Long-time Beach Boys collaborator and friend Stephen Kalinich holds honors of co-writing songs with all three Wilson brothers. From Little Bird to the previously unreleased tracks California Feelin’ and My Love Lives On, he reflects on the collaborations featured on the Made in California box set.
Stephen Kalinich: I was sitting at the piano at Dennis’s house on 14400 Sunset Boulevard, the old Will Rogers Estate which he rented. We were in the main house. There was a nice yard and a guest cottage like a little log cabin on the property. I looked out the window and saw a little bird on a tree branch and the song came gushing out of me (recites lyrics) “Little bird up in a tree looked down and sang a song to me of how it began…”The words started pouring out flowing like a waterfall.
I had a warm feeling inside, a jolt like a revelation. Energy was flowing through me; it was almost electric.
Dennis came out for the shower and I read it to him. He loved it, dabbled a little at the piano and then stopped. We hung out for a while and then I went home. That night around midnight he called me, excited, almost raising his voice like he had seen God and touched Divine Grace. He played me the melody on the phone. A cool chill ran up my spine. I stood up and I was shaken and stirred…I knew it was a miracle of a song. It had a healing vibration and a soothing quality and a longing for me and us as a world to return to our roots. It flies away for a moment and we call it back and we keep singing hoping that bird will return that inspiration.
Brian added the bridge part, “where’s my pretty bird…” In terms of our creative process, I worked differently with Dennis than with Brian or Carl. In every instance I wrote the words first and he was inspired and electricity struck as he felt the notes to the words. He would get excited and inspired.
Stephen Kalinich: Be Still is another one of my favorite songs I wrote with Dennis. We wrote it in the evening in the guest cottage on Sunset. We knew we were again on to something and we had tapped into a vein of inspiration. I still get the chill thinking about Dennis sitting at the piano. I lay the card down that says Be Still and Know that I am God from Dr. Sue Sikking. We begin and we are inspired.
I felt a thrill go through me, a shock wave of sweet intensity as if some truth came through…and Dennis captured it.
Stephen Kalinich: Being from the Binghamton/Endicott, New York area, I’d never seen a lemon or an orange tree. When I moved to California, the whole feeling gave me rush. It gave me a white gospel California Feelin’. Dennis took me to the beaches and I surfed.
I wrote poems about California. I preached it and loved the whole experience so I wrote a song about it and gave it to Brian on a pink sheet of paper. Brian improvised the melody off of the lyrics and skipped a line here and there and picked what he liked. When I heard Brian sing it for the first time I was shaken. It was like Righteous Brothers soul and gospel. I love this song and love that the song describe the experience of a New Yorker who is struck by the beauty of the sun for the first time and gets the religion of California. Wherever I go in the world it keeps calling me back.
My Love Lives On
Stephen Kalinich: My Love Lives On is one of my favorite songs I wrote with Dennis. A total dedication of the power of love to change and save a situation and create a hopeful outcome through unending love. It’s something that can alter the course of a trajectory and reverse the downward trend of consciousness.
Even with the wars and problems, Dennis and I felt there was hope in the world. We wrote the song in Brentwood in a little house near the Brentwood country club. There were pine trees and the scent of pine everywhere. We wrote it in the evening. I drove into the driveway in my white Thunderbird and there was magic and electricity in the air.
You could feel the pulse of enhanced experience without a drug.
My Love Lives On is about how through all problems…all obstacles, pain and suffering and through death – love lives on. Dennis lives on in the song but I miss him in the flesh, his raw, wild, beautiful at times primitive spirit.
Stephen Kalinich: Mona Kana is about a gorgeous Hawaiian Indian maiden calling across the waters of her undying love. He hears it and that restores the symphony of life. It is love crying out, knowing that underneath it all is bliss.
Dennis and I envisioned a video, a movie, a visual component. (recites lyrics)… “Mona Kana, eeenie Weenie Kana, Oona kan na aneque nanana, my love is in the river calling from a dream, she calling out to me, I flow with the stream Mona Kana Eeenie wenie Kana…”
Q&A with Andy Paley
One time member of ‘70’s power pop duo, The Paley Brothers, Andy Paley shares a long history working with Brian Wilson – both as producer and songwriting collaborator on his debut solo album, Brian Wilson, Imagination and Gettin’ In Over My Head.
Beach Boys versions of two previously unreleased Wilson-Paley collaborations, Soul Searchin’ and You’re Still a Mystery, are unveiled for the first time on the new Beach Boys box set Made in California. Here’s some insight from Paley on those tracks:
Andy Paley: I recorded the song by myself and had the track completely done before Brian ever heard it. I had the hook (sings ‘Soul Searchin’’) but I didn’t have any lyrics. Brian came up with the first line (recites “I was a bum…”) and we worked on it from there. Brian contributed heavily with lyrics on that one.
First, I recorded a version, then Brian did a version and then we went in the studio with The Beach Boys at Ocean Way and Carol sang lead on it. It was his last lead vocal he ever did with The Beach Boys.
The original mix was really good; the way I wanted to sound in my head was like a Philly soul record.
A lot of stuff was added to the Beach Boys track, things that I wasn’t nuts about – like acoustic guitars.
Solomon Burke recorded a version of it on the album Don’t Give Up On Me, which won a Grammy.
You’re Still a Mystery
Andy Paley: Brian had the part, (sings) “Tell me your secrets, don’t try to hide, give it to me straight now…” and I wrote the counter melody (sings) “I thought you were my friend, it’s happening again…”, which ended up being the hook. I used to carry around a cassette boom box and we were over at this house and Brian said, “I got something really good” and it was a part that we wound up using on You’re Still a Mystery.
It was a 50/50 collaboration on that song except for the bridge, which Brian wrote by himself. I was in the studio when The Beach Boys cut it. Jim Keltner played drums, Waddy Wachtel played guitar, Benmont Tench is on electric piano and I played a Steinway grand piano. I also played six-string bass on it too. Brian sings lead and then Carl and the rest of the Beach Boys comes in; Mike’s singing this cool bass part. It’s classic Beach Boys arrangements.
This is the last session The Beach Boys ever did with Carl.