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October 07, 1971 - Image 6

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The Michigan Daily, 1971-10-07

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Page Six


Thursday, October 7, 1971

Page Six THE MICHIGAN DAILY Thursday, October 7. 1971

Beach Boys: From surf,

to cars,

to summary


a branching out from the teen deities of
wheels and surf. Thus, the hero of I Get
Around proclaims, "I'm a real cool head/I'm
making real good bread," and the nqble
surfer becomes the mobile moneyed high
school senior.
Most of all, however, I Get Around, like
its predecessor Fun Fun Fun, deals with hu-
man companionship, with treating people
as something more than drag-strip rivals.
The new teen of the song needs more than
a 409, more even than mobility. He needs
friends to share his life with. In this parti-
cular case he seeks the comraderie of his
fellow cruisers, and the Boys trill, "None of
tble guys so steady 'cause it wouldn't be
right/To leave your best girl home on a
Saturday night."
This shift from objects to people, a nat-
ural one considering the Beach Boys' ages,
intensified in 1965 with hits California Girls
and Help Me Rhonda. As is obvious from
the titles, both songs focused on females,
and now they came in for the romanticiza-
tion. California Girls was a paean to Amer-
ican womanhood, identifying each of them
with the fantasyland: "I wish they all could
be California girls." Help Me Rhonda, the
Boys' first post-adolescent love song, nar-
rowed on one lass's cathartic powers: "Help
me Rhonda/Help me get her out of my
heart." But while the group was vocalizing
about young love, America was packing her
sons off to war; the old rock 'n roll freaks
were dying, and their music was reacting.
Just a look at the change in record buy-

ing habits, what I call the "album revolu-
tion". Up through 1964 rock had always been
the province of 45's. It was the collegians
and old folks who purchased LP's, and as
a result the top selling single artists seldom
duplicated their feat with albums. After all,
rock was a part of adolescence, like pimples
and first dates and gym dances and sex
talk; it was something you outgrew at 18.
I mean, the college kids were all into Baez,
The Kingston Trio or Peter, Paul & Mary.
Then sometime in 1964 or '65 all that
changed. Middle-aged observers of hip tell
us that the new aging crop of teens (us)
were taking their music with them out of
adolescence. Exactly why this began to hap-
pen when it did is a matter of speculation.
I suspect the war helped solemnify music,
and the rise of music technology and the
attendant rise of wholesale record stores
like Korvette's also may have had something
to do with it. In any case, rock artists, se-
cure in the knowledge that an album audi-
ence actually existed out there, were liber-
ated from the straight-jacket of teeny-
bopper taste. And as a result, two different,
though related spheres of rock grew up-
one around the 45 and another around the
For the LP fans, mostly older teens and
college students, rock was rapidly becoming
more than a Muzak to do homework by; it
was becoming a way of life. Indeed, as
Reich himself says, rock is the counter-cul-
ture's major conduit for transmitting ideas
and feelings. Accordingly, it soon acquired

a new, more deliberate vocabulary to match
its new importance; and so, with the help
of the Beatles and Dylan, among others,
"philosoph-rock" was born.
Philosoph-rock included everything from
social criticism to drug chants, and its
weightiness infused pop with a maturity and
artistic legitimacy youth music never had
before; none of this progress can be easily
discounted. But like most advances it ex-
acted a price. First, as rock became more
didactic it became less reflective of high
school teendom and of non-political youth
in general. Put simply, not everybody was
into remaking society. Second, as the rock
vanguard moved farther away from the
high school, its music lost much of the
childlike beauty and primitive poetry that
had captured my young imagination. Now
songs had to say something; they had to be
heavy, you know, profound.
This isn't to say that teen-bop rock has
twanged its last notes, though it's been bad-
ly overcommercialized these last few years.
Still, with the Top 40 increasingly left to
the pre-teens, bubble gum will continue to
thrive on the 45. But at the risk of sound-
ing revisionist, when Johnny Angel, to my
mind the dynamite apotheosis of teen-bop,
gave way to Like a Rolling Stone, we all
lost a bit of our innocence. The sociological
value of rock yielded t6 a rock philosophy
somewhere between Bertrand Russell'es and
Spiro Agnew's. Be honest, you know some-
thing is gone when high schools themselves

title song. Inspired this time by
health food rather than dope,
Brian hitched the Boys' early
beat ("Got a taste of wild hon-
ey!"), to the theremin's quiver
of Good Vibrations. Result: a
mind-blowing rocker.
However, most of the other
songs on Wild Honey, most no-
tably I Was Made to Love Her,
Darlin' and How She Booga-
looed It, did point toward the
past of good R & B sounds. And
certainly as a whole the album
lacked the thematic unity of
Smiley Smile. Amidst the pas-
tiche, only the bucolic Country
Air picked up the Indian thread
of serenity: "Get a breath of
that country air / Breathe the
beauty of it everywhere."
The transcendentalist mes-
sage did re-emerge, this time
with what I'd call an Hawaiian
cast, on the Beach Boys next
album, Friendse(June 1968). A
water-color cover in misty pas-
tels, backed with a photo of
sunrise on the beach set the al-
bum's pacific tone trumpeting
the joys of living: Wake the
World, Anna Lee the Healer,
Little Bird, Be Still. And the
same group that had once been
spaced out hangin' five or drag-
gin' or just gettin' around (why
all those dropped g's?), now
kept itself "busy doin' nothin' "
as a song of that name put it.
Friends begins with a short
dedication, then jumps into the
title song - a slow, horn-hack-
ed ballad about . . . well, about
friendship, definitely a novel
subject in the super-charged
ego world of rock. When you
consider that the Beatles were
on the verge of breaking up, or
that most groups were disband-
ing or reshuffling monthly, the
song's message carries a certain
We've been friends now for
so many years
We've been together through
the good times and the
And turned each other on to
the good things that life
has to give.
The group actually followed
that counsel and made Friends
more a joint effort than any
other album of theirs. All the
songs, but one, were collabora-
tions. with Carl, Dennis. Al Jar-
dine and Mike Love each con-
tributing. Ultimately, because
they had been playing together
so.long and were so steeped in
te style, these new writers
seemed to have less effect on
the group's sound than the ad-
dition of a horn section.The
trumpets lent the melodies a
jazz-tinged back-up, and the
Boys' used it to good, if some-
what schmaltzy effect on Busy
Doin' Nothin', and atonally, on
the record's last band, Trans-
cendental Meditation ("... can
emancipate the man").
Nine months later with 20/20,
their twentieth album, the
Beach Boys seemed once again
to consolidate their gains while
continuing to pull away from
Brian's one-man domination.
The theme behind the album
was perfect vision, and with the
exception of Van Dyke Parks'
Cabinessence, the record turned
its eyes toward the rocking pust
of short, smooth singles. That
explains the inclusion of the
much-recorded oldie, Cotton
fields, and of two non-Beach
Boy compositions, I Can Hear
Music and Bluebirds Over the
Mountain, which harken back
to the pre-Maharishi era. Even
their own songs on the album,
especially Dennis Wilson's, seem
crisper, tauter.
Ironically, the hard, at times
exultant sounds make 20/20 a
somewhat wistful album. The
group is perceptive enough to
realize that both politically and
musically the good old days in
which they once frolicked -

the days before Oswald, before
Vietnam - will never return.
None of the Beatles' injunctions
for us to "get back" can alter
that fact. Nor can the Beaca
Boys, so much a part of that
period be regarded as anything
but anachronisms at a time
when soul and pseudo-Eliot pre-
dominate. That's why 20/20's
first song, Do It Again, comes
off as a rock lament. It uses
the old surfing style and a won-
derfully simple lyric to express
the consciously vain hope that
Camelot will resurrect itself.
Listen to it closely, think back
to the early 60's, and you'll see
what I mean:
Well, I've been thinking 'bout
all the places
We've surfed and danced
And all the faces we've missed
So let's get together and do
it again.
In the wake of the Democra-
tic convention, Nixon's election,
and for the Beach Boys person-
ally, a new nadir in their po-
pularity, Do It Again said it all.
It would be eighteen more
months before the Beach Boys
would r'elease another album. In

group was ready to resurface
in a big way. Bringing along a
ten-piece band, they blew the
lid off the Big Sur Festival with
an atomic version of Good Vi- -
brations. A month later they
were booked into the Whisky in
LA where long lines snaked
around the block amid rumors
that McCartney was flying in
just to jam with the group. (He
never did.) Brian even decided
to join the crew onstage, until
his ear trouble forced him back
to Bel Air. Finally, concluding
their successful stay on the
Strip, they took off on a Euro-
pean tour.
At the same time, the Beach
Boys released Sunflower. Back
on their own Brother Records,
and performing with greater as-
surance than' ever, they pro-
duced a big-sounding beautiful
disc that managed to be com-
plex withoutbeing plastic.En-
gineered by Stephen Desper,
who also did 20/20, Sunflower
employed every advance in re-
cording technique including a
sixteen-track tape recorder and
a custom-built thirty-position'
mixing console. One cut, Cool
Cool Water, was even record-
ed in quadraphonic sound. Fur-
ther enriching the music, Brian
bowed to technology and began
arranging for stereo, something
his deafness had always deter-
red him from attempting.
The Boys' musical progress
coincided with even greater in-
troducspection and withdrawal
from the mainstream of trendy
mass culture. In It's About
Time, from Sunflower, this con-
version finds its expression:,
I used to be a famous artist
As proud as I could be
Struggling to express myself
For the whole world to see
I used to blow my mind sky
Searching for the lost elation
Little did I know the joy I
would find
In knowing I was only me
I'm singing in my heart
Meanwhile, the counter-cul-
ture continued along its merry,
snobbish way. First, it was phi-
losoph - rock full of pithy pole-
mics against American society.
Then things go so bad we ditch-
ed politics and relied on soul
to pull us through. After all,
we're all blacks under the skin,
right? We all have soul some-
where, right? We've all got to
get away from the bourgeois
crap and find our roots, rights?
R-O-O-T-S. So you put some
scratchy Robert Johnson or
Bessie Smith record on your
one-hundred dollar turntable
and let the Southern-jungle-
blues vibes enter your lily-white
body. Emote, baby. Suffer, suf-
fer, suffer.
No doubt white middle-class
kids have a perfect right to feel
guilty about having so much in
a country where God knows
how many children go to bed
with empty stomachs. And even
beyond guilt there is a lot of
technological junk, both hard-
ware and ideas, floating around
who's to say that a return to
basics might not be the antidote
to Herman Kahn? Finally, mid-
dle-aged America did forge a
bond between young people, es-
pecially students, and blacks,
each group seeing itself as a vic-
tim of the hypocritical Estab-
And yet, despite the obvious
spiritual communion that I my-
self feel with the downtrodden,
there is something ludicrous
about white kids from Birming-
ham or even Flint, Michigan,
searching for their roots in the
rhythms of the Mississippi Del-
ta, as if loud, black-sounding
whites could bring us some kind
of regeneration. Mark Farner,
Grand Funk's suburbanite gone
slumming, says, "In my lyrics I

try to use a universal language.
I don't write so complicated ...
like I don't use big words and
symbols." Dig? Dylan, by trac-
ing his musical heritage back to
Nashville and not trying to co-
opt black music, may be closer
to the mark. And John and
Yoko may be closer still by go-
ing all the way back to their ev-
olutionary roots - the primal
But the Beach Boys?! C'mon!
They're about as black, soulful,
primitive and emotive as Cal-
vin Coolidge. That said, the
damned thing is that the Beach
Boys are much closer to our
own white, material romanticist
roots than Muddy Waters. Our
societal roots are TV, cars, girls,
Saturday afternoon football
games and dreams of California
-- the very things the Beach
Boys personify. Almost asham-
edly, we parody our rich child-
hood and adolescence with syn-
thetic nostalgia; people who
could hardly sit out Fantasia
when they were four, now act as
if Disney were a head. Neither
this funkiness nor the Rolling
Stones, however, can erase the
fact that we lived through, and

them, our roots lie in the inno-
cence and freshness of the child,
and our salvation may very well
be the rediscovery of the ca-"
pacity to be childlike without
childishness. Doubtless, some
people think they've done pre-
cisely that, with smile Tlshirts
and dumb, narcotic, offensive
grins. "Wow! Life is a groove."
But this cretinism is really more
self-administered therapy than
true naivite, just as the black-
worshippers' foot-stomping and
Jewish Afros are more simple
mimesis than earthiness. It isn't
easy. Our materialistic romanti-
cist genes will fight to have us
romanticize even the process of
Somehow, though, as I listen,?
ed to the Beach Boys' classic
new album, Surf's Up I got this
strange exhileration that, yes,
we could recover from the 60's.
I mean, if a rock group can
make it, with all the crap that
goes on around them, then why
not us? The album's cover may
give the opposite impression -
a dark, somber blue oil-portrait
of a bowed Don Quixote-Indian
astride a horse. But the music
inside is ripe good-time and it
reaffirms the group's genius for
giving pleasure. Remember plea-
sure? The tunes aren't likely to
grab you at first listening. Slow-
ly, after a few playings they'll
seep into your consciousness.
You'll be taking a shower or
doing the dishes or walking to
class and these sounds will be
nagging at you.
Surf's Up begins, fittingly,
with a Jardine-Love song about
water and the way it's been
polluted by you know who. The
cut picks up from Sunflower's
Kantian Cool Cool Water (the
ocean as an end in itself), and
continues the Boys' long-time
concern foi the elements. The
melody is simple, the accom-
paniment is a swirl or moog,
tambourine, piano, banjo and
washboard, and the lyric is, as
always; ingenious:
Don't go_ near the water
To do it any wrong
To be cool with the water
Is the message of this song
Long Promised Road, written
by Carl, concentrates on com-
ing to terms with society by

too much action. We want those
Disney Girls and Ozzie and
Harriet and church dances. We
want peace again.
The first side ends with a
very heavy rendition of Lieber
and Stoller's Riot in Cell Block
No. 9, only Mike Love has writ-
ten a new lyric called Student
Demonstration Time. ("Stay
away when there's a riot going
on.") With its wailing siren, its
thudding drum, its fuzzy guitar
line right out of Presley, and
an echo so deep it makes the
song sound as if it were record-
ed in somebody's basement,
Demonstration Time manages to
make even students seem not so
sullen and bad-tempered. Very
few groups get away with this.
Side Two opens with the al-
bum's second masterpiece, Carl
Wilson's Feel Flows. For years
Donovan has been trying to
write a songthat captures this
mystic glow. Its word images are
like incense-smoky, empyreal:
Encasing all-embracing
wealth of repose
Engulfs all the senses
Imposing, unclosing thoughts
that compose
Retire the fences
Eng neeringwise. it makes you
thankful the, Beach Boys are re-
cording in quadraphonic sound
these days. The music com-
bines the moog with a twitter-
ing flute and a whistling wind.
And behind it all, as if in ano-
ther dimension, is an almost in-
audible echo that ambushes the
listener in layers of spirit. Abso-
lutely perfect!
Looking at Tomorrow (A Wel-
fare Song) is a folky ballad
that invests even unemployment
with romanticism. It's strange
in a country that places such
a high value on the work ethic,
there is this constant sentimen-
tality about not working. I guess
it has something to do with the
middle-class image of the noble
prole. Anyway, the gist of Look-
ing at Tomorrow is that even
though the fellow is out of a
job (typically Californian these
days), he still looks hopefully
to the future.
Brian Wilson's first contri-
bution to the album, A Day in
the Life of a Tree, is another
bit of pixieness along the lines



What begins as a diamond necklace ends
with a children's song. But beware! The child-
ren are not you and me, as they are in almost
every other self-congratulatory rock song .. .
We haven't found the grail - not in philoso ph-
rock, not in soul, not in drugs.
...::...:.r.NN2m W#EMMaWM RM ME N

start teaching rock lyrics as po-
try. Yeeeeeech!
Miraculously, the Beach Boys
had managed to survive the
British Invasion and the sub-
sequent death of the California
sound, but they were less for-
tunate with phlosoph-rock and
the album revolution. For one
thing, the group had long been
geared to singles - peppy tunes
under two and a half minutes.
And yet, as contemporaries of
the post-adolescents, they had
outgrown the pre-teen single
audience. On the other"hand,
they refused to compromise
with the older album buyers
who demanded protest stuff or
psychedelic numbers. T h e y
made no pretense of being sha-
mans in the rock religion.
Eschewing faddism, the group
nonetheless continued its steady
maturation, and in what they
themselves call their greatest
album, Pet Sounds, they took
another step away from their
halcyon days of adolescence, if
not from innocence. Sloop John
B is a kind of watershed (if
you'll excuse the pun) in their
development, because it involves
getting away from the very surf
that was the source of the
Boys' popularity. Songs like
Caroline No, God Only Knows,
Wouldn't It Be Nice, Let's Go
Away for Awhile express the

Days albums they'd been easing
toward greater orchestration.
On Pet Sounds they merely
completed the transformation.
Brian's arrangements for the
record, like much of the Beatle
music of the period, were so
lie down in the sound-vocally
soft and lush you could almost
lots of overdubbing, backed by
strings and piano. Very pastor-
al strains, music that just sort
of surrounded you.
It's hard to understand the
transition from the old "om
dida waad" to this new emerg-
ing sound unless you look at
the group's background. First,
there were the personnel chan-
ges. Young David Marks quit
back in 1964 and was replaced
by ferret-faced Al Jardine. The
group was stable until Brian,
suffering from partial deafness,
decided to concentrate on song-
writing, and so around Pet
Sounds, first Glen Campbell and
then Bruce Johnston played on
tours. Both Jardine and John-
ston definitely enhanced rather
than undermined the group's
On the domestic front, Carl
was granted CO status in 1967,
but a disagreement with selec-
tive service - they wanted him
to be an orderly; he wanted to
be a music therapist - later
brought a conviction for failure

an suddenly became an ecology
freak and set up the Radiant
Radish, a health food store.
But easily the most important
influence on the Beach Boys'
post-1965 work was oriental oc-
cult as expounded by the Ma-
harishi. On first thought it may
seem a far cry from Surf to
Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, but
the group's collective medita-
tion in India was actually less
incongruous than that of the
Beatles who, according to Len-
non were living more like Nero
than like monks. The Boys'
lyrics dripped naivite, and ever
since Surfin' USA their airy
melodies possessed a tranquil,
romantic quality that bordered
on the astral. What the Maha-
rishi did for the group's music,
regardless of his other activities,
was release the latent oriental
beauty that hovered with the
vocals above the drums and gui-
tars. What the Beach Boys did,
in turn, was bond this resource
to their idiom.
In late 1967, then, out of their
association with the Maharishi
came the Beach Boys' answer
to Sergeant Pepper, S m i le y
Smile. The motif of the album,
appropriately, was, "The smile
that you send out returns to
you," and it was packaged in a
correspor -ly flowery green
jacket b, Boys' own label,

Unquestionably, the showpiece
of Smiley Smile, and perhaps of
the Beach Boys' entire career,
was Good Vibrations. Supposed-
ly written under the influence
of the evil weed (Yes, folks, the
Beach Boys are plugged into
culture.), the song used a per-
sistent electronic s q u e a 1 to
merge the eerieness of drug rock
with the traditional California
sound. Just for history's sake, it
should be noted that when the
single was released in the fall
of 1966, Sergeant Pepper's mar-
malade skies were still a year
away, and the competition con-
sisted of Last Train to Clarks-
ville, Cherish and Winchester
Cathedral. In other words, Good
Vibrations was an original.
Most of the other music on
the albums was original too,
building on Pet Sounds' founda-
tion and adding an Indian fla-
vor by way of LA. This required
an engineering sophistication
that made the album more truly
a studio effort than any of their
previous LP's. As in Sergeant
Pepper, fullest use was made of
recording machanics; each song
was layered with overdubs of
voices, noises, electronics. Sadly,
the fault with Smiley S m i l e
and, for that matter, with Ser-
geant Pepper, if you'll excuse
my apostasy, was the sacrifice
of musical energy on the altar

coming to terms with yourself.
Carl, with a prison term staring
him in the face should know:
So hard to answer future's
When ahead is seeming so
far behind
So hard to laugh a child-like
When the tears start to
torture my mind
So hard to shed the life of
To let my soul automatically
Then it shifts into a tough,
optimistic chorus:
But I hit hard at the battle
that's confronting me
Knock down all the road-
blocks stumbling me
Throw off all the shack.es
that are bringing me down
After Long Promised Road,
the Boys pull out horns, whist-
les, clinks, some violins and the
moog again, to hail our tired
dawgs. Take Good Care of Your
Feet is a perfect example of
the group's puckishness, some-
thing you don't find too often
on the angry pop scene; and
what little humor there is is us-
ually insufferably self-consci-
ous. Take Dylan's If Dogs Run
Free. Yoe} almost feel obligated
to snigger. Don't you get it? It's
a takeoff on . . . But in Feet the
absurd juxtaposition of podia-.
try with alienation is its own
reward - Dadism, California-
Take good care of your feet,
You better watch out what
you eat, Pete
Better take care of your life
'Cause nobody else will
The next cut, Disney Girls
(1957), is one of the album's
three masterpieces. It opens
with a mandolin and subdued
piano, then slides into an easy
lyric by newest Beach Boy Bruce
Johnston about none other than
material romanticism. Back in
'57 a Disney giril symbolized all
that any pre-pubescent kid
could possibly want. s I remem-
ber a friend of mine who used
to kiss the TV screen every time
Annette came on.? The Disney
girl was virginal and pretty, and.
someday she'd make the perfect
wife, faithfully helping- you
r'aiSP el n.rhriaht kids with

of Feet. The tree's misery in our
polluted society comes on, as a
hymn with a bowel-shaking
church organ. This passes to a
calliope and bird chirps as the
tree recounts its salad days.
Ecology freaks with a sense of
humor should love it.
The next song, 'Til I Die, as
another Brian Wilson composi-
tion. It lurches without intro-
duction into a Zen-like tone po-
I'm a leaf on a windy day A
Pretty .soon I'll be blown
How long will the wind blow
Until I die
There is much of the Beach
Boys' charm here; there is the
unpretentiousness of a group
that has found its roots by dig-
ging deep into its humanity.
Roots, in fact, are really at
the center of the album's title
cut, and third masterpiece, the
legendary Surf's Up. The song
was written way back in 19.67
by Van Dyke Parks and Brian
Wilson as the last segment of
a four-part suite for Smiley
Smile. Wilson started churning
out the melody late one night
and Parks stood by penning the
lyric. By 6 a.m. it was completed
and immediately christened by
Parks, Surf's Up, which, concur-
red Brian, was a perfect title
since "surfing isn't- related to
the song at all." A short time'
later it gained noteriety when
the Boys performed it on the
Leonard Bernstein TV Special.
But because of its length and
complexity the group decided
not to record it.
Now, however, Brian has re-
lented and at exactly the right
moment in the Beach Boys' ca-
reer. Surf's Up is an epic sum-
mary. Although it probably was-
n't intended as such, it is Parks'
rendering of the Beach Boys'
odyssey from material romanti-
cism to true spiritualism; and
it is especially fascinating be-
cause the Beach Boys themsel-
ves could never have written
this lyric:
A diamond necklace played
the pawn
Hand in hand some drummed
To a handsonie man and
To a blind class aristocracy

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