Not by a Uk artist but a big UK hit. Which clearly influences the Aphex Twin.)

  2. 2
    Doctor Mod on 24 Aug 2006 #

    In the words of Simone Signoret, nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. But then again, it never was.

  3. 3
    Chris Brown on 25 Aug 2006 #

    I’ve been listening to this one specially in anticipation of it cropping up here. In a way, it could be the third link in a chain along with ‘Lady Madonna’ and ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, all three of them back-to-basics records in their own ways, though of course this is the only one that comes close to resembling the act’s early material. And it’s the only one that makes a feature of the nostalgia in its lyric – and yet, on that very subject, it might be worth recalling that the single “only” got to Number 20 in the US, which was bigger than any hit they had until that rotten cover of ‘Rock & Roll Music,’ admittedly, but not as big as the run of hits they’d enjoyed earlier in the decade. Mind you, of course the original title was ‘Let’s Surf Again’, which might have made the commercial retro more explicit; I suppose Brian Wilson scotched that for melodic reasons and I think it may be that melody that was a big deal in selling this – even then, though, it’s got to be said that posterity doesn’t seem to view this as their second-biggest hit even over here.

    By the way, I’m not sure that logic about not living through the Sixties entirely holds – I didn’t either, and that’s why I didn’t have to hear all the Des O’Connor records and others of that level.

  4. 4
    intothefireuk on 26 Aug 2006 #

    I too fail to see the living through the decade logic. I was very young through the latter half of the sixties so only knew the most popular records from having the radio on but I have frequently re-visited the charts from that period and enjoy a vast majority of the songs a good deal more than say the 80s (for a start everything sounds so much better). Considering The Beatles, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones, The Who, Motown etc had the majority of their hits in this decade I would find it difficult to find a better decade for Pop.

    As for Do It Again – my favourite bit is the drum & bass intro that mimics sequencers years before Moroder etc used them in pop.

  5. 5
    Martin Skidmore on 26 Aug 2006 #

    I was alive all through the ’60s, but all (I can’t think of an exception, though it seems likely there must be something) the music from that period I love wasn’t known to me at the time – we were a household without music until I got pushy about it when I was 12. And anyway, a lot of the southern soul which is my favourite material had a lowish profile here.

    Also, Chris, your comments prompt me to suggest that you should start posting about music here. I’d like to read more.

  6. 6
    Tom on 26 Aug 2006 #

    I’m *fairly* sure that the Chris Brown who comments on Popular is a different Chris Brown from the one who contributes to the food/drink section!

    My experience is that I feel more emotional connection to pop eras that I “lived through”. I’ve grown to love a lot of 60s music – doing this blog has helped a lot – but it’s a different kind of love. Also some of the sounds, rhythms and techniques I most enjoy in pop music were either unavailable, primitive, or not widespread in the 1960s.

  7. 7
    Chris Brown on 27 Aug 2006 #

    Yes I am a different one. I’m not the one who had a hit single in America last year either, sadly.

    Funnily enough, I did a Beach Boys post on my own blog recently, about ‘When I Grow Up’ and I had some sense of them being keen on looking both forward and back simultaneously, at least in the sort of golden era that this is close to the end of (after that we get the uncommercial but artistically interesting early Seventies, and then they just turn into a nostalgia act). I suppose that drum intro is part of that; not that they knew Moroder was going to happen, of course, but it’s part of that search for new sounds and presumably when he thought of it he just appended it to whichever track he was working on at the time.

    My thoughts on the Sixties were a sort of compare & contrast with the Eighties, which I did live through – and it’s certainly the case that most of the music from *that* decade that I like isn’t the stuff that I remember hearing at the time. In fact probably more of my emotive memories of the time are from the sixties music I heard in the house.

  8. 8
    CarsmileSteve on 28 Aug 2006 #

    are you the sunderland football player? ;)

  9. 9
    koganbot on 28 Aug 2006 #

    Ah, yes, the Sixties, my decade, I was there, I lived through it – and therefore just went to YouTube to listen to this song for THE VERY FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE.

    Kind of a drip of a song, isn’t it?

    The thing is, from 1964 through 1968 the change was so fast that elements seemed to keep exploding out of songs that didn’t know how to contain them, so in each song you were hearing This Year’s Pop but also sounds that were either blasting their way out of the song as something new or you were hearing attempts at This Year’s Pop that actually contained song elements that were hopelessly six months out of date and unable to catch up. Nostalgia was a way to try to sidestep all this I suppose.

    But in the early ’70s, Sixties sound explosions were regularized, and power chords and feedback and guitar screech became just more features on the palette of what was a generally louder but more standard sound. Which is to say that they became kind of so-what, and the Sixties music they were regularizing sounded quaint in comparison. Which means that you’ll have to take my word for it that the early Beatles were raucous clatter and that “Get Off Of My Cloud” was a what-the-fuck pile of noise and that “I Can See For Miles” was a roar I’d never heard before. Whereas listening now, I hear a lot of it as sounding really dinky. Well, not the Stones, who were so forceful and inimitable that you still get their power, if not their strangeness. But I mean, just listen to some hyphy, grime, or crunk, then listen to some of these Sixties classics, and you’ll be hard put to make sense of “Oh, the Sixties, the Wild Decade.” (Hmmm. My musings have run far afield of the Beach Boys, who sounded up-to-date for about ten minutes in 1962 and 1963.)

  10. 10
    koganbot on 28 Aug 2006 #

    (Which isn’t to say that I don’t think the Sixties esp. 1966 crush every other time in my memory for the inventiveness and excitement of its hit music.)

  11. 11
    Doctor Mod on 29 Aug 2006 #

    the Beach Boys, who sounded up-to-date for about ten minutes in 1962 and 1963

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Being an almost-native Californian and having lived most of my life there, I can recall the Beach Boys back as far as 1962, perhaps a little earlier. (Whenever “Surfin’ Safari” was a regional hit.) I think that in 62-63 they might have been au courant (sort of) to someone in middle school. But all that business about surfing and cars–even girls were less significant in their music–now seems so juvenile. I’ve always thought they were quite overrated, although some of my fellow twelve-year-olds were big fans in 1963–and I often wonder if their, um, “mystique” (for lack of a better word) wasn’t based on a romanticized version of California predating readily accessible air travel and the fact that they just didn’t have that much competition until the Beatles came around. And then they sort of went to pieces because they couldn’t measure up to the Beatles.

    This “drip of a song” strikes me as the moment the Beach Boys finally capitulate as far as their rivalry with the Beatles is concerned–let’s just go back to being the surfer dudes we used to be. But that, of course, was impossible for a bunch of guys pushing thirty.

    (By the way, one of the more amusing moments on the Beatles’ “White Album” is “Back in the USSR,” which, according to George Harrison, is a Beach Boys parody. “Those Ukraine girls really knock me out . . .” is obviously an allusion to “California Girls,” and just listen to those “duh-duh-duh” “ooo-woo-ooo backing vocals.)

    Odd, but the only Beach Boys records I actually liked came in the early 1970s, by which time they were regarded as completely passe. The thoroughly uncharacteristic Holland album (“Sail on Sailor”) is perhaps the most artistically interesting thing they ever did. Maybe Carl Wilson, the youngest brother, should have been the one out front all along.

  12. 12
    Marcello Carlin on 30 Aug 2006 #

    Dennis-dominated side 2 of Carl And The Passions: So Tough is maybe the greatest side of any Beach Boys album.

  13. 13
    Chris Brown on 30 Aug 2006 #

    Actually, I’m not sure side 2 of Carl & The Passions is even the best side of that album. Not that Dennis didn’t have his moments, but I think he sagged into hippy nonsense too easily. Carl was certainly the most admirable Beach Boy, but of course he learnt his craft from his big brother and was, after all, only about 14 when they started.

    I think I’d probably place Holland as my second favourite, but I do enjoy the non-obviousness of it – in a way it’s the one that’s most precious to me; but some of the ‘California Saga’ is a bit shabby, and it’s probably true that the best tune is still Brian’s. I really like Wild Honey as well.

  14. 14
    Marcello Carlin on 31 Aug 2006 #

    “Cuddle Me” is my favourite of all Beach Boys songs. Side 2 of C&TP is lovely and lush and not at all hippy nonsense bah.

    Verdict on the free Holland EP with Brian’s bedtime story about the transistor radio?

  15. 15
    Oh No It's Dadaismus on 1 Sep 2006 #

    Verdict on the free Holland EP with Brian’s bedtime story about the transistor radio = UTTER BOLLOCKS. Back to bed Brian and no more drugs for you tonight!

    I remember Beach Boys revisionism first time round – ca. early 90’s, Bobby Gillespie and Norman Blake and Duglas Stewart and the rest. I remember it because the orthodoxy was that Dennis Wilson was the forgotten genius and “Holland” the great album – Brian Wilson? Nah! Even non-hip people liked Brian Wilson! I remember having a conversation at the time and joking “You watch, it’ll be Carl Wilson who’ll be hailed as the genius next!” And guess what?

  16. 16
    pˆnk s lord sükråt cunctør on 1 Sep 2006 #

    this is revisionism revisionism!! there was a distinct spasm as early as the late 70s to crown VAN DYKE PARKS the true beatnik beach beneath the mere surfer cobblestones

    wasn’t dennis w. the first person to use a DRUM MACHINE? if so that clinches it for me

  17. 17
    Marcello Carlin on 1 Sep 2006 #

    Both Paul Bley and Sly Stone beat him on the drum machine front, but anyway.

    Mike Love of course being the REAL genius? Never mind yer Pacific Ocean Blues, what about Mike Love Not War for an album? Eh? Eh?

  18. 18
    Chris Brown on 1 Sep 2006 #

    I actually dug out my copy of Carl & The Passions today. Well, apart from ‘He Come Down’ which I still couldn’t bear to listen to all the way through. Anyway, I do partially withdraw the “hippy” charge against Dennis, because I was thinking of ‘All This Is That’, which isn’t actually his. Still, I consider ‘Make It Good’ a bit too mushy and in substantial. ‘Cuddle Up’ is a bit better, I admit. But I still don’t think the overall standard is anywhere near their peak.

  19. 19
    bramble on 6 Sep 2006 #

    I always assumed the drums on Do It Again were Hal Blaine trying to make it sound simple as if Dennis Wilson might have played them

  20. 20
    Amanda Miller on 4 Apr 2008 #

    I Cancel Kokomo By Beach Boys The Song Kokomo Had Glimes In The Song Because I Had Glimes Really Hurt I Will Cancel The Beatles I Don’t like Beatles At All Please I Know Truth Bruce
    Been Beach Boys In This Month April 9th 1965 Eightteen My
    Mother Pass Away April 9th 1990 My Mom Died Skin Cancer 1989/90 I was Five Year Old My Grandfather Birthday April 18th
    And My Grandfather Pass Away August 8th 2003?

    Amanda

  21. 21

    […] @Freaky Trigger : The Beach Boys’ surfin heyday was only five or six years behind them, but the way they sing the verses of “Do It Again” – stiff, tentative, maybe even slightly embarassed – it might have been twenty or thirty. […]

  22. 22
    dch on 5 Oct 2009 #

    The BBC chart occasionally had two records sharing top spot, but I seem to recall that this particular week, three songs shared the top spot-the Beach Boys, the Bee Gees and Herb Alpert (This Guy’s in Love with You), the only time this ever happened.
    Can anyone confirm this?

  23. 23
    ottersteve on 5 Oct 2009 #

    That’s right dch. The BBC did have 3 records at no.1 and the three you state are correct. The BBC charts were eventually overwritten or “blended into” other chart compilers – so that such happenings could not occur again. At that time I think there were at least 3 major companies producing their own version of the pop charts – remember Jictar? This resulted in Herb Alpert being deinied the official No1. spot

    On “top of the pops” previous to that, the BBC had failed to acknowledge a few other singles that had made No.1. on other compilers lists.

  24. 24
    enitharmon on 5 Oct 2009 #

    22. I thought I’d already mentioned it, but I guess that particular comment got haloscanned. Obviously it’s not something you forget!

  25. 25
    wichita lineman on 1 Apr 2011 #

    What if the Beach Boys were British?

    I’ll suggest Sloop John Steed, Shedessence, and I’m Bugged At My Ol’ Nan.

  26. 26
    crag on 14 Apr 2011 #

    DESERT ISLAND DISCS:

    Rick Stein, TV Chef(1999).

  27. 27
    Waldo on 8 Jul 2011 #

    I have just had the great pleasure of meeting Bruce Johnston as he was travelling out of Gatwick. He was most pleasant and very willing to chat to me. The Beach Boys still tour and we spoke about that as well as about Brian Wilson, who is not on the current tour. Bruce did not dwell on it but Brian is not in the best of health just now. I pointed out that he was over here in 2002 for the Queen’s jubilee but had alas forgotten about it days later when he was back in the States. Bruce remarked that “all geniuses are mad” and I could not dispute this. Our conversation moved on to “Pet Sounds” and here Bruce imparted his advice to “always listen to it in mono”, as the creator had intended. I responded to this by telling him that however one listened to “Pet Sounds”, it would always be a masterpiece in any case. Obviously “Good Vibrations” came up and then Bruce mentioned that they always played “Do it Again” on tour. “That was number one here in 1968,” I said, now putty in his hand. Bruce smiled. “That was also our last number one here!” he winked. We then shook hands and he left.

    It was a lovely episode for me. I was reminded later that it was Bruce who had come to London to play “Pet Sounds” to Lennon and McCartney. John, in particular, was famously bowled over. Bruce also much later did some vocals on “The Wall” as well as writing the grammy-winning “I Write the Songs”, for which I will gladly forgive him.

    Musical history and it was an honour to meet him.

  28. 28
    Mark G on 8 Jul 2011 #

    I quite liked “I write the songs” when it was first done by David Cassidy (he gave it a cynical edge, or is that just me?), so blame Manilow..

  29. 29
    wichita lineman on 10 Jul 2011 #

    Agreed – Cassidy version has a sly tone that suggests, intentionally I’m sure, a manipulative writer. Easily trumps Manilow’s overegged pud.

    Not a drum machine on Do It Again (has this already been pointed out?) but a fast repeated echo, one of Brian’s tricks that he oddly never repeated.

    First drum machine on a hit: Robin Gibb, Saved By The Bell, a fact I am wont to repeat.

  30. 30
    Rufus Headroom on 15 May 2016 #

    Ever notice the boys getting reflective with the “Lonely Sea” call back in the lyric? Very interesting. I’ve always thought of Brian’s transistor radio bedtime story as one a those “3 a.m., why the hell not” songs you put on. And i’ll wager the crown jewels that “The Beach Boys Love You” is the must-listen artistic high point. Child-like delight on disc!

  31. 31
    lonepilgrim on 3 Jul 2016 #

    I have no clear memories of listening to the Beach Boys as a kid in the 1960s and so by the time I became aware of them they already seemed like a nostalgia act. At some point in the 1980s I bought a Greatest Hits cassette which featured this song but I had no idea where it fitted in to their timeline. It chugs along pleasantly but like a lot of their work I admire it without getting wildly excited by it

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