Daily* Deep Track: Beach Boys “All I Wanna Do”

It’s pretty easy to pile on Mike Love, perhaps the most vilified performing musician in rock and roll history. He’s sued his own family numerous times, he’s been named as the
“stopper” when it comes to projects like “Smile” or anything involving oblique lyrics and complex musical structure.

To be fair, the Beach Boys probably still exist today as a performing act and business entity because Mike Love didn’t get lost in a haze of substance abuse, and always has had keen commercial instincts: he’s like that radio consultant that predictably says “you have to play the hits and nothing else,” and like them or hate them, they more often than not are right. We can’t have the Beach Boys without Mike Love, and he’s made sure of it.

That said, given all of the evidence floating around, Mike Love seems like the sort of person I’d rather not be around. He is not completely useless, however, as he is out front on some of my all-time favorite Beach Boys tracks, including today’s DDT.

One Beach Boys song that seems to slip on through the cracks in the conversation on Great Beach Boys Songs (see what I did there?) is a transcendent cut from the 1970 “Sunflower” album, “All I Wanna Do.” Mind you, this is not to be confused with the earlier Dennis Wilson-penned track “All I Want To Do” from “20/20,” nor is it the Dennis/Mike co-write from 1972’s “Holland,” “Only With You” (“All I wanna do/is spend my life with you”).

sunflower
The Beach Boys, a couple years away from becoming The Beard Boys

I woke up to the strains of “All I Wanna Do” this morning (well, technically I woke up to the damn cat wanting in/out/in/out of the bedroom within an hour of sunrise) as I somehow inadvertently set the song as my wake-up tone on my iPhone alarm.

“All I Wanna Do” is a Brian/Mike co-write, a song shrouded in an ever-so-slight psychedelic shimmer. The key element to this song, at least for my ears, are the ghostly backing vocals throughout. Certainly harmony is a Beach Boys trademark, but there’s a certain something to this particular backing vocal arrangement: When I hear the constantly building backing vocals in Fleetwood Mac’s 1979 hit “Sara,” I can’t help but think this particular track was a direct inspiration to Lindsey Buckingham, who was chiefly responsible for production of the “Tusk” album.

I’m going to see Brian Wilson next month when he plays “Pet Sounds” at Merrill Auditorium here in Portland. Certainly there will be other legendary tracks played: after all he has Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin in tow. I’m not counting on hearing “All I Wanna Do,” as it’s a pretty minor work considering the staggering Beach Boys canon; maybe I’ll hold out hope for a “Sunflower” tour, if Brian et al are up to it.

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