"Every Scratch, Every Click, Every Heartbeat": The reference is to Elvis Costello's song "45" which, to oversimplify matters, conflates music and life. All the same, "bass and treble heal every hurt" and though this series doesn't feature the dreaded soundtrack to my life, it might be said that each entry spotlights "a song to sing to do the measuring."
This time around, I look at the Wilsonian flourishes of Bruce Springsteen's “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” and “This Life.”
I’m a sucker for any book that that trumpets itself as Chandleresque, or music that is supposed to be Beatlesque. Of course, it’s rarely the case that these tomes and tunes live up to such impossibly high standards; still I get my hopes up, said hopes get dashed, and I get ready for another round of pale comparisons.
Such is also the case with those so-called “Beach Boys-style” or “Brian Wilson-like” songs and albums. It’s easy enough to play around the fun, fun, fun fringes of the early frolicsome style, but the more substantive mid- and later-period Beach Boys and solo Wilson reflective pop and melancholia seems harder to capture, regardless of the number of attempts. Ones who have succeeded — I think off-hand of efforts by the High Ilamas, Cindy Lee Berryhill, the Wondermints (who have gone on to become Brian Wilson’s backing band) — aren’t ones who self-consciously and slavishly layer on the vocal harmonies, infectiousness, and preciousness to an overweening extent.
Tom Petty evoked the right kind of Pet Sounds poignancy and balance — in theme and instrumentation — in “You Can Still Change Your Mind,” from 1981’s Hard Promises: “Everybody wants to get all they can get / Everybody’s waiting on something that hasn’t come yet.” This sense of the bittersweet is extended to Bruce Springsteen’s recent Wilson-influenced tracks “Girl in their Summer Clothes” from 2007’s Magic, and “This Life” from this year’s Working on a Dream.
The wonderfully lilting “Girls,” so musically reminiscent of Brian’s standout “Marcella” from ‘72’s Carl and the Passions - So Tough (“One arm over my shoulder / Sandals dance at my feet / Eyes that knock you right over / Ooo Marcella's so sweet”) especially draws out the same kind of subtle quintessence, the Wilsonian wistfulness at the core of Springsteen’s woebegone plight:
She went away
She cut me like a knife
Had a beautiful thing
Maybe you just saved my life