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*4.43-WIND CHIMES (Beach Boys)

Van Dyke Parks & Brian Wilson
Van Dyke Parks & Brian Wilson

LISTEN

Hangin’ down from my window
Those are my wind chimes.
Wind chimes (2x)

In the late afternoon you're
Hung up on wind chimes.
Wind chimes (2x)

     Though it's hard I try
     Not to look at my wind chimes
     Wind chimes

          Now and then a tear rolls on my cheek

On a warm breeze the little bells
Tinklin' wind chimes.
Wind chimes (2x)

Close your eyes and lean back
Listen to wind chimes
Wind chimes

     It's so peaceful
     Close to a lullaby

          [Blast]

               The wind chimes tinglin'
               Tinglin' (3x)
               The wind chimes tinglin'
               Tinglin' (3x)

                    Da do do…

                         Whisperin' winds send my wind chimes a-tinkling (4x)

                         [Fade]


Wind Chimes was written and first recorded about the same time as the completion of Good Vibrations, and is (in part) an exquisitely rendered group vocal that approximates the tranquility of wind chimes. (It disturbs me that the delicately wrought piece of baroque psychedelia that concludes the song has been dropped from Brian Wilson’s reworked version of Smile released in 2004 and the Beach Boys re-release in 2011.) Yes, there is silliness of a blast of sound, after the suggestion of a lullaby, a gotcha moment, that mars the song with a shock, but the ending of Wind Chimes is to my ears one of the most beautiful passages of 60’s pop music.

Like Good Vibrations, the song seems a pastiche of various recording sessions and moods. Brian Wilson, in such music, conceived of a song structure made of strung together musical modules offering a great deal of melodic variety. In the present day, such arrangements could be made through computerized cut and paste techniques, but these are spliced tapes. The music is instrumentally dependent on an organ with plucked string accents and various technological blips. The core verses are simple observations of wind chimes outside the window, with diverse voices echoing the end words wind chime in various ways. The core verses are arranged as two unrhymed couplets followed by a third in a slightly higher key. This is followed by an original one line B melody, before returning to the three verses again. The second time around however, the listener is not given the complete B melody again but a gotcha blast of noise. The B melody, indeed, doesn’t return. The song moves on to a C melody, where (perhaps this is a Van Dyke Parks’ addition), the wind chimes’ “tinkling” become “tingling”, as if the sound were giving the singer chills. On LSD, the beauty of such sounds could be overstimulating, and cause a “rush”. Nonsense syllables then lead the listener along a scale to transition (as in Broadway and Disney tunes) to the D melody finale, the lovely baroque voice imitation of wind chimes that fade away into awestruck mystery.


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