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Cutting-Room Floor

Brian Wilson's Secret Bedroom Tapes: A Track-by-Track Description

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Wed, Mar 5, 2014 at 8:27 AM
click to enlarge Brian Wilson tallies receipts at his Radiant Radish vitamin store in West Hollywood, 1971 - COURTESY OF WARNER BROS. MUSIC
  • Courtesy of Warner Bros. Music
  • Brian Wilson tallies receipts at his Radiant Radish vitamin store in West Hollywood, 1971
As described in our recent cover story, it turns out that Brian Wilson - leader of the Beach Boys and notorious recluse during the early 1970s - wasn't just lying around in bed letting his beard grow.

See also: Brian Wilson's Secret Bedroom Tapes

Rather, from 1968-1974 he amassed a huge quantity of songs that fed Beach Boys albums, side projects and his own solo career for many years to come.

The individual tracks comprise the "Bedroom Tapes," as I've defined them. 

I was lucky enough to hear most of these tracks, currently being held at the Beach Boys' archive in Burbank and in the hands of Wilson collaborators from the period.

Sadly, many can't be heard by the public - not yet, at least.

Still, they deserve deeper inspection, which you will find below. 

click to enlarge Rare 45 sleeve of Brian Wilson A-side from 1968. - COURTESY OF THE AUTHOR
  • Courtesy of the author
  • Rare 45 sleeve of Brian Wilson A-side from 1968.
Note: A studio was installed in the living room of Wilson's Bel Air mansion in 1967, and was dismantled in 1972. Albums recorded between the summer of 1967 and the spring of 1968 -  Smiley Smile, Wild Honey and Friends  - were homemade, lo-fi Wilson productions, though they were tracked at Wally Heider Studios and ID Sound, as well as Wilson's home. 

His retreat as leader of the Beach Boys seems to have occurred in the summer of '68, following a brief stint in a mental institution, and lasted until 1975, when the band appointed an experimental psychologist to coax him back into official Beach Boys activity. In any case, all of this is to say that the "Bedroom Tapes" moniker represents an era - rather than a specific project. 


"I'd Love Just Once to See You" (alternate version) - This newly-unearthed version of the Wild Honey album track boasts an extended tag, whose quirky bounce could mark the onset of the "Bedroom" sound.

"Whistle In" (alternate versions) - Alternately, one could argue that a number of spirited takes of "Whistle In," from summer '67, are characteristic of the way Wilson attached himself to a basic riff and noodled with it endlessly during the 'Bedroom' years.

"Our Happy Home" - By spring 1968, a number of unrealized Friends outtakes were tracked, which too foreshadow the intimacy of Wilson's early '70s stockpile. "Our Happy Home" is a short, bouncy riff that maintains the gentle air of the Friends sessions.

"New Song" - A tape under this label features the slowed-down melody of what later becomes Friends rocker, "Transcendental Meditation"; the bridge to "New Song" is what has long been described by collectors as "Spanish Guitar Song."

"Even Stephen" - This is actually an early version of the Friends cut "Busy Doin' Nothin'," with slightly different lyrics.

"You're As Cool As Can Be" - Another instrumental from the Friends sessions, this time an upbeat, driving melody pounded out by Wilson at the piano.

"All I Wanna Do" (1968 version) - Wilson also cut an early version of the gorgeous Sunflower ballad, "All I Wanna Do," which in '68 featured a sitar, but no lyrics.

"Walkin'" - Versions of "Walkin'" were recorded in 1968 and in '70, both featuring spirited vocals by Brian Wilson. The song has been bootlegged, but never copyrighted. Some believe "Walkin'" was actually written by Al Jardine and only sung by Wilson.

"My Little Red Book" - Wilson's solo piano version of Burt Bacharach's "My Little Red Book" was also tracked during the Friends sessions. It too is long known to Beach Boys fans and bootleg collectors.

"Sail Plane Song" - A strange psychedelic ballad played by Wilson solo at the piano in summer 1968 eventually got transformed by Al Jardine into a full production, retitled "Loop de Loop," during the 1970 Sunflower sessions. Both "Sail Plane Song" and "Loop de Loop" were released in 1998 on the soundtrack to VH1's Beach Boys documentary, Endless Harmony.

"We're Together Again" - This was recorded in the aftermath of Friends and was reissued in 1990 on the Capitol Records two-in-one CD of the Beach Boys' Friends/20-20 albums.

"Old Man River" - A very Friends-esque version of this was issued also on the Friends/20-20 twofer. A slower, more harmonically-complex version, in which session tapes reveal Wilson's then-acute anxiety, came out on the Beach Boys' 2001 rarities collection, Hawthorne, CA. This marks the turning point in Wilson's reduced role in band recordings.

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