That Beach Boys piano sound on "Smiley Smile" and "Wild Honey"...How did they get it?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by JPartyka, May 16, 2006.

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  1. JPartyka

    JPartyka I Got a Home on High Thread Starter

    Location:
    USA
    I always did presume it was intentional. I guess my question just had to do with wondering whether an effect was used, or whether the instrument was just detuned (I hesitate to say "out of tune").
     
  2. LeeDempsey

    LeeDempsey Forum Resident

    Location:
    North Carolina
    The story I've been told is that when the piano tuner showed up at Brian's house, Brian wouldn't let the tuner use pitchforks to achieve precise tuning -- Brian would hum the notes and have the piano guy tune to the pitch he was humming. So technically some notes would end up being slightly sharp or flat, but it produced a fat sound with lots of harmonics, and more importantly, the sound Brian wanted to hear.

    Marilyn still has that piano bench, although I could swear the crosstitch notes on the seat were to "Surfer Girl" instead of "California Girls"...

    Lee
     
  3. rstamberg

    rstamberg Senior Member

    Location:
    Riverside, CT
    I love that piano sound. Always assumed it was an upright.

    I also love the piano sound on HOLLAND. I know they flew all their recording equipment over to the Netherlands, but I doubt it's the same upright piano ... somewhat similar sound, though.
     
  4. kevinsinnott

    kevinsinnott Forum Coffeeologist

    Location:
    Chicago, IL USA
    Is the piano player Van Dyke Parks? It is somewhat remniscent of his sound on Harpers Bizarre's Anything Goes. That was a sound he liked, and it was quite popular with other acts, most of them later such as Green Tambourine and Hello, Hello. It's a kind of tack piano sound, with added leslie effect.

    I know he worked with Brian Wilson a number of times.
     
  5. Andreas

    Andreas Senior Member

    Location:
    Frankfurt, Germany
    I used to hate that piano sound, amateurish and unmusical. Now, Wild Honey is one of my favorite albums. The opening notes to "Let The Wind Blow", "Country Air" or "Here Comes The Night" set a unique tone and mood, a bit understated but building up a great tension for some great songs.

    And as Steve said, that sound was intentional. Brian was still directing and producing the Beach Boys up until 1968, although the official credits display more democracy.
     
  6. Chris M

    Chris M Senior Member

    Location:
    Baton Rouge, LA
    Well said :righton:
     
  7. JPartyka

    JPartyka I Got a Home on High Thread Starter

    Location:
    USA
    My feelings exactly. I used to think Smiley Smile and Wild Honey sounded awful, but they're now two of my most-listened-to Beach Boys albums, and I can't imagine them without those distinctive keyboard sounds.
     
  8. dprokopy

    dprokopy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Near Seattle, WA
    Parks did play some piano during the Smile sessions - and yes, there's a lot of "tack" piano all over those songs. (Going for that "old west"/Americana feel, apparently.) But what we're talking about here is the post-Smile stuff done in Brian's home studio. As far as I know, Parks didn't play on any later Beach Boys records. (Actually, apparently, he plays a bit of accordian on Summer In Paradise, if I recall correctly! And he sings a few lines on "A Day In the Life of a Tree," too.)
     
  9. kevinsinnott

    kevinsinnott Forum Coffeeologist

    Location:
    Chicago, IL USA
    Ah yes, I'm away from my Beach Boys vinyl right now, so memory is the only guide, but I do recall a more "room" sound (as in living room) piano that sounded like my own demos. Probably not Parks after all.

    Thank you for the answer.
     
  10. Mal

    Mal Phorum Physicist

    Really?

    I thought it was all sung by Jack Rieley who also co-wrote it (and was their manager at the time). Do you mean VDP sang some of the backing vocals?
     
  11. Jose Jones

    Jose Jones Outstanding Forum Member

    Location:
    Detroit, Michigan

    Well, it's still a bad, muffled piano sound, but because the material and the singing is so good, it becomes a cool piano sound in hindsight! But there are a few albums like that....the first solo McCartney one comes to mind.....amateurish production---awesome album.
     
  12. dprokopy

    dprokopy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Near Seattle, WA
    Yes, very clearly at the end. He's the first backing vocal to come in ("Trees like me weren't meant to live..."). Very distinctive, somewhat whiny voice. (And I mean that with the utmost affection! :winkgrin: )
     
  13. emkay

    emkay Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Jersey, USA
    But a piano that was in tune :righton:
     
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