Underplayed Vinyl: Beach Boys

My first Beach Boys album was Pet Sounds, followed by some of those other late 1960s/early 1970s albums, such as Smiley Smile, Surf’s Up and Holland, plus the pairing of Wild Honey and 20/20. I never owned any of those early beach/surf/cars tunes until I bought those wildly successful double LP compilations, Endless Summer and Spirit of America.

So, when 15 Big Ones came out, complete with the “Brian is back!” mantra, it didn’t have the same meaning to me as it might have for a more faithful BB fan.

1. “Rock And Roll Music” (Chuck Berry) – 2:29
2. “It’s OK” (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) – 2:12
3. “Had To Phone Ya” (Brian Wilson/Mike Love/Diane Rovell) – 1:43
4. “Chapel Of Love” (Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich/Phil Spector) – 2:34
5. “Everyone’s In Love With You” (Mike Love) – 2:42
6. “Talk To Me” (J. Seneca) – 2:14
7. “That Same Song” (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) – 2:16
8. “TM Song” (Brian Wilson) – 1:34
9. “Palisades Park” (C. Barris) – 2:27
10. “Susie Cincinnati” (Al Jardine) – 2:57
11. “A Casual Look” (E. Wells) – 2:45
12. “Blueberry Hill” (A. Lewis/L. Stock/V. Rose) – 3:01
13. “Back Home” (Brian Wilson/Bob Norberg) – 2:49
14. “In The Still Of The Night” (F. Parris) – 3:03
15. “Just Once In My Life” (Gerry Goffin/Carole King/Phil Spector) – 3:47

The album begins with the Chuck Berry song. Most critics hate this rendition, even though it went to #5 in the charts. I thought it was OK. More than OK, though was “It’s OK”, which to my ears, was vintage Beach Boys. “Had to Phone Ya” was charming. “That Same Song” I loved, as well as “Back Home”, which apparently Brian had around for over a decade. “Susie Cincinnati”, which had been cut from the Sunflower album, I learned from that album’s CD liner notes, was a fun little song. “Talk to Me” was a strange little tune, with weak vocals, but I sorta liked it anyway.

The rest is rather hit or miss. The remaining covers seldom distinguish themselves from the originals, or are far lesser versions, though I appreciated “Palisades Park” for the near slavish imitation it was.

Yet, as I recall, I played the album. Played it a lot, actually. It had enough songs that I liked that I largely ignored the ones I didn’t. I barely remembered the uninspired, but short, “TM Song”, e.g. And it wasn’t that I hated the rest; it was more that it wasn’t as good as it might have been.

15 Big Ones is now available on CD, paired with Love You, the follow-up Beach Boys album, that received far better reviews, at least that I’ve read. I own it, but don’t remember it nearly that well. 15 Big Ones sold better, fueled by that Top 10 single, getting to #8 and going gold, while Love You peaked at #53.

Guess I know what Underplayed Vinyl will be next year. Brian Wilson turns 65 today; who woulda thunk it?

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