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Friday, September 22, 2006

I really dig those styles they wear.

Just got back from seeing the Beach Boys for five bucks (the kid got in free) at the Western Washington Fair in Puyallup. Mike is the last Boy standing, of the originals. I'd expected to see Al too, but he wasn't there. Bruce -- not quite an original -- was there. Mike's corny jokes remain charmingly corny (I'd never seen him, but I've seen footage), and he seems bored -- at least one of the songs he sang -- "409" -- is older than me, and I was born in '63. On the early hits he sounded more nasally than ever, but he sang his bass parts fine and his smooth parts fine. He was tender on his big song of vindication, "Kokomo," the #1 hit song he wrote and recorded without Brian Wilson, after Brian left the band. Near the end of the show it became ALL TOP FIVE HITS -- I Get Around (#1), Good Vibrations (#1), Barbara Ann (#2), Help Me Rhonda (#1), California Girls (#3), and closing with Surfin' USA (#3), the Chuck Berry song (Sweet Little 16, not as good a song) that Brian wrote new words for. Then the encore, Kokomo (#1) and Fun Fun Fun (#5). I never much liked "California Girls," but it worked great live -- and -- so perfect, so corny -- near the end, Mike shouted "Washington State girls!" -- and the crowd -- which was jam packed, with youngsters and oldsters all rocking together -- the crowd erupted. Underlining Washington State's anamolous position as one of two states that has "State" as part of its nickname -- rock stars don't say, "Hello Montana State!" or "Hello Rhode Island State!" Washington and New York are the only states that are overshadowed mythically by cities with identical names; hence, Washington State, New York State.

Hello, Mike Love!

The jam-packed crowd overshadowed the crowd for Brian Wilson that I saw at the same venue for the same price 5 or 6 years ago, and I realized -- the Beach Boys are more famous. The shows are similar, with Mike's band emphasizing the pre-Pet Sounds songs more than Brian's band, and Brian's band vice versa, but both bands featuring both. I don't blame people for preferring to see Mike -- his voice has deteriorated less. And he's got the brand name. "Brian Wilson" is the brand name for people who read the credits. I happen to be one of those people, but who cares. Brian's set included "Add Some Music to Your Day," and at the great climactic line, "MUSIC IS IN MY SOUL," I cried. This is my religion.

Recently I praised the Beach Boys' lyrics, omitting to mention my dislike for many of them, "California Girls" being one, the silly generalizations about geography and women; "Salt Lake City" having maybe the worst line -- "and girl for girl they've got the cutest in the western states, yeah" -- it's like, can you be more fetishistically pseudo-quantificatory about something inherently non-quantifiable, please? It always reminds me of line 283 of Milton's masque Comus, And left your fair side all unguarded, lady? (I had to look up which number the line is.) Milton, that ridiculous padder, stretching the syllables to make the pentameter when all he means to say is, "And left you unguarded, ma'am?" -- and instead this ridiculous line -- your fair side -- makes me ask, what about the rest of her? Or is it the side that's particularly important, like a side of beef? Really, Jerry Lewis should deliver the line -- And left your fair side all unguarded, lady? -- then it would work. Woman as commodity -- "girl for girl" -- Brian Wilson, (presumably) accidental Miltonesque (flattering neither).

Not being a car fetishist, the car fetish songs leave me un-excited too, though I admire the exuberance and skill. Also, note words like "dig" and "groovy" and "hip" in songs from circa 1965.

Enjoyed the show. Excellent Beach Boys tribute band, very good group singing, very good falsetto singer (whoever he was) doing Brian's famous parts. Touched by Bruce's rendition of "God Only Knows," dedicated to "the late, great Carl Wilson"; those gorgeous interwoven wordless vocals in the middle of the song -- I cried, as the 3-year-old, sitting on my knee (his mom was at home with a cold), said, coincidentally, "Daddoo, it's too loud, I want to go." All those arrangements still sound wonderful. Needless to say, there's no sense of discovery in the presentation, but nobody seems to mind, and it made me question the value of "a sense of discovery." Ultimately, just because Mike Love's daddy and Brian Wilson's daddy (and my daddy) have passed away and he can't take the T-Bird away anymore, it doesn't mean we can't still have fun fun fun.
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