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Friday July 6th, 2007

Sweet White Raisins

" . . . as was said in the Book of Genesis, God made all the world
in Six days and rested on the Seventh
(leaving room for speculation as to what He did on the Eighth day)."
Christopher Hitchens


Hi folks,

Well, Prime Minister John Howard has now admitted publicly that we need to stay in Iraq - for the Oil. Halleluia John! What an amazing and original fucking INSIGHT! I wonder why we didn't think of that before instead of wasting all that time on all that terrorist baloney? Of course. Simple THEFT. It makes much more political sense to me. And with strong historical precedent. General Douglas MacArthur once said, 'All war is a result of undefended wealth.'

Thanks for the many replies that I got to my comments on The Beach Boys, 'Pet Sounds' album. Due to some persuasive letters from people whose musical taste I respect, I went out and bought yet another copy of this album and had another focused listen. I have now changed my opinion on it. I don't know what happened but it's like some kind of door opened and I suddenly heard the record for the first time. I have included an extensive Letter and Comment Section further on down below for anyone interested in my thoughts about why I think this album made no impact on me between the time it came out and now.

I do want to remind everyone that when I intentionally step on one of these Cultural Landmines, I am primarily doing it to blow apart my own Ignorance; for my own musical education; not to be spiteful. For instance, I always go out a buy a copy of the record. Sting's Dowland songs. Paul McCartney's, Ecce Cor Meum. Dylan's . . . . well . . . maybe not Dylan anymore. Twice bitten, thrice chewed. I have always had an excellent ear and I improve my own perception and writing through this process. Which leads me to . . . .

Something very inspiring for you this week! If a single newspaper article can induce Enlightenment, then I have one for all my friends out there who are struggling and wondering why they haven't been recognized for what they do. I have always pondered on how Van Gogh or Bach could be so ignored in their own lifetime, but later achieve massive public understanding. I have also known for some time that that same kind of thing is completely possible in our own time. The Bachs and Van Goghs are walking among us at this very moment. For instance, I, Josephus Michaelangelo Dolce, could be an artist of that supreme and classic Genius. So might you, kind reader (although that's probably unlikely. . . boom boom.) In a hundred years, the very work some of us are doing now, which is being overlooked, or misunderstood, by the folks with possum ca-ca for brains, could be the benchmark for future generations. We have no way of knowing this, however - just who will be left standing, in a century or two, when the cultural dust settles.
'The winner now will be later to fall . .' as some old jew once said.
The Bachs and the Van Goghs of their day were surrounded by a multitude of popular and commercial artists who became well-known and well-off in their own lifetimes but for the most part have now been forgotten.
The following article, and the musical experiment that was conducted, illustrates the way in which profound art needs CONTEXT in order for it to been visible to the majority:

Pearls Before Breakfast
Can one of the nation's great musicians cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour? Let's find out.
By Gene Weingarten
Washington Post
Sunday, April 8, 2007

HE EMERGED FROM THE METRO AT THE L'ENFANT PLAZA STATION AND POSITIONED HIMSELF AGAINST A WALL BESIDE A TRASH BASKET. By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swivelled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play.
It was 7:51 a.m. on Friday, January 12, the middle of the morning rush hour. In the next 43 minutes, as the violinist performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by. Almost all of them were on the way to work, which meant, for almost all of them, a government job. L'Enfant Plaza is at the nucleus of federal Washington, and these were mostly mid-level bureaucrats with those indeterminate, oddly fungible titles: policy analyst, project manager, budget officer, specialist, facilitator, consultant. . . . . .No one knew it, but the fiddler [Joshua Bell] standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made. His performance was arranged by The Washington Post as an experiment in context, perception and priorities -- as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend? (full amazing 17 page article!) (article)
(thanks to WaylandN)



Hello Joe
I love your newsletters you are brilliant ­ and by the way did you see where Dylan is coming out? Keep up the wonderful news I love it. All the best Di Rolle

(Note: No, I didn't see that Di, but glad to hear that he's finally admitting to being gay. I mean: 'you walk in the room, with your pencil in your hand, you see somebody naked and say, who is that man?' Whaddya reckon!)

Dear Mr. Dolce,
Early last year you were enormously helpful in pinpointing the exact location of Sesame Street (which, as you know, the children's TV theme song was somewhat vague on). If you have another moment to spare, I'd be eternally grateful if you could shed any light on this equally pressing matter.
They say the sun shines because its radiation takes the form of heat and light, but frankly, I don't buy it. Surely there's a far more interesting explanation out there. In your professional opinion as a musician: why DOES the sun shine?
Thanks again for your time, and keep up the great work. Alastair
P.S. 'The Wind Cries Mary' was wonderful.


(Note: Dear Alastair, thank you for the compliment about the new record. Now, regarding your heated question, I am reminded of what Copernicus's parents said to him growing up: "Copernicus, young man, when are you going to come to terms with the fact that the world does not revolve around you?"
Many questions about the Sun still remain unanswered, such as why its outer atmosphere has a temperature of over 1 million K while its visible surface (the photomat) has a temperature of less than 6,000 K. (Everyone knows from thermal pictures of the Sun at 6000 K, that that's still too large for an email.)

Swedenborg believed that heat did NOT originate from the sun:
" This is a general fallacy in chemistry, physics and astronomy. Light and heat are seen as physical substances streaming out from the hydrogen explosions within stars. Instead, The Word has revealed the scientific fact that the heat and light in stars or their flares, are uncreate substances, therefore not material. They originate in the spiritual sun and stream out into the external, physical world through the interior of stars. Knowing this, it is more rationally comprehensible why the speed of light is the ultimate speed possible. Light from the spiritual sun streams into the organ of our understanding by which we can see truths. Heat from the spiritual sun streams into the organ of our will by which we can love good and intend it. However, when light and heat externalise materially within natural stars, they no longer have this spiritual property."

Now, while it's true that those uncreate substances can really trip you up, especially if you snort them, the Word still doesn't explain sunburn.

One of the first people, of ethnic persuasion, to offer a scientific explanation for the Sun's heat was the Greek philosopher Anaxagoras J. Black, who reasoned that it was a giant flaming ball of metal even larger than the Peloponnesus, and NOT the Chariot of Helios. (Talk about a shit stirrer.) For teaching this heresy, he was imprisoned by the authorities and sentenced to death by having his balls removed and his eyes plucked out, his testicles then replaced in his eye sockets and his eyeballs sewn back into his ball sockets - which most likely would have greatly impeded his ability to further observe this phenomena, AND cause him great difficulty in servicing Mrs Anaxagoras J. Black. Anaxagoras was later released through the intervention of Pericles, the great-great-great-great-great grandfather of the Queen's puppet-maker, Joncleese.
Now, I'm not a physicist, Alastair, per say, although I do like making the odd screeching noise on the blackboard with my fingernail while erasing formulae, but let me take a shot at answering your question based on my many years experience in the music industry and smoking funny cigarettes (which gives me the Feeling of Relativity.)

Never forget that the Sun is a DWARF star.

Physical effects of malformed stars vary according to the specific dwarfism. Many involve release of repressed heat retention resulting from early universe relationship traumas and gas damage from abnormal bipolar alignment and colour-blindness as a result of standing too close to the Big Bang. Early degenerative solar disease, exaggerated lordosis or scoliosis, and constriction of photons by hydrogen atoms probably caused distasteful molecular odour and temperature unstability. Reduced solar genital profiling thus would have encouraged excess helium growth and exaggerated pulmonary halitosis resulting in discharge of pus and an extraordinary amount of scabs and itching. Some forms of solar dwarfism have been known to be associated with disordered functions in nearby constellation groupings, such as the Big Dipper or Orion's Colander. An indication of this sucked-out effect was noted when one of the early Apollo astronauts reported, after eating his first meal on the moon: "The food was good, but the place lacked atmosphere."

I hope this helps. If not, you might take solace (boom boom) from the following song, attributed to Brian's Wiltin' and the Beach Boners, which was omitted from their seminally fluid album, 'Pest Sounds', (Stephen Hawkings' personal favourite limbo record): (Sunsong)


Reality TV Hamas-style
Big Brother this summer is the usual mix of tears, tantrums and semi-nudity. Reality TV in the soon-to-be Islamist mini-state of Gaza is rather different. We mass-produce annoying Z-list celebrities. Hamas' Al-Aqsa TV looks like it's training kids to be suicide bombers. This is an excerpt from May 31st, showing an end-of-term performance by the kindergarten class of the Islamic Association in Gaza:

Host: Stay with us to watch this performance by the Children of Palestine.
The Children:
"Allah Akbar. Praise be to Allah.
Allah Akbar. Praise be to Allah.
Allah Akbar. Praise be to Allah.
Allah Akbar. Praise be to Allah.
Who is your role model? The Prophet.
What is your path? Jihad.
What is your most lofty aspiration?
- Death for the sake of Allah."

(A looooooooooong way from Sesame Street, Alastair...)


After revelations that some of their club members were out with local footballer, Alan Didak, the HELLS ANGELS have released a statement claiming that they had no knowledge that their members were mixing with the Collingwood team players and they will be launching a full investigation to find and suspend the members concerned:
"Its simply unacceptable and stupid behaviour for our members to be associating with these types of people. Our members are role models and should know better, " said the Club President.
(thanks to Robynan - watch your back!)



God is Not Great - How Religion Poisons Everything
by Christopher Hitchens

"Steven Hawking is not a believer, and when invited to Rome to meet the late Pope Paul II asked to be shown the records of the trial of Galileo." Christopher Hitchens

Did you know that a cow is closer in family to a whale than a horse? Or that 99% of all species that have ever appeared on the earth have become extinct? And why does heaven hate HAM so much? How about this little thought:
" . .far from being a monoglot screed, the Koran is far better understood once it is conceded that many of its words are Syriac-Aramaic, rather than Arabic . . . concerning the rewards of a 'martyr' in paradise, when retranslated and redacted, the heavenly offering consists of sweet white raisins, rather than virgins . . ."

Ouch! That's enough to make you take your finger off the trigger of your suicide-bomb vest.

This book is a bold read and hard to put down. Hitchens takes on the three main monotheisms with razor-sharp intellect and wit: Judaism and Christianity, of course, but is unafraid of even casting his cold accurate light on Islam, which should earn him a fatwa or two in today's humid climate. So if he is willing to risk his life to tell it like it is, I encourage you to go out and read it. We need more courageous voices willing to speak out in an intelligent and learned way to continue to illuminate these fundamentalist and repressive defective belief structures that continue to serve as refuge for the unlearned, semiliterate . . . and fearful. Favourite quote, so far, (I'm still reading):

" If [the King's] English was good enough for Jesus, then it's good enough for me."
Miriam 'Ma' Ferguson, first woman governor of Texas, in the 20s, when asked if the Bible should also be taught in Spanish.

Seems like George W Bush's fruitcake hasn't fallen far from the Cactus.

Further Reading:
Scholars Are Quietly Offering New Theories of the Koran
". . .the virgins who are supposedly awaiting good Islamic martyrs as their reward in paradise are in reality 'white raisins' of crystal clarity rather than fair maidens." Christoph Luxenberg
"Mr. Luxenberg has traced the passages dealing with paradise to a Christian text called Hymns of Paradise by a fourth-century author. Mr. Luxenberg said the word paradise was derived from the Aramaic word for garden and all the descriptions of paradise described it as a garden of flowing waters, abundant fruits and white raisins, a prized delicacy in the ancient Near East. In this context, white raisins, mentioned often as hur, Mr. Luxenberg said, makes more sense than a reward of sexual favors." (article)

Middle Management

Recently a large corporation hired several cannibals to increase their diversity.

"You are all part of our team now,"said the Human Resources rep during the welcoming briefing. "You get all the usual benefits and you can go to the cafeteria for something to eat, but please don't eat any employees."

The cannibals promised they would not.

Four weeks later their boss remarked,"You're all working very hard and I'm satisfied with your work. We have noticed a marked increase in the whole company's performance. However, one of our secretaries has disappeared. Do any of you know what happened to her?"

The cannibals all shook their heads,"No".

After the boss had left, the leader of the cannibals said to the others,
"Which one of you idiots ate the secretary?"
A hand rose hesitantly -
"You fool!"- the leader continued, "for four weeks we've been eating the Middle Managers and no one noticed anything- but NOOooo, you had to go and eat someone who actually does something".
(thanks to Jim Testa)



Hey Joe,
RE: The Beatles - The Beach Boys
My dear Friend, the week off has done amazing things to you. You are on FIRE . . I have always thought that about the Beatles vs The Beach Boys but were too afraid to say it. Now that I am not in Radio. . The Beach Boys SUCK BIG TIME. . there I've said it. Does this mean that when I go to live in California in October that I don't have to wear those bloody beach shirts and boardies. Keep doing what you do. I Love it. Remember. . 'Where there is Hair, there is Happiness.' Can I use that???? Best Wishes and Congratulations to you and Lin. That's got to be a record in Rock and Roll. . X Peace. . Out. . Gavin Wood

(Note: Gavin, see? Good things have happened to your mind since that bump on the head you suffered during the last Countdown Spectacular Tour. Thanks for being honest. Thanks also for the congrats on our 27th anniversary. Too bad there isn't a Hall of Fame for Relationships.)
Re: The Bleach Boys
Having never lived in the 50s and 60s (much less survived them), I cannot directly relate to your feelings on The Beautiful People vs. The Uglies.  However, I can see the stark result of what decades have done to the different styles, origins of the music and the music itself which accompanied the cultures.  People still buy Rolling Stones records.  True, people still buy Beach Boys CDs - but I think that's where the semblance ends and the chasm of difference opens.  I think one of the most pertinent facets is that young people (no, not us 24 year olds - YOUNG people) are STILL buying Rolling Stones gear.  Is it because The Stones are cool?  Probably somewhat.  But The Stones are more than cool - they are a band which have created some of the greatest music of the last 60 years and continue to do so.  People still take interest in the Rolling Stones not only for who they WERE - but for who they are, still, today.  Their music is still relevant.  The Beach Boys' music existed for a reason which is, today, long gone. I saw The Rolling Stones at Stadium Australia a year or two ago.  Truth be told, I'd also see Brian Wilson if he decided to tour here one day.  That is, if he could stand up, or remember the words. Regards, Andrew Bicknell

re: The Bleach Boys
Well said! Steve

(Note: Folks, I recommend Steve's Site. Here is a sample of one of the sub-menus:)

Wow, Joe,
Re: Pet Sounds
All these people like Randy Newman, Tom Petty, and even the Beatles themselves have told me that Pet Sounds was nothing short of a masterpiece, perhaps the single most important influence in the creation of Sgt. Pepper's (in the same way that Wilson acknowledges Rubber Soul as the most important influence in the creation of Pet Sounds). You bring up The Rolling Stones. When Pet Sounds came out, the manager of the Stones took out a full-page ad telling people to go buy the record because he too thought it was amazing, maybe the best pop record ever made. All these years I've shared that opinion myself. Thanks for setting me straight! John William Davis

(Notes: Dear John William, you say Randy Newman, Tom Petty, and the Beatles told you . . . .? That's pretty illustrious company, m'boy. Lucky you. I've only had the privilege of channeling John Lennon once in a seance conducted by a Mexican woman who looked a lot like Diego Rivera. Although it's been claimed that the Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham placed unsolicited advertisements lauding the album in British music papers, a trawl of the UK pop press for 1966 failed to uncover any such advert. I know Sir Paul McCartwheel liked the album. But I've never heard of John, George or Ringo mentioning it anywhere as an influence. John was looking for something in a completely different direction. Remember, Brian Wilson was a poor lyricist, hence Lennon's attraction to early Bob Dylan, social activism and ultimately, Yoko - leading to his most enduring song ever, 'Imagine'. On the other hand, McCartwheel's progression has been retrograde, becoming more saccharin, less memorable bass parts, practically immune to language as a true inspiration, politically apathetic, with pap such as 'She's Leaving Home,' leading to 'Wings,' (groan) and a slew of forgettable solo albums and even more forgettable classical compositions, etc, which illuminate his complete stagnation as a lyricist, (but, strangely he became a billionaire and a Knight of the Square Table on the way. Do you think that might say something about what his priorities and motivations were?)

Aww, come on Joe,
Don't pick on Brian Wilson - he's deaf in one ear after being beaten up by his Dad, who also manipulated his career and pushed him away from channeling his talent into more artistic and less commercial endeavours - and his cousin (Mike Love) was the one with all the poxy "girls and cars" lyrics and corny ideas - Brian, who famously never surfed and hated the beach, was the psychedelic (and psychologically unstable) one who wanted to explore musical and lyrical creativity, but the others wouldn't let him in case he killed their golden goose. Even Dennis had more artistic integrity in his left fingernail than Mike Love had in his whole body!!!! Dig up some Brian Wilson songs like "Until I Die" to find out what he would have been capable of had he not been surrounded by idiots. Apart from that I agree with everything else you said. Don't knock the Bri !! Best regards Justine Stewart
(Notes: Di, my dad used to hit me too until I was deaf in one eye. I still have trouble to this day making an F# aug dim with a raised 6, flatted 5 chord, in third position. Beethoven was stonedeaf. He also didn't care much for the beach. Brian Wilson's one good ear was one of the reasons he preferred mixing in mono rather than stereo. Dylan once said, "That ear - I mean, Jesus, he's got to will that to the Smithsonian." Considering the songs Dylan has been writing lately, I'm wondering which ear he was referring to?
It is said that Brian Wilson became despondent and depressed for months after he heard 'Sgt. Pepper,' which followed 'Pet Sounds'. This could have been for different reasons. Naturally, the music, concept, production, and songs on the new Beatles' album were another step forward, and extraordinary. But another little mentioned fact is that 'Sgt Pepper' was accepted by the press and public as a masterpiece from the day it was released, whereas 'Pet Sounds' was not , did not sell as well as their previous albums and actually was pretty much back burner for many years. It is obvious from the style of pop song that Wilson wrote most of his life that one of his driving priorities was being liked by his brothers and being popular - (why else would someone who didn't even like surfing, write nothing but surf songs for a half decade, except to please others and make money?) This critical snubbing must have crushed him, especially as he considered 'Pet Sounds' his most personal and conceptual statement. But just imagine how despondent he would have been had the mighty 'Penny Lane' and 'Strawberry Fields' also been included on 'Sgt Pepper' as was originally intended? And please, don't anyone play him the ultimate choral and melodic masterpiece of all time, 'St Matthew's Passion,' by JS Bach. He's liable to have another breakdown and regress to writing 'Surfing Grandma' doo-wop again.)


Hey Joe,
Re: Pet Sounds
 We are mates, but, mate, get it right! Pet Sounds was not in response to Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Pet Sounds was released on May 16, 1966. The first take of the first track of what became Sgt Pepper's. When I'm 64, was recorded on Thursday, December 6, 1966. Pet Sounds was a robust response to Revolver, which many smarty-pants revisionists now claim as the Beatles' supreme moment. May I remind them that the single from Revolver was Yellow Submarine. Let's just have that sink in for a moment.
 Pet Sounds has many more good songs on it than you give credit. Wouldn't It Be Nice was, well, nice. It's B-side was God Only Knows. Now that's the track that shook McCartney. While Lennon had already been inspired by Dylan, McCartney remained indifferent. But God Only Knows switched something on in his head about the possibilities of the popular song. Sgt Pepper's was born. McCartney has admitted to being profoundly influenced by only two other songs: Ferry 'Cross The Mersey and Bridge Over Troubled Water. Perhaps he has a liquid obsession. Interestingly, McCartney is on record only once as wishing he written a song by another - Ferry 'Cross The Mersey. He wrote Long And Winding Road in response to Paul Simon.
 But Pet Sounds' best moments are elsewhere. Don't Talk is beautiful. As is Caroline No. Let's Go Away For Awhile is daring and remains interesting. Sloop John B is a corker pop song. You Still Believe In Me and I Just Wasn't Made For These Times are better songs than It's Getting Better off Sgt Pepper's. Sir George Martin told me in Melbourne over dinner a few years back that to restore Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields on to Sgt Pepper's - songs he criminally agreed to strip from the album so EMI could have a pot-boiler Beatles' single - he would have canned Getting Better and cut deeply into George Harrison's Within You Without You. "It was always too long," he told me.
 Personally, I'd have dropped She's Leaving Home for, well, anything else they had at hand. McCartney was trying to reprise Eleanor Rigby from Revolver and failed. But it is an interesting track - McCartney is the only Beatle to appear on it.
 Nonetheless, Sgt Pepper's changed rock'n'roll and popular culture. And it established the Beatles as the first band to be in command of their destiny. They spent what then appeared to be a fortune on the recordings, they had automatic double tracking, and other breakthroughs, developed for it, they drove the expensive cover art and they oversaw the timetable for everything. They even insisted the lyrics be printed on the cover. A band was in charge. A record company compliantly agreed. The result is rock's unquestionable, if flawed, masterpiece.
 Pet Sounds' cover is a literally-inspired picture with animals in a zoo and a dinky 50s-like cover - any self-deprecation is accidental.
 I like Pet Sounds and will play it until I pop my clogs. Indeed, I'll likely play it more often between now and then than I will Sgt Pepper's. But only because the genius, daring and invention of Sgt Pepper's means it is hard-wired into my being and regularly plays there, unsummoned, any day you like. Alan Howe

(Notes: Dear Alan, thanks for the most enlightening letter. In fact, I was so impressed by your arguments that I went out and bought 'Pet Sounds' again. I had a good listen this afternoon while doing some ironing. I can say that now, with time and experience, I think I can see why 'Pet Sounds' did not become 'hardwired' into me, as you so perfectly put it, like the great Beatles albums have.

I put this down to these main flaws

(a) Brian Wilson's production obsession with trying to emulate the Phil Spector wall of sound approach which clutters up excellent songwriting, with unneccesary and forced Beach Boy dynamics, such as timpani crashes, loud and soft, stops and starts, for no good reason, and the like. In comparison, Beatle arrangements are always very clean and clear, with a lot of space, and easily remembered. I attribute this more to George Martin's genius than Lennon-McCartney.

(b) the lack of strong instrumental theme ideas, single distinctive instrument colour and riffs that clearly define one song from another (much like the instrumental themes of 'Daytripper', 'Ticket to Ride', and 'Strawberry Fields.' Most Beatles' songs declare their unique identity from the very first bars. The most Zen-like example of this is the opening chord to 'Hard Day's Night.') Very few of the songs on 'Pet Sounds' have these kind of imaginative themes. Also, usually there was only one instrument of unique colour for each Beatle song. ie sitar guitar: Norwegian Wood, harpsichord: In My Life, fuzz bass: Wait, backwards guitar: I'm Only Sleeping, etc. Revolver and Rubber Soul sound like they were made by a creative band whose synergy is greater than the sum of the individual members. Pet Sounds sounds like it was produced by one person surrounded by a group of musicians who did not respect each other's musical visions very much.

For one second, let's imagine that the Beatles and George Martin had the Pet Sounds collection of songs to record - and Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys had the Revolver or Rubber Soul songs to record. Which team would have produced a record better than the one existing and which team would have produced one not as good?

Here are some further reflections:

1. The catalyst for Pet Sounds was not Sgt Pepper, I was mistaken, but, in fact, was Rubber Soul, not Revolver:
'I really wasn't quite ready for the unity. It felt like it all belonged together. Rubber Soul was a collection of songs ... that somehow went together like no album ever made before, and I was very impressed. I said, "That's it. I really am challenged to do a great album."' Brian Wilson

2. In Australia, the album was only released under the title The Fabulous Beach Boys on the Music for Pleasure label. Imagine releasing the Sgt Pepper album in Australia under The Fabulous Beatles. Such a thing would have been unthinkable.

3. The album title song, Pet Sounds, is an under-written instrumental track that originally was called 'Run James Run' as Wilson was planning on offering it as the theme song for a James Bond movie. The original song had lyrics but he decided that the song worked better without vocals so changed the title. The two instrumental tracks on the album are completely out of place and should have either been left off or proper songs written from them. Instrumental tracks in those days were used as album filler due to lack of enough good material to make a full album. Feels to me like they were rushing for a deadline and weren't really ready yet. This is also indicated by the fact that 'Good Vibrations' was originally intended to go on the album but Brian Wilson wasn't happy with the version they had done and wanted to record it again.

4. The album's artwork cheapens it. Completely unaesthetic. Compare this artwork to any of the Beatle albums. There is no comparison. The artwork for the cover of 'Rubber Soul' with its brown and dark green earth tones and beautiful photo portraits still influences me to this day. The 'Pet Sounds' album cover has no art design and looks like one of those budget compilation records that the record chains put out.

5. Concept Albums: Sometimes what the concept actually IS is quite difference than what the artist tells you it is. The passage of enough time usually unifies most album tracks into something distinctive, no matter what the artist might have originally intended. For instance, 'Music From Big Pink,' by The Band, 'Blonde on Blonde', by Dylan, and 'Help', by The Beatles. The first two were just albums of songs, the third a soundtrack for a film. But with almost three decades of time between now and their creation, it is obvious that all three of these albums have strong themes and a emotional unity that makes them more than the sums of their parts, and unique.
For someone who is not that good with language, Brian Wilson has written reams of raves on what the concept of Pet Sounds is. The themes are simply a collection of mostly tender observations on love and relationships. Tony Asher, the co-writer, who is sadly ignored in most of the genius hoop-a-la, declared that he was only Wilson's interpreter for the lyric writing. What language did Brian speak that he needed an interpreter? These lyrics were written, for the most part, by Tony Asher - and they express his emotional imagination, not Brian Wilson's, whose emotions I beleive are more clearly expressed via his musical ideas and arrangements. (Much in the same way that Bach's music expressed more accurately his mystical understanding of Spirit, rather than the literal New Testament Christian Lutheran librettos of his writing collaborators.)
Pet Sounds really has nothing to do with The Beach Boys, at all, and shouldn't have been produced as a Beach Boys album, but as a solo Brian Wilson album, with a much more stripped down and Zen-like production and better instrumental themes, and separate musical song colour, in my opinion, to highlight the individuality of the songs themselves rather than this derivative and dated Phil Spector approach. The album will always be identified with Brian anyway, not the band. The title 'Pet Sounds' is poor and wrong for the romantic themes of the record. (But I guess when you stop and think about it, Revolver and even Rubber Soul, as much as I love them, are pretty lame titles. I guess no one really stopped and thought too much back then.)
I think Brian Wilson really would have preferred to make a solo album - he was trying to extract himself from the band's mundane Baywatch philosophy, but couldn't break free of his family ties.

7. The Long and Endless Testimonials:
Eric Clapton: "I consider Pet Sounds to be one of the greatest pop LPs to ever be released. It encompasses everything that's ever knocked me out and rolled it all into one."
Elton John: "Pet Sounds is a landmark album. It is a timeless and amazing recording of incredible genius and beauty."
George Martin: "Sgt. Pepper was an attempt to equal Pet Sounds."
MOJO magazine: "The Greatest Album Ever Made."
German magazine Spex: The best album of the 20th Century
Rolling Stone: #2 on list of the 500 greatest albums of all time behind only Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Are these illustrious folks serious? Everyone of the Beatle albums up to and including Sgt Pepper is more cohesive and has more memorable songs, emotion and production ideas than Pet Sounds. Even back as far as Meet the Beatles. Do you know what other albums, just off the top of my head, are also more groundbreaking on every level? 'Music from Big Pink' (The Band), 'Are You Experienced? (Hendrix). 'Blonde on Blonde' (Dylan), 'Blue' (Joni Mitchell), 'Mr Tambourine Man' (The Byrds), The first three Rolling Stones records, 'Astral Weeks' (Van Morrison) - take your pick amongst the Yardbirds, Cream, Led Zeppelin, the Youngbloods. . . the mind boggles. I could name probably 50 more albums that were more powerful, had more unity and were influential to the musicians around me in the early 70s. The fact that this record is placed above them in importance is ridiculous.

Upon re-listening to Pet Sounds once again after so many years, I finally was able to grasp what was going on - and hear the separate songs individually for the first time. Believe it or not, I just couldn't be bothered previously wading through the jerky dynamics, wall of sound and instrumental filler on the record to extract the beautiful songs that I now see are there. That's why I gave up listening on previous tries. But this time, I gave it a more disciplined listen and I think heard for the first time about five songs that I didn't even know existed. I also can feel the genuine emotion and sincerity of the vocals - there are several very plaintive and moving performances that sometimes suggest Richard Manuel, of the Band.
But I think the most amazing thing of all is that I was so blissfully unaware how profoundly this record has influenced other artists over the years, and how wide spread the praise and testimonials were - as it didn't influence me in any profound way whatsoever. I'm not joking. I must have been on the same page as Who drummer Keith Moon, when he told NME, "There's nothing revolutionary about the album."

So, thanks Alan, and those of you who took the time to write me in response to last weeks comments. I heard the album differently on this listen, and I really liked most of the songs. I even took the time to figure out the interesting chords to 'God Only Knows.'

Then, after listening to 'Pet Sounds' twice, just for fun, I put on 'Rubber Soul' and 'Revolver' once again to compare

And, once again, I understood why it didn't really get through to me back then. There really is NO COMPARISON with the two Beatle masterpieces. Just look at this mighty song list from those two albums - which PRECEDED Pet Sounds, folks, and you tell me which songs you can hum, and are part of your genetic makeup and which ones you barely remember the words and tunes to. (Forget about that lame term 'concept album': each one of these masterpieces has carved out its own unique identity):







And we are not even talking about 'Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,' which came afterwards and kicked the beachball into another ocean altogether.
(I think it is also appropriate at this time to once again remind everyone that a BBC poll voted 'Sgt Pepper' the Worst Album of All Time. This is why I do not listen to the opinions of the so-called experts and especially the media. As George Harrison once said, 'Think for yourself, 'cause I won't be there with you." )

I don't care if an infinite number of knighted monkeys with an infinite number of golden typewriters write an infinite amount of critical stupidity, I am not persuaded that 'Pet Sounds' improved on the two magnificent Beatle albums that came before it, nor on many of the other excellent rock album masterpieces that were released during that time. Certainly, it might have encouraged more multi-tracking and overdubbing, even the advent of the 24 track recorder - but in my view, that's not necessarily a positive thing. The Beatles recorded with 4 track machines. Elvis recorded his best material on two. Like Schoenberg's serialism, excessive production and multi-tracking may yet prove to be one long detour from what is essential in music.

But one thing is certain. I won't be selling my third copy of 'Pet Sounds'. I like listening to it now. Who said I doesn't have an open mind?)




3-4 servings

5 tablespoons olive oil
1 cinnamon stick
1 medium onion, peeled cut in half into very thin rings
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch slices
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons white raisins
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon sugar

Put the oil in a wide sauté pan or large frying pan and set over medium high heat. When hot, put in cinnamon stick and the onion. Sauté for about 3 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and stir. Continue to sauté another 6 to 7 minutes or until the onion begins to turn light brown and the sweet potatoes have picked up a little color. Add 3/4 cup of water the salt, ginger, raisins, cayenne, and sugar. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and cook gently for 7 to 9 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender. There should be almost no liquid left in the pan, except for a little oil (if there is, uncover and boil the liquid off). Serve hot with fresh green beans or a rice pilaf. Good meal to start off the Afterlife with.



Psalm 122
I rejoiced when I heard them announce,
"The time of warfare is past.
No more will brother hate brother
or violence have its way.
No more will they drown out God's silence
and shut their hearts to his song."
Pray for peace in the cities
and harmony among the races.
May peace come to live on our streets
and justice within our walls.
With all my heart I will pray
that peace comes to live among us.
For the sake of all earth's people,
I will do my utmost for peace.
(The Psalms, trans. by Stephen Mitchell)



Best Country Song Lyric of the Week

"Since my phone still ain't ringing, I assume it still ain't you."