Beer Test Study Guide #3: The Beach Boys
I need well rounded kids that can pass The Beer Test.
I am not talking about underage drinking, but the ability to have a conversation with anyONE about anyTHING. Music knowledge is a key component to this test and I want to talk about a band that needs to be remembered…
The Beach Boys are one of those bands that it makes NO SENSE to hate. Seriously…it’s like saying you don’t like Springsteen or the Beatles (yeah, I know there has been a lot written comparing The Beach Boys and Beatles, but keep your pants on, I’m not doing it here).
Covered by everyone from Sonic Youth (“I Know There’s an Answer”) to Relient K (“Sloop John B”); Mickey Mouse (there’s a whole kids album) to The Ramones (“Surfin’ Safari”..yeah, that one surprised me too), this classic band of the 60s and beyond deserves our respect and reverence.
Their music is covered not just because of the crazy genius that is Brian Wilson and the originality of their layered melodic harmonies, but because the music still resonates with people of all ages.
The Beach Boys hold a special place in my heart for a variety of reasons. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the South Bay of Los Angeles which is a series of beach communities about 15 minutes from Hawthorne (where the Beach Boys grew up). Maybe it’s because my baby boomer parents owned their vinyl albums and my Mom played their music while she cleaned the house every Friday. Or maybe it is because I married an avid surfer and have been to almost all of the surf spots mentioned in “Surfin’ USA”.
Whatever the reason, the music of The Beach Boys is a warm and fuzzy blanket that makes me happy and touches my soul.
So, as obvious as it seems to me, The Beach Boys need to be included in the Beer Test Study Guide. But which songs to choose? All of them? No. Totally skip “Kokomo”..and some of the early instrumentals. But pick a greatest hits albums and go crazy. Their songs from the 60s still have legs and will resonate with our kids at different stages in their lives.
When I was a fragile pre teen filled with angst and self doubt, “Sloop John B’s” sadness about a guy on a boat trip from hell made me sympathize with the fictional characters. Originally a folk song from The Kingston Trio (my Dads favorite group), Brian Wilson’s reworking is nothing but brilliant. I totally understood the tragic nature of the God forsaken boat and wished the poor guy could go home too. What a bad day…“threw away all my grits, then he took and ate up all of my corn…I want to go home”. Each time I listened to it, I hoped that this time the guy would get a different result and eat his grits and corn in peace.
Like thousands before me, “In My Room” might have been written for my teenage self and the feelings I had about the safety of the private fiefdom that was my room.
“God Only Knows” is one of the greatest love songs of all time. The sincerity of the lyrics pierce the heart and the melody and arrangement is somehow complicated and simple at the same time.
So I won’t tell you what songs to make sure your kids know because this is just a sampling. They need to be familiar with The Beach Boys catalogue so they can find the influence in OTHER bands. They need to know about The Beach Boys so they can pass The Beer Test.