California pop kings The Beach Boys have sold a ton of music over the years, but over those five decades (!) quite a few recordings by the band and related acts suddenly emerged and just as quickly disappeared, only to be seen more often on collectors' want lists than in the bins.
I've been an ardent fan for many years, but there's still music out there I haven't heard -- and that's not counting the scores of bootleg material available to those so inclined. For example, there's the Rarities album, released in limited quantities in the early 1980s. A friend recently unearthed a copy, so I should soon get to hear songs on there I don't already have, including some intriguing Wild Honey LP outtakes.
While interest in the Boys' new recordings was up and (mostly) down in the States through the '70s, they continued selling well in many markets overseas. That led to the re-issuing of quite a bit more rare material on vinyl outside the U.S. prior to the CD era, and those records still pop up very occasionally here. Since only hardcore fans were likely to pony up for the more expensive imports at the time, it's best to grab those records when one sees them now, because in some cases these reissues contain songs that have still never been officially issued stateside.
Such was the case this week, when a copy of the Australian album Brian Wilson Rarities turned up here in town. It's a completely different album than the American Rarities, with only a few songs -- primarily drawn from singles sides late in their Capitol tenure -- in common between the two discs.
In fact, the Australian LP packs in 20 tracks, two-thirds of which are actually in the "related artists" category rather than by the Beach Boys. In many cases, branding an LP as by a band when it's mostly not by said band would be a reason to cry foul, but those familiar with the Brian Wilson universe know the twists and turns make the material here a special case.
The tracks by other artists that are included are pretty darn legendary in their own right, and in nearly all cases just about impossible to find via the original 45 releases. Brian Wilson Rarities includes rare sides from Wilson-produced Capitol singles by The Honeys, Gary Usher, Glen Campbell and Sharon Marie, plus both sides of a single by The Survivors (a.k.a., Wilson and some buddies).
Of these songs, "Guess I'm Dumb" by one-time Beach Boy Campbell is easily the best. Also interesting is Sharon Marie's "Thinkin' 'Bout You Baby," which became a hit a few years later as "Darlin'" for the Beach Boys. The others are mostly fun rock 'n roll in the same vein as the early Beach Boys albums. All of these songs have been somewhat easier to find in the digital era via a comprehensive Honeys CD and an Ace UK comp, Pet Projects.
There's still a trio of songs here that remain unreleased in the U.S. to this day, as far as I know. There's a fun, frat-rock take on Ray Charles' "What'd I Say," a 1964 live take by the Beach Boys in Sydney, Australia. The real reason to find this LP today, though, is the inclusion of a pair of tracks by Dennis Wilson and Rumbo. Previously released only in certain overseas markets as a single, "Lady" and "Sound of Free" would have been worthy additions to era albums such as 20/20 or Sunflower, but instead have become a little-known footnote as Dennis' first solo release. That's a shame, as the Dennis Wilson songs from this era often were some of the Beach Boys' most interesting new tracks.
The album liner notes state the single was released in August 1969, but judging by the UK release number on EMI's Stateside label, very late 1970 is probably more accurate; the singles on either side of it (one of them by Carl Wilson proteges The Flame) are from late 1970 and early 1971. "Lady" features one of the earliest uses of an electronic drum track I've heard, along with a compact string section, bass, acoustic guitar, and very spare electric lead. "Sound of Free" definitely sounds a bit more like what the Beach Boys proper were up to at the time -- as well as The Flame, actually. "Rumbo," for those who are wondering, is Daryl Dragon, famous later in the '70s as "The Captain." (Capitol Australia, 1981)