Part 1: Sunflower
Part 2: Surf’s Up
Part 3: Carl and the Passions – “So Tough”
Part 4: Holland
Part 5: The Beach Boys In Concert
After finishing up their previous album, The Beach Boys’ manager, Jack Rieley, decided that the band needed a change of scenery to stir their creative juices. He recommended that they write and record their next album in The Netherlands. And so, at enormous expense to themselves, The Beach Boys packed up and left for Holland, hence the name of their next album, Holland, released in January 1973.
Holland is one of those albums that tend to divide Beach Boys fans. There are those who consider it a highlight of the era, and others who find it too dark, rough and unpolished. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this era of the band’s music, you’ll likely find it just as foreign and jarring as the other albums we have covered in this series so far. However, unlike the previous album, Holland has a much more consistent sound and style, and is a much more refined experience overall.
It’s also a very ambitious album, not only because of the circumstances in which it was recorded, but also in its musical concepts. With its darker themes, songs that segue into each other, and an unusual musical fairy tale included with it, the word “epic” is quite fitting to describe it.
However, the initial submission of the final album to the record company was rejected on the grounds that it didn’t contain a potential hit single. Thus, one more song was added to the album as the opening track. “Sail On, Sailor”, with its bluesy style complemented by Blondie Chaplin’s soulful lead vocal, is considered the best track on the album. Although it wasn’t exactly a hit, per se, it did manage to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 on two separate occasions (once when the album was released, and again three years later in 1976). It was also included on the soundtrack to Martin Scorsese’s 2006 film The Departed.
A very prominent part of the album is a three-song cycle known collectively as the “California Saga”. Written out of homesickness by Al Jardine and Mike Love, it consists of three songs that flow into each other, somewhat forming one long 10-minute composition. The first part, “Big Sur”, uses a folksy waltz style. The second part, “The Beaks of Eagles”, was based on a poem of the same name by Robinson Jeffers, and includes spoken interludes. The final part, known simply as “California”, has a more traditional Beach Boys sound with full vocal harmonies. It’s probably the brightest, most upbeat song on the album.
Brian Wilson had been on a long slide into mental illness at this point, and his main contribution to the album is a very clear reflection of his fragile psychological state. It’s basically a spoken fairy tale (narrated by Jack Rieley) with musical accompaniment, inspired by his own childhood storytelling. The oddity of it was met with apprehension from the rest of the band, but in reaction to hurt feelings, it was included anyway. However, it was bundled on a separate EP, and it’s sometimes referred to as the “third side” of the album.
The story, itself, isn’t that interesting, and it’s rather awkward to listen to. In fact, it sounds like a read-a-long storybook, if you’ve ever happened to listen to those as a kid. But it’s an interesting experiment, to say the least.
You may have figured out that I’m among the fans that love this album. In fact, it was actually fairly well received upon its release, as well. It was critically praised, and its sales were relatively good. However, it was the last original studio album The Beach Boys would release for over three years, and during that time, there would be further changes to the band and its musical direction. And thus, Holland closes out this unique and experimental era of The Beach Boys career. However, there is one last “encore” left to cover, and that will be discussed in the fifth and final part of this feature series.
- Sail On, Sailor
- California Saga/Big Sur
- California Saga/The Beaks of Eagles
- California Saga/California
- The Trader
- Leaving This Town
- Only With You
- Funky Pretty
Mount Vernon and Fairway (A Fairy Tale) tracklist:
- Mt. Vernon and Fairway (Theme)
- I’m the Pied Piper (Instrumental)
- Better Get Back in Bed
- Magic Transistor Radio
- I’m the Pied Piper
- Radio King Dom