(Warner Brothers, 1973)
The Beach Boys included “Mount Vernon and Fairway” as a bonus EP with the rootsy Holland album, but despite being labeled Sides 3 and 4 it has nothing to do musically or thematically with the rest of that LP. A fried, poorly-written – albeit clearly personal – fairy tale pieced together by Brian Wilson and narrated by Jack Rieley, the track sketches out the story of a prince and a magic transistor radio which is inhabited by the party-hearty spirit of the Pied Piper. Squelchy synths and sound effects make up most of the eerie, minimal backing music, though a few snatches of bare-bones, Wilson-sung songs pop up here and there. This idea possibly could have worked if the action had been developed further and it was issued in a more fitting context (as a stand-alone EP, perhaps, or as an extended LP project), but as it exists, “Mount Vernon and Fairway” is just a barely-interesting, half-baked failure that struggles even to rise to the level of charming. Given that the Beach Boys were trying to get hep and serious during this period, the addition of a goofy fairy tale to the band’s latest album – and Holland is definitely a self-consciously serious and “mature” LP – must have been mortifying to the rest of the group. Really, it’s hard not to get the sense that this was released merely as some sort of political concession to Brian.