Dennis Wilson -
Bambu (The Caribou Sessions)
Produced by Dennis Wilson, John Hanlon & Gregg Jakobson
Except UNDER THE MOONLIGHT, IT'S NOT TOO LATE, CONSTANT COMPANION & ALL ALONE, Produced by Dennis Wilson & Carli Munoz
Executive Producer: James William Guercio
Released June 17, 2008 - Caribou/Epic/Legacy 88697-07916-2 (Sony/BMG) Disc Two
Sessionography researched & compiled by Craig Slowinski
Essays by Craig Slowinski
Thanks to Jon Stebbins, Ed Roach, John Hanlon, Alan Boyd, Ken Sharp
"It's almost unheard of to be recording your second album before the first one is even released"; David Leaf posed this leading statement to Dennis Wilson in August of 1977, during an interview for the September issue of Leaf's "Pet Sounds" fanzine. In fact, Dennis was already at work on his followup to Pacific Ocean Blue earlier that year, before POB was even finished, let alone released...when discussing his future plans with Jim Girard of Cleveland's "Scene" Magazine back in January, Dennis said, "Also, I'm gonna do my second solo album, Tornado. I'm already working on that album" (Dennis probably got that provisionary album title from the Beach Boys' horn section, The Tornadoes...or they got it from him). In August, he told Leaf, "They (the record company) call it one, two, three. I just don't stop recording. You're talking to, if there ever was, a freak or somebody completely into it, I am home here at the studio or playing music on the road. When I go to the shack that I stay at, I hate it. Music is everything. The stage, recording music, signing autographs, worrying about the airplay, worrying about talking to you, everything. If there was ever a real lover in my life, it'd be Karen Lamm and music. Sounds silly, doesn't it? I just love it. I have so much fun doing it."
One important thing to realize is that the Bambu music is not so much a sequel to POB as it is a continuation of it...Bobby Figueroa says, "While we were recording Pacific Ocean Blue we also started recording tracks for Bambu. It was all intertwined." John Hanlon sheds further light on the timeline: "As more time got spent on Pacific Ocean Blue, he needed to get further away from it, to stay objective. And that's when all this other stuff started happening...everybody thinks 'Oh...here's POB, and this is where he started Bambu'. It was at the same time in that latter half of that year (1976), those things started unfolding...When he was too close to what he was working on, on overdubbing on Pacific Ocean Blue, he'd step away from that and start doing other things, and other ideas and snippets of sounds; those became the starting point of Bambu...everything and anything - and this is what people seem to miss - that Dennis worked on that didn't go on Pacific Ocean Blue or wasn't finished in time for Pacific Ocean Blue was going to be Bambu. Dennis was working in early 1977 - as he was still finishing Pacific Ocean Blue - he was cutting stuff all the time." The way Dennis described it to Leaf, "The next album is a hundred times what Pacific Ocean Blue is. It kicks. It’s different in a way. I think I have more confidence now that I’ve completed one project, and I’m moving on to another." That fall, during a radio interview at KUGN-FM in Eugene, Oregon, Dennis said, "The new album I'm working on now is much more...you could say, 'rock 'n' roll' than the other one." Tracks laid down that year intended for Bambu include "Love Remember Me" with its Spectorian choral section, "He's A Bum" with its playful self-mockery, "Wild Situation" with its slow-grooving funk, and "Time For Bed" with its rollicking New Orleans-styled brass and slide guitar. There's also a good chance that Dennis would've included the POB holdovers "School Girl" and "Album Tag Song" as well as the ballad "Cocktails". By the end of the year, Dennis certainly had enough material for at least half an album, and was apparently telling people he was already on to his third.
When asked in the aforementioned radio interview that fall, "Where do you see your music going from what you've just laid down?", Dennis replied, "I feel it's all in the heart, and expressing yourself, and sharing that with other people, and people sharing, and...maybe just uh, that's all...maybe that's just enough for me to do. Y'know, I am like the one little grain of sand on this planet...just hold(ing) up my little grain of sand!" He went on to talk of his love for the studio: "I am, at this moment, itching to jump on a plane and go there and record...I love it, it's fun. It's like driving to the ocean, and there's a hill, right? And you're in the back seat of the car; Carl, Brian and I used to do this, it'd be almost to the top of the mountain, right there, and we could just see the ocean, it's so much fun...I just try and relate an experience to the feeling that, the closer I get to the studio, the more fun I have, y'know?"
Origins and Concept
Bamboo or "Bambu" (Dennis' spelling, probably inspired by the famous rolling papers) was a name that Dennis had taken a liking to by late '77; the artist name on the session contracts from that period (including rehearsals for his ill-fated tour) is "Dennis Wilson Bamboo", suggesting that was the name he'd given his band. Gregg Jakobson: "Bambu was always one of Dennis' favorite words...It's really a drummer's word - bambu; it's percussive. If there's one word that literally symbolizes Dennis, it's Bambu. It's so present - it's like 'BAM'!" It was also the name of Dennis and Gregg's production company, for which they had big plans, including construction of a state-of-the-art recording complex in Hawaii. Jakobson recalls, "We went looking in Kauai for a studio location. The studio's name was going to be The Sunset. We had architectural renderings with a San Francisco architecture firm. We probably spent at least a quarter of a million dollars on remodeling. We had these things in the studio, like a bed that you could lie down in on the North Shore, it had lights that you could turn up or down, and you could also hear the sound of the ocean. And there was a mirror above the bed, and you could change the position of the mirror so that it would pick up different parts of the sky. A lot of the rooms were going to be treated like the rooms on a boat - small, but very nice and warm. It could have been a wonderful thing, state-of-the-art technology in the studios. My idea was to treat a recording studio just like you would a tennis court or a swimming pool. The idea was to sell these to concert venues. It was an ambitious project...the governor of Hawaii was involved, Fleetwood Mac was involved; it was like we were bringing a new industry to Hawaii...but the plans kind of fell apart at the same time the album did."
While at KUGN in late '77, Dennis spoke of his dedication to music: "I am addicted...I guess that's the true sense...to absolutely being involved in not just the sound of it, and the emotional experience behind it, but the manufacturing of it, the making of it...to sharing some space with you on the radio." When asked how he felt about hearing his music on the radio, Dennis replied "What I notice is different things, like different turntable speeds, different limiting effects, different towers, different amplifiers...y'know, I listen to the station, the programming...I wind up coming from another place there. What I'm doing is, I'm trying to go to every radio station possible, talk with everyone, meet with everyone, 'cause what I want to do is, I wanna develop a radio station in Hawaii, along with four or five major studios altogether, where all the industry, where the radio can be there and work with the artists, right? You could broadcast only to the studio, right? But yet, it's a 'research and development', y'know, for radio and for the artists that record the records, y'know, so we all can be a little closer, 'cause I think we need to be." This led to the inevitable question, "Do you think that sometimes artists are away from what the radio needs...and vice versa?", to which he responded,"Oh, absolutely." Not that Dennis was of a "corporate-rock" mentality in the least...when asked, "What would you like to see happen from the standpoint of radio, what would you like radio to get more in tune with, as far as the artist?", his answer was "Free-form. Total free-form...I think absolutely...absolute freedom..." He was then asked, "How do you think the audience would react to hearing that...do you think they would be that into it?", to which his reply was, "That would be...I couldn't make that judgement...I feel that the audience should be free to make the choice of what radio they should hear, even. This is something different than making a tire and selling a tire that drives (the) car...so freedom is very important to radio, and I think that today, radio (stations) are very competitive with one another...I don't know if they call it 'making book', but uh, ratings are very important, and to have people listen to you...so it's kinda screwed things up." That said, he clearly felt his own group had moved beyond the ratings race: "If we stopped today, and never made another record, they would continue to sell, as long as there'd be a record industry. We're 'over the hump' that way, I think you'd call it...it's beyond the Top 40; Beach Boys are no longer involved in the Top 40 race, or need to be...It's no big deal, what's the Top 40? I mean, Top 40 is abstract...what is it? I see death to the Top 40...soon...I don't mean 'death to the Top 40' in a negative way, I mean that all things change, it may be called something else...there will be something, but it may not be as competitive." Dennis very astutely predicted the growth of independent "free format" radio, but would doubtless be saddened by the rise of the major conglomorations that control most airplay nationwide today. In his conversation with Leaf, Dennis made this clear: "I want to meet with everyone in the field, want it to be different. I think music belongs on a personal level, instead of the mindless corporation ordering the artist, 'do this, do that, do this.' People have to meet, discover, grow, build."
Life Intrudes on Art
Unfortunately, Dennis' ambitious career plans would not see fruition, largely because of his rapidly disintegrating personal situation. By the end of 1977, his planned solo tour was scrapped, his position within The Beach Boys was tenous, and although he was back with Karen, the destructive side of that relationship would soon wreak havoc on Dennis' physical and psychological health, as she persuaded him to try heroin. As 1978 dawned, Gregg Jakobson saw the effect that drug abuse was having on Dennis, and made the decision to withdraw from the project. "When it came time to do Bambu I was not going to do it unless Dennis would come back in...he had gone pretty far out. I said, 'No, Dennis, I'm not going to do this unless you settle down and you clean up. Then let's spend some time in the studio, and then we'll do it right.'" But Dennis could not control his spiraling drug habits, and on The Beach Boys' tour of New Zealand and Australia in February and March, he was nearly kicked out of the band for providing heroin to both Brian and Carl. Things didn't become any calmer back in the States, as Dennis and Karen's always-tumultous relationship reached new heights of drama in April, culminating in his April 23rd arrest in Tucson after a sixteen-year old girl was found in his hotel room following a Beach Boys concert there. Dennis ended up spending nearly $100,000 in legal fees to get out of the jam, yet Karen forgave him and took him back yet again.
With Gregg Jakobson withdrawing from the recording sessions, Dennis turned to another friend for studio support: Beach Boys auxilary keyboardist Carlos (Carli) Muñoz. "We hung out a lot on the road, and in fact we would join suites together and have a piano brought up," Carli says, "and we worked on a lot of stuff." Dennis actually asked Carli to produce his next album, but Muñoz felt he wasn't quite ready for that much responsibility. Nonetheless, Dennis became enamoured of Carli's songwriting, and decided to record several of his compositions (which Carli co-produced with Dennis). As engineer Tom Murphy put it, "Dennis had the greatest respect for Carli. He thought Carli was so talented." The process of recording with Dennis was intense, yet the two always made time to relax out on the open waves, as Carli recalls: "Typically we'd start in the day, we'd take a break; Dennis had his yacht, Harmony and a Ford, a convertible Ford from the 1940's...it had a rumble seat in the back, and we'd take that, stop at the liquor store, fill the rumble seat with beer cases, load into the Harmony, and go out for a sail, come back, and then record until late at night." Carli also reveals that Dennis was considering an alternate (and, in retrospect, appropriate) album title: End of the Line. Although Dennis recorded most of the cuts on his previous album Pacific Ocean Blue piece-by-piece, playing many of the instruments himself and only bringing in other musicians for overdubs as needed, much of Bambu (the latter two-thirds of the sessions, including the Muñoz material) was recorded with a group of players performing real-time in the same room. This seems to be the direct result of the rehearsals Dennis held with a band for the tour-that-never-was in late 1977; playing with a live band full of musicians who supported Dennis' personal musical vision seemed to give him the confidence he needed to try take-after-take in the studio with a group of players, and from that point on this would be his modus operandi. Although both Earle Mankey and John Hanlon had continued on the engineering team during the early days of Bambu, by 1978 Tom Murphy had taken over behind the board for Dennis' sessions. As the quality of Dennis' voice continued to deteriorate, vocal coach Bob Rose (who had helped engineer The Beach Boys' vocal sessions for the M.I.U. Album), was brought in to work with him.
By August of '78, Brother Studio was sold (to a group of investors which included jazz saxophonist Tom Scott and recording engineer Hank Cicalo; some of the equipment was reportedly moved to Santa Barbara). Carl Wilson, who'd owned the studio in partnership with Dennis, felt it was the only choice in light of the spiraling business debt incurred there over the past couple of years. Unfortunately, it left Dennis without immediate access to a creative "safe haven" at virtually any hour of the day, whenever the inspiration struck him...something he had grown used to over the previous four years. Gregg Jakobson: "It kind of left Dennis out wandering around, and he would go to different studios, like Tom Murphy's studio, Track Records, and there was another studio...but so yeah, he lost his home. I mean, y'know Brother was really their home...and in the record business, there's no convenience as great as having your own studio, 'cause the clock isn't running. Y'know, because for somebody like Dennis, and like Brian too (and don't forget Dennis learned so much from Brian), the studio becomes an instrument. Absolutely, the studio is an instrument, just like a guitar or a piano, so sure he missed that. He had to have missed that...mightily, y'know." John Hanlon: "Dennis tended to want to record at a moment's notice at 10 or 11 pm at night. He'd want to get into the studio to record when he felt like it; he wanted to capture a moment." With Brother Studio no longer at his disposal, this became impossible.
Around the same time, Dennis also lost Karen...this time for good. Although they had remarried in July, by the fall of that year they were separated and headed for their second divorce. As The Beach Boys worked to complete their first group LP for CBS/Caribou, L.A. (Light Album), Dennis struggled to maintain focus on Bambu, but it was a losing battle. Without his own studio, without Karen, and without much left of his singing voice, his brief solo career was slipping away from him. At the encouragement of Jim Guercio and Bruce Johnston (who were co-producing the Light Album with the band's members), Dennis donated two planned Bambu tracks, "Baby Blue" and "Love Surrounds Me", to the group. Guercio also tried to persuade Dennis to bring in an outside producer to help him finish his solo album, but Dennis would have none of it. As Jon Stebbins puts it, "Dennis basically told Jim Guercio, who truly loved and loves Dennis' music, to back off...and then he went about recording more, on his dime, on the Beach Boys' dime, on Jimmy G.'s dime, whatever...he didn't care...he was just recording. Lots of work, lots of good stuff, but nothing was getting finished, as in mixed and mastered...he just kept moving on to the next thing. Then he moved on to partying more and working less...and by mid-1979 he just seemed to give up on Dennis Wilson the solo artist." Jim Guercio: "Bambu wasn't finished because, in my opinion, Dennis lost focus. And Bambu didn't get finished because of alchohol and drugs. That would be the right answer."
In November of '78, while working on overdubs for the album at the Village Recorders, Dennis met the next love of his life: Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac. Although their respective bands had played gigs on the same bill earlier in the '70s, the two had apparently never been formally introduced until now (for an eye-witness account of Dennis and Christine's first meeting, see "Storms: My Life with Lindsey Buckingham and Fleetwood Mac" by Carol Ann Harris, Buckingham's girlfriend at the time). Dennis' relationship with Christine would last the next two years, during which his drinking, cocaine use, and generally bizarre behavior would increase to unparalled heights. "He was brilliant," Christine recalls, "but the problem was that he was just so helpless. He would get a big, litre bottle of orange juice, tip half of it out, and fill it up with rum. Then he would put in a few ice cubes and carry it around with him all day, and by the evening it would be acrid and he would still be drinking it. The smell was vile. He vanished for days on end, he wouldn't go to bed, and yet when he was straight he was the most charming guy. He was very funny as well, although that was unintentional...Dennis loved Pet Sounds because he had an undercurrent of genius himself, but he couldn't control it." Christine's bandmate Lindsey Buckingham, a huge Beach Boys fan, says, "I knew him pretty well...he was a good guy. He was kind of lost, but I thought he had a big heart. I always liked him. He was crazy just like a lot of other people, but he had a really big heart, and he was the closest thing to Brian there was, too. He was halfway there."
The next few years would see Dennis involved in more professional and personal scandal, as he was repeatedly "furloughed" from the band following one drunken public display after another. With his personal finances in a mess, Dennis lost his boat in a foreclosure. Following his breakup with Christine (she reportedly tired of footing the financial and emotional bill for his many childish indulgences and escapades), he began a relationship with Shawn Love, the 16-year old who was reportedly Mike Love's illegitimate daughter. With his life spiraling off the rails, Dennis' appearance worsened, and those who knew him in his "glory days" often failed to recognize the bloated, pale, and unkempt person he'd become. Marilyn Wilson (now Rutherford): "I don't think I saw him for like the last, uh, year of his life. And when I did it was very sad. 'Cause his voice was no longer...he had this gruffy voice, and horrible wild look...ugh, it was just very sad." In the summer of '83, Dennis and Shawn (who by now were parents of a baby boy named Gage) married, but as was typical with Dennis, they were headed for divorce by that December. Three days after Christmas (following a prematurely aborted attempt at detox), Dennis drowned in the Pacific Ocean (in the slip where the Harmony was once berthed), as he drunkenly recovered momentos of his life with Karen from the ocean floor, where he had thrown them during one of their spats years earlier. Jim Guercio: "...that's why this is so difficult for me to talk about, because I was trying to do an intervention, and uh...I regret it because I didn't get it done." The intervention, planned by Jimmy and Carl, would've involved luring Dennis to Caribou Ranch in Colorado for the New Year, at which point he would've been detained for a thorough detoxifcation and rehabilitation; sadly, this was not to be. Instead, a few days into 1984, Dennis was buried at sea under a special permission granted by President Reagan.
Aftermath and Rebirth
Reportedly, Dennis had talked in the weeks leading up to his death of making an attempt to finish Bambu, as if he knew his days were numbered. He apparently tried to convince Geordie Hormel (owner of the Village Recorders) to help him in this endeavor, but at this point Dennis was in no shape to be tackling any kind of recording project. Over the next several years, the legend of Bambu would grow, especially when bootlegged tapes from the sessions began to turn up on the collectors market. Carli Muñoz: "One thing that Dennis did a lot, he would take a cassette tape, y'know of the rough mix, and to me I knew that was like a loose cannon because then after the sessions, he'd like to go and sort of like, celebrate, y'know, and he would go to Venice and find a buddy, anywhere, and he'd be so excited about the music...and I'd say, "Oh, no", and he'd give him the tape: 'Here, it's yours!' So of course, of course there's bootlegs."
With Pacific Ocean Blue out-of-print and Bambu available only as rough mixes on the black market, public demand for an offical release of the two lost Dennis Wilson solo albums grew over the next two-and-a-half decades (at one point, a fan petition was posted on the internet in an attempt to persuade Jim Guercio and Sony to issue an archival release). What most fans didn't realize was that, behind the scenes, efforts had been underway for some time to determine the legal rights to the music, a crucial first step toward securing its release. Once it was determined that the rights of ownership did indeed lie with Guercio's Caribou label, and once other business obstacles were cleared, work on a Dennis Wilson solo package could begin in late 2007.
Alan Boyd and Mark Linett pulled Dennis' multi-track masters from the Brother Records vaults (where they had resided since the late '70s) and transferred them to digital format. Guercio block-booked time at the House Of Blues Studio (a top-flight, state-of-the-art facility in Encino), and sent John Hanlon in to mix Bambu and a handful of Pacific Ocean Blue bonus tracks. After the first couple of sessions, author Jon Stebbins was invited to observe: "I attended probably 90% of the mixing sessions for the new Bambu and bonus tracks, and everything was done with keeping it as 'Dennis' as possible. A vintage Neve console was used by John Hanlon for the mixing. A lot of the effects were (already) imprinted in the multi-tracks. John employed the usual outboard gear: compression, reverb, delays, that type of thing...real tape delay or slap (echo) was used on some of the vocal tracks...no digital triggering and very minimal Pro Tools was used. Some of the editing was made easier by Pro Tools technology of course, and a few things were repaired that way, but for the most part it was assembling and mixing that brought Bambu into a releasable form. And the question at every turn along the way was...how would Dennis have wanted this to sound? Obviously not an easy one to answer with 100% accuracy, but when you hear it... it sounds like a Dennis Wilson record." The House Of Blues Neve 36-channel 80 series console was fed into a Pro Tools|HD5 rig to create mixes that somehow manage to sound both "vintage" and "modern" at the same time. As Guercio puts it, "I think it's how Dennis would have mixed it."
Bambu was assembled and coupled in a special package with a remastered Pacific Ocean Blue, and the set was issued in both double CD and triple blue vinyl editions, with informative new liner notes by Ben Edmonds, Jon Stebbins, Dave Beard, and David Leaf.
John Hanlon (who had gone on to work with artists such as Neil Young and R.E.M, but had always retained the hope of one day finishing Bambu for Dennis): "It's just amazing, just amazing. I mean I felt really, really fortunate to be able to work on this stuff, 'cause I didn't know if it would ever happen...I had to edit the crap out of it. He had endings all over the place. He'd have four different (alternate) endings (on some of the tracks); it was very, very tricky. It wasn't that Dennis was scattered, I don't think, it was that he didn't have the time or patience to dick around finishing something really, really well - some stuff he did, but he was in a whirlwind of recording and I didn't realize how fractious it was. Bambu was unfinished, but all the parts were there...If I hadn't done it, then Earle Mankey should have done it; it should have been either one of us. Dennis gave me my start. Pacific Ocean Blue was the first record I ever did."
Carole Bloom (Dennis' first wife): "I think that this album is so important to his children and his grandchildren, and that his legacy now will become something more because of all the efforts of everybody involved in this album, to bring his music out."
Marilyn Wilson-Rutherford (Brian's first wife): "I think that it's fantastic. I'm amazed at what I'm hearing. I just love it, there's so many different sides of Dennis that none of us really knew. He deserves it, y'know? He deserves it, because he shoulda been a huge icon, really. He shoulda been. Maybe he will be."
James William Guercio: "I think the second disc is real important; it might be unfinished...but I think it's important to see where he was going and what he was attempting to do and where he came from...Things happen in a spatial world, y'know...it's still there, and maybe people will appreciate it today...This is the commitment I made for Dennis' kids. They should hear what a talent their father was and what his talent promised. This music is really impressive. Dennis was one of the greatest artists I ever had the honor of working with."
SOURCES: "Dennis Wilson: Not Just One Of The (Beach) Boys" by Jim Girard, "Scene" Magazine, Cleveland, OH, January 13, 1977 / "Dennis Wilson: It's About Time" interview by David Leaf, Pet Sounds fanzine, Vol. 1, No. 3, September 1977 / On-air interview of Dennis Wilson, broadcast on KUGN-FM, Eugene, OR, late 1977 / BBFUN Newsletters, February and August 1978 / Endless Harmony Soundtrack CD liner notes - Capitol, 1998 / "Dennis Wilson - The Real Beach Boy" by Jon Stebbins - ECW Press, 2000 / "Dumb Angel - The Life And Music Of Dennis Wilson" by Adam Webb - Creation Books, 2001 / "Endless Summer Quarterly" fanzine, Vol. 16, Nos. 1-2, Issue Nos. 60 & 61, Winter/Spring 2003 / "Endless Summer Quarterly" fanzine, Summer 2008 Special Edition / "Lost Albums: Bambu", BBC Radio 4, May 2008 / Pacific Ocean Blue Legacy Recordings Electronic Press Kit, June 2008 / Pacific Ocean Blue Legacy Recordings Podcast & unedited Radio Promo, June 2008 / "The Making Of Dennis Wilson's Pacific Ocean Blue" by Ken Sharp, Record Collector Magazine, July 2008 / Bob Rose website / comments provided by John Hanlon, Tommy Smith, Bobby Figueroa, Michael Andreas, Ed Tuleja, Jon Stebbins / AFM Local 47 contracts 4913-117858, 7053-117980, 1552-129322, 5792-138003, 6452-133669, 6709-138111, 7194-138094, 7195-138095, 7192-138102, 7193-138104, 7937-3399876, 7938-399877, 797-148781, 2844-124185, 2845-124186, 3304-153692, 3021-153684, 3183-153681, 3182-153682, 3020-153685, 3638-153686, 3844-155595, 3635-153687, 4035-153688, 4038-153689, 4039-153690, 5128-153691, 9068-153368, 7378-140282
UNDER THE MOONLIGHT
PRODUCED BY DENNIS WILSON & CARLI MUÑOZ
The first of four Carli Muñoz-composed and co-produced tracks intended for Bambu, the bodacious rocker "Under The Moonlight" was written circa 1975 on a transatlantic plane flight (probably returning from The Beach Boys' appearance at the Wembley Festival in London). Carli and Dennis initially held a session for the backing track on April 26, 1978 (11:00am-2:00pm), with a lineup of Jeff Legg and Steve Ross on guitars, Dave Hessler on bass, Gary Mallaber on drums, and Carli and Sterling Smith on pianos. This version apparently was not to their liking, for they re-recorded the song the very next day, with a different drummer and bass player (as indicated in the final credits above). The horns required two sessions to perfect as well (May 22nd and 25th, the second session apparently devoted to doubling the parts recorded on the 22nd, but with a larger ensemble) and coincidentally so did the final mix (see below).
In addtion to the guitars played by Legg and Ross on the basic tracking session, several additional guitar parts were eventually overdubbed by no less than three players: Ed Carter, someone named "Terry", and Carl Wilson (NOTE: the "Terry" in question was not Terry Kath of Chicago, as his untimely death had occurred on January 23rd of that year). The final solo was played by Ed Carter, who also overdubbed two rhythm guitar parts. According to Carli Muñoz, Carl recorded a solo for this song that was "absolutely fantastic", but it was accidentally erased (a track designation for Carl's guitar remains on the track sheet). On June 12th, Dennis overdubbed his double-tracked vocals, while clavinet and two tracks of hand claps were also added at some point to round out the production.
Dennis rocks out in his gruff, road-weary voice, singing of the joys of being "a rock 'n' roll star". Bassist Wayne Tweed recalls "We all dug his voice...I worked with Smokey Robinson, but Dennis' (voice) kicked. The first time I heard Dennis' voice from the vocal booth it was exciting. He impressed me! Dennis' voice was over-the-top for me. His voice was crusty, raspy - like his face. He was the total package." As Andrew G. Doe put it in his review of the Bamboo bootlegs when they first began to circulate (STOMP No. 43, June 1984), "Carl may try to rock but Denny knew how without even breaking sweat."
Hanlon did a preliminary mix in November 2007, and Guercio, a master of horn-rock production from his days of working with Chicago and Blood, Sweat and Tears, dialed in the brass section to perfection (and also tweaked the pianos) during his visit to L.A. the following January. The final 2007-2008 mix brings out all kinds of instrumentation previously buried on the bootleg, including the barrel-house pianos, multiple lead guitar parts, and the pumping baritone sax.
IT'S NOT TOO LATE
PRODUCED BY DENNIS WILSON & CARLI MUÑOZ
Composed by Carli Muñoz circa 1967-'68; Dennis contributed some lyrics to the second verse when he recorded it (according to Dan Addington's website denniswilsondreamer.com). This touching ballad was given a huge production treatment in the studio by Dennis and Carli, and brother Carl came in to do a lead vocal cameo (doubled in places by Karen Lamm, whom Dennis would marry for the second time on July 28th). The "everything but the kitchen sink" approach to production includes multiple keyboards, harp, a large string section (conducted by Beach Boys horn player Michael Andreas), and a full choir. According to Carli, the string arrangement is just an "on the fly" "pad" part, because Dennis was so eager to record it, there was no time to develop a "full" arrangement. Carli goes on to say there is a "full live tabernacle choir also lurking behind", which he now confirms to be Dennis' frequent guest stars, the Voices Of Inpiration from Compton's Double Rock Baptist Church. There is evidence to suggest the choir replaced a brass and woodwind section which was added the day after the string session...the contract for May 25th's "Under The Moonlight" horn overdub session also lists another title, "Can't Wait Too Long". The latter song may be an alternate title for "It's Not Too Late", or it could be for an entirely different Dennis Wilson song for which there is no other documentation (or it could in fact be a reference to the then-unrelased 1967/68 Beach Boys song of that name...but that's unlikely). The contract for the July 15th harp overdub bears the title "Baby Blue" and wasn't written up until February 5, 1979, but since an earlier contract (dated January 31, 1978) was already submitted for harp (and horn) on "Baby Blue", it seems more likely that someone forgot to pay Gayle Levant for her harp work on "It's Not Too Late" but confused that song with "Baby Blue" when production was wrapping up for L.A. (Light Album), thus explaining the contract drawn up on February 5th of '79.
Carli also speaks of the night Carl came in to record his vocal: "To me, that was so precious, and so, it's like, magical, because Dennis and Carl had been going through turmoil at the time. And they were, almost barely on speaking terms, but not because they hated each other, because...there was a lot of pain going on in-between...a lot of pain that had to do with Brian, y'know the Brian and Dr. Landy situation was going on...Murry had passed away...there was so much, and it was so emotional, that Carl came to the studio, and he was crazy, and everybody was crazy, I mean when I'm telling you everybody was crazy, Dennis was crazy that night (this was done at night), (and) Carl was out of his mind, y'know, a rare thing for Carl." On another occasion, Carli recalled "The most exciting and transcendent moment was when Carl came in and did his vocal on "It's Not Too Late". They had been in conflict with each other and the emotion was profound." Finally, Carli shared with author Ken Sharp his recollections that "the Double (Rock) Baptist Choir was going to sing the part that Carl eventually sang...What's even more amazing is that he did it in one take." Also present that night was Jim Guercio: "I told Carl that he could do a solo album too, but let Dennis do this (first), and Carl then supported Dennis." Wayne Tweed, who played bass on this cut, recalls, "When you went to work for Dennis, you set your time aside. I think I can speak for everyone when I say, 'We always looked forward to working with Dennis.' He was a quiet producer; he let you play."
Fading out slowly to end with a final swrill of harp, "It's Not Too Late" was described by Andrew Doe as "Manna to the faithful...but probably heavy going for the average listener." Of all the tunes that he and Dennis produced together, Carli says "'It's Not Too Late' is the most finished work and representative of what was possible." The released mix brings the strings and choir up to a more discernible level, while scaling back the massive drum reverb that was present on the bootlegged rough mix.
PRODUCED BY DENNIS WILSON and GREGG JAKOBSON
An outtake from the summer '76 POB sessions, this is logged as "New Girl" on the AFM contract, although this could well be someone's mishearing of "School Girl" rather than an actual original, alternate title. Dennis handles the keyboards, Hal Blaine drums (and also adds crash and ride cymbal overdubs in the coda), John Etheridge (from the jazz-rock outfit Soft Machine) is on guitar, while Ed Carter also plays guitar as well as overdubbing the high-register Fender bass notes (played fast with a hard pick) that are enhanced by Dennis' lower Moog bass. The congas in the coda are played by percussionist Oliver C. Brown (not to be confused with Ollie E. Brown, The Rolling Stones' percussionist at the time). Backup vocals are definitely provided by Karen Lamm and Phoebe Noel, along with the choir. Curiously, the released mix is missing the shouted scat vocals (and most of Hal's cymbal overdub) in the coda, but retains two tracks of choir parts, while the bootleg mix contains all of the vocals and cymbal overdubs but is missing the congas. Dennis' lead vocal had been wiped from the multi-track, so Hanlon had to "fly it in" from a vintage 2-track rough mix.
One of the most musically interesting Bambu cuts, it is also one of the most "commercial" sounding, in spite of the lyrical theme. To quote Mr. Doe once again, it is "guaranteed to give any parent hypertension; nor is this a feminist song!" According to Gregg Jakobson, "School Girl" was originally to incorporate the lyrics "I looked at her and thought we should / She looked at me and I knew we would". Interestingly, Dennis began reworking this song in 1977, recording a new tag that ultimately went unused, but provided the compositional foundation for "Baby Blue". NOTE: at the beginning of the released "School Girl" mix we hear drummer Hal Blaine's comical count-in: "Ready - Aim - Unnh".
LOVE REMEMBER ME
PRODUCED BY DENNIS WILSON and GREGG JAKOBSON
In March 1977, Hal Blaine commented to David Leaf on a recent Dennis Wilson recording session he had participated in at Brother. Based on the known chronology, the date of this conversation appears to have been Friday March 4th, and the session Hal was referring to was for this song, recorded the day before. Hal said, "You know, Dennis' stuff is great. Great! Dennis blew me away yesterday. He sat at the piano and played like I've never heard him play. And he hurt his back really bad. He had an accident on roller skates on Wednesday. Real bad. He was doubled over; he's in a wheelchair. Hopefully, he's at the doctor now. But he sat at the wheelchair yesterday and started playing. And I'm telling him...he's so prone to accidents. And, you know, I don't know anything about karma and all of that kind of thing, but my only thought was maybe God or somebody keeps laying him up so he has to sit at the piano and practice. He's really playing good piano. To me, the tapes sounded just great. They were gigantic, explosive...the stuff we did."
Recorded in separate sections (labeled as "I Don't Know" and "Something New Tag", and edited together by Hanlon during the mixdown process in 2007), this is one of Dennis' best and most epic creations. Per the AFM contract, Ed Carter and James Jamerson both played double parts, with Jamerson seemingly playing both an upright and an electric bass part. Michael Andreas is logged as contributing four clarinet and flute parts. David Duke played both French horn (an instrument he played on "Surf's Up" from the SMiLE sessions a decade earlier) and flügelhorn. The tambourine sounds as though it was hit in tandem with the snare and floor tom, implying it was attached to Hal's kit. Soon after the initial session, Hanlon overdubbed the wailing electric guitar that comes in toward the song's end, and the descending 12-string riffs were likely added by either Earle Mankey or Carl Wilson. Dennis' lead and harmony vocals were combined onto one track to make room for other parts. Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell of America, who were at Brother Studio in August of '77 to help out on former bandmate Dan Peek's solo album, were drafted by Dennis to sing backup on some of his sessions; based on aural evidence, this song is the most likely example of their contribution to Dennis' work. Dennis had recorded three completely separate attempts at the song's tag (or "B" Section), each of which contained elements unique from the other two (and one of which had leaked out on bootlegs); all three were combined in Pro Tools and mixed together by Hanlon (using a rough mix cassette from the original 1977 sessions as a reference) to create the final version.
This song moves from a gentle, pondering ballad to a thunderous, gigantic Spector-style production, with the full force of the Double Rock Baptist Choir unleashed behind Dennis' growling "C'mon...c'mon...c'mon...C'MON!" recitations. A true gem that was long overdue in seeing the light of day. NOTE: lyricist Steve Kalinich recalls, "It was the only song I ever wrote with Dennis where I didn't write the lyrics first. It was easy to fall into the feeling of the music."
LOVE SURROUNDS ME
PRODUCED BY DENNIS WILSON / ED ROACH (Seattle session)
The Bambu song with the longest documented production history, "Love Surrounds Me" was, of course, also included on The Beach Boys' L.A. (Light Album) in 1979. The tracking and overdub sessions for this song dragged on intermittently for over a year, during which time it grew from a Dennis Wilson track with no lyrics or vocals, to a fully-produced and released Beach Boys cut. During that time, Dennis remarried Karen, filed to divorce her, met and moved in with Christine McVie, and eventually added Christine's vocals to this recording.
The basic track for this song stems from a January 18, 1978 session at Brother, at which Dennis apparently laid down the main Fender Rhodes part accompanied by a click track, although other parts were likely added as well, some of which may have been erased over the course of the production. By the time Brother was sold that July, Dennis was traveling the country (on tour with The Beach Boys), and bringing the master tape along to record overdubs wherever the inspiration struck him. Ed Roach, Beach Boys photographer and Dennis' traveling companion: "As for 'Love Surrounds Me', I had a greater hand in co-producing that track than any other I worked on with Dennis through the years...he worked on that song in probably a dozen studios, all over the country! I carried the 2-inch master with us whenever we went on tour, so if he was inspired, we could book studio time. He actually let me full on produce a session for it in the state of Washington, when we brought a couple of lady friends from the concert to the session with us..." This would be Kaye-Smith (probably Studio B) in Seattle, with Dennis' personal engineer Tom Murphy (also part of the Boys' touring entourage) at the controls. To Ed's recollection, Dennis added some additional keyboard parts to the track in Seattle. The following day at Kaye-Smith, Dennis added overdubs to an unreleased track called "Lord Let Me Out Of Here", and he and Carl taped their final lead vocals on "Baby Blue" either that day or the next.
Built into The Beach Boys' touring schedule that summer was a weeklong layover in Miami, where they had booked session time at Criteria Studios to work on their next album (their first group effort for CBS/Caribou). Although Carl Wilson claimed (in a radio interview promoting the Light Album) that Dennis started "Love Surrounds Me" in Miami, then finished it in L.A., it's obvious that it was already in production by the time the Boys hit Miami in late August - although much of the basic instrumentation was apparently added at that time. At Criteria, Dennis had a smaller studio (Studio C), while Brian produced tracking and vocal sessions for the group across the lot in the larger Studio A (Tom Murphy was engineering for Dennis at Criteria, while the group flew in Chuck Britz to work with Brian). Bobby Figueroa recalls being at the Miami golf resort where the band and their entourage were staying, when he was summonded by Dennis to come down to Criteria: "When I got to the studio, Dennis was already there...it was me, Dennis, Carli Muñoz and Ed Carter...We laid down the basic track for 'Love Surrounds Me'...I was very familiar with the track, so we may have jammed at soundcheck, or previously worked on it at Brother Studio." Ed Roach recalls that Dennis also got into recording extra drums for this tune in Miami, and had him and the roadies carry his drums out to the hallway and help set them up, to get an "echoey" stairway effect (best heard at a couple of points toward the end of the Bambu mix, e.g. following the line "Making the love I've been missing" and again in the tag). At Criteria, Eddie says Dennis "kept coming and dragging me away from the big studio (where Brian was producing), to give him a hand and lend moral support" while working on this song and "Baby Blue". Two rough mixes of the "Love Surrounds Me" instrumental track, evidently originating from the Miami stage of the production, have surfaced on bootlegs; among notable elements there are sleighbells (in the coda) which didn't make it to the final mix, and the early, alternate Ed Carter bass line which was later replaced.
In Billy Hinsche's DVD documentary "Dennis Wilson Forever", Carl's friend and songwriting partner Geoffrey Cushing-Murray states that this song was just a track of "very nice back-groundy" music, pretty well "fleshed out" arrangement-wise, but with only an implied melody and the apparent title of "Love's Around Me" - until Carl and Jimmy Guercio decided to get Dennis more involved in the Light Album (as Cushing-Murray puts it, Bambu was going nowhere "for whatever reason", so Jimmy said they were going to "make Dennis get involved" with the group's album). Jimmy G. gave Geoffrey a cassette of the track and told him to see what he could come up with. Geoffrey wrote the lyrics and developed the melody, which he says Dennis had great reservations about initially, since the result was so different from what he envisioned for the song. In the meantime, Carl produced Dennis' vocal for "Angel Come Home", a song he and Geoffrey had cowritten sometime earlier (while Geoffrey was banished to the hallway outside the studio due to Dennis' overbearing self-conciousness), and upon hearing the results of that song, Dennis became more accepting of Geoffrey and his vision for "Love Surrounds Me".
From November '78 to January '79, there were no less than twelve "Love Surrounds Me" overdub sessions (documented by AFM contracts and CBS Records invoices) held at six different studios, plus an additional seven dedicated mixdown sessions at three studios (including the legendary Record Plant) from January through early February. Despite the long-held assumption by many fans that the "sweetening" of Dennis' track was done under the supervision of Bruce Johnston or the other Beach Boys, it is clear from the documentation and the recollections of those involved that Dennis himself produced nearly all of these sessions. At the first of these Beach Boys-sanctioned, Dennis-produced overdub sessions, Joe Chemay recut the bass part at Sounds Good; at the next session, held at Britannia Studio, dobro and banjo were played by Neil LeVang and Walt Meskell respectively, although the banjo was discarded (LeVang is the smiling guitar player seen in The Lawrence Welk Show, and Meskell played extensively for C.W. McCall and Mannheim Steamroller). Over the course of a double session that day, Phil Shenale added two more tracks of Oberheim synthesizer, and Steve Forman did multiple percussion overdubs. Geoffrey Cushing-Murray was present for the percussion session, and recalls Forman dropping the shaker (which sounds like a modern cabasa) in the coda; Dennis liked the resulting rattling sound so much he left it on the recording. The last "LSM" session of the year saw The Beach Boys (probably just Bruce, Carl and Dennis) add group background vocals to the song in a Bruce Johnston-produced session, also attended by Geoffrey; due to licensing issues, The Beach Beach Boys' background vocals were left off the 2008 Bambu mix of "Love Surrounds Me" ("Baby Blue" was left out of the collection entirely for the same reason).
Geoffrey was also present at the early January '79 lead vocal sessions, which he says involved just Dennis, an engineer, and himself. For the first of these, Dennis returned to the former Brother Studio, which had been renamed Crimson Sound by its new owners - undoubtedly, this was a bittersweet session for Dennis. The following day at Britannia, he redid his lead in the second verse, while also adding some additional, unspecified overdubs; two days later, he returned to Sounds Good for another unspecified overdub. After this, Dennis went in on his own with Christine to add their background vocals (Dennis had reportedly flown back up to Seattle with Christine at some point, for a listening session at Kaye-Smith - however, the background parts she and Dennis sang were actually added at Dirk Dalton's studio in Santa Monica, according to both Tom Murphy and supporting evidence from the CBS files). A January 9th session at Westlake saw Ed Carter add two electric guitar parts, while Dennis put on the finishing keyboard touches. After this, the mixdown sessions began - mostly at Westlake, but also at Kendun Recorders (a Bruce Johnston-produced session) and The Record Plant - and ran through February 5th. Along the way, additional (mostly unspecified) overdubs were tried, including a session at Sounds Good on January 23rd, in which Joel Peskin added three woodwind parts that were eventually wiped from the master tape. Two other rough mixes of "Love Surrounds Me" have made the rounds on bootlegs for several years - both include all of the vocals (Dennis', Christine's, and The Beach Boys'), Steve Forman's percussion, and the Oberheim cricket sound effects - but only one includes the dobro and middle break synth elements, and neither includes the electric guitar parts added at the January 9th session - indicating these mixes probably predate the January 9th overdub session and the start of the official mixdown sessions on January 11th.
Dark and brooding with a slow funk undercurrent, this track paints a bleak picture of Dennis' outlook at the time. Desolate as it may be, it is nonetheless beautiful, and Hanlon's new mix adds clarity to many previously murky elements; especially noteworthy are Christine McVie's haunting background vocals throughout.
PRODUCED BY DENNIS WILSON and GREGG JAKOBSON
"(I Found Myself In A) Wild Situation" (as it was originally known) reportedly dates back a few years prior to the Bambu sessions, perhaps even to the early '70s - and according to one rumor was originally about the Manson girls, before Dennis and Gregg revised the lyrics. The earliest master tape for the song could well be 16-track (there is a track sheet for this reel that goes up to Track 16, but this could simply mean that only the first 16 tracks of a 24-track tape were utilized - since 2" tape was used for both formats, it's difficult to tell...all the same, this seems to be a bit too coincidental to be the case). This was a Brother Studio session (piano-bass-drums-fuzz guitar-slide guitar), but it's unclear if any of these elements are the ones used in the final production - Alan Boyd reports that the bass and drums from this early version are "very different", and the tempo of the two takes from this session that exist on a rough mix reel is "substantially slower".
At any rate, Dennis resumed work on the song in the fall of '77: on October 10th, he held two sessions at Brother for overdubs, which included bassist James Jamerson, saxophonists Rod Novak and Michael Andreas, trumpeter Bill Lamb, and someone named James Marshall (instrument unknown). Jamerson's bass was apparently all that was kept from these overdubs. (NOTE: on the relevant AFM contract, below the artist name of DENNIS WILSON, the words PACIFIC OCEAN BLUE can be seen typed over with "X"s...since this session was held in the midst of preparations for Dennis' scrubbed tour, it's possible that he at first intended on calling his road band "Pacific Ocean Blue", before settling on the name "Bamboo", as previously reported). The following February 3rd, a 14-piece string section (contracted by Gregg Jakobson and conducted by Jeff Legg) was added to this song (and to "Baby Blue") at Brother. Curiously, the artist and employer for this session are logged, respectively, as "The Beach Boys" and "Brother Records" on the AFM contract, rather than "Dennis Wilson" and "Caribou Records" as expected - indicating Dennis may have considered at this point donating both songs to the band's upcoming album effort. From there, the 24-track master was taken to Colorado for some sessions at the Caribou Ranch.
Alice from BBFUN (Beach Boys Freaks United) reported in the fan club's February '78 newsletter: "I just talked to Dennis Wilson, and he informs me that, before the concert tour, the Beach Boys next album and also his own next solo album are going to finish being recorded at the Caribou Ranch"; the tour referred to here is the group's trek to New Zealand and Australia, which began in late-February. While at Caribou, the Boys (or at least the Wilson Brothers) apparently worked on overdubs for Brian's "Shortenin' Bread", Carl's "Angel Come Home", and Dennis' "Baby Blue" and "Wild Situation". By the time the tape left Caribou, most of the remaining elements seemed to be in place, including the guitars and Dennis' "guide" vocal (which ultimately became the "master" vocal, for lack of any other being recorded). Back in L.A., the background vocals were added (several tracks of Carl, Bruce and Dennis harmonizing - with Carl singing a great high part similar to his falsetto on "Good Timin'" - plus two distinct female vocal groups), along with Dennis' two harmonica parts. Gregg Jakobson: "He'd grab girls off the street, or he'd go to the restaurant that night, and he'd bring back a couple of girls to sing background parts." It is unknown if the girls who sang on "Wild Situation" were recruited in such a way, or if they were in fact Dennis' regular contributors Trisha Campo Roach and Phoebe Noel.
Carl Wilson plays the distorted "fuzzy" rhythm guitar, and there are also two tracks of acoustic guitar and dobro. Jon Stebbins heard the isolated tracks at the 2007 mixdown session, and believes at least one of these parts is played by Dennis: "...it's a rhythm part, perhaps even chords on a dobro...and we were all sure it was Dennis when we heard it separated on the multitrack...it had that mid-tempo feel and it was part of the early building block of the track."
Lastly, it's worth noting that the infamous "obscene" line - which Dennis is heard singing at the conclusion of a bootleged rough mix - had long ago been erased from the master tape, which is why it is not included on the official 2008 Bambu release. As Stebbins puts it, "Dennis had already gone in and put a harmony stack on top of it. It's obvious he didn't want it on the final version. The boot version comes from an earlier Tom Murphy reference mix. But Dennis worked on it after that." In addition to the rough mix described here, there are also two other such vintage mixes making the rounds amond collectors - one of the instrumental track with no vocals, and the other with harmonica and one set of female backing vocals to the fore, but no lead vocal. With so many contrasting and competing vocal parts going on in the background, it was up to John Hanlon to sort through them and, through Pro Tools editing, create a final chorus and tag section for the song that is worthy of release. Hanlon's mix also brings the appropriate "punchiness" to the guitar and drums on this longtime fan favorite.
PRODUCED BY DENNIS WILSON
"Common" is a song which was meant to have vocals, but since none were ever recorded, it remains an instrumental track...and a very interesting one, too, as it presents a rare Dennis foray into "space-rock". Sounding similar to something by Todd Rundgren's Utopia, "Common" was recorded by Dennis, Carli Muñoz, and Sterling Smith (all on keyboards), Tommy Smith on drums, onetime Beach Boys onstage sideman Patrick Verne (aka "Putter") Smith - no relation - on arco (bowed) upright bass, and presumably Dave Hessler on electric bass. Tommy Smith describes the basic tracking session for "Common" this way: "That tune was the two of us playing in the studio, Dennis on piano and me on drums. Then we went into the "booth", as the British call it, and ran the Moogs into the board direct to record my brother Sterling overdubbing the bass." From there, Carli Muñoz added some Rhodes electric piano and Putter Smith overdubbed the bowed bass, with a further addition of electric bass likely being made by Hessler. Notations on the track sheet indicate that a click track was also used, probably to keep Dennis on tempo in the intro (prior to Tommy's entrance on drums), and to allow Tommy to easily play the tom fills without having to worry about holding down the tempo. Further notations indicate that more acoustic piano was overdubbed, and that some of the piano tracks contain "leakage" from the drum kit. NOTE: the AFM contract for the April 3rd session omits Tommy Smith's and Dave Hessler's names, however they are added to a contract from April 13th for overdubs on "Common" and "He's A Bum" (the latter being a remake of a song originally tracked in August '77...see below for more info). This could be explained by the fact that Smith and Hesser were still members of the Ohio branch of the AFM (Local 103), rather than the L.A. branch (Local 47, to which Tommy's brother Sterling belonged), and therefore there was a delay in clearing them for studio work in Hollywood...or, it could mean that the omission of their names was a mere oversight, one which was caught and corrected ten days later. But based on the evidence and the recollections of the participants, the drums were recorded on the 3rd and not the 13th, although some additional parts could very well have been added on the later date.
The Smith Brothers (Sterling and Tommy) were members with Hessler of a "prog rock" group called The Load, and friends of engineer Tom Murphy, whom they knew from their hometown of Columbus, Ohio. By the late '70s, they had relocated to L.A. and were playing the club circuit there. Tommy Smith: "Dennis used to come see us play and was blown away by my drumming; he used to say, 'You play rings around me.' I would say, 'Well, you play in the center of the ring'. Dennis was a great drummer. Dennis was, I believe, always looking for some new energy and sound, and The Load had that potential for him." Tommy is quick to add that Dennis' humble comparison of their individual drumming talents stemmed from the difference in their styles, and the technical prowess neccesitated by the kind of music Tommy was playing, rather than any real musical inferiority on Dennis' part: "To my knowledge, Dennis never listened to Emerson Lake & Palmer, Jethro Tull, King Crimson, and groups where many notes on all intruments were part of the music. In fact when cruising with him he was either playing his new recordings, POB, or old Beach Boys. I particularly remember riding in his Rolls, and he had the Little Duece Coupe album just BLASTING out of the system, songs like 'The Ballad of Betsy', or whatever that title was. Anyway, here I come into his world, 4 toms across the front, many cymbals, and he is watching me hit all of them fairly quickly!...What we now call "Prog" drumming was new to him, as far as I could tell. All of this is retrospect. I was 22 and 23 years old when I was recording with him, life was still new to me." The close-mic'd drum sound of "Common" and several other tracks on Bambu is indicative of a difference in the engineering approach of Tom Murphy, compared to the room-mic'd ambient feel preferred by Earle Mankey and John Hanlon.
Opening with a quick burst of backwards-recorded piano, "Common" moves through three distinct segments, the second of which borrows the piano arpeggio from Dennis' then-unreleased Christmas song "Holy Evening". The third segment introduces a pipe organ sound, which drones away as the cut fades out. An intriguing musical experiment, even in its unfinished instrumental form.
ARE YOU REAL?
PRODUCED BY DENNIS WILSON
Another Dennis excursion into the realm of "prog rock", again recorded with the members of The Load. This song incorporates the bridge progression from the unreleased "10,000 Years", and resides on the same 24-track tape as "Thoughts Of You". However, this does not mean this piece necessarily began life at the same time as that last-named song, as Dennis was known to sometimes use blank sections of a partially-recorded tape from earlier sessions (even years earlier in some cases) to record new music. Additionally, Tommy Smith (who played drums on the cut) recalls "...we never overdubbed something he had already recorded, as far as basic tracks go. My brother Sterling and Dave, sure they would do some overdubs, but that song had to be us playing with Dennis on piano, Sterling on organ, Dave on bass and then guitar...Dave had a double-neck which he built, 6-string guitar and then bass, so he might play bass, then overdub the guitar, and my brother would overdub the bass using a Mini-Moog." The fact that no AFM contract has surfaced for this track is not at all surprising, according to Tommy: "We jammed a fair amount at Brother on 'unofficial time', therefore the tape might have rolled without a union contract."
Tommy emphasizes, "Dennis was so nice to us...I think because we were real...two out of three of us were totally straight, never touched his coke...we weren't into that stuff at all, we were there for music. He had a fair amount of leeches around...and we were just a bunch of guys from Ohio going for the music." The music on this particular piece is a great example of "prog" or "classical" rock, very dark and almost gothic, with intense drumming and arpeggiated organ-playing (reminiscent of "Foreplay" by Boston), and many layers of ARP "violins". After singing "Are you my vision?", Dennis cries out in a voice filled with pain, "Why...did you have to go and run away?". After a long instrumental interlude, the track concludes with an abrupt ending ala "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" on The Beatles' Abbey Road. It's intriguing to think of Dennis possibly continuing in the direction of "Common" and "Are Your Real?", had he kept his life and career on track...but, as Tommy Smith puts it, "Of course...he let everything fall apart slowly but surely."
HE'S A BUM
PRODUCED BY DENNIS WILSON and GREGG JAKOBSON
Gregg Jakobson: "Some girl told him he was a bum. Dennis kind of agreed with that. He always related to the homeless and Venice Beach street people as his peers. It's really just a very honest description of Dennis at that time." According to Ed Roach, this song "was recorded originally as a Hawaiian-sounding instrumental, then took a whole different twist when it got those lyrics." The track for this two-part song was built pretty much one-piece-at-a-time around Dennis' piano, with later overdubs including Carl's guitar (smoothly processed with delay and/or chorus effects) and two tracks of three ukuleles strummed mandolin-style, to give it the Hawaiian feel (NOTE: most of the instruments on this track appear to have been recorded at a faster speed, to create a special "drunken" effect when played back at normal speed). A number of other instruments and vocal parts were added, but were later wiped from the tape (including tack piano and a submix of horns - the latter possibly performed by James Pankow, Lee Loughnane, and Walter Parazaider of Chicago, according to Jim Guercio). A rough mix of the track, featuring a different lead vocal from Dennis (which was also wiped and replaced by the vocal on the released version), was leaked and circulated among collectors and bootleggers for years, albeit in very low-fi quality. An alternate take (Take 1) from the same session has also been bootlegged, and this instrumental-only take features a prominent marimba (displaying a definite "Margaritaville" influence), along with electric guitar, bass, and drums. Apparently Dennis decided to reject that earlier, shorter take and add overdubs to the later, longer take, which formed the basis for the "master" version.
In late August of '77, while being interviewed by David Leaf, Dennis managed to trick Leaf (and a number of other rock writers) into singing backup on this tune. As Leaf reported in his "Pet Sounds" fanzine, Dennis said, "I want you to come by the studio tonight to watch me record...it's a new approach...a song called 'He's A Bum'. Even has a nasty line in there - 'he likes to do it on his hands and knees'. I know that's terrible but..." Leaf goes on to describe the session: "It's eight hours later, and I'm sitting on the couch in the control room at Brother Studio. Behind me, at the console, Earle Mankey and Gregg Jakobson are discussing the upcoming session. 'I think Dennis now knows he sings better at night,' says Gregg. 'He sings better when he's not singing for anyone,' says Earle. I wonder if they are trying to tell me something? Actually, they're not. I was just the first arrival. A dozen or so writers, publicists, friends and hangers-on eventually trickle in and are milling around waiting for tonight's master of ceremonies. Finally, Dennis bursts in, grabs a drink and heads for the mixing board. Dennis announces, 'We've got all these writers here, and you're going to help me write the lyrics to this song I'm working on called 'He's A Bum'.' He points a finger at me. 'Are you ready, bad boy?' he croons with a puckish grin. The 'new approach' that Dennis had hinted at earlier in the day was a con job...he's going to get 'the observers' to write the song.
"An hour later, even Dennis is disgusted at our word skills, or lack thereof. This motely crew hadn't even come up with one good line in our exercise in songwriting. Dennis hasn't given up on us yet, though. 'Who can sing?': Dennis has struck a nerve in the crowd. Everybody thinks he can sing. We've been taking too many showers, I guess. At any rate, Dennis takes seven of us into the studio to teach us the harmony lines for 'He's A Bum'. It is definitely put-up-or-shut-up time for seven George Plimptons. Ready or not, we don our headphones and become part of the story. Take after take, line after line, we sing the three-part harmony. Dennis leads the way, constantly pushing us, testing us to see if we have our notes. What had started as a lark has quickly become serious business. There's no fooling around in the studio with Dennis. Music is everything to him, and if we are to be a part of that music, we had better give our all. So we all sing out. 'He's a dog without a bone'...'Some people say he lost his way'...'Wonders 'bout God every single night'. And then three tracks of 'oooooooos'. It's a strange sensation. I've watched sessions and I've been singing along with records (and without) for years, but this is real singing. In this two-hour session, I've gotten more insight into how the Beach Boys make records than from all the articles in the world. Dennis was right when he said at the beginning of the night that people understand something so much better once they've done it.
"I do understand. I now can feel how hard it is to sing, how after ten or twenty takes, one wants to be any place but in front of a micorphone. I'm watching Dennis sing the lead for 'He's A Bum' for at least the fiftieth time. Each take, he's motivating himself, as he pushed us background singers. What he's searching for, I don't know. Each vocal sounds perfect to me. Yet, Dennis keeps erasing one vocal and singing another. I ask him what's wrong with take number 51. 'It doesn't have it. I didn't feel anything,' he explains. 'Let's try it again from the top,' he shouts at Earle. There's a special psychology to studio singing, and it can't be picked up in one night.
"When it was all over, Dennis congratulated me. 'You sang. Didn't think you could do it, did you?' Well, yes. Still, it was a lot of fun. Now, maybe I should let Brian know I'm available..." In a mid-'80s interview with BBFUN, Leaf recounted that Dennis also added a lead vocal to another song before that night's session was complete, starting around 10:00 and continuing for the next three hours (the song in question was likely "Love Remember Me" or possibly "Cocktails", as evidence suggests further work was done on both of those recordings in August). Leaf continued, "That day with Dennis didn't end at the studio. Around 1:00 in the morning, when he quit for the day, he said to me, 'C'mon, let's go.' I didn't know where we were going; I just knew that he wanted to drive my car. I have to admit that made me a little nervous, not only because Dennis was a speed racer, but because on the back windshield of my car, I had a bumper sticker that a friend of mine had given to me. It said, 'Warning - I brake for Brian Wilson'...When Dennis saw it, I was just humiliated. I thought, 'He's going to kill me.' And he looked at it, and got all choked up, like he was going to cry. And he said, 'I know exactly what you mean. Everytime I'm driving in my car and one of Brian's songs comes on the radio, I have to pull off to the side of the road.' To me, the bumper sticker was a mean joke, but when Dennis said it like that, it suddenly took on a whole new meaning. I never knew whether he was serious or whether he was putting me on, but he got pretty emotional about it...Anyway, he drove to his house in Venice, and we spent the entire night talking. He played the piano some, played a new song, and he got me to write lyrics to it. That's another beautiful song that never came out. I think the lyric was something like 'Drink up, the bartender said, the night is long and you've been mislead.' And in the chorus, Dennis sang, 'Did it hurt, did it hurt to love again?'. That was a powerful, emotional experience. And that's what Dennis could do to you. We talked 'til dawn, never went to sleep. We discussed different groups we liked, and it turned out we were both big Bruce Springsteen fans. The next morning, a friend of his visited, and around 10 a.m., I went home and slept. I will never forget that day..."
The following April, Dennis would attempt a remake of "He's A Bum", this time in a more calypso-influenced style, with steel drums tinking away. That unbootlegged version (taped Monday April 10th from 8:00pm to 11:00pm) was recorded with Jeff Legg and Steve Ross on guitars, David Kemper on drums, Patrick Verne (aka Putter) Smith on bass, and Sterling Smith on piano, with additional guitar overdubs added three days later. "He's A Bum", the most legendary Bambu song, was actually the first (aside from "Love Surrounds Me") to see official release, by virtue of a cover version by Irish schoolgirl/singer Cherry (on Crashed Records, 1986).
PRODUCED BY DENNIS WILSON and GREGG JAKOBSON
A lush, romantic ballad in typical DW fashion, this track survives with what must be a rough "scratch" vocal, but nonetheless it ranks among Dennis' best slow songs. This opens with three tracks of subtle choir vocals mixed deep in the intro, and proceeds through a backdrop of shimmering string sounds from the ARP (the sax part designated on the track sheet is also likely from the ARP String Ensemble), and muffled drum fills. Engineer John Hanlon not only plays the jazzy acoustic guitar on this song, but also receives cowriting credit (Jon Stebbins notes that Dennis engineered Hanlon's guitar part from the booth, indicating the two of them may have been the only people in the studio for this part of the recording). The multiple layers of keyboards nearly drown out Dennis' vocal at points, and he seems to have run out of lyrics to sing, "na-na"-ing his way through much of the final verse. He ends his performance by crying "Why don't you say you love me" in English, as well as its Spanish equivalent, "Porque no dice que me quieres". NOTE: Although left off the songwriting credits upon release, the name Stephen John Kalinich appears as one of the writers for "If Love Had It's Way" in the ASCAP database.
According to Alan Boyd, several takes were attempted at the initial session for this song (which was just Dennis on piano), and the "master" was apparently edited out of the reel and spliced into another 2" tape with the master takes of "I Don't Know" (aka "Love Remember Me") and "He's A Bum", in keeping with the standard working methods at Brother in those days. Interestingly, Dennis' closing question "Why don't you say you love me?" is followed in the album's sequence by a song titled "I Love You"...perhaps not coincidentally.
I LOVE YOU
PRODUCED BY DENNIS WILSON
Previously unbootlegged, "I Love You" is, chronologically speaking, the last song to have been started for Bambu. Dennis recorded the basic track at Sounds Good studio on October 15th, and added additional piano and choir vocal parts to the tag section on November 1st - possibly at The Village Recorder. It was at the Village that Dennis met Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac, and soon began a two-year relationship with her. At the time, the Mac were camped out in the Village's Studio D (custom-built especially for them), recording their double-album opus Tusk (released October '79)...a small snapshot of Dennis and Christine, holding a baby, is included in one of the inner-sleeve art collages in the Tusk package. However, while engineer Tom Murphy remembers Dennis visiting the Village around this time, he recalls it was with the sole intention of meeting the members of Fleetwood Mac - especially Stevie Nicks! - and he has no recollection of Dennis actually recording at the Village...which means another engineer may have worked the board for those "I Love You" tag overdubs, if they were in fact recorded at the Village. During the course of their relationship, Dennis and Christine reportedly wrote several songs together, and shortly before their breakup at the end of 1980 they would record a few tracks together at Audissey Sound Studio in Honolulu, which apparently remain in Ms. McVie's possession to this day.
The track sheet documentation for "I Love You" reveals that nineteen tracks of choir vocals were recorded for this song; most likely the final eight tracks of the original 24-track tape, and possibly eleven tracks on a second tape, which were then either bounced into two tracks of the first tape, or left on the second tape, which was intended to be synched-up electronically to the first during mixdown (a technique which began to be utilized around 1978 as a way of obtaining up to 48 tracks total). The fact that these choir parts were recorded individually over nineteen tracks could indicate they are the work of a small group of individuals (possibly even just one male and one female singer), rather than a full ensemble. No AFM contract for this song has surfaced, but the playing style suggests Bobby Figueroa on drums, Dave Hessler on guitar and bass, and either Sterling Smith or Carli Muñoz on clavinet.
The soulful "I Love You" is one of those tunes that is good enough and universal enough to have become a "standard", if only Dennis had taken the time to develop it (for instance, by adding a bridge and two strong additional verses); instead, he let the song trail off way too soon, and added a completely-unrelated tag section as a separate piece (which Hanlon had to edit onto the end). Still, it is nice as it stands...an intriguing example of a great "might-have-been", had the composer had the clarity and focus to bring it to a more logical conclusion. NOTE: a reproduction of the lyric sheet, in Dennis' own handwriting, can be seen in the Legacy Edition inner package artwork.
PRODUCED BY CARLI MUÑOZ & DENNIS WILSON
Written by Carli Muñoz in 1971, with lyrical assistance from his friend Rags Baker, "Constant Companion" is a spiritual-themed, salsa-styled number vastly different from anything else Dennis ever recorded. Carli: "The first time I played 'Companion' for Dennis he practically wanted to do it the same way I recorded it on my 4-track (in my home studio). It had the horns and all - it was basically the same arrangement. Dennis liked the lyrics and the rhythm too. We always talked about spiritual stuff. Dennis believed that we have spiritual guides" (i.e., guardian angels). For the basic track, guitarist Richard Chavez joined Carli and Dennis' regular sidemen Bobby Figueroa and Wayne Tweed; a total of four clavinet parts were incorporated, along with organ and Moog. Wayne Tweed gets a chance to play some funky "slap" style bass here, while drummer Figueroa plays to a backbeat provided by the Rhythm King, the primitive drum machine used on several Beach Boys productions in the early '70s. Once the basics were commited to 24-track tape, Carli brought in Manolo Badrena from the jazz group Weather Report to add some Brazilian percussion overdubs, with what Carli describes as "bits and pieces of drums that were around the studio." The flutes and horns were added in a separate session almost a month later - possibly one of the very last sessions at Brother before the studio was sold. The choir vocals that come in during toward the song's end were apparently a late addition, and could have been added at another studio - such as the Village - after the sale of Brother.
The 2008 Hanlon mix presents a smooth, clean Dennis vocal, the choir singing background lines in the final verse, and adds more "punch" from the guitar and clavinets (especially bringing the wah-wah part to the fore). The rough mix that circulates on bootlegs includes an extended percussion outro, and on some copies, a lengthy intro as well, but lacks the choir. NOTE: the song title is listed as CONSTANT COMPANION on the June 8th AFM contract, and simply as COMPANION on the July 5th contract. 2017 NOTE: Carli Muñoz has since indicated that Dennis had him teach him the drum part for "Constant Companion", and that he spent "hours at the studio by himself working on it." The track sheet info for the song does include a track or two of tom-tom overdubs, which could perhaps be the work of Dennis - hence the ammended drum credit above.
TIME FOR BED
PRODUCED BY DENNIS WILSON and GREGG JAKOBSON
Along with "Love Surrounds Me", "Time For Bed" probably has the longest and most confusing recording history of all the Bambu cuts. It was first tracked in late October '77 over a three-day period during a series of sessions primarily devoted to band rehearsals for Dennis' ill-fated tour. As such, we get an idea of what the tour's upbeat numbers might have sounded like live: rollicking, horn-filled blasts of New Orleans-styled swagger (in fact, for years the instrumental track of this tune has been bootlegged under the title "New Orleans"). Early takes of the song, on a reel dated 10/24/77, were rejected. When the master take was achieved at some point over the next two days, horns were added and it was pulled to a compilation reel with other D.W. master takes. Meanwhile, the outtakes from Oct. 25th-26th were put on a comp reel with "Cocktails" session outtakes. At some unknown point, Dennis added a scratch vocal to the master take which pretty much has to be heard to be believed...undoubtedly it was intended merely for "work" purposes, and not for public consumption (on the track sheet, Dennis' vocal is clearly marked "TBE"..."To Be Erased"). Amongst the outrageous topics Dennis sings of are marijuana, beer, wine, dirty needles, and an urge to commit grand theft auto and vehicular homicide.
Apparently "Time For Bed" was a song Dennis loved to play, as Tommy Smith vividly recalls he and Dennis jamming on it with the other members of The Load. Two alternate versions of the song (one at mid-tempo and the other as a slow blues, and both incorporating modulations from the earlier "San Miguel") were recorded in May of '78 as part of the planned "Mexico" trilogy. That September, yet another attempt at "Time For Bed" (also with the "San Miguel" modulations) was made at a Beach Boys session at Cherokee Studio. The Beach Boys version (produced by Bruce Johnston and James Guercio, and engineered by Chuck Britz) is the alternate "New Orleans" track appearing on bootlegs. With a vocal reminiscent of Keith Richards, careening tack piano, Mardi Gras-styled horns, and off-the-wall slide guitar, this track is a lot of fun, provided one doesn't take the lyrics too seriously.
ALBUM TAG SONG
PRODUCED BY DENNIS WILSON and GREGG JAKOBSON
The intro and outro of this cut is comprised of an intriguingly progressive experiment in what appears to be 7/4 time, with Baron Stewart singing a wordless vocal part. This was recorded during the tail-end of the POB sessions, but was almost immediately earmarked for Bambu. At the 2008 mixdown sessions, an undated piano/vocal demo found in the CBS vaults was skillfully edited into the middle by John Hanlon, in the process adding so much more value to the piece, and truly turning it into a "song" (by an incredible stroke of luck, the musical keys of the two pieces matched, enabling a seemless edit).
NOTE: the main theme of "Album Tag" was reworked in 1978 and incorporated into another unreleased song called "Lord Let Me Out Of Here", recorded with the Smith brothers and Dave Hessler.
PRODUCED BY CARLI MUÑOZ & DENNIS WILSON
The final Carli Muñoz composition included on Bambu, "All Alone" first appeared in 1998 as part of the soundtrack for the VH1 documentary "Endless Harmony". According to Carli, it was composed circa 1970-'71 (not 1968 as the liner notes for Endless Harmony Soundtrack state); Dennis added and changed some lyrics when he recorded it. This is yet another track with a confusing recording history; it was first recorded on 24-track tape at Brother Studio in the summer of '78 (the version appearing on both Endless Harmony and here on the 2008 Bambu collection). The exact date of the basic tracking session is unknown, making it difficult to determine the musician lineup. The liner notes for Endless Harmony Soundtrack credit Carlos Muñoz (piano), Sterling Smith (keyboards), Dave Hessler (guitar & bass), Bobby Figueroa (drums), Tommy Smith (percussion), Dennis (percussion & ARP String Ensemble), and Joel Peskin (sax). The problem with this lineup is that there is clearly no percussion or String Ensemble on this version of the song, but there definitely IS a tenor sax solo. There is an AFM contract (bearing no song title) for a Dennis Wilson session at Brother on June 2nd of 1978; musicians listed as being present are Carlos Muñoz, Bobby Figueroa (drums), Steve Ross (guitar), and Wayne Tweed (bass). It is possible that this contract is for one of two other tunes started by Dennis and Carli during this time period, "Shu-Da-Bop" and "La Plena de Amor", or it could in fact be the session for "All Alone" (no contract with any of these titles has surfaced). However, a strong case can be made for the accuracy of at least part of the credits from the Endless Harmony liner notes, based on the fact that the track sheet for this song indicates that all the guitar parts were overdubbed after the basic session (supporting the theory that Hessler played bass on the basic track, then overdubbed the guitars; if Steve Ross were in fact the guitarist, he probably would've played one guitar part live on the basic session); also, Joel Peskin's name does not appear on the 6/2/78 AFM contract (of course, he could've overdubbed the sax at a later date). It's also worth mentioning that other than the main piano, no keyboard parts are labeled on the track sheet, yet an electric keyboard (probably a Fender Rhodes, but possibly a Moog synth) is audible at certain points on both the 1998 and 2008 mixes (the track sheet assigns no vocal or instrumental part to Track 24, and also documents sax solos on three different tracks; it's entirely possible that this keyboard part could've been recorded onto any of these tracks at a later date, and just not labeled; for that matter, the percussion and ARP String Ensemble mentioned in the Endless Harmony liner notes could also exist on any of these tracks, and perhaps were left out of both official mixes for whatever reason - but that's not likely). Regardless, the credits presented above, although speculative, are based on a comparison of the Endless Harmony liner notes, aural evidence, and the track sheet. 2017 NOTE: according to Ken Sharp's liner notes in the new Record Store Day double-vinyl album release of Bambu, the bassist on this track is Wayne Tweed.
Another version of "All Alone" (the one that first appeared on collector tapes and bootlegs in the mid-'90s) is actually a remake recorded in the summer of '79 at Tom Murphy's 16-track studio in Venice. That version does indeed feature a prominent ARP String Ensemble, but no guitar or saxophone. In that version, the main piano part is played on the Fender Rhodes instead of the acoustic grand, and Dennis' vocal trails off about halfway through, leaving the production decidedly unfinished. For that matter, Muñoz feels the original 1978 version was also incomplete: "The version that came out...was so ridiculously unfinished. It was just a sketch, and he really wanted to do that right." To Carli's point, the lead vocal on this version, while complete, sounds like a "work" vocal that Dennis would have eventually replaced. Nonetheless, of the two versions of "All Alone" that Dennis cut, this is definitely the most finished.
NOTE: another Muñoz song, "I Don't Want To Go", was produced by Dennis and Carli at Brother on April 28th of '78, with a lineup of Carli, Bobby Figueroa, Steve Ross, Sterling Smith, and Wayne Tweed. This track exists in the vaults with only a scratch vocal by Carli.
PIANO VARIATIONS ON THOUGHTS OF YOU
PRODUCED BY DENNIS WILSON
Opening with Dennis' personal "Thank you" to Jimmy Guercio, this cut is a simply beautiful solo piano piece composed and performed by Dennis, using the same progression as POB's "Thoughts Of You", but in a different arrangement. "I challenge anyone not to listen to 'Piano Variations'", says Guercio. "It's an incredible sound. You can hear the pedals (of the piano). You can FEEL this thing." As Jon Stebbins puts it, "It is rhythmically precise and clear and truly beautifully. He takes the motif into the absolute upper register on the keyboard where it's just gently tinkling in an almost 'Nearest Faraway Place' kind of vibe. There are no flubbed notes or hesitations, it's a perfect performance and it's just stunning. Tears were welling when I heard it." As Dennis plays on, the track gently fades into the distance, leaving the listener with the impression of Dennis playing on into eternity.
This track is the offical close of the Bambu collection, but it is followed by one last incredible gift...
Bambu Bonus Track
HOLY MAN (Taylor Hawkins Version)
PRODUCED BY DENNIS WILSON
"I have great faith in life itself," Dennis told David Leaf. "I'm religious, and I'm not religious. I get stoned, and I don't get stoned. I smoke a cigarette, and I don't smoke a cigarette. I live my life, period. I take it as it comes, and I take responsibility for it." In answer to Leaf's question, "Do you see any hope for the world?", Dennis replied, "I don't think I should judge people, but I think it's time for people to stop fighting. It's such a profound question that a master would have trouble answering it. Maharishi would say, 'Meditate.' All I say is: 'Enjoy life, try to be an example.'"
Dennis may have never gotten to put a vocal on this spititually "hopeful" song in his lifetime, but in 2008 it was decided that a track this brilliant really deserved a great vocal performance. To that end, Gregg Jakobson was given the task of finally writing a complete set of lyrics to the tune, a job which had been attempted by many writers back in the '70s, but never accomplished satisfactorily. Gregg describes "Holy Man" as "one of the first songs where Dennis went into the studio and cut a real Spector/Brian Wilson big track, but we could never get the lyrics for it. If you think about 'holy man', it's hard not to be cliche' or trite. I tried to write lyrics for it, Dennis, Carl, Stephen Kalinich, and Jim Dutch all tried, but everything went into the trash. We even wanted to do the choir that went on 'River Song'; (that) was originally intended for 'Holy Man', but we couldn't because we never had a lyric. Dennis kept saying, 'Don't worry about it, it will come. We'll get it.'" The melody that Carl had once hummed over the backing track had long since been erased from the multi-track tape, but fortunately the 1976 rough mix that included it still existed. John Hanlon: "Gregg Jakobson, as Dennis' co-producer - to his credit - always kept a quarter-inch rough-mix reel, and he was very organized..." Because of that, Carl's melodic vocalizing was preserved. The track lay there for three decades, waiting for the right time to arrive, when words would finally be written for a voice to sing. John: "No one had heard from Gregg in forever. I hadn't seen him since 1977, so that was 23 years" (at the time the multi-track was rediscovered in 2000). "I got reconnected with Gregg through his daughter (who was living with Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters at the time) by way of Dave Grohl from his and my work at Neil Young's annual Bridge Concert that the Foo Fighters were playing at."
Once Gregg composed a new set of lyrics (in prose form), he called upon Taylor (who is the Foo Fighters' drummer) to do the vocal honors. Jakoboson's lyric (modified by Hawkins), and Hawkins' vocal itself, both fit the track perfectly. Gregg Jakobson: "Taylor's a drummer, and he belongs to that brotherhood of drummers. Taylor's just a natural, and he came in, did the vocal, and I think he really knocked it out of the park. I really wanted to do that for Dennis. I knew that...that was something that he really wanted to finish." As Jon Stebbins puts it, "The melody is already inherent from Dennis' piano intro as well as the synth parts in the body of the song. Carl and Hawkins both instinctively followed that template. John and Gregg helped Taylor dial it in to a further point than Carl's vocal travels to." For his part, Taylor admits to having reservations about doing the vocal, which is the only posthumous overdub added to Dennis' work in this collection. As he put it to David Beard, "...after I listened to it and got into it - I realized that this was something that people really regarded as a lost treasure and classic. I mean...who the fuck am I (laughs) to go in there and finish something by this guy who is a legend? He really was a great talent who never got his due. I went into the studio and they played what they had for me. There was a guide melody track by Carl...sort of sketchy, nothing major. Gregg gave me the CD, and I took it home and didn't really listen to it because I started thinking about the general fan reacton to me recording a Dennis Wilson song. But Gregg wanted me to get into the studio to work on it. I was like, 'oh fuck'...When I got to the studio, Gregg and John Hanlon were there. Gregg handed me a sheet of prose...not really lyrics; it was stuff that didn't really fit to the music. Within an hour I sketched the prose sections together and added a few lyrics and within an hour I said, 'OK, let's do a couple takes', and I left. I (inititally) listened to it and thought it turned out great! Then, I didn't listen to it for awhile because I was afraid of it. That sounds silly, but it's true. The more I rationalize it, I figure it was an unfinished song, etc. How cool is it that I got to sing on this track when all the music was cut in the 1970's? I don't think of it as a tribute, and I wasn't trying to be Dennis...Appropriately enough, our voices do have a similar quality to them: a whiskey/smoker's gruff style of vocal. I think it fits. I like it. I hope the purist out there can deal with it. If they don't like it, then fuck it, they can listen to the instrumental version...One of the beautiful things about him was his piano playing. I like Dennis' rock and roll songs, but for me the ballads are the best because I really feel like you're hearing the real Dennis...Of all the Beach Boys, I think Dennis was doing the best work in the 1970's...I hope that it will turn people on to it that normally wouldn't have checked it out...I think Dennis is up there smiling. I hope he likes my version. I really wish he was here to finish 'Holy Man' himself, but Gregg was a big part of the music and he asked me to do it."
NOTE: yet another 2008 mix of "Holy Man" exists, incorporating not only Taylor Hawkins' vocal, but also guitar, percussion, and background vocals from Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen. It is hoped that this version might also one day see the light of day.
Analog to Digital Transfers: Mark Linett and Alan Boyd at Your Place Or Mine Recording, Glendale, CA, circa late 2007
The Pacific Ocean Blue/Bambu Legacy Edition was finally released on June 17th of 2008, to glowing reviews and, encouraged by a brilliant Sony Music promotional campaign, worldwide sales that exceeded even the most optimistic of expectations: the set debuted at Number 4 on Amazon.com's Rock chart, Number 8 on Billboard's U.S. Catalog Album chart, and Number 16 on the U.K. Album Chart. It was the Number 2 Best Seller at the Los Angeles store of popular independent west coast chain Ameoba Records. Other global placings include Number 71 in Ireland, Number 67 in Holland, and an astonishing Number 5 in Norway. Rolling Stone, Mojo, Uncut, and the London Observer all voted it the best reissue of the year, while Time Out New York ranked it 2008's third best album overall. Nearly a decade after its eventual release, Bambu has re-emerged by itself in a special limited-edition green vinyl double-album release for 2017's Record Store Day, becoming an instant collector's item. "Everything that I am or will ever be is in the music. If you want to know me, just listen", Dennis Wilson once said. It's gratifying to know that in 2008 and beyond, so many people have come to know this long-lost Beach Boy and music man.