Dennis Wilson, The Beach Boys and the Hal Blaine Myth

shilohjim

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A recent thread on the Smiley forum has compelled me to post, for I've seen some of the same misinformation here. For years, it's been written as fact that Hal Blaine played drums on most of the Beach Boys records, when the reality is that he actually played on relatively few Beach Boys songs. Hal did play on many iconic BB songs (Little Deuce Couple, California Girls, Good Vibrations) and played on Pet Sounds and Smile. But most people believe Hal tracked most of the songs, but just doing some basic research will reveal that Dennis played on many of their hits and most of the album tracks. I'm afraid Hal's book, his discography, and the Beach Boys chapter in particular had a lot to do with this. In the beginning of this book, there is a list of Hal's performances on top 10 records. But it doesn't state if Hal actually played drums or if he was doing percussion on these songs, so people automatically think he played drums on the BB numbers listed. For example, I Get Around is listed as one of Hal's top 10 performances, when his only contribution to this song was playing castanets while Denny played the kit. Dennis also played drums on Fun, Fun, Fun. Hal is listed as playing timbales on that, although I can't really hear timbales on the track. Dance, Dance, Dance is Dennis on drums and Hal on sleighbells, but again, the credits make it seem like Hal drummed on this one too. And Hal is not on Surfin' USA at all, although he takes credit for it in his book. That was Frank Devito, who was filling in because Dennis had broken his ankle. And Hal says in the BB's chapter that Dennis liked his playing so much that he hired him for his solo album. The reality there is that Hal played on only one song on that. Andrew Doe's Bellagio site has the credits for all the songs along with copies of many of the AFM sheets. Dennis played on the majority of the sessions, and in his early years was a fantastic drummer (listen to Live in London) before having to retire from playing due to cutting his hand. He wasn't so good in his later years, but that was mainly due to substance problems.
I don't know why this bother's me so much, but I can't stand someone taking credit for someone else's work. Dennis was a good drummer, but these myths make it seem like he was a guy just along for the ride as opposed to an intergral part of a great band. And there's no reason for these myths to persist, since all this information is publicly available.
 

jriolo

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Dennis could play, that's for sure. He blew me away with his shuffle on one of the live cuts on Youtube and was playing the accents before the twos and fours like he was in Stevie Ray Vaughns group, and that was like in 64' or something.

I don't think we'll know for sure who did what in some circumstances, Love E'M Both!
 

TheBeachBoy

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I have a book that goes through their career and lists all the days they tracked and toured. It also has AFM contracts for most every recording. I was always interested to see if Dennis had, indeed, played on the early stuff. When he wasn't drunk, he could play well enough to hold them together. Like Ringo, another lefty playing a righty kit, but he played lefty on it.
 

nickg

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though Dennis could replicate "some" of the stuff that Hal did, i really don't think he played on any of those BB hits...the playing is just too smooth of a pro like Hal than what Dennis could do.
 

mtarrani

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The wrecking crew seems to be taking all kinds of undeserved credit. Carol Kaye is claiming credit for some tracks that James Jamerson played on, and there is evidence that Jamerson did, in fact, play on them. See: http://bassland.net/jamerson.html
 

supershifter2

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my favorite BB song and this is my favorite version. the drums on this live version are just bitchin ! Dennis did a great job !





BTW > my mom bought every BB album to pet sounds. i was born in 1957 and my parents were constantly playing records. my mom played lots of Beach boys and the Beatles when they the scene. my dad played mostly Chet Atkins records. When i was about 9(5th grade) i noticed the drum fills on shut down part 2 and thats what got me interested in the drums along with a 6th grader down the street with a cheep red sparkle japanese kit. i always liked Dennis's drumming. Shut Down Part 2 is my send favortie BB song. eye dont know who played dromes on thees song boss !


 

W&A Player

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There are hours and hours of recording session tracks and takes that never make it to the finished product. If a musician was hired to play on the sessions, but his or her contributions didn't make the final cut, the musician can still claim contribution to the song(s). There are also final mixes that may include some passages of a song performed by a different musician than the player on other parts in the final mix. I think that these situations are the genesis of the continuing arguments concerning Bernard Purdie, Hal Blaine, Carol Kay, and other hired guns. Dennis Wilson was a capable drummer when he was not injured or drunk or doped up. I shared a stage with him in the early 60's. He was more than good enough to play the Beach Boys' music in live performance. His well-documented descent into substance abuse and the resulting unreliability lend much credence to Hal or others ghosting for Dennis on records. The outrage posted here with accusations that Blaine or others are not telling the truth smack of misplaced unconditional fan loyalty when there is plenty of documentation (pay stubs and contracts?) to prove otherwise. Once again, I'll say that Dennis Wilson, when unimpaired, was a good drummer. Brother Carl was a gifted guitarist who was ghosted on records while he was out on the road playing live gigs. The same can be said for multi-instrumentalist Bruce Johnston. STUFF HAPPENED!
 

shilohjim

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Like I said, there's copies of most of the AFM contracts for these songs on the Andrew Doe's sight, along with musician credits for every BB song ever recorded. I've also heard it said through the years that Hal played on most of the Byrds stuff, when the reality was that he only played on Mr. Tambourine Man and She Don't Care About Time. Don't get me wrong, Hal is a legend and one of the greatest of all time, and his contributions to the 1960s and 70s LA recording scene are enormous. I just hate it when misinformation gets represented as fact.
 

budrock

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though Dennis could replicate "some" of the stuff that Hal did, i really don't think he played on any of those BB hits...the playing is just too smooth of a pro like Hal than what Dennis could do.
He actually did. Especially on the earlier stuff before Pet Sounds.
 

W&A Player

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Like I said, there's copies of most of the AFM contracts for these songs on the Andrew Doe's sight, along with musician credits for every BB song ever recorded. I've also heard it said through the years that Hal played on most of the Byrds stuff, when the reality was that he only played on Mr. Tambourine Man and She Don't Care About Time. Don't get me wrong, Hal is a legend and one of the greatest of all time, and his contributions to the 1960s and 70s LA recording scene are enormous. I just hate it when misinformation gets represented as fact.

I also don't like opinion and incomplete information referred to as gospel. Come to think of it, don't the various gospels contradict each other in many instances? There were also super secret recording sessions where the ghost players were anonymous, and agreed to remain as such.
 

franke

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Many session players from that era (mid-1960's to mid-1970's), who played on numerous classic recordings were paid relatively little for their efforts. Moreover, unlike the artists, they usually do not get "mail box money" (aka publishing and performance royalties), and as consequence, often find themselves in this stage of their lives reliant on appearances at trade shows, clinics, and meet-and-greets, along with occasional radio, TV, or magazine interview, for their income (apart from an AFM pension or whatever else they were able to save or invest back when they were earning). Pressed with such needs, many of those from this era have embellished their contributions and enhanced their resumes' considerably.

While it's one thing to claim that the size of the fish one caught was greater than it was, the sort of claims being made here are coming at the expense of someone else - or in this case, Dennis Wilson, someone who isn't around to dispute any of this. This is where the motivations for making such claims seem to extend beyond just wanting to get a few hundred more for an in-store appearance and are perhaps borne out of resentment for the money and adulation many artists and songwriters (both great and utterly mediocre)received, and continue to receive.
 

xsabers

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I also don't like opinion and incomplete information referred to as gospel. Come to think of it, don't the various gospels contradict each other in many instances? There were also super secret recording sessions where the ghost players were anonymous, and agreed to remain as such.
As with any event or events recorded from various perspectives, there can be apparent contradictions that are not really in conflict at all. Sometimes a statement (or recording credit in this instance) may be 100% true, but not contain 100% of the truth, if that makes sense. I think you actually provided examples of this in your previous post about recording credits, if I'm not mistaken.
 

scaramanga

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I never really thought of the Beach Boys as a "band" as such. As opposed to an amazing harmony act. I shall explore a bit.
 

Patrick

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Thanks for this, and the introduction to the Bellagio site.

I saw Dennis drum with the Boys at three gigs. He was good each time, not Hal Blaine but he drove the band very well. Hard driving, simple, generally perfect for the gig.

I think you are on to something about some inflation of Hal's work over Dennis' work.

Lot of muddy water around this, but without Dennis available to say "yeah, but" clarification is unlikely.
 

Patrick

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Oh, and the Purdie Shuffle? I invented that, too.
I beg to differ. I have it on good authority that the Purdie Shuffle was invented by Paul McCartney who taught it to Ringo....
 


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