The Lost Albums of The Beach Boys and Weezer

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The Lost Albums of The Beach Boys and Weezer

Grant Hinders, Music Man

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 The Beach Boys and Weezer, two bands that seem like polar opposites. With the first credited as being one of the biggest bands of the 1960’s and the latter being an almost one-hit-wonder band of the 1990’s. 

 Although there are massive differences between the two, their story is sadly almost one in the same, which is the story of one man’s dream turned into a nightmare. In this article, I will explain why The Beach Boys and Weezer suffered the same fate, and both have two of the best unreleased albums ever made. 

      To fully illustrate my point, let’s go back to the mid 1960’s when civil protests were in full swing and man hadn’t landed on the moon. For the early part of the decade The Beach Boys ruled the charts with hits such as “California Girls” and “I Get Around”, but by August of 1966 things had changed. Their latest album Pet Sounds was a complete departure from their early surfing imagery and it pushed the boundaries of what defined rock music at the time. However, the leader of The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, wasn’t done pushing yet.

His next album, later called SMiLE, would be a concept album with sprawling instrumental sections and if released would have been the first concept album and continuous long playing record. The record itself was in development in the studio on for almost a year with hundreds of hours of material being made all with themes of religion, humour, and most importantly Western Americana, which he chose to combat the British Invasion that had hit America’s  music scene a year prior.

Along with Brian’s personal obligation to bring Americana back to the forefront of pop music, the world was engrossed with watching the musical tug of war between the two greatest bands in the world: The Beach Boys vs The Beatles. Brian Wilson had become obsessed with The Beatles latest record Rubber Soul, his latest album Pet Sounds being a direct rebuttal to both of the bands quest to create the best pop album. With all of these factors in mind Brian Wilson set off to create one of the most ambitious and experimental pop albums ever conceived. 

   Now, fast forward almost thirty years to 1995. Weezer had just released their first album a year before to commercial and critical success. This new-found fame came at a cost, one that would carry throughout the rest of their career. During this time, Rivers Cuomo, the main lyricist and frontman feared that they had become popular due to their gimmicks, such as the “Buddy Holly” music video, and not because of his songwriting abilities or quality of the music. With that thought omnipresent in his mind, Cuomo began work on the band’s next studio album. His fears and worries culminated into the new album titled Songs From the Black Hole.

    This new album, much like SMiLE’s original concept, was going to be a seamless long playing concept record. Although, instead of Western Americana and lush orchestration, this album dealt with the themes of loneliness with the help of thundering power chords. Also differentiating from SMiLE, this album would feature a narrative story featuring the band members as characters in a space opera, and including acts of love, betrayal, and loss, which was something that was highly unusual and unheard of during the 1990’s, especially in pop/rock music. With these themes and story in mind, he started the project in the winter of 1995 hoping to finish it later that year.

      Now, let’s get back to present day 2019, over 50 years since the heyday of The Beach boys and 30 years since Weezer’s peak, and both of these albums have never been released. There are countless reasons why these albums never saw the light of day, with some being more serious than others. For The Beach Boys SMiLE, a pushy record company, tensions with bandmates, and Brian Wilson’s rapidly disintegrating mental health ultimately condemned the project. Almost all of the album was finished by December of 1966, but when the January deadline hit, the album still not ready for commercial release. After a few more lack-luster sessions in February and the release of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s album in May, Brian Wilson cancelled SMilE, shelving what is considered the greatest unreleased album of all time.

      Luckily,  Weezers’ story isn’t so bleak. In May of 1995 Rivers Cuomo underwent extensive surgery to fix his right leg which lead to long periods of hospitalization. This affected his mental health, along with his songwriting abilities. By May, his songs were becoming darker, more introverted and less playful. The result was the direct opposite of the symbolic space opera that he had been working on months before. Around the same time, Rivers applied to study classical composition at Harvard University which was the final nail in the coffin for the Songs from the Black Hole project. Four songs from the original project were tracked in mid 1995 and included in their new album. 

      At the end of the day, even though these two albums and bands are vastly different the story of their conception are very similar. Both bands were creating a follow-up to their most successful album, both bands had an obsessive  creative leader pushing the whole project along, and both of their following album releases hurt their careers. For the Beach Boys, the disappointment from fans about the release of Smiley Smile, which was the rushed follow up to SMiLE, ruined Brian Wilson and it lead to his “retirement” from music for much of the 1970’s. The SMiLE  debacle was the album the Beach Boys never truly recovered from.

   For Weezer, the eventual release of their album Pinkerton was a commercial and critical dud, with it being solidly ranked as the third worst album of the year. Most fans were shocked by the darker and more mature themes compared to their earlier album and the general consensus was that it was a lukewarm offering at best. Currently, the album enjoys new critical acclaim and is considered a masterpiece, but it came too little too late. Rivers considered the album a major embarrassment and he “retired” from music for five years while he went back to college. Weezer eventually reunited and made a comeback, but much like the Beach Boys they never really returned to their former glory.

          In the end, both stories leave music lovers, such as I, with the question of, “what might have been.” The obsessive drive of Wilson and Cuomo were what made The Beach Boys and Weezer the musical successes that they were and still continue to be. However, it was also that same never ending drive which bordered on self-destruction that led to the downfall of their time in the spotlight. Whatever the case may be I personally admire the work that these two geniuses tried to create, and If you get anything out of this essay just know that the Beach Boys aren’t just a 60’s pop band that wrote songs about surfing, and Weezer are more than an alternative rock group from the 90’s. I want you to know that they are two bands, with two incredible minds that tried to innovate and change the genre of pop as we know it.

 

Also even though these albums were never officially released there have been plenty of fanmade reconstructions of both albums which I highly recommend checking out.

SMile:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=As4IFTifnIk&t=561s

Songs from the Black Hole:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfI_5Ay40GI