ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Entertainment and Media»
  • Music

Review of The Beach Boys 1985: A Lost Classic?

Updated on January 13, 2012
Cover of The Beach Boys' self-titled 1985 album. Image used for illustrative purposes only
Cover of The Beach Boys' self-titled 1985 album. Image used for illustrative purposes only

By the early 1980s, the Beach Boys had once again seemingly given up releasing new material. Their 1980 effort, Keepin' the Summer Alive, was the result of recording sessions that had begun with hype and promise but eventually led to former Beach Boy Bruce Johnston taking the producer's helm and shifting gears into mediocrity. Although the band attempted to promote and support the album by actually playing some of the new songs in concert and on television, by 1981 they had again reverted to a setlist based largely on the “classic,” mostly 1960s catalog. In 1984, Steve Levine was hired to change all that.

Levine was riding high at the time on the success of Culture Club, the Boy George-led light synth-pop group. His style was based heavily on computer-programmed instruments and vocals fed through a Fairlight synthesizer. Many Beach Boys fans were befuddled at the pairing of Levine and the group. But the goal was to translate their sound into a streamlined format that could be played on Top 40 radio along with any of the other hits of the mid-1980s. To this reviewer's ear, Levine succeeded in that task. It certainly wasn't “classic” Beach Boys, and it wasn't produced by Brian Wilson, but let's face it: Wilson hadn't truly produced any released Beach Boys material since Pet Sounds in 1966. True, under Levine's direction, the boys' classic harmony became computerized, but that was the style of the day. The 1985 self-titled album reflected a truly 1985 Beach Boys, poised to dominate the charts, or at least share them with Culture Club, Michael Jackson, et. al. Unfortunately, either the public wasn't ready or CBS Records failed in their marketing tasks.

Album opener “Getcha Back” made a few waves (pun intended), but did not become the massive success all involved had hoped, despite a music video in heavy MTV rotation. The follow-up single, the slow-rock “It's Get tin' Late,” failed to match even the success of “Getcha Back.” At this point, CBS seemed to have given up on the record, despite side two opener “California Calling” desperately crying to be a single. Yes, it was basically a 1985 re-write of “Surfin' USA,” but it was different enough to be called new and to be played back-to-back with the surfing hits of yesteryear. And yet it remains an unpromoted album track that surprises uneducated listeners on the first spin. Like the style or not, it is still confusing why it was never a single.

One thing is certainly true: The Beach Boys was the group's most altogether solid, listenable album in years. The only track that could be considered a throwaway is the CD-only bonus, “Male Ego,” which bears a co-writing credit from Brian Wilson's much-maligned (and now deceased) psychiatrist Eugene Landy. Indeed, much of it seems to be psychiatry-speak set to a very simple Wilson-conceived melody and very basic 1950s rock chord progression. But the rest of the album is startlingly cohesive, holding up to many repeated listens. Bruce Johnston's “She Believes in Love Again” has the schmaltzy charm one should expect from the actual writer of Barry Manilow's ironically-titled mega-hit “I Write the Songs.” Even the two tracks that the group had nothing to do with writing (“Passing Friend,” written by Boy George, is likely a Culture Club throwaway, and Stevie Wonder's “I Do Love You” sounds exactly like his 1980s style) are nonetheless improved exponentially by the inimitable vocal stylings of Carl Wilson, who thankfully is featured prominently throughout.

Although the heavily programmed, synthesized style of the 1980s has so far failed to gain serious attention from critics or music historians, one cannot deny that the era possesses unique characteristics that often make for enjoyable listens, depending on the listener's mindset. If a fan of 1960s or even 1970s-era Beach Boys takes a step back before spinning this album and takes all of the stylistic threads of the 1980s into account, he or she will be rewarded with an enjoyable and durable listening experience. If it is necessary to mentally detach the Beach Boys moniker from the record in order to evaluate it without bias, please attempt to do so, although along with the somewhat syrupy 1980s sound you will certainly hear the familiar voices of Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, Al Jardine, Carl Wilson, and (possibly unfortunately) the deeper, more-likely-to-be-off-key modern Brian Wilson voice. In that regard, this is undeniably a Beach Boys record, yet it is also undeniably different from anything they had done before.

It would not be unlike anything they would ever do again, however. Perhaps 1985 was too early for the public to accept a modern, slickly produced Beach Boys, because in 1988, they reached the very top of the charts for the first time in 22 years with a song that sounds like it could have easily fit on the 1985 album. That song was “Kokomo”, and it led to a whole new (albeit short-lived) era for the Beach Boys that included the recording of new songs to which the public actually listened! But that is another chapter in the story.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)