2nd Grade discusses 10 albums that influenced ‘Wish You Were Here Tour,’ 7 by The Beach Boys
As mentioned, Philly indie rock musician Peter Gill's project 2nd Grade is releasing a new full-band, studio-recorded version of his 2018 "demo" album Wish You Were Here Tour -- titled Wish You Were Here Tour Revisited -- on June 25 via Double Double Whammy (pre-order). Ahead of the release, we asked Peter about some other albums that influenced Wish You Were Here Tour and he picked 10, seven of which are by The Beach Boys. His list, with commentary on each pick, is below.
There's also a new song from the album out today, "Superglue." As with the recently released single "Favorite Song," the new version of "Superglue" really feels like a bigger, better, more complete version of the song. And you can definitely hear the Beach Boys influence.
"The process of composing this record was essentially my own personal boot camp for guitar pop songwriting, so naturally the songs are full of nods to the greats," Peter tells us. "Here we have references to Bob Dylan’s 'All I Really Want to Do,' Brian Wilson’s double-dutch melodies of 'Don’t Worry Baby,' Stephin Merritt’s multisyllabic rhyming tricks, and the Roy Acuff quote about Hank Williams having a 'ten-cent brain.' I don’t play guitar in this band anymore, so you’re hearing unadulterated Catherine Dwyer in the right ear and uncorrupted Jon Samuels in the left and in the solo; to me they’re the Keith Richards and Mick Taylor of 2nd Grade, respectively."
Listen and compare it to the demo version:
And here's Peter's list of 10 albums that influenced Wish You Were Here Tour:
The Beach Boys - Shut Down, Vol. 2
While writing the songs that make up Wish You Were Here Tour, I was smack dab in the middle of a years-long obsession with The Beach Boys. I’m especially fascinated by the early records they churned out in such quick succession. Brilliantly conceived pop opuses sit next to total garbage, and each record serves as a snapshot of young Brian Wilson trying new experiments and developing as a songwriter in real time. These albums taught me a lot about the dos and don’ts of the craft. Of course “Don’t Worry Baby” is the crown jewel of this record with its smart, expressive melody and sleight-of-hand key change that’s hiding in plain sight. “Superglue” was a product of my obsession with “Don’t Worry Baby”, which in turn was a product of Brian’s obsession with The Ronette’s “Be My Baby”.
The Beach Boys - All Summer Long
The BBs’ first very good record with a much improved hit-to-miss ratio. First of all, “I Get Around”, holy crap. It keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time, the twists and turns of that arrangement definitely influenced moments of my record. The title track lyric about spilling Coke all over your blouse, such a specific and believable detail that really pulls you in. I try to pepper those kinds of details into my songs all the time. “Don’t Back Down” is a hidden gem and hugely influenced how I mixed my record, with vocals sitting on top of everything and drums so quiet they’re barely there. We even get a bit of name-dropping reference rock with “Do You Remember” even though it’s a dud. Yeah, this record was a big influence.
The Beach Boys - Today!
The dry run for Pet Sounds and a bonafide classic in its own right. All about being young and trying to have fun but getting bogged down in adolescent confusion... huh, sounds familiar. “Held Back” can be traced back to the ballads of side two. Randy Newman’s BBs fave “Help Me Rhonda” is carried by such a clever conceit (and precedes Dylan’s similarly themed “Visions Of Johana” by a whole 15 months). A well crafted tune based on a strong idea; that’s the trick I’m always looking to pull off. Also, it’s worth noting that so far none of these albums have passed the 30 minute mark, which I love.
The Beach Boys - Summer Days (And Summer Nights)
Now this is proto power-pop Beach Boys at their apex. Brian’s melodies bounce inventively up and down the scale, but are still anchored by somewhat conventional harmonic choices, at least compared to what would come next. “Girl Don’t Tell Me” is probably the BBs song that most closely resembles a 2nd Grade song. Most of the record is a nonstop parade of incredible hooks, of course culminating in the megahit “California Girls” which manages to be so breezy yet urgent at the same time. Oh to be young in the summer of ‘65, when band, fans, & label could all agree that the best songs are also the catchiest songs.
The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
Working at my summer job renting out swan boats on the Delaware River, I listened to Pet Sounds daily through the built-in speaker on my iPod Touch. Only the vocal melodies really cut through the ambient summer noise down there, but that was all I needed to be transfixed. The textures and chord changes are obviously astonishing, but for me the sheer strength of the melodies is what makes it all work. “I’m An Old Dog” was loosely conceived as a Pet Sounds style ballad, using a diminished seventh chord (one of the “God Only Knows” chords!) to trigger the kind of subtle, mysterious key change that is Brian’s bread & butter. Take it from me, this album sounds best either on a boat or at the dentist.
The Beach Boys - Friends
My favorite of the albums immediately following Pet Sounds (not counting the Smile Sessions). I’d say the impact on 2nd Grade is mostly lyrical here; these are songs blooming with a strange, warm kind of honesty and full of oddball poetic details. “I talked your folks out of making you cut off your hair.” “When a man needs a woman they make things like you, my son.” “Guess I’ll go mow the lawn.” “I had to fix a lot of things this morning because they were so scrambled.” The songs that really rocked my world are the heartbreaking ballads “Be Still” and especially “Meant For You” with their short runtimes and spare arrangements.
Lou Reed - Coney Island Baby
Another record I listened to frequently at work in the summer of Wish You Were Here Tour. It combines his serious creative outlook with a self-consciously laid-back vibe, to spectacular results. Lou strings together four or five simple major or minor chords in the same way Faulkner strings together four or five adjectives. This time around he’s formally daring, emotionally generous, and bubblegum in only the best way. On first listen the focus is on the man himself, and eventually turns to the personal parameters he has chosen for his work. Which rules will I break today, and which rules will I follow?
ABBA - Arrival
Why yes, I do enjoy a balanced musical diet of The Beach Boys and ABBA, thanks for asking. I’ve spent a long time wondering how to translate the magic of ABBA into my own idiom. Their songs are highly stylized showcases for brilliant songwriting solutions, some of which I’m comfortable borrowing and some of which feel off limits to me for now. “Dancing Queen” is probably responsible for the strumming pattern on “Wish You Were Here Tour.” “When I Kissed The Teacher” and “Dum Dum Diddle” are absolutely key aesthetic guides for me. I’m intrigued by the idea of writing pop music for someone with a powerhouse voice, but I’ve never done it. Hit me up if you’re an Agnetha or Frida looking for a Benny or Björn (platonically)!
The Beach Boys - Love You
Thought you’d seen the last of the BBs on this list? Think again. Here’s the record that really blew open my perception of what a song can be. They’d already comprehensively covered the topics of surfing, cars, and teenage love. Now it’s all about Johnny Carson, honk honk honkin’ down the highway, the planets in our solar system, and going to the fridge in the middle of the night to drink some milk. A group of grown men singing in unison, “I want to pick you up, rock you back and forth and make you smile.” You can sing about anything at all, and you should - it sounds so obvious, but it’s true.
The Mice - For Almost Ever Scooter
More than any other album on this list, this comp from '80s Ohio power poppers The Mice was wholly influential on me. The songs, the sound, the approach, the attitude, everything, it’s all right here. Some of the questions I’ve asked myself over the years: How do I get the guitar sound on “Second Best”? How do I conceive a chorus as immaculate as “Rescue You Too”? How do I incorporate vocal counterpoint into an absolute rocker like on “Not Proud of the USA”? How do I mix rhythmic idiosyncrasies with relentless hooks like on “Bye Bye Kitty Cat” and “Crystal Silence”? And how the hell do I write a literally perfect song and make it sound as tossed off as “More Than I Can Talk About”? I don’t think I ever got to the bottom of any of these questions. Instead I got Wish You Were Here Tour, which is a record of me looking for the answers.
Wish You Were Here Tour Revisited comes out 6/25 via Double Double Whammy, packaged with a reissue of the original demo album. Listen to previous single "Favorite Song" and the demo version: