WILD HONEY ALBUM
- US Release: December 18, 1967
- UK Release: March 1968
- Chart High: US #24; UK #7
- Wild Honey b/w Wind Chimes (Smiley Smile)
- Darlin’ b/w Here Today (Pet Sounds)
Just three months after the release of Smiley Smile, Capitol Records issues the R&B flavored 24-minute Wild Honey album along with the “Darlin” single. Like Smiley Smile, Wild Honey‘s core instrumental combo consists of organ, honky tonk piano, and electric bass. The Beach Boys were inspired to regroup as a self-contained rock band, partly in response to critical assertions that they were “ball-less choir boys”. They also purposely distanced themselves from the prevailing rock trends of the time (psychedelia and high-scale recording or thematic conceits).
Subsequently The Beach Boys’ simplistic, almost lo-fi, style of musicianship doesn’t stand a chance in the wake of the far-out psychedelic sounds currently filling the record charts. The production was credited to the group rather than Brian Wilson alone, who gradually abdicated the band’s musical leadership following the difficult sessions for the aborted SMiLE LP. At Brian’s request, his younger brother Carl Wilson began contributing more to the recording process, a trend that continued on subsequent albums.
The music on Wild Honey is charming and very respectable, but Brian is disappointed and feels that the disc never equals his groundbreaking work on Pet Sounds. More alarmingly, he knows that The Beach Boys no longer stand shoulder to shoulder with The Beatles, and that his group is falling out of step with the rest of the rock world. Wild Honey will become the Beach Boys’ lowest-selling album at that point and remained on the US Billboard charts for only 15 weeks. Critics initially viewed it as another inconsequential album from the band. After a 1974 reissue, Wild Honey was reevaluated by fans and critics who highlighted the album for its simplicity and charm.
Pictured: The band in 1967.
Mike Little writes in retrospect in The Vinyl District:
“Instead of paeans of hanging ten, little deuce coupes, or teenage symphonies to God, the band settled into Brian Wilson’s living room and recorded a swear-to-God soul & R&B LP, one that downplayed the band’s group vocals and actually rocked. It’s to their credit that The Beach Boys, faced with the drug-induced abdication of Brian Wilson as the band’s sole creative force, didn’t retreat back to their roots as a harmony-oriented surf band. Instead they recorded an album that was, for them, every bit as ground breaking as Pet Sounds.”
“Wild Honey proves that The Beach Boys were still happening. It sounds down right lo-fi in comparison to the Beach Boys’ previous LP’s and that’s one of its chief charms. Another is the vocals of Carl Wilson which are loud and soulful and pure rock ‘n roll. He’s especially great on the title cut. Throw in some great backing vocals, a rollicking melody, and one strange organ solo, and what you’ve got is a killer tune. “Aren’t You Glad” is pure pop, and happy-go-lucky tune featuring horns, hand claps and the vocals of Mike Love and Carl and Brian Wilson. It sounds as fresh today as the day it was recorded. As does the band’s take on Stevie Wonder’s “I Was Made To Love Her”.
“On “Country Air” there’s some nice piano by Brian, a rooster crows, and then the band comes in with their trademark group vocals. It’s nice to see the Beach Boys take a vacation from the beach for once. On “A Thing Or Two” I liked the vocal swapping, the rough sounding guitar riff and the shouts of , “Do it right baby!” and “Out of sight baby!”….
Pictured: German version of the “Wild Honey” single.
…”Darlin” could be a great Motown tune, up-tempo with lots of cool percussion, some happening horns, and more soulful vocals by Carl Wilson, who basically makes this album the masterpiece that it is. As for “I’d Love Just Once To See You”, it’s an ode to domestic simplicity sung by Brian Wilson, who is washing the dishes and making up songs while missing his baby. It includes one of the great last lines of all time, to wit, “I’d love just once to see you/In the nude.” A long way from the innocence of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” On the spritely “Here Comes The Night”, Brian Wilson demonstrates that he can cut loose on the vocals too. Meanwhile he pounds on the piano, the boys sing a fantastic back-up, and the chorus is a snappy wonder.”
“Let The Wind Blow” is a throwback of sorts to the Beach Boys of yore, what with its group vocals and slower tempo, ala Pet Sounds. It’s a beautiful tune, and sort of a companion piece to “Country Air”. “How She Boogalooed It” is a wild ride with Carl Wilson on vocals, a funky guitar, some freaky organ, and a tempo guaranteed to have you doing the frug. As for closer “Mama Says”, it’s a minute long lark, with the group singing stately acapella and repeating motherly advice, e.g., “Eat a lot/Sleep a lot/Brush ’em like crazy.” I give it kudos as rock’s only known paean to dental hygiene, as well as the way the band ends the song with a group cry of “Poof!”
“It’s easy to deride Wild Honey as the final nail in the coffin of Brian Wilson as rock history’s greatest studio genius, but it’s a great album nonetheless. Poor Brian, bedeviled by the voices in his head, simply was too psychically debilitated to produce another “Good Vibrations”. Wild Honey though proved Brian Wilson still possessed a melodic genius that not even debilitating and drug-induced mental illness could suppress. And its relative simplicity provides a wonder counterpoint to Brian’s painstakingly recorded pocket symphonies. What’s more, it gave the other Beach Boys, chiefly Carl Wilson, the opportunity to demonstrate their far from negligible gifts.”
Pictured: Brian Wilson, 1967
Wild Honey Sessions
September 26 1967, Bel air, CA
Today at his home studio in Bel Air, Brian Wilson, and The Beach Boys (Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Al Jardine, Mike Love & Bruce Johnston) begin work on the back to basics album Wild Honey. The group – and especially Carl – take over the main production reins that Brian has relinquished. Carl, now nearly 21, has almost instinctively begun to pick up where Brian has left off. Recorded in a matter of weeks, the sessions begin with the album’s fine R&B flavored title track. Mike Love says on US radio: “Brian wanted to do an R&B influenced album, he was working on the track at his house and I went into the kitchen, opened the cupboard and there was a jar of honey and I thought, “That’s an interesting title.” When I wrote the words to “Wild Honey” I was thinking of a Stevie Wonder kind of lyric.”
“Wild Honey” features a brilliant piano riff and a raucous, impressive lead vocal from Carl. Today’s first tracking attempt features organ, percussion, bass, tambourine and piano. Then following Carl’s lead vocal overdub, they record an instrumental insert featuring bongos, percussion and drums. To round off the session various overdubs are done, including vocal and organ. The next day around lunch time, Paul Tanner overdubs his distinctive electro-theremin part onto the opening. With that, “Wild Honey” is completed and prepared for single release.
Pictured: Wild Honey promo ad
Wild Honey Sessions
October 26 1967, Hollywood, CA
Today the group is working from Wally Heider studio in Hollywood with engineer Jimmy Lockert, freeing them from some of the space restrictions at Brian Wilson’s home studio. Recordings begin today with tracking for “A Thing Or Two” and “Darlin”. “Darlin” was originally written back in 1963 as “Thinkin’ Bout You Baby”, a record Brian produced for Sharon Marie. Now the song has been re-written and is intended for release by Brian’s friend Danny Hutton and his group Redwood. But this fails to materialize, so today the full Beach Boys line-up set to work taping the song’s instrumental track, which starts life featuring just piano, bass and drums. Carl then overdubs his lead vocal, and guitar, tambourine and percussion inserts are added. Strings, horns and piano are then added to complete the song.
October 26 1967, Hollywood, CA
Once again working at Wally Heider’s, today The Beach Boys are working on a series of sessions for “How She Boogalooed It”. Also later the same day, the group is at Brian’s home studio, where recordings are made of “Mama Says”. During this same session “Aren’t You Glad” is completed, finishing up what was started on the song a few days prior. With that, the group’s new album is completed. The next week, a Capitol Records memo refers to Wild Honey with catalogue number 2859 and as “Produced by The Beach Boys”. The song list has now been altered to that which will appear on the released LP. – Next Release
Pictured: US version of the “Darlin” single. Below: 1967 Tour Program/1967 Defiance, Ohio Concert Poster.