We just can’t seem to shake Ol’ Man Winter's grip ’round these parts, so I thought I’d try to break his spell by summoning the sons of summer. This podcast spins out from a trio of ’60s sunshine pop producers—Curt Boettcher, Gary Usher and Bruce Johnston—who formed a loosely based association in the ’70s with the mission to produce “California music,” their term for a nostalgic dance music that would serve equally well at the beach , on the strip (drag or Sunset) or at the disco. Their most noted production is the Beach Boy’s disco-fied “Here Comes the Night,” a disc that is curtly dismissed by most Beach Boys purists, a fact that to me, at least, says more about the close-minded attitudes of rockist fan boys than it does about the disc which makes me happy every time I fire it up. Two more of these collaborations came out in the mid-’70s credited to California. “Music, Music, Music” was issued as a 7' and 12" on Warner Bros, while “I Can Hear Music” came out on a a split promotional 12" with a Beatles medley credited to Café Crème.
Various incarnations of the trio produced disco tracks for other artists—Sailor’s “Down by the Docks” is included here—and second-tier Beach Boy Bruce Johnston issued two bits of California music (“Pipeline” and “Deidre,” the latter co-authored by and featuring backing vocals from Brian Wilson and sounding like a great lost Beach Boys track). The cuts were featured on his solo LP Going Public which gained modest attention for two of its original ballads, “Disney Girls” and “I Write the Songs” (yes, that “I Write the Songs”!).
The tracks credited here to Boettcher as a solo artist were kept in the vaults until recently, when they surfaced on a couple of compilations of his work.
There have been a couple of disco versions of “Good Vibrations.” The best of the bunch by far is by Silver Blue—a track that is oddly out of place on a LP where the majority of the songs covered have the feel of C&W or Western swing. What you hear on this podcast was taken from a DJ-only super-fidelity pressing. Good Vibrations was the name of a Canadian project that issued an LP of six souped-up Beach Boys covers. If those heavenly harmonies sound familiar, that’s because the vocalists include members of Chic, as well as Luther Vandross and David Lasley. Sea Cruise is a Canadian duo; their Beach Boy’s medley is quite pedestrian musically, but there is a certain wittiness to the selection and sequencing of the tunes they cover
That brings us to Mr. Bad Vibrations himself, Mike Love. You may be surprised to learn that the squarest of the Beach Boys took a dive into disco as well. He’s represented here by his cover of ABBA’s “On and On and On,” a song he covered on his 1981 solo Looking Back With Love. ABBA maintained that the song had been inspired by the Beach Boys, and Mike gives it a full sons-of-the-surf treatment. The role of the song’s boorish narrator fits him like a glove and you wonder if he’s in on the song’s joke. Love’s own ADC record label released an LP by Beach Boy bodyguard and all-around ruffian Rocky Pamplin; the track here was penned by Love and his brother, Stan, who also produced the album. I’ve had it in mind to do this podcast for some time now, holding out in hopes that I might score one more bit of Love disco. Concurrent with his run in the Beach Boys, Mike maintained membership in a side band—Celebration—and they recorded a disco album in the late ’70s, Disco Celebration, that was distributed to deejays on ADC but never released commercially. The occasional copy surfaces, but I’ve not landed one yet. It offers a full-out disco take on “California Girls” that I am told has to be heard to be believed. Someday….
California Music—Curt Boettcher ’78 ҉ Down by the Docks—Sailor ’77 ҉ Good Vibrations—Silver Blue ’78 ҉ Music, Music, Music—California ’76 ҉ Pipeline—Bruce Johnson ’77 ҉ On and On and On—Mike Love ’81 ҉ Deidre—Bruce Johnson with Brian Wilson ’77 ҉ Banana Boat Song—Curt Boettcher ’78 ҉ I Can Hear Music—California ’78 ҉ God Only Knows—Good Vibrations ’78 ҉ Beach Boys Medley—Sea Cruise ’78 ҉ Here Comes the Night—the Beach Boys ’79 ҉ Disco Symphony—Rocky Pamplin ’79 ҉ Don’t Worry Baby—Good Vibrations ’78