Monday, December 17, 2007

The Beach Boys - Mount Vernon and Fairway

(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.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

nonsense, this is pure magic, maybe one the very last of brian, i had myself to take time to get it, it's surely not so obvious than smile/pet sounds. Of course the other guys of the band did'nt understood, they did'nt anymore for smile... and even if holland is quite good in regard of mt vermount it stinks commercial and opporunism

Phil said...

I think the only way to really appreciate this piece from Brian is to understand where he was at the time. As a fan - in the ancient days before the internet and all that - we only had communication from these stars on albums. At the time Brian was in hibernation and absent from the full "Holland" album. I remember buying this album and being thrilled to have a "message" from Brian. So this odd little record in the the album sleeve was an AMAZING communication from Brian. It told us he was still out there and the glimpse of genius and harmonies told us he was still alive and trying to get well.

Carberry said...

Agreed, it could of been great if those sketches had been fleshed out & the narrative didn't just stop. But as it stands, I personally think it has very little to recommend itself to anyone other than hardcore Brian Wilson disciples (see above)