Sunday, May 6, 2012

Discuss: Old-School Boy Bands

Doug:  My family is gearing up to see Jersey Boys in Chicago for the second time.  That got me to thinking about some of the "boy bands" of earlier times.  Any fans of the Four Seasons out there?  How about the Beach Boys?  We're not looking for critiques of any all male band, but instead those acts that relied on wonderful harmonies, and even where much of the music may have been provided by studio musicians.  Thoughts?


david_b said...

Lots of boy bands from our distant past have come and gone, depending on your definition of a 'boy band', George Harrison on occasion referred to the Fabs tongue-in-cheek as one of the old 'boy bands', but I like the inclusion of the Beach Boys.

I'm not a career-long fan of the group, but at their peak being considered even with the Beatles as far as sales and industry influence for a few years, they definitely were a force.

Loved Brian Wilson's Pet Sounds on so many levels. For you Macca fans, 'God Only Knows' is one of the only songs McCartney cannot sing without crying. THAT is a testament to Wilson's stirring work. As Doug has appreciated my ramblings in the past, I love a good mix of a few instruments, the juxaposition of a couple of instruments to produce a cool rich tapestry of sound even cooler. This is SO evident and innovated on 'Pet Sounds', which really challenged Macca to come up with Revolver and Pepper, as he said on many interviews. The vocals arrangements alone also proudly display Wilson at his pinnacle.

Wasn't a big seller, but many a musician really took note of it's innovation.

And to think it was only done in Mono because Wilson is deaf in one ear. Amazing.

Anonymous said...

Harrison may have been joking, but in the first phase of their popularity, the Beatles were indeed a boy band, and they pretty much set the model for all subsequent boy bands in the way they were packaged and marketed: the clean-cut image and matching outfits, the appeal to (mainly) teenage girls, the over-simplified "personalities" for each member (i.e., the 'quiet one,' the 'funny one,' etc.) - it's all there.
The only thing that set the Beatles apart from most of the typical boy bands is that besides being capable vocalists, all of them were talented musicians (in some cases phenomenally so), and they were able to move forward to a new phase and shed their bubble-gum image.

Edo Bosnar said...

...sorry the 'Anonymous' comment up there is me...

david_b said...

Edo, great comments. One of the highest praises for the Fabs is how it changed how the industry looked at group dynamics. First off, you never had a 'guitar band' like the Beatles achieve that level of fame, which introduced member titles as 'Lead Guitarist' George H. or 'Bassist' Paul M. Not to get too far on a Beatle-tangent, but if you look at all groups prior, regardless of instrument they played, company promos never really made that distinction. Nor felt the need to.

Also along those lines, thanks in part to McCartney (but more to Motown hit records in the 60s..), the bass player never had any recognition in the industry until the mid-60s. The bass was always relegated to 'that fat kid in the background', but soon gave folks like Geddy Lee, Bill Wyman and John Entwistle more prominance.

Roygbiv666 said...

david_b's comment on "Pet Sounds" not being a big seller prompted me to look into that. The first Google hit came up as:
"Lost Paperwork to Blame for "Pet Sounds" Meager Sales Numbers":

It also reached:
-US Billboard Hot 200 Albums Chart 10, and
-UK Top 40 Album Chart 2

but I'm not sure how they relate (sales rank vs "gold" and such like).

Also - I was a huge Beach Boys (and Brian Wilson) fanatic in university. The recurring comparisons to the Beatles are convenient from orienting someone unfamiliar with the band to corresponding periods in the Beatles' development, but their work stands on its own. (Nobody feels compelled to always compare the Four Tops with the Temptations).

The Beach Boys did fade out to studio musicians for their recordings, for a variety of reasons, one of them being that after Brian Wilson retired from touring, it freed him up to compose, arrange, record, and produce the background music while the Boys were on the road. (Who the heck in a rock band plays cello or electro-theremin?).

If you're only familiar with the work from the hits, it's a bit like thinking the Beatles (there it is!) can be summed up with "Love Me Do", "She Loves You", and "Yellow Submarine". Fine songs, but not exactly the whole story. (see "CabinEssence" and "Tomorrow Never Knows" ... etc.)

End of rant.

Anonymous said...


My wife is crazy for Jersey Boys and has seen it several times. We saw it as a family for the first time in New York last summer (because said wife insisted. She has good taste). And since you said "second time" as a family, I think I know how you feel about it. To anyone who has never seen it, if you have an opportunity - GO!

As to others - I am a Beatles and Beach Boys freak. I'll throw Crosby, Stills & Nash (and sometimes Young) into the mix as having just beautiful harmonies.


Anonymous said...

I love the Beach boys, but I think some of their more interesting songs (e.g. Heroes & Villains) are less catchy / successful than the more obvious ones (California Dreaming). There are wonderful crossovers, like Good Vibrations, which is interesting and melodic, but generally I feel a tension between the two.

If I had to pick an all-boy band with wonderful harmonies (and this is cheating), from our era, I’d go for ELO. Lynne’s compositions are incredible, esp. on those middle albums, and his ability to write a catchy pop song and then score it for an orchestra and choir was, I think , unsurpassed. When Louis Clark arrived at Heathrow to take the scores for Out of the Blue to Germany (full orchestra, 90 person choir) he had to take it as freight because of the sheer tonnage of the paper.


B Smith said...

ELO a boy band?

Now I've heard everything!

Anonymous said...

LOL ...good point, but I was using Doug’s definition: “ We're not looking for critiques of any all male band, but instead those acts that relied on wonderful harmonies”.

But I agree, ELO are only a boy band on the same strange planet where, well, the Beatles, Beach Boys, Four Tops & Temptations are boy bands.


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