The Beach Boys – Today! / Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!)

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

It’s difficult to enjoy albums before albums were important. Prior to 1966, let’s say, most artists (or record companies) focused on singles, while albums were not viewed as important artistic vehicles – they were just a way to repackage singles in a bundle. As an aside, you could argue that 1963’s The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan was a true album, as was 1965’s Rubber Soul, or you could argue that 1966’s Pet Sounds was the first real album. And again, I am talking about rock, as jazz artists had been taking advantage of the album format for years by this point. So often it’s best to rely on compilations for rock acts of the ‘50s and early ‘60s. This album is an exception.

What I Think of This Album

Today!

Today! is arguably the best pre-Pet Sounds Beach Boys album. It’s basically an album in two parts:  the first half is full of the good time, sunny Beach Boys songs of their early period (though a bit more sophisticated, as none is about surfing or cars), and the second half is the first draft of the orchestral pop that would bloom on Pet Sounds. Most of it is really good. The cover of “Do You Wanna Dance” has a great drum sound (Spector-ish) and wonderful harmonies. “When I Grow Up (to be a Man)” has a harpsichord and fantastic harmonies. The volume fade on the slow version of “Help Me, Ronda” is a weird, fun production touch (I also like the tambourine and harmonica). “Dance, Dance, Dance” has a cool guitar part, and of course, harmonies galore. Meanwhile, the seeds of Pet Sounds are clearly heard on pieces like “She Knows Me Too Well” and “Kiss Me Baby.”

Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!)

If it wasn’t packaged with Today! on this reissue, I almost certainly would not own Summer Days. The weak parts are considerable, though the good parts are excellent; at the same time, you can find the best of those good songs on a solid Beach Boys compilation, too. Those highlights include the superior version of “Help Me, Rhonda” (note the different spelling), the groundbreaking arrangement and sonics of “California Girls” (the less said about the lyrics, the better), “Let Him Run Wild,” “Girl Don’t Tell Me,” and “You’re So Good to Me.” Why is Al Jardine not on the album cover? If he missed the photo shoot, couldn’t they have rescheduled? Is it that difficult to charter a boat in California?

The Best Thing About This Album

“Do You Wanna Dance” and “Help Me, Rhonda”

Release Date

March 1965 (Today!), July 1965 (Summer Days), 1990 (reissue)

The Cover Art

Zzzzzzzzzzz. Capitol chose to go with the original Today! art for its two-for comp (using the Summer Days art for the back of the booklet). Understandable, I guess, but wow is this mundane.

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