March 29, 2006

Had every intention tonight to post “Tipping Point Part II” (my immigration companion to today’s earlier post, but that will just have to wait until tomorrow…

Received from Amazon today the DVD and CD companion for Nashville Sounds, Volume I, a 1996 collection of songs by Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys, sung by a variety of country music artists.

This was not a collection I was prepared to enjoy, but watching the DVD and listening to the CD made me realize just how much Brian Wilson’s timeless music transcends musical styles: whether it be Willie Nelson’s splendid rendition of “Warmth of the Sun”, or Tammy Wynette’s achingly-sincere “In My Room”, the honesty and spiritual transcendence of Brian’s music enables these performances to sound as fresh and original as if the artists had composed them themselves.

I came to know the Beach Boys long after their surf music glory days were past. It was 1974, I had long since bought my last Beatles album, and, with my brother Mark, had long been a passionate Pink Floyd fan. Nevertheless, we were both, I think, looking for something more personal and more accessible in our own musical journeys. One day, we found it when my friend Bob Noftle excitedly brought over The Beach Boys In Concert album, saying we absolutely had to hear this album. Like everyone else, I had known the Beach Boys from their “Surfin’ USA” and “Help Me, Rhonda” days, but had never taken them seriously as musical artists. To this day, however, I still remember being absolutely blown away by their soaring harmonies and diverse body of work (most of which I had never heard before) presented passionately and effectively in a concert setting.

Over the next year, Mark and I scoured every budget bin we could find at W.T. Grants, Woolworth’s, and Jordan Marsh looking for Beach Boys records we never knew existed (remember, this is how you did it in the days before the Internet) and gradually discovered the entire Beach Boys catalog, even to the point of incorporating – at that time – such obscure late 60’s nuggets like “Do It Again” into our own band’s repertoire.

Becoming the most ardent of fans, I was quicky swept away by the diverse personalities within the group:
* Brian, the resident genius – moody, eccentric, and vulnerable, he was everything I wanted to be as a person and musical artist in my own right;
* Carl Wilson, Brian’s younger brother. Solid, passionate, and protective of his brother’s musical legacy, he assumed the mantle of leadership both in the studio and on-stage after Brian suffered a nervous breakdown;
* Dennis Wilson, the devil-may-care drummer who raised more hell this side of Keith Moon, yet someone whose drum-playing drove the on-stage band, and whose music contained an aching vulnerability hard to ignore;
* Alan Jardine and Bruce Johnston, solid bandmates who helped communicate Brian’s music in a concert setting; and, of course,
* Mike Love, irascible and obnoxious, but someone who even the most ardent Brian Wilson fan must admit, provided an optimistic writing style that complemented (and at times, rescued) Brian’s music from its overwhelming melancholy.

Since then, I have collected every conceivable piece of music by Brian and “the Boys”, and continue to be astonished at how fresh it all still sounds, and how deeply it touches my soul. How Brian was somehow able to beautifully and honestly communicate all the vulnerability, pain, ainguish, and complexity of life still amazes me. Regardless of how dark the depths of despair I can feel, whenever I hear Brian’s music, I somehow know I’m never alone, and that everything is somehow, in some way, made right again.

How is that, you say? Is not “Til I Die”, “Caroline, No”, “In My Room”, “Surfer Girl”, and and “Warmth of the Sun” the most absolutely devastatingly beautiful music anyone in rock music has ever produced? Does not “California Girls”, Help Me, Rhonda”, “Good Vibrations”, and “I Get Around” communicate the timeless joy of being a teenager, free of obligations, mortgage payments, marriage ties, and punching time clocks? The Beatles may have indeed been the greatest band the rock n’ roll generation will ever produce, but for me, if Brian Wilson’s music and the Beach Boys’ harmonies are the last thing my ears ever hear, then that’s not the worst way to depart this life at all.

The Great White Shank’s Top Ten Beach Boys tunes (in no particular order):
* California Girls (Summer Days and Summer Nights!)
* In My Room (Surfer Girl)
* Caroline, No (Pet Sounds)
* ‘Til I Die (Surf’s Up)
* Warmth of the Sun (Shut Down Vol. 2)
* Surf’s Up (Surf’s Up)
* Do It Again (20/20)
* Heroes And Villains (Smiley Smile)
* Surfer Girl (Surfer Girl)
* I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times (Pet Sounds)

The Great White Shank’s Top 5 Beach Boys Albums:
* Pet Sounds (1966)
* The Beach Boys Love You (1977)
* Sunflower (1970)
* Friends (1968)
* Holland (1972)

If there are any Beach Boys fan out there, I welcome your own choices and thoughts.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:48 | Comments (5)
  1. Great songs, every one of them. But all tragically wiped out by one distinct dog – Kokomo.

    Remember, you’re only as good as your last hit.

    Comment by Dave Richard — March 29, 2006 @ 4:41 pm

  2. You are correct, oh wise District 3 County Commissioner. Mike Love is obviously not one of your constituents, or you wouldn’t talk that way. 🙂

    Comment by The Great White Shank — March 30, 2006 @ 2:17 pm

  3. That would be District 4 County Commissioner to you!

    Comment by Dave Richard — March 30, 2006 @ 10:06 pm

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