|Denny, Al, Carl, Mike & Brian|
|Ahhhh- the 70s!|
My own relationship with The Beach Boys began nearly 12 years after they became stars. In 1974 their former label, Capitol Records, released a compilation album of their early music called Endless Summer. My friend Steve and I discovered the double album and it seldom left our turntables. Another compilation of hits, Spirit of America, only served to increase our appreciation of the band. We began to explore some of their other albums and we liked what we heard, even though some of it seemed far different from those breezy songs about the beach, girls and cars. In 1975 we heard Sail On, Sailor on FM radio and could not believe it was the same band. In 1976 we were at Myrtle Beach when Steve told me he was pretty sure he had just heard a new Beach Boys song on Top 40 radio. That seemed nuts at the time. But he was right, and soon the "new" song, Rock and Roll Music, was a top 5 hit. Of course it was actually an old Chuck Berry song that The Beatles had also recorded, but we didn't know that at the time. It was new Beach Boys and we were psyched! From that point on, we listened to every album and read every magazine article, learning the history of the band and becoming serious fanboys. We discovered that some albums that never sold well in the U.S. were in fact absolute classics- projects like Wild Honey, Holland, 20/20, Surf's Up and Sunflower. There was the weirdness of Smiley Smile and the fun of 15 Big Ones and Love You. We saw them in concert on several occasions. This "washed up old band" had opening acts like Billy Joel and Chicago, and they blew the doors off the Greensboro Coliseum and the Carowinds Paladium. My interest waned a bit when I lost my record collection, but there were still times when their music (via the box set of CD's I got in mid 90s) was the only thing that could take me away from the struggles of the day. In 2005 I was one of the few who got to see Good Vibrations (the jukebox musical) on Broadway; we loved it but apparently few others did. It only ran for 3 months. Over the past couple of years my iPod has been loaded with many of my favorite BB albums & songs; in fact, there are more than 225 tunes currently on that playlist. With Brian's brilliant solo album No Pier Pressure (which, btw, might as well be the most recent Beach Boys album as it features vocals from Al, David and Blondie!), the new Love & Mercy film and my son Will growing to love them now as well, they are once again an obsession of mine. And that's not a bad thing.
So what does all of this have to do with July 4th? I am going to spend Thursdays (and one Friday) in July celebrating what is in my humble opinion THE great USAmerican band. We're going to countdown my 55 (one for each year of my life!) favorite Beach Boys songs of all-time, with 11 each week for the next 5 weeks. This will not be your typical list; these are MY favorites. Some of you might think picking 55 would be simple, but ranking them might be tricky. Nothing about this is simple. I've been working on the list for over 2 weeks already, and I'm down to 62. I have no idea how to make the final cuts. We will be drilling deep into their catalogue. How deep, you ask? Even at the current 62 songs classics like Be True To Your School, Shut Down, Little Honda and 409 didn't make it. Surfin' Safari is in serious danger. And the song many of my younger readers may know best, Kokomo, is (to quote another great USAmerican band, The Eagles) "already gone." I'd love to hear which songs you expect to find on my list, but I make no promises. It's my list- an this is going to be fun, fun, fun! :)
One final thought. In 1983 The Beach Boys were set to play a free July 4th concert on the Mall in Washington, DC when then Secretary of the Interior James Watt refused to grant them access, saying they would bring a "bad element" to the city. There was a huge uproar, and First Lady Nancy Reagan personally invited them back for 1984. On July 4th of the following year, 1985, they played for over 1 million fans in Philadelphia in the afternoon and for over 750,000 fans in Washington that night. The Beach Boys are an American institution. And for the next month of Thursdays you can celebrate them with me!