Saturday, June 11, 2011
Summer had its own sound, and if you grew up in the sixties the Beach Boys were a large part of it. Coming over tinny Japanese transistor radios, their early pop hits celebrated cars and girls and surfing and provided the perfect backdrop to a summer wearing cut-offs and thongs, eating root beer Popsicles, racing Stingrays down Thrill Hill, and talking to girls at the mall or at the movies (this was years before dating, so talking was just about all we could handle). In the background, whether you were going to the Dairy Queen or the swimming pool, "Help Me, Rhonda" would be playing, or "California Girls," or "I Get Around." The Beatles were hipper, and the Motown bands were cooler, but the Beach Boys were all about summer. In Oregon, where we had evergreens and overcast all year around, they painted a picture of our own imaginary California. Hots rods and surfboards, ocean surf and bikinis--this was as far as you could get from our rainy world. At a certain point, the Beach Boys stopped making simple songs about cars and girls, and led by Brian Wilson they entered the studio to create some brilliant teenage symphonies. Wilson stopped touring and started working in the studio/sandbox, playing a creative cat-and-mouse, call-and-response game with Lennon & McCartney, shooting for that long sweet ride. The closest he came was "Pet Sounds," a sublime pop masterpiece. The above video shows the creative process behind one of the hits from the album, "Wouldn't it be Nice." The clip below shows some of the connections between "Pet Sounds" (1966) and the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (1967), two masterworks of the era.