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Back to the Beach — The Beach Boys

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As this blog has evolved, I’ve had a rare moment of clarity and realized most of the artists I’m featuring have been written about countless times, so my mission shouldn’t be to just repeat the biographical facts (although I will do a little of that, especially if I can find something that’s not widely known). Instead, I’m going to try to talk about the artists and their music in the context of my experiences and memories as a geezer who has loved music since he was old enough to reach up to the Victrola and drag the needle screeching across the platter.

For this post we’re going back to the beach, where we last ventured with – er – the Ventures. I guess there’s nothing wrong with visiting the beach again – after all, it is Summer – but it’s important to note that we’re spotlighting an entirely different kind of music this time.

I came very late to the party as far as appreciation for the Beach Boys. When they began to hit it big in the sixties I was already a young man with a growing family, and if I paid them any attention at all it was just to dismiss them as those Beach Bums from California. I was after all a conservative Midwesterner and had a built-in aversion to all that kooky West Coast stuff. (As I grew older, I learned that California didn’t have a monopoly on strange characters… we have more than our share in the Midwest.)

In later years, I began to pay more attention to what was being said about the Beach Boys by other artists – many of whom I respected – and it opened my eyes to the multi-layered quality and longevity of their music. There is no doubt that it was seminal and influenced many who came later.

The Beach Boys had their share of problems. Everyone knows about the feuding and rivalries, addictions, possible insanity, and other problems – hardly unique in the music industry – and you’ve probably heard about their early years with a domineering father, but did you know that Charles Manson – who drifted around the pop music scene before his murder spree – was acquainted with the Beach Boys, and they even recorded a song he’d written?

For our samples – from the album The Beach Boys Greatest Hits – we’re starting with a tune that’s one of their typical, early “fun on the beach” songs. In fact, that’s the name: "Fun, Fun, Fun". Notice the opening as it echoes Chuck Berry’s classic "Johnny B. Goode".

Our second choice has shown up recently on TV as the theme song for a new HBO show – Big Love, the one about extended families. It’s a sweet little song called "God Only Knows".

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