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October 07, 1971 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1971-10-07

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Page Two


Thursday, October 7, 1971

Page Two THE MICHIGAN DAILY Thursday, October 7, 1971

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Mysterioso. Back in 1963 or '64 that was
the equivalent to "mind blowing." Very mys-
terioso. I'm sprawled on my couch listening
to just about every Beach Boys record ever
made. The needle is jumping over Surfin'
USA, Surfer Giril, In My Room, 409, Little
Deuce Coupe, Wendy; there are so many
clicks and ticks from the years of wear that
it sounds as if Miriam Makeba is accom-
panying them. Then, suddenly, in the mid-
die of some absolutely delicious counter-
point, it hits me. The Beach Boys, these
Beach Boys, are our Doomsday Machine. our
Gibraltar monkeys, our talisman against
mortality. If any thing happens to them
we've had it. America sucked into the ocean!
Far out!
So our existence, in case you didn't al-.
ready know, is a precarious one and more
precarious still when you stop to consider
those zillions of iteens who think of the
Beach Boys as a kind of collective Bing
Crosby, lounging around somewhere on the
West Coast counting their dough and slow-
ly wasting away from skin cancer. But know
this, all you Grand Funk fans: The Beach
Boys, thank God, are alive and well (other-
wise how do you explain my being able to
write and your being able to read this ar-
ticle), have just finished what may be their
finest album, Surf's Up, and have thereby,
if you believe my cosmic , evelation, assured

Amazon queen named Calafia, who might
very well be the spiritual mother to Reagan-
land. Unhappy with her humdrum existence,
she exhorted her all-female army to join
forces with the Turks in fending off the
Christians. But facing defeat, discretion be-
ing the better part of valor, the pagan
queen converted to Christianity and lived
happily, if not peacefully, ever after.
It remained for us Americans to give life
to the romance, to create the pagan-Chris-
tian kingdom here on earth. Pushing ever
onward and outward, our hardy pioneers
reached the Golden State out past the Rock-
ies, where their scions procedeed to contra-
dict Frederick Jackson Turner's thesis by
erecting a new spiritual frontier once the
real estate ran out. What we've done, in the
true individualist tradition, is find ourselves
some psychological breathing space. And
though the change, in truth, is much more
a matter of cosmetics than soul-searching,
we have found a place where a person can
almost fantasize himself into a new exist-
In short, we've placed California at what
Professor William Thompson calls "the
edge of history," at the brink of myth lying
beyond all the day to day routines of our
lives. We know, deep down, that California
-sunshine, redwoods, surf licking at your
feet, tanned starlets, ranch houses for the
asking-cannot actually exist. But, as in

bush, the Hudson and Ebbetts Field for LA,
the Pacific and Chavez Ravine. Which just
goes to show that even the most hardened
reprobates aren't immune to the State's
strange power.
This lemming-like quest for the rewards
of neon Valhalla might be termed "material
romanticism'"-a kind of religious faith in
the ability to transcend nature, society, even
ourselves, through possession. But the fact
that the faith involves money, status or
property makes it no less romanticism than
the faith held by the nineteenth century's
nature boys. Those first romanticists doted
on flora and fauna. The new American,
though this is by no means confined to our
continent, turns his reverence toward acqui-
sition. Like those early romanticists, the
pleasure he gets is derivative; it lies not so
much in the utility of what he has as in
the sense of having.
The Beach Boys from middle-class Haw-
thorne, California, practically a skate-board
trip from the beaches that rim Santa Mon-
ica Bay, were almost fatalistically cast as
purveyors of material romanticism. The
fact that they lived in the Golden State and
within spraying distance of the surf was
bound to imbue them right off with some
of the material romanticist spirit. But as
adolescents in the land of sunshine they
were doubly susceptible, since, I can recall
from my own teenhood, no one romanticizes
objects so much as a teenager. And so when
the Boys' first nationwide single, "Surfin'
Safari." "409", hit the charts in the summer
of '62 it inevitably spoke the glories of
those twin icons of California teendom --
surf boards and hot rods.
And why not? In a society as mobile as
Drag Strip USA's, the car is a source of
power and freedom. And for an adolescent,
especially back in the early 60's when guys
practically masturbated in their tail-pipes,
wheels were roughly equivalent to a double-
dose of testosterone. Crusin' along, looking
for action, car growling like a Mack, the
radio blasting crazy rock tunes:
"Giddyup, giddyup 409. My four-speed,
dual-quad, p'ositraction 409."
"I've got the fastest set of wheels in
town. She's my Little Deuce Coupe. You
don't know what I got."
"Tack it up. Tack it up. Buddy, gonna
shut you down.'
Looking at the world through a wind-
shield, however, does give one a slightly my-
opic view of things, and on the Beach Boys'
early hot rod albums there is a dull, fetish-
istic sameness of theme: Car Trouble, Chea-
ter Slicks, Our Car Club, Cherry Cherry
Coupe, Custom Machine, Car Crazy Cutie,
or The Ballad of Ole' Betsy about a '32

Ford going to that great junkyard in the
sky. Even Spirit of America turns out to be
a rhapsody over Craig Breedlove's record-
breaking car; and A Young Man is Gone,
sung to the tune of Their Hearts Were Full
of Spring, deals not with Vietnam, as almost
any song with that title would have after
1964, but with James Dean's fatal auto
The rod music undoubtedly endeared the
Beach Boys to all those prole teens whose
hands were grimy with car grease. But it
was the surfing music, literally the other
side of the car singles, that endeared the
group to all those young members of the
leisure class. While kids in baggy grays were
swinging to car tunes, Surfin' USA, released
in the spring of 1963, was making its pitch
to kids with pressed levi's, penny loafers and
perfect complexions: "If everybody had an
ocean across the USA then everybody's be
surfin' like California-ay."
Although admittedly that message may
not sound terribly radical, Surfin' USA as
well as the rod music, did what few other
rock songs of the period were doing. While
most Top 40 artists were warbling maw-
kishly about young love, the Beach Boys
were writing songs with closs consciousness!
were writing songs with class consciousness!
mind you, but two distinct appeals on each
side of the disc-one to urban and another
to suburban teens.
The Beach Boys, however, didn't confine
themselves to water and gasoline. They
touched, in fact, on many of the little ec-
stasies and agonies of high school life that
had amazingly been neglected in pop. In
the Parkin' Lot told the story of two love-
sick teens necking before the school bell
rings. Pom Pom Play Girl was about the
high- school Beatrice we all adored from
afar. Be True to Your School, with a classic
back-up line of "rah rah rah rah cis boom
bah," was a discourse on school spirit. And
In My Room, one of the early signs of ma-
turity, was a rare song of adolescent intro-
spection: "There's a place where I can go
and tell my secrets to."
Musically, the Beach Boys' idiom has be-
come as familiar as a Coke sign. The early
lead vocals alternated between Mike Love's
raspy toughness and Brian Wilson's lilting
falsetto, with those incredibly thick harmo-
nies and counterpoints that you could al-
most bite out of the air. The accompani-
ment had Brian's brother, Carl, on lead
plucking out Chuck Berry guitar lines, ano-
ther brother, Dennis, on drums, and four-
teen year-old David Marks on rhythm gui-
tar. The result as anyone who's listened to
AM radio in the last ten years knows, was
a kind of HiLo's Meet Rhythm and Blues.
On the sleepy pop scene of '62 and '63

rock buffs agree that the Beach Boys' music
was among the few innovations. Much of
the credit for the addition of clean harmon-
ies to the driving rhythms the Boys saluted
in Do You Remember (the guys who gave
us rock and roll)?, for the shifting tempoes
of songs like Finders Keepers and, actually,
for the whole California sound must go to
the group's prime mover, Brian Wilson. Wil-
son has earned his spot in the rock panthe-
on. He not only sang many of the leads, but

more profound effect on the rock scene
than this change in tone. Consider: The
Beatles had been England's top group for
nearly two years; and yet it wasn't until
a month after President Kennedy's assassi-
nation that the guartet broke on the Ameri-
can charts, pulling other British groups
with them. Certainly the general dullness
of America's white rock since Presley aided
the Britishers, and certainly PR played its
part in the "phenomenon." But the real


In a society as mobile as Drag Strip USA's, the car is a
source of power and freedom. And for an adolescent, espec-
ially back in the early 60's when guys practically masturbated
in their tail-pipes, wheels were roughly equivalent to a double-
dose of testosterone. Crusin' along, looking for action, car
growling like a Mack, the radio blasting crazy rock tunes .. .
massiggisimissitsalississsaisagg ssigisssaisingsssisiaistffssgsseinisitlis"::ti":: :":"i:":':':':::":???": i:':::":??:?"::':':":":::? s#15129ssats:sissis' is

The Beach Boys, these Beach Boys, are our Doomsday
Machine, our Gibraltar monkeys, our talisman against mor-
tality. If anything happens to them, we've had it. America
sucked into the ocean! Far out!

our survival for a few more months at least.
Unfortunately, despite their importance in
the divine plan, despite even their import-
ance in the capitalist scheme (they've sold
more records than any other group save the
Beatles), the Beach Boys were shunted long
ago into the relative obscurity-curp-nostal-
gia reserved for the trappings of the placid
days of the early 60's. The group just didn't
seem to belong to our truculent period. It
was naturally tied to place and time, and
was indeed a five-man troubadour for the
California-Kennedy mystique or, to be less
charitable, myth.
Certainly in the case of California, myth
looms as large as fact. Appropriately
enough; the state is the namesake of a fic-
tional paradise from the sixteenth century
Spanish romance Las Sergas deu Esplandian.
Again appropriately, it so happens that the
gold and pearl rich isle was ruled by an

fairy tales, if everyone closes their eyes and
wishes very very hard, the dream may come
true. The, risk is that, ala the Emperor's
New Clothes, each person's new identity
(compliments of California) rests tenuously
on his own and everybody else's acceptance
of the myth.
The reach of the dream, throughout the
USA is really quite staggering. It's so much
a part of our culture that people setting
about the task of remodleing their lives in-
variably head out to California for the re-
newal. Consequently, millions of disaffected
Americans of all races, creeds, colors and
ages collect under the sun and wait for the
transformation to be wrought. Symbolically,
I can't help but think that the Brooklyn
Dodgers somehow represent all these des-
perate emigres scrambling for the good life.
Here were the Bums (has anyone called
them the Bums lately?) leaving behind Flat-

also single-handedly, wrote just about all
the Boys' hits and later arranged and pro-
duced each record. All this from a guy
under twenty!
Yet for all his musical sophistication,
Wilson's chief contribution to the group
may have been the stunning unpretentious-
ness of his lyrics, lyrics that seemed to cap-
ture exactly what it was like to be a teen
in the California of the early 60's and, by
spiritual connection, to be a teen anywhere,
when the Zeitgeist of the Kennedy years
overtook us all. So while a young Baez or
Dylan, more members of the 30's than the
60's, were making moves among collegians,
Brian Wilson could write:
"The feelings you get from going
to school, being in love, winning and
losing in sports-these are my inspir-
ations. A sociologist might say I am
trying to generate a feeling of social
superiority. I live with my piano and
I love to make records that my
friends like to hear."
That could almost be the sentiment of the
age. And then came November and Dallas
and Oswald and Parkland Memorial Hospi-
tal and, yes, Lyndon Johnson. Camelot was
over. Whatever America's psychic wounds
from the assassination and, perhaps more,
from Johnson's ascension to the presidency,
in rock the immediate impact was subtle-
a half-turn away from the optimism of
Walk Right In, He's So Fine, I Will Follow
Him, Sugar Shack or Surf City, toward the
more dour themes of Hard Day's Night,
World Without Love, House of Rising Sun,
Where Did Our Love Go?
But the chronology of events points to a

boost may have been young America's slow-
ly surfacing disenchantment with their own
country's breakneck culture, and concomi-
tantly, the need to find a surrogate for
their fallen leader. The Beatles served that
The new political mood didn't exactly fit
a group like the Beach Boys who had been
so closely identified with the ornaments of
happy 60's America. But if one had listened
carefully to the Boys' lyrics he would have
found that they too had been somewhat so-
bered. Their first hit of 19, Fun, Fun, Fun,
tells the story of a fabulous chick tooling
around in her old man's T-Bird on the pre-
tense she is going to the library. The chorus,
typically Wilson, yells, "She'll have fun fun
fun 'til her daddy take the T-Bird away."
Of course, her daddy gets wise, and she loses
her car privileges. Loss of car equals loss of
status? No, because the Beach Boys con-
found material romanticism with the final
chorus, "We'll have fun fun fun now that
daddy took the T-Bird away."
True, it's just a little thing, but when the
Beach Boys came out with I bet Around in
May 1964, once again the old Tom Mix-
Tony attachment of boy to car was missing.
The auto is no longer the object of rapture;
that passion has been transferred to the
mobility the car affords. Likewise, the cool
guy is not the fellow with the fastest set of
wheels in town, but the fellow who "gets
around." From wheel-power it's a short step
to dollar-power, and for the first time in
their music the Beach Boys use money as a
status symbol. Now this may be regression
in some people's eyes, but it does indicate
See FROM, Page 6









1, 1972, YOU


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Including One With Photo.



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Here's your chance to do something about the environment and win
$500 for your club or organization. Enter the Nabisco® Clean Sweep
Stakes, open to recognized student organizations.
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Contest closes midnight, October 31, 1971.


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