The Beach Boys’ lost masterpiece

After years of highs and lows and hits and flops, The Beach Boys were able to come together to put out their last masterpiece. 

Brothers Records

After years of highs and lows and hits and flops, The Beach Boys were able to come together to put out their last masterpiece. 

Brian’s Back!”

As an avid music fan, when I hear the words “Beach Boys” and “Lost Masterpiece”, my mind automatically goes to the infamous “Smile” project that fell apart in 1967, that would ultimately end up sinking the band itself in the middle of their prime. The Beach Boys discography from the years 1967 to 1980 is a mix-match of decent to awful albums, with the occasional gem like 1970’s “Surfs Up” and “Sunflower” thrown in the mix.

But other than those two albums, not many people know about the rest of the Beach Boys albums from that era. I was one of those people until around a year ago when I decided to do a deep dive into almost every single album the boys ever released. I was skeptical to dive into post-”Smile” Beach Boys music for a few reasons.

The most pressing worry was: what are the Beach Boys without Brian Wilson in charge?  

For those out of the loop, Brian Wilson was the main songwriter for the boys and was the genius behind “Pet Sounds” and the “Smile” sessions. Because of developing mental issues, Brian was forced to take a step back from the band and with that took the identity that made the Hawthorne band so popular.

But in the year 1977, fans were overjoyed with promos from the Beach Boys, practically screaming “Brian’s Back.” And he really was back, for the first time since 1966 Brian Wilson was in control of a Beach Boys album, and that album was the absolute masterpiece, “Love You.”

“Love You” starts off with a bang in the form of the song “Let Us Go On This Way,” a song pairing the typical Beach Boys groove and harmonies with sounds new to the 70s like synthesizers and Mogg bass keyboards. Where “Let Us Go On This Way” plays off the old formula that built the Beach Boys, the third song “Mona” showcases some of the positive changes in the sound of the 70s Beach Boys.

One of two songs sung by Brian’s brother Dennis Wilson, “Mona” showcases the increased presence of both Dennis and the youngest Wilson brother, Carl. In the wake of their brother’s absence, the two Wilson’s both developed their own style of singing and songwriting that would define some of the best songs released in the entire Beach Boys discography.

The middle of the album is a collection of songs ranging from good to purely absurd in the best possible way. Songs like “Honkin’ Down The Highway” and “Johnny Carson” embody the unimaginable charm of this album. Frankly, Love You shouldn’t be as good as it is, there’s an unexplainable element to the songs that just make them work. Like my one of my favorite moments in the entire album comes during the last verse of the song “Solar System” in the form of the lyric: “If Mars had life on it I might find my wife on it.” The cheesy, simpleness of it highlights the absurdity of this album, I don’t know really how to explain it but it’s there.

The 2nd side of Love You features my personal favorite song on the album in the form of “The Night Was So Young.” A nice ballad from Brain that feels like a return to his 1966 and 67 form. The melancholic backing vocals, innocent lyrics and spotless production harken back to the days of “All Summer Long” and “Today!”  But in all its loveliness, it feels out of place surrounded by electronic goofiness in songs like “Solar System” and “I’ll Bet He’s Nice,” and overall I’m curious what an entire album of this sound could be like.

After years of infighting, mental and drug struggles, run-ins with the law and the Manson family, highs and lows, lawsuits, hits and flops; The Beach Boys were able to come together to put out their last masterpiece. 

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