Downtown This was one fantastic concert. Leaving out all the negatives that could be brought up (ticket prices, venue choice, ‘auto-tune’?) I was floored how good the music (the backing band in particular) sounded. Yeah sure, the guys are getting up there in age and one cannot rule out the ‘cashgrab’ factor, especially after seeing first hand the ‘fragility’ of Brother Brian, but the songs were great, the crowd was into it and I simply had fun. My biggest surprise was Mike Love. Always considered (unfairly) to be the cantankerous Beach Boy, he was charming as he blew kisses and waved and told corny jokes throughout the night. He really made the show for me, other than all those killer songs of course.

Brian Wilson is the founder, principal songwriter, arranger and overall ‘genius’ of The Beach Boys. One of the most important groups in the history of popular music, the band has reunited for their 50th Anniversary tour and will be stopping in Pittsburgh this Friday. I am thrilled that Brian took a few minutes to participate in this edition of First/Last.

Thank you so much Brian. This is truly a high point for my blog and I am really looking forward to the show!

Favorite song: SMiLE Backing Vocals Montage

I have to be honest, I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Beach Boys. Sure they had some classic singles and their contribution to popular music was undeniable, it’s just that I always felt they were sort of ‘vanilla’. I grew up with psychedelic rock which was to surf music in the late ’60’s what punk was to prog rock in the late ’70’s. I always thought The Beach Boys were ‘square daddy-o’.

In March it was officially announced that band’s long lost masterpiece SMiLE would finally be released. This news did pique my interest a little. Just how good was this music that was so revered over the years? I won’t go into the history or story of why it was finally being put out. You can watch all that yourself in these excellent webisodes. As with the The Beatles catalog being remastered in 2009, I started perusing the excellent Steve Hoffman Music Forums for info about this project. After reading seemingly thousands of posts, I was actually starting to get somewhat excited about this thing. I ended picking up The Pet Sounds Sessions and beginning to appreciate the genius of the band and particularly Brian Wilson.

When I was finally able to hear it in November, I have to say I was instantly blown away. The album itself is pop music perfection. Dare I say that it is even better than it’s much lauded second cousin Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? Hard call. The four bonus discs of studio outtakes, alternative versions and embryonic song ideas on the box set are a bit much for the casual fan. It was almost a chore to get through the first time. An hour alone of ‘Good Vibrations’? As I started to get more familiar with the music, I eventually appreciated the fact that they were able to include this bonus material and find myself actually enjoying the wealth of stuff here as a companion to the album.

My main appreciate revolves around the incredible harmonies these guys were able to produce around a microphone. They were awesome vocalists and these amazingly complex songs seem almost impossible to perform. The Beach Boys were able to pull it off and that is what continues to astound me. Not only is this my favorite record of the year, it has quickly become one of my favorites of all time.

Believe it or not, I was very close to getting Brian Wilson’s participation in my First/Last series and hopefully will in the upcoming months as the band celebrates their 50th Anniversary in 2012. Until then, enjoy this First/Last with the album’s lyricist Van Dyke Parks from last September:

©Jasper Dailey – Courtesy of The Peter Reum Collection