The Beach Boys — LOVE YOU
April 11, 2012 marked the 35th Anniversary of the release of Love You; an album tempered with a slightly distraught direction while maintaining a zaniness of cautious delight, that, at the foundation was exactly what it claimed it was: An album of Brian Wilson’s love as well as an extension of his very being. To further explore and better appreciate the recordings that collectively became Love You I spoke with Brian, Al Jardine and engineer Earle Mankey.
David Beard: How did you become one of the engineers for the Love You sessions?
Earle Mankey: I was sort of the low man on the totem poll, so I got assigned the work. That meant that Brian’s regularly scheduled session, which was in effect therapy, I was the guy. I would sit in there with Brian for his morning session, which ran from (around) 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nobody else wanted to get up that early. And nobody else wanted to sit around if Brian didn’t have anything to do. I worked there. I got paid to do that. I spent a lot of time with him – sometimes productive, (and) sometimes not productive. It was very cool because I was a major Brian Wilson fan and I got to talk to him a lot about the recording aspects of the music that interested me.
DB: Do you remember a specific conversation or subject that Brian and you discussed?
EM: Lots about Phil Spector and his techniques and the things that he learned from Phil Spector and the methods that he used. At the foot of it all Brian would say, “There was a fire, and I don’t have that fire anymore and I wish I could get it back.” I guess most of us might just call it hormones. It was always really important to him. When I would get him up to that point he would be talking about how he wrote the songs and recorded them with lots of live musicians in the room.
Specifically, the thing that was interesting to me, because I had spent the summer listening to Pet Sounds and trying to (sort of) pull it apart and figure out why it was so good. What Brian described to me was his method of writing on the piano. If he had 10 fingers at his disposal, certain fingers would be the bass line, other fingers would be the background vocal and another finger would be the lead melody, etc. To my perception it was presented in linear parts whereas most guitar players would come up with a chord progression and try to sing a melody over it. Brian was simpler than that, and by the same token, much more complicated because if you try to fit separate lines together and create chords, the chords you create by accident are a lot more interesting than the chords you would come up with by just strumming on a guitar (for instance).
Roy Wood worked on three songs with us in one day. He was a big fan of Brian’s. I think those songs were “It’s OK,” “Honkin’ Down the Highway” and “Ding Dang.” Everybody who showed up got subjected to “Ding Dang.”
DB: What do you remember about “Ding Dang”?
Brian Wilson: “Ding Dang” is my very favorite cut off that album, and it was supposed to turn people on but I don’t know if it did. Initially it was longer, but I shortened it.
Al Jardine: Brian had an obsession about “Ding Dang.” He was channeling a certain vibration. He would get hyper-focused on one riff. That might have evolved into “Shortenin’ Bread.” Those songs had that great boogie piano behind them. He had such unique rhythmic expressions, and the voices were like punctuation marks. I like the writing style that Brian was into at the time. Brian’s music is a reflection of his moods and feelings. It’s really cathartic for him. It’s like you and me going out for a jog, and for him it’s being at the piano and expressing his feelings through his music. That’s his brain exercise. His right brain is always at work – Brian’s always channeling. I really like the energy of “Roller Skatin’ Child,” “Mona” and “Honkin’ Down the Highway.”
BW: “Solar System” was written – believe it or not – while I was sitting in my astrology class at UCLA. I wrote it in my head. I was taking the class every Tuesday night. I wrote it there. I’m still into astrology a little bit.
AJ: “Solar System” is a beauty, and the melody from “The Night Was so Young” is so beautiful. “Airplane” is one of my favorites (too); it’s like “Solar System,” it has that special quality to it. I love the chorus on there.
To read the unabridged interviews with Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and Earle Mankey check out the Spring 2007 edition of Endless Summer Quarterly [ESQ], dedicated to Love You listed on ESQ‘s complete list of back issues. Subscribe to ESQ today: Order ESQ.
©2012 David M. Beard/All rights reserved
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