Taken from the August 2009 edition of Record Collector. An interview by Kingsley Abbott with Alan Boyd.
REMASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE
Alan Boyd has been charged with the task of completely cataloguing The Beach Boys' tape vaults.....
Why were you chosen to document the archives?
Having been a fan for many years, I somehow ended up directing and editing a handful of films about The Beach Boys, starting with the Nashville Sounds documentary, and then onto The Pet Sounds Sessions for VH-1, Endless Harmony, and some short films about Brian and Carl – as well as producing the Endless Harmony CD. By the time we'd finished those, I had a good knowledge of the collection.
It got to the point where the group's management would refer clients to me when they were asked to provide archival film or audio for various projects. It became clear to everyone that there really were a lot of potential uses for material that had been sitting on the shelves for so many years. Also, I'd had many years experience as an archivist, working with collections of historical films. After a while it just made sense to set up a database for the group to get a handle on what was there. Part of it was my own desire to have al the info logged in some usable form, so that I wouldn't be the only person who knew what was what!
Are the majority of the original master tapes intact?
Yes, and there are countless tapes with take after take. The small number of missing items are especially frustrating though. There are a number of tapes missing from the Smile project, and a handful of important early multi-track masters have never been found. I Get Around, Fun Fun Fun, The Little Girl I Once Knew, most of the Shut Down Vol 2 and Little Deuce Coupe albums, and the final multi-track of Good Vibrations are among the tapes that still haven't turned up – though we did recently acquire several reels of three-track masters from Shut Down Vol 2, including the original session tapes for Don't Worry Baby and Why Do Fools Fall In Love. These reels had just been sitting in someone's closet for over 40 years! We used elements from these to construct mew stereo mixes for the Summer Love Songs compilation just released.
Did you have access to solo material and recordings by the individual band members?
Nearly all of Dennis Wilson's recordings have been stored by Brother Records, so Mark Linett and I went through and preserved and logged those reels before Jim Guercio's Caribou Records team went to work on the Sony reissue of Pacific Ocean Blue. But since the intellectual property rights on most of that material were owned by Caribou, we hadn't actually pulled many of those tapes prior to working on that project – I simply had them listed in the database. Some of Mike love's solo masters from his 1981 album are in the vaults as well. But most of the various solo projects are stored elsewhere.
Are there any more unreleased songs?
Well, the bootleggers didn't get there hands on everything! There are some wonderful songs, still unheard. My own favourites would be Dennis' haunting Live Again, from the Surf's Up sessions. There's a lovely little waltz from Brian called Where Is She, which dates back to the Sunflower sessions at his home studio. It's very sweet, reminiscent of The Beatles' She's Leaving Home. Brian's original piano demo for California Feeling, from 1974, is a stunning solo performance.
Mike Love wrote a very catchy, up-tempo tune called Goin' To The Beach that was finished for the Keepin' The Summer Alive album but didn't make the final cut. Also for that album, Carl sang a soulful version of Barry Mann's I'll Always Love You that's really emotional: one of his best performances.
There are variations on themes from the Smile and Smiley Smile projects that have yet to see the light of day, and some of those are quite remarkable. There's at least another album's worth of Dennis Wilson material, pre-Caribou, that should be heard. Some of it's unfinished but even the backing tracks he recorded in the mid-70's are really beautiful.
Not only are there a number of exceptional unreleased songs, I think many of the backing tracks – vocal and instrumental – are worth hearing. In a perfect world, we'd be reissuing each of the albums backing tracks, a cappella mixes, session highlights, outtakes and unreleased songs, so that the listener can get a real sense of the recording process.
I've been a serious fan since I was a kid, listening to the Surfer Girl and All Summer Long albums over and over. I guess part of my being here has to do with some strange compulsion to understand what makes this music “tick”. Judging from all the bootlegs from the last 30 years, I think it's safe to say I'm not the only one who feels that way!
Any more juicy items?
We did come across an outtake from the Smile sessions labelled “Ball & Mitt”, which consists of several minutes of Dennis pitching a baseball in Columbia studio to someone named Gene while Brian and Mike offer encouragement from the booth, recorded 15 December 1966.....
Interview by Kingsley Abbott