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Music / The Paley Sessions

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Andy and Brian on the cover of one of numerous bootlegs associated with the sessions.

The Paley Sessions refer to a period where Beach Boy Brian Wilson was collaborating with Andy Paley on tracks which would end up in an upcoming Brian Wilson solo album or a Beach Boys album. These sessions resulted in dozens of songs recorded yet unreleased for the most part.

The first songs Brian recorded with Andy can be traced back to the late eighties, back when they were working on Brian's debut album. However, a great amount of songs was recorded between 1992 and 1994 when Brian was finally free from the control of his psychiatrist Eugene Landy.

Most of the tracks recorded are reflective of Brian's earlier work, he recalled having a great time working with Andy and even compared him to Phil Spector in terms of talent. Brian also had much more creative control compared to his previous projects and he claimed that "around 40 songs" were recorded during that period.

The Sessions were also a possibility for The Beach Boys to record a new album (after 1992's Summer in Paradise). However, recording sessions involving the other Beach Boys were tumultuous, notably due to Carl Wilson who didn't like the songs and even walked out of the studio during the recording of one song, on top of not wanting "Soul Searchin'" to be released as he was not happy with the production. This (along with other perceived slights between the brothers nearly permanently wrecked their once close relationship, although they made up a few weeks before Carl's death from lung cancer. There was also conflict involving Brian's wife Melinda and how she may have coerced him towards working with producer Joe Thomas and making music that is closer to Adult Contemporary. Such reasons remain uncleared but Brian sure was vocal about the other Beach Boys being a hindrance to his project, to the point of calling them "a bunch of assholes" during an interview at the time.

The Beach Boys did end up releasing an album during that period, except it was the Country cover album Stars and Stripes Vol. 1 which didn't involve Andy at all. The commercial failure of that album prevented The Beach Boys from releasing any other original album (until 2012's That's Why God Made the Radio) and songs from the Paley Sessions were shelved (but it didn't stop them from being bootlegged. This wasn't the end for Andy and Brian, however, as the two would occasionally collaborate on future songs.

The Paley Sessions were brought up again when Brian released his solo album Gettin' In Over My Head which contains rerecordings of songs from those sessions (as well as songs recorded for the cancelled album Sweet Insanity). Outside of this album, other songs were finally released on the compilation Playback: The Brian Wilson Anthology and the soundtrack album of the Long Promised Road documentary.

Tracklist note 

  1. "Chain Reaction Of Love"
  2. "Dancin' The Night Away
  3. "Desert Drive"
  4. "Elbow '64"
  5. "Everything I Need"
  6. "Fantasy Is Reality/Bells Of Madness"
  7. "Frankie Avalon"
  8. "Gettin' In Over My Head"
  9. "God Did It"
  10. "Goin' Home"
  11. "I'm Broke"
  12. "In My Moondreams"
  13. "It's Not Easy Being Me"
  14. "Marketplace"
  15. "Must Be A Miracle"
  16. "My Maryanne"
  17. "Proud Mary"
  18. "Saturday Morning In The City"
  19. "Slightly American Music"
  20. "Some Sweet Day"
  21. "Soul Searchin'"
  22. "Sweets For My Sweet"
  23. "This Could Be The Night"
  24. "This Isn't Love"
  25. "This Song Wants To Sleep With You Tonight"
  26. "What A Wonderful World"
  27. "What Rock And Roll Can Do"
  28. "You're Still A Mystery"

Slightly American Tropes:

  • Babies Make Everything Better: "Must Be A Miracle"
    Have you ever heard a newborn baby cry
    Mom and Dad sharin a tear of joy
    It's a seven pound four ounce little tiny baby boy
    Must be a miracle, must be a miracle
  • Celebrity Song: "Frankie Avalon"
  • Cover Version: "Proud Mary" by Ike and Tina Turner, "This Could Be The Night" by Modern Folk Quartet, Sweets For My Sweet by The Drifters and What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong.
  • Genre Roulette: Genres vary, from rock'n'roll bangers to tender pop ballads to gospel to Phil Spector-influenced sixties pop. The fact that all the songs come from a project which didn't turn into an album adds to the lack of cohesion.
  • Gospel Music: "God Did It" is influenced by previous gospel songs in The Beach Boys' catalogue (notably "He Come Down" and "That Same Song").
  • Instrumentals: "In My Moondreams", "Desert Drive" and "This Isn't Love"
  • Large Ham: Brian's vocal performance on "I'm Broke" stands out compared to other songs.
  • Let's Duet: "Everything I Need" (featuring Brian and his daugher Carnie).
  • Mundane Made Awesome: "Marketplace" and "Saturday Morning In The City".
  • Mythology Gag: The cover of "Proud Mary" features a light variation of the "Shortnin' Bread riff", a recurring element in The Beach Boys' history. It came from Brian's obsession with the nursery rhyme "Shortnin' Bread" he had during the seventies and it reappared through various tracks. It also appears on "Fantasy Is Reality/Bells Of Madness" on two occasions.
  • One-Woman Song: "My Maryanne".
  • One-Word Title: "Marketplace".
  • The Power of Love: "This Could Be The Night".
    Each time we kiss it takes a little bit longer
    And my love for you gets a little bit stronger
    And I feel like I'm sittin' on dynamite
  • Rearrange the Song: Some songs off the sessions were rerecorded for the Brian's 2004 album Gettin' In Over My Head.
  • Rockabilly: "Elbow '64". Andy Paley graces us with sweet Elvis-inspired ad libs.
  • Shout-Out: "Slightly American Music" is a tribute to the history of America and its music, referencing figures such as Robert E. Lee, Abraham Lincoln, Sitting Bull, Geronimo, American Bandstand, Fats Domino, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Phil Spector, The Beatles, The Ronettes Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Hank Williams, The Edsels, George Gershwin, Al Jolson and The Fourth Of July.
    • "Elbow '64" is supposedly referencing the rivalry between The Beach Boys and The Beatles.
  • Silly Love Songs: A lot! Notably "My Maryanne", "This Could Be The Night", "Sweets For My Sweet" and "Some Sweet Day"
  • Song Style Shift: "Fantasy Is Reality/Bells Of Madness" is a sweet soft ballad abruptly turning into a raucous banger on two occasions.
  • Special Guest: Brian's daughters Carnie and Wendy are featured on the songs "Fantasy Is Reality/Bells Of Madness" and "Everything I Need"
    • You could consider The Beach Boys as special guests since they only sang on two songs from the project ("You're Still A Mystery" and "Dancin' The Night Away") and later stopped any album opportunity from happening with those Paley sessions. Carl Wilson also sings on "Soul Searchin'".
  • There's No Place Like Home: "Goin' Home".
    I'm on my way to the place where I left my soul
  • This Is a Song: "This Song Want To Sleep With You Tonight".
    This song's a little blue
    Cause songs get lonely too
  • Vocal Tag Team: Brian sings with his daughter Carnie on two songs ("Fantasy Is Reality/Bells Of Madness" and "Everything I Need") and sings with Mike Love on "You're Still A Mystery". He also shares lead vocals with Andy on "Elbow '64".