- US Release: June 24th 1968
- UK Release: September 1968
- Chart High: US #126; UK #13
- Friends b/w Little Bird
The Friends album is released worldwide by September 1968. The LP is characterized by its calm and peaceful atmosphere , which contrasted the prevailing music trends of the time, and for its brevity, with five of its 12 tracks running less than two minutes long. Although full of harmonious, lo-fi pleasantries, Friends seems downright irrelevant to pop music buyers in mid 1968. Many top groups (like Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience) are playing full-out rock and venting their anger towards the ongoing war in Vietnam.
This, along with the group’s dwindling popularity in the States, led to the album selling poorly, peaking at number 126 on the US Billboard charts, the groups lowest US chart performance to date, although it reached number 13 in the UK. Fans eventually came to regard the album as one of the band’s finest. As with their two previous albums, Friends was recorded primarily at Brian Wilson’s home studio with a lo-fi production style. The album’s sessions lasted from February to April 1968 and was written, performed or produced mainly by Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson with Al Jardine. Some songs were inspired by Transcendental Meditation, which led to the group deciding to schedule a national tour with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the US, but was cancelled after five shows due to low ticket sales.
Pictured: Friends EP released in Portugal.
Arthur Schmidt will write with a flourish in Rolling Stone dated August 24th 1968:
“Everything on the first side is great. The cuts “Wake The World”, “Be Here In The Mornin” and “When A Man Needs A Woman” all evoke the elation of Wild Honey. “Passing By”, reminiscent of “Flying” by The Beatles, is the best instrumental they’ve done, a smooth linear construction. On the second side, “Anna Lee” is a true melody and “Diamond Head”, except for a break in the middle, is uninteresting. But two cuts by Dennis Wilson and Steve Kalinich, “Little Bird” and “Be Still”, are tight, emotional and beautifully done, with fine lyrics that do not exploit the California-nature-youth idiom that is a vision and artistic as the music itself.”
“Busy Doin’ Nothing”, words and music by Brian Wilson, is a real great lyric, a matter of fact, vernacular exposition that well evokes a quiet mood with its small beauties. A good melody tapers off into sloppy jazz at its very end. Like an entity that creates it’s own idiom musically as well as culturally, The Beach Boys take getting into. Listen once and you might think this album is nowhere. But it’s really just at a very special place, and after a half-dozen listens you can be there”
Pictured: Late 1968 Press Photo
FEBRUARY 29 1968, Bel air, CA
Today’s session is for “Little Bird”, take 7 marked as master, a song co-written by Dennis Wilson and Stephen John Kalinich, a poet/songwriter and future Brother Records recording artist. The song will become Dennis’ first released composition. The engineer is Jim Lockert on this and forthcoming sessions.
March 13-22 1968, Bel air, CA
Today sees a session for “Friends”, co-written by Al Jardine, Brian Wilson, Dennis Wilson, and Carl Wilson. The song’s instrumental track is recorded in just six attempts (take 6 marked as master), followed by Carl overdubbing his lead vocal and then Brian, Al, Dennis and Bruce adding backing vocals. An alternate version of the song with a different arrangement is attempted but scrapped. The next day at I.D. Sound Studio in Hollywood, a mix session is held for “Friends” and at least three mono mixes are made. Mike Love has been in Rishikesh, India at the Academy of Transcendental Meditation (TM). Along with The Beatles, fellow musician Donovan and Mia Farrow, Mike has been learning about TM through Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. They have been living in the Maharishi’s ashram, 150 feet above the Ganges and surrounded on three sides by jungle covered mountains. After a birthday party thrown for him by The Beatles, Mike flies back to California on the 15th.
On the same day that Mike flies back to California, the mono mixes of “Friends” and “Little Bird” are taken to Capitol’s studio in Hollywood for mastering. Now the 22nd, at Brian’s home studio, The Beach Boys are working on a session for an instrumental called “Passing By”, recorded in 27 takes. Brian has written lyrics for the track but they will remain unused. Brian, Bruce and Carl play during this session, with Jim Gordon on drums.
Pictured: Friends promo ad.
APRIL 11 1968, Bel air, CA
This evening, Brian Wilson oversees a recording session with engineer Jim Lockert, a new tracking tape for “Busy Doin’ Nothing”. Today 27 takes are recorded, with the last marked as master. Brian then overdubs a lead vocal and doubles his lead in sections onto the new tracking tape, completing the version that will be released. At the conclusion of the session, in the early hours of the morning, each member of the group returns home.
At approximately 3:00 am Dennis Wilson pulls into the driveway of his home on Sunset Boulevard. As he gets out of the car he notices a small, shadowy figure approaching him. “Are you going to hurt me?” Dennis asks. The stranger replies “Do I look like I’m going to hurt you brother?” The stranger calms Dennis by sinking to his knees and kissing Dennis’ shoes. He says that he is “a philosopher, a god and a musician” Dennis does not realize that the man has arrived at his home following an invitation from one of two female hitchhikers that he had picked up in Malibu earlier that day.
This was actually his second time giving them a ride, having crossed paths earlier that spring in the area. Dennis takes the girls to his house this time. He later recalled that he “told the girls about his involvement with the Maharishi and they told me they too had a guru, a guy named Charlie who’d recently come out of jail after 12 years.” Dennis gives the girls a tour of his home and leaves them there before heading to the studio.
The man is Charles Milles Manson – better known to some as “The Wizard”. During Dennis’ absence that day, Manson has already decided to take up residency in Dennis’ home along with about a dozen more girls. Dennis, not one to turn down a wild situation, allows the strange man and his girls to stay the evening – or for as long as they like. Along with spending Dennis’ money, trashing and abusing his’ home, Charlie plays to Dennis some tunes he has composed, ultimately hoping to get a record deal. Dennis begins to peddle Manson and his music to the other Beach Boys. He tries to get everyone to listen to Charlie’s work, but the act will not achieve success.
Pictured: The touring group, early 1968
ON TOUR - Great Britain
Sunday, December 1st, 1968
Bob Farmer, of Disc & Music Echo Writes:
“You’ve heard expressions such as sorting out the men from the boys. Well it applies to the current Beach Boys tour, which opened at London’s Palladium on Sunday to packed houses. The Beach Boys were a brilliant and faithful reproduction of all we’ve come to expect of them on record. Up swept the curtains, and there they stood, creating impact even before they began in their dazzling white suits. And then into “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, “Darlin”, “Sloop John B”, bang, bang, bang. Timing to perfection and not a tone out of place. “Do It Again”. deluges of applause.”
“Dennis Wilson jacket discarded, demoniac on drums, hair flopping hectically, Keith Moon at 78rpm. Then follows the B-side, “Wake The World”, which gets a great reception. The Beach Boys have us eating out of their hands in any case. Carl Wilson comes to the front, and brings the house down with “God Only Knows”, which is not surprising. Pause for Mike Love to explain Brian Wilson’s non-arrival, because he’s pregnant “And it’s embarrassing for him to go out”. Then “Good Vibrations”. “Barbara Ann” and a rapping, rocking finish with a new album track titled “All I Want To Do”. It’s been quite the most polished performance I have seen from the group in recent years. If there was any doubt about the on-stage ability of this recording ensemble, forget it. In fact, don’t dare suggest it” – Next Release
Pictured: 1968 Great Britain Tour Program