Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Beach Boys 'Do It Again'

Chart Peak: 1

Their 15th Top 30 hit in Britain and their second No. 1, 'Do It Again' topped the chart in August 1968 for one week.
Ah, the Beach Boys. Is there a major act more associated with the summer? Even their name connotes the season, at least to people living in our climate, and the word is ubiquitous in the titles of their many albums and hits compilations: Endless Summer, Summer Dreams, Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!), Summer Love Songs, Summer In Paradise, Keepin' The Summer Alive... It's no surprise that they get effectively top billing on the cover of this album, the very first of the nine acts named on the front cover (admittedly they're in alphabetical order, but most people on this album don't get a mention on the front at all) and that they show up nice and early with the less familiar of their two UK chart-toppers.

'Do It Again' is here in the original version from the Mono 45, rather than the later album version with the workshop sound effects on the fade-out. It's a slightly odd record to approach now, in that it's a very nostalgic track released only a few years into a career that's now lasted more than half a century; it's tempting to overstate the extent to which this was "needed" in the historical context of 1968. But it's not hard to see why it made sense in the context of the group's own career, as in their home market the hits were getting harder to come by at this this point. An earlier demo version made this even more explicit with the lyric "let's get together and surf again", [you can still hear a stray "s" in the last chorus] but it's a tribute to Brian Wilson's record-making skills that he realised the need for an extra syllable in the chorus. Indeed, though by 1968 he was already in a declining mental state and is generally agreed to have peaked artistically, he still had moments of absolutely top form and this is one of them, a great production with inventive use of percussion and handclaps and the sort of intricate vocal arrangement that no other band seemed able to match. Despite the retro sentiment, there are even a couple of experimental touches: that distinctive drum sound on the intro (a snare drum with a long echo delay, apparently) which seems almost proto-electronic and has been illicitly sampled once or twice and a humming tone which rises and falls throughout the verse/chorus sections, only to disappear during the middle-eight and thus lend that section a slightly ethereal quality.

The song itself, though simple, has a winning conversational tone to it that seems to slide seamlessly from verse to chorus as one train of thought. For all the work that obviously has gone into it, it's a less obviously complex single than 'Good Vibrations' and in that way a somewhat more summery one. Making the surf references less prominent inadvertently aids its universality too, which was fortunate since in the event this only got to Number 20 in the US; mind you, even that was their last Top 20 there for eight years, whilst they remained Top 10 regulars over here until the end of the Sixties.

Available on: 50 Big Ones: Greatest Hits

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