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Domenic Priore's Review, full length

 

I first became aware of Tom Smucker while researching my first book, Look! Listen! Vibrate! SMILE!  The goal was to find EVERY article from 1966 into the early ’70s that shed light as to what Brian Wilson’s Lost Masterpiece (my second book title… on the same subject) would have been.  Tom’s 1972 story for Creem on The Beach Boys featured a headline page with nothing more than the Smile album cover; I was intrigued.  This was published in the year that Carl Wilson and Stephen J. Desper first began to assemble what was in the tape archive on Smile, and Tom’s was the last article where it seemed possible that indeed, the original Beach Boys would finally get their progressive-era coups de gras out to the public.  A release in 1972-74 was still in time for Smile to become an “F.M. classic.”  None of this came to pass, but progressive F.M. went downhill after 1975 anyway, so no big, these days.  The band won its first Grammy Award for The Smile Sessions box set, in the end.

 

That said, Tom has finally got around to writing a book about this group who, during the early ’70s, were still bound in a struggle for legitimacy within the jaded American hippie culture (European hippies did not share this aversion).  In this text, Smucker insightfully recognizes The Beach Boys as part of the West Coast R&B Vocal Group sound, crossed with L.A.’s high-level recording studio environment – a setup created for the audioscapes of Hollywood movie production.   He shows how those two elements ushered Los Angeles past New York as the center of the music business for the second half of the 20th Century.  Tom acknowledges the local importance of Leo Fender being in town, and his part in the sound revolution of “Surf” guitar reverb… something most Beach Boy authors (and fans) overlook due to its ubiquity.  The Beach Boys song connection not only to Detroit’s auto industry, but the Kustom Kulture of Los Angeles, gets its due, L.A.’s constant sunshine locale tweak the primary influence, as California youths grooved-out car industry standards during the first Corvette and Mustang era.

 

It’s key how Smucker gets that books and musical recordings were the only cultural artifacts readily accessible for ownership in the pre-digital world of the ’60s.  He puts together James Brown and Brian Wilson in the same auteur respect, giving context to how W.E.B. Du Bois wrote of a future where both creative entities could be similarly hip.  It’s a fine understanding where Pet Sounds, Live at the Apollo and The T.A.M.I. Show preclude a further sense of positive change in their aftermath.  Tom Smucker has given us something crucial; this is fresh perspective, from what may very well be the last voice we’ll hear on The Beach Boys that had also been published during their original era of creativity.  This was a time when Rhythm & Blues was still the most dominant aspect of Rock ’n’ Roll, and the inherent social change coming with that had a sense of mission, revelry and humor, a whole package often swept under the rug by the complacent.

 

  - Domenic Priore, author of Riot on Sunset Strip: Rock 'n' Roll's Last Stand in Hollywood (2015 Jawbone Press, London)


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