The Beach Boys/The Beach Boys Today! (1965-Capitol)
- Do You Wanna Dance – If you want to start off an album with a cover it had better be a cover so definitive people one day think it is the original version. For example, take “Hanging on the Telephone,” the opening cut from Parallel Lines by Blondie. Who ever calls it “‘Hanging on the Telephone’ by the Nerves?” No one. And no one refers to “Do You Wanna Dance” as being a Bobby Freeman song. Because the original version doesn’t have a bunch of tympanis and big beautiful Beach Boys harmonies. And the Beach Boys version does. By the way, that is drummer Dennis (!!) singing lead. His voice is a perfect fit for this song.
- Good to My Baby – Some unaccompanied jazzy harmonies open up this extremely catchy song, which features an enthusiastic band backing and terrific harmonies.
- Don’t Hurt My Little Sister – “You know she digs you and thinks that you’re a real groovy guy, but I’m not sure that I feel the same.” Real music about real stuff. With a great melody and lots of harmonies.
- When I Grow Up (To Be a Man) – Another song that brings the band closer to Pet Sounds.
- Help Me Ronda – Not to be confused with the single version, spelled “Help Me Rhonda,” which appears on the next album, this slower version, which lacks the distinctive high harmony part, is not as good, but since it appeared on the ubiquitous compilation Endless Summer, this version is played on the radio probably as often as the single version. It’s still a badass song with a swell vocal lead from Al, but I’m glad they recorded it again on the next album.
- Dance Dance Dance – Right now my son is sitting on my lap counting from 60 to 70, asking “What’s after x9?” at the end of each ten numbers. This original hit song, probably intended to be a counterpart to “Do You Wanna Dance,” is every bit as good and catchy.
- Please Let Me Wonder – The first song kicks off this album’s famous “side two.” You see, although the uptempo first side features a whole bunch of thick orchestration and a whopping ZERO songs about surfing, cars, summer, or the beach, side two is full of porto-Pet Sounds style ballads. The first one of them, which features the great melody you’d expect it to have, is 100 percent “Pet Sounds with a bit less reverb.”
- I’m So Young – Another beautiful song in with a whole bunch of harmonies. I have always believed Fun’s “We are Young” must be heavily inspired by this song.
- Kiss Me, Baby – And those gorgeous melodies keep coming.
- She Knows Me Too Well – This haunting dark number features some grade-A self-loathing. Absolutely beautiful.
- In the Back of My Mind – This time Brian hands the microphone over to brother Dennis, whose raspy-yet-emotive baritone is the perfect fit for this intense, very expressive beautiful pile of Beach Boys harmony.
- Bull Session with the Big Daddy – Today! may not end with a closing track like “Caroline, No,” but it does end with a recording of the boys ordering sandwiches or something.
Today! is, for lack of better words, a really, really good album. Sides one and two are like two different albums – a killer set of upbeat tunes and a wonderful set of big Brian Wilson ballads. This one is as good as the Beatles’ two albums from 1965. And those albums are Help! and Rubber Soul, which are both easily “A+” albums in my book. This is the first album the band released after Brian had a nervous breakdown and stopped touring with the band, which gave him the freedom to make these bombastic studio tracks. When the boys come back from touring to record some vocals there is no stopping these songs. Brian sings lead on the majority of the album and also hands over leads on key tracks to Dennis and Al, meaning there isn’t a whole lot of Mike Love here, which is very good. However, this is also the first album Brian made while hearing voices in his head, beginning a strange and dark chapter in the Beach Boys’ career.