July 2, 2011: I've got some pretty good Blah-ugh! ideas bouncing around my brain right now, but they've all been summarily trumped by my Beach Boys. I'm sitting here listening to their quintessential "Best of" LP -- "Endless Summer" -- and I'm more flabbergasted than ever by their genius ... Brian Wilson's genius ... (and the others, who lent their parts, as well) ... Wow!
I pity the fool who off-handedly dismisses them as churlish "surf" music. (Jimi Hendrix embarrassed himself on several occasions by doing so, including his sophomoric statement on stage at Monterey Pop.) The quality of so many of their songs, even the early ones, is really kind of startling. And if you understand anything about music, about arrangements, harmonies and such, you really come away slightly agog at what young Wilson -- deaf in one ear and self-taught on piano with no musical training -- accomplished in only the first few years of his twenties. (He not only arranged all the music and produced the albums, but he wrote almost everything and would, literally, sing or play each other Beach Boy their vocal part.)
But what makes music good? (Well, MY opinion, for one thing!) But it's also about the spirit that inhabits -- literally -- the creation, like with any piece of artwork. When the spirit is there -- when it's authentically embedded during the process of creation, and especially when it's done with a pure heart and soul -- it permeates that work and gives it (sometimes, in the best cases) immeasurable depth. And as our consciousness shifts, the work reveals hidden depths and layers. As we grow, so too will brilliant artwork taking on new meaning and magic.
How often have I outgrown one work of creation or another? (I mean, I like M.C. Hammer's "Can't Touch This," but is it art?!) But you don't outgrow the Beatles, or a brilliant movie like "It's a Wonderful Life," or an outstanding novel like "The Great Gatsby." The Beach Boys' music -- certainly a great deal of it -- is like that.
Where do I begin? You can hardly put the magic of music into words. For me the magic goes deep. In fact, from around age nine, I wanted few things as badly as to move to California and become a surfer. One of my great regrets was that I wasn't named Carl, or Troy, and that I couldn't live the life created for me in all those magical songs of summer. (For instance, why couldn't I have a school to be true to, instead of one I merely tolerated? When would I be able to shut someone down in a drag race, or have fun, fun, fun with the girl of my choice?)
Through some of those songs I formed my ideals of love, friendship, passion and more. Some of those ballads are forever twisted ivy around my heart's growing pains, accentuated by Brian's other-worldly soprano, and those mesmerizing harmonies ... and such thoughts shared -- "In My Room" ... "Don't Worry Baby" ... "The Warmth of the Sun" ... "Girl Don't Tell Me" ... "Let Him Run Wild" ...
Then one day, years later, after I'd outgrown them, I somehow stumbled on the song "Heroes & Villains," and was completely blown away -- for the first conscious time -- by what these people had accomplished musically. A close look at "Pet Sounds" eventually followed -- the historic LP on which the Beatles modeled so many ideas for "Sgt. Pepper." Hell, on the strength of "God Only Knows" alone, we could devote an entire series of Blah-ugh! episodes. Carl Wilson's lead vocal (as in "Good Vibrations") is just stupendous. And how do we ever survive the grinding, tweaking, lovely gut-wrenching pain of the round at the end, featuring the french horn ...
By the way, a reminder to anyone who might be there, I want "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times" played at my funeral, (which I hope is particularly elaborate, well-attended and gets some significant press, after all my trouble).
So, if you haven't taken the time, I insist that you get yourself a Beach Boys album or two (although the catalogue starts to thin out after the Smile era, and is sketchy for the first couple of albums) and open yourself up to a whole world of brilliant art. (I'm talking to you, E.J.! Put down that avocado and get cracking! And the rest of you, whose lovely FB comments I'm always too lazy to respond to!)
You shan't regret it!