The Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions." --American Statesman Daniel Webster (1782-1852)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Monday Music "Sloop John B" by the Beach Boys

I know that this installment of Monday Music went out on Tuesday....Well

And scouts cut short my sleep and my Monday Music.  I also went to my sons graduation ceremony at his middle school.  He got student of the month and A&B honor roll.  5 A and 1 B, pretty good.

     I heard this song for the first time on that cassette tape that I bought full of 60's hit.  It was a real good song especially for a road trip.  Apparently the album "Pet Sounds" is one of the iconic albums of the 60's and I didn't know that until I saw a reference of it in "Bloom County".  I learned more about the album and it is very good.

"Sloop John B" is a traditional folk song from the Bahamas, also known as "The John B. Sails", which was included in Carl Sandburg's 1927 collection of folk songs The American Songbag. It is best known for its folk rock adaptation by the Beach Boys, which was produced and arranged by bandleader Brian Wilson. Released two months before their 11th studio album Pet Sounds (1966), it served as the lead single for the album, peaking at number 3 in the US and number 2 in the UK. In several other countries, the single was a number one hit.
Wilson based his version on the 1958 recording by the Kingston Trio, but took some liberties with the song's arrangement, changing a few lyrics, and at the suggestion of bandmate Al Jardine, modified one part of the song's chord progression to include a supertonic chord (ii). The Beach Boys' Brian Wilson, his brother Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and their friend Al Jardine all share lead vocal duties. The instrumentation was provided mostly by the session musician conglomerate nicknamed "the Wrecking Crew".
The song remains one of the group's best-remembered recordings of their mid 1960s period, containing an unusual and elaborate a cappella vocal section that was unlike anything in the pop music of its era. In 2011, the group's version of "Sloop John B" was ranked #276 on Rolling Stone's list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".

The Kingston Trio's 1958 recording of "The John B. Sails" was recorded under the title "The Wreck of the John B." It was the direct influence on the Beach Boys' version. The Beach Boys' Al Jardine was a keen folk music fan, and he suggested to Brian Wilson that the Beach Boys should do a cover version of the song. As Jardine explains:
"Brian was at the piano. I asked him if I could sit down and show him something. I laid out the chord pattern for 'Sloop John B.' I said, 'Remember this song?' I played it. He said, 'I'm not a big fan of the Kingston Trio.' He wasn't into folk music. But I didn't give up on the idea. So what I did was to sit down and play it for him in the Beach Boys idiom. I figured if I gave it to him in the right light, he might end up believing in it. So I modified the chord changes so it would be a little more interesting. The original song is basically a three-chord song, and I knew that wouldn't fly. So I put some minor changes in there, and it stretched out the possibilities from a vocal point of view. Anyway, I played it, walked away from the piano and we went back to work. The very next day, I got a phone call to come down to the studio. Brian played the song for me, and I was blown away. The idea stage to the completed track took less than 24 hours."
Working in the key of A-flat major, Jardine updated the chord progression by having the IV (D♭ major) move to its relative minor (B♭ minor) before returning to the tonic (A♭ major), altering a portion of the song's progression from IV — I to IV — ii — I. This device is heard immediately after the lyric "into a fight" and "leave me alone". Wilson elected to change some lyrics: "this is the worst trip since I've been born" to "this is the worst trip I've ever been on", "I feel so break up" to "I feel so broke up", and "broke into the people's trunk" to "broke in the captain's trunk". The first lyric change has been suggested by some to be a subtle nod to the 1960s psychedelia subculture

The instrumental section of the song was recorded on July 22, 1965 at United Western Recorders, Hollywood, California, the session being engineered by Chuck Britz and produced by Brian Wilson. The master take of the instrumental backing took fourteen takes to achieve.
The vocal tracks were recorded over two sessions. The first was recorded on December 22, 1965, at Western Recorders, produced by Wilson. The second, on December 29, added a new lead vocal and Billy Strange's 12-string electric guitar part. Jardine explained that Wilson "lined us up one at a time to try out for the lead vocal. I had naturally assumed I would sing the lead, since I had brought in the arrangement. It was like interviewing for a job. Pretty funny. He didn't like any of us. My vocal had a much more mellow approach because I was bringing it from the folk idiom. For the radio, we needed a more rock approach. Wilson and Mike ended up singing it." On the final recording, Brian Wilson sang the first and third verses and Mike Love sang the second.


  1. Beach boys! Love them! On a side note, I saw them in concert-the ones who were still alive- and they were so much fun. Even as old guys they still have it. That was a few years ago.

  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-M5dvp88Jiw 'Behind the sounds', the telling of how the arrangement was made and work in the studio. Brian was and is a musical genius.