The Beatles are one of the greatest rock bands ever. The Beach Boys are one of the greatest rock bands ever. It only makes sense that Sir Paul McCartney would want to collaborate with one of the Beach Boys.
When Paul worked with the Beach Boys, things went down an unexpected path. Paul is a reknown multi-instrumentalist. The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson asked him to play an uncommon instrument: celery.
How The Beach Boys evolved
The Beach Boys evolved from a doo-wop/pop band to one of the most experimental acts in the history of mainstream music. Some of their experiments included using non-instruments as instruments. Their album Pet Sounds famously features the sounds of dogs barking at some point.
The follow-up to Pet Sounds was the influential album Smiley Smile. In many ways, Smiley Smiley typified the musical freedom of the 1960s. It features the use of a vegetable as an instrument on the bizarre and compelling ditty “Vegetables.”
The story of ‘Vegetables’
Beach Boys member Al Jardin remembered the origin of the song. “The night before a big tour, I was out in the studio recording the vocal when, to my surprise, Paul McCartney walked in and joined Brian at the console. And, briefly, the two most influential musical Geminis in the world had a chance to work together.”
“Vegetables” is a bizarre song centered on Wilson’s obsession with health food. Wilson wanted to write songs which represented the different classical elements and “Vegetables” was supposed to represent earth. While recording the song, there were a myriad of vegetables in the studio. “Vegetables” prominently features the sounds of someone eating. Oddly enough, with Wilson working his studio magic, it actually works.
According to The Unknown Paul McCartney by Ian Peel, the track features Paul eating celery. According to The Beach Boys FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About America’s Band by Jon Stebbins, the noise prominently heard in the track is either Paul eating celery or sitting on a radish. Either way, the celery story is what became a classic and bizarre behind-the-scenes anecdote.
How Paul McCartney remembers it
Paul eventually set the record straight in an online interview. He recalled “I just went round to the studio because they invited me. I just thought it would be fun to sit there and watch them record, ’cause I’m a big fan. And so I was there, and then it was, I think, Brian who came over and said, ‘Oh Paul, got a favour to ask: would you mind recording something?’”
Paul was intimidated. What would Wilson ask him to do? Wilson simply asked Paul to munch on celery in a recording booth. Paul did so, later saying the moment encapsulated how “wild and wacky” that time period was.