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Exploring The Beach Boys masterful forgotten Christmas album

@TomTaylorFO

The Beach Boys and Christmas is a juxtaposition akin to surfing on dry land. Unless you are one of those lunatics who take a sub-zero plunge on New Year’s Eve or are one of our friends from the southern hemisphere, then seafaring and festivities simply don’t mix. However, Brian Wilson and the gang once happened to sequester their summer tones for an album simply named The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album, and it turned out to be a seasonal riot. 

As it happens, the almost forgotten The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album is an absolutely fantastic record. In fact, it’s the sort that leaves you asking, ‘why wouldn’t it be?’ Aside from their usual summery tones, The Beach Boys had an ear for a tune like no other. As Bob Dylan once said in reference to Brian Wilson, “Jesus, that ear. He should donate it to the Smithsonian. The records I used to listen to and still love, you can’t make a record that sounds that way. Brian Wilson, he made all his records with four tracks, but you couldn’t make his records if you had a hundred tracks today.”

Beginning with ‘Little Saint Nick’, the harmonising band give a classic a pioneering stereo-sound twist and while sand and surfing might still echo in the mix, it’s a festive jam that soars sweetly, nevertheless. Thereafter, the band race through Christmas classics as well as five original songs for what was their seventh record in 1964 and it isn’t too much of a reach to say that it heralded the sort of sonic development that would come to the fore a year and a half later with the game-changing Pet Sounds.

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Novelty records might not be seen as the place for major music developments, but with The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album Brian Wilson’s production is a tour de force. With loops and overdubbing throughout, he creates a wall of sound that had rarely been heard before as he continued to pair technology with his unique arrangements. In short, this makes the album perhaps the most important Christmas record of all time. Along with Dick Reynolds, the pop arrangement of a 41-piece orchestra is one that Phil Spector and George Martin clearly drew upon in their own production efforts. 

While the original songs themselves might not be The Beach Boys’ finest and the covers are softened by the number of times we’ve heard them in a range of guises, the album itself is a pioneering piece of work that displays the true potential of dipping toe into the waters of a novelty record. The freedom that a bit of kitsch Christmas offers is perhaps the best way to hone experimentation before putting it into practice and Wilson proves this before the masterpiece of Pet Sounds that would later follow. As Jack Wagner would later remark: “’Blue Christmas’ could be the start of whole new career”. 

You can check out the Christmas classic below.