Thursday, June 21

I Never Imagined I'd Say This, But Could You Please Stick To Baseball?

George Eff Will, "The Beach Boys still get around". June 20

I'M feeling charitable; the massive climate change engendered, supported, and loved by Mr. Eff Will and his ilk has saved me the expense of moving to Arizona for my sinuses. So let's assume a) he didn't write that headline ("Tom Cruise: Still Hollywood's 'Top Gun' ") and b) that whoever did has a couple dozen adopted Special Needs children to feed.

Okay, who let George Eff Will backstage?

Three hours before showtime, Brian Wilson says: “There is no Rhonda.” Sitting backstage at Merriweather Post Pavilion, gathering strength for the evening’s 48-song, 150-minute concert, Wilson was not asked about her, he just volunteered this fact. The other members of the Beach Boys seem mildly surprised to learn that the 1965 song “Help Me, Rhonda” was about no one in particular.

Look, I'm no Beach Boys historian--my Boomer-ass relationship to their music will probably be made clear here later--but Brian Wilson is acknowledged as a composing and arranging pop genius, not a lyricist. I think the lyrics to "Help Me, Rhonda" were in fact written by the song's co-author, the decided non-genius Mike Love, although my exhaustive research, clicking on the Wiki page, proved inconclusive. At any rate, it's a little hard to imagine this news creating mild or any other level of surprise among the rest of the band after fifty years, unless they hadn't realized Brian was touring with them again until he started speaking.

Not that it matters; the sound is everything. Attention must be paid to baby boomer music-cued nostalgia, and no one pays it better than the Beach Boys.

Must this always be said this way? Attention must be paid? Really? As though this great Generational Leviathan insists that Everyone listen to nothing but its incontinently nostalgic soundtrack of 60s Top 40 to Eternity? Codswallop. So far as I know, there's still a Glenn Miller Orchestra touring out there. There are Platters and Coasters and possibly Ink Spots out there, all, like George Washinton's original hatchet, having had the handle replaced five times and the blade six.

Easy nostalgia for money is hardly a Boomer invention. I'm sorry, truly sorry, if it ruins your elevator riding experience, but take that up with the people who peddle shit for money, not people who like to relive the high point of their miserable lives made even more miserable by shit peddlers and their public spokesmen. I'm sorry there were people who were out of sync with it. I sympathize, I truly do; I've been out of sync with pop culture myself since Star Wars. I think if Dick Cheney or Phil Gramm could have gotten laid in the Sixties the world would be a better place today. But not George Eff Will, no. Nothing could have gotten him laid, nor did he deserve it. And we don't deserve listening to him kvetch about it for half a century, either.

Given California’s dystopian present, it is difficult to recall that the Beach Boys’ appeal derived not just from their astonishing harmonies (which derived from the Four Freshmen)

And the Devil, who had all the good harmonies...

but also from their embodiment of a happy Southern California that beckoned to the rest of the nation.

I guess growing up I missed the idea that Good Dumb Fun was a regional phenomenon.

Political scientist James Q. Wilson grew up there, and in 1967, the year after the Beach Boys released “Good Vibrations,” he wrote a seminal essay on the political vibrations that produced California’s new governor: “A Guide to Reagan Country.” Wilson’s conclusion was that Ronald Reagan represented the political culture of a region where social structure nurtured individualism.

And Federal money watered it.

Southern Californians had, Wilson wrote, “no identities except their personal identities, no obvious group affiliations to make possible any reference to them by collective nouns. I never heard the phrase ‘ethnic group’ until I was in graduate school.”

The late James Quinn Wilson, Ronald Reagan Chair of Public Policy and Ethic Identification at Pepperdine University, was born in 1931. Grew up in Long Beach, undergrad at Redlands; are we sure he actually saw any ethnics until he went to the University of Chicago in the mid-50s?

“The Eastern lifestyle,” Wilson wrote, “produced a feeling of territory, the Western lifestyle a feeling of property.”

Though not a strong enough one to give it back to its original owners.

Southern Californians lived in single-dwelling homes and had almost no public transportation, so their movements within the city were unconfined to set corridors. Houses and cars — the “Sunday afternoon drive” was often just to look at others’ homes — strengthened, Wilson wrote, “a very conventional and bourgeois sense of property and responsibility.”

Thanks to the interstate highway system, and cripplingly high tax rates. Fer cryin' out loud. That describes the whole of American life between big cities and rural farms in the 1950, what I believe has been dubbed "Suburbia". Which, in fairness, Ronald Reagan invented.

When James Watt, Reagan’s interior secretary, barred the Beach Boys from playing a Fourth of July concert on the Mall in 1983 because he thought they attracted “the wrong element,” Reagan invited them to the White House. This was almost a generation after the Beach Boys were dethroned but invigorated by the challenge of the British Invasion, particularly the Beatles.

Look, first, say what you want about Ronald Reagan, the man knew how to huckster. But, no. He didn't invite them to the White House "when" James Watt--who happened to work for Ronald Reagan, by the way--barred then from the Mall. He invited them to the White House after Watt's risible right-wing religious kookism was snickered at from the Eastern territories to the West Coast properties.

Boomers must be served, so Mick Jagger, who long ago said, “I’d rather be dead than sing ‘Satisfaction’ when I’m 45,” is singing it at 68.

Zing! See, George, back then he meant it, now he does it for money. This is the difference between Art and Commerce.

In 1966, the 31-year-old Elvis Presley asked the Beach Boys for advice about touring;

"Simple. Next time you shoot at a television, hit Col. Tom instead."

he has been dead for nearly 35 years, but they play on, all of them approaching or past 70, singing “When I Grow Up (to Be a Man)” without a trace of irony. Southern California in their formative years was not zoned for irony.

Speaking of Art and Commerce, this is a band of entertainers who might, might have achieved some minor success individually or elsewhere, who instead achieved major success because one of them was a (seriously troubled) genius. When his talent and vision led him in new directions, there was opposition from other ego-tripping, fame whore members (no names, but two of the initials are Mike Love) pissed that he was fucking with the franchise. Or so the story goes. Thing is, though, that it turned out that only Brian was capable of doing what Brian did. That was then. Without him, the others met with more commercial failure than they had with him. And they resolved the problem by becoming a nostalgia act. More power to 'em. Their audiences are irony immune, at least temporarily. And if any of 'em gives a shit about what James Q. Wilson said, they probably reserve that for office hours.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

And it was the Republicans that fucked up California.

J Neo Marvin said...

Now that Brian Wilson is back serving Mike Love's agenda, it's safe again for Republicans to like him.

What nobody ever mentions about that whole James Watt vs. Ronald Reagan debacle is that Dennis Wilson was doing Ronnie's daughter around that time.

Anonymous said...

Can you all please just leave the Beach Boys out of it? Please?

heydave said...

God dammit, now I really want to believe that the mean boys fucked him up the ass before shoving his bow-tied ass into a locker back in school. Hell, I want to do our now!

heydave said...

our = it correct is not our friend.

alix said...

>he has been dead for nearly 35 years, but they play on, all of them approaching or past 70,

George Will must not have noticed that two of the Beach Boys have been dead for decades. And far from being,uhm, wholesome, Dennis was involved with Manson, and Brian, bless his heart, has had a whole lot of "problems," but then, so has California I guess.

Anonymous said...

Sure, the only "ethnics" in Alta California where the original settlers of El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río de Porciúncula from 230 years ago.

Where they disappeared to after setting up the mission system, subduing the local Indians and giving every settlement, city, town, river and geographic feature from Cabo San Lucas to San Francisco Spanish place names can only be speculated upon - but clearly it wasn't Pepperdine's oceanfront Malibu campus.

prairie curmudgeon said...

my attention must be pretty fucked to read anything from the mind of Will but you suckered me

fuck, I thought the beach boys were about surfing, chicks, cars and guitars

my attention has been clusterlaid

R. Porrofatto said...

I've always been kind of mystified as to why PBS always seems to go with full-blown schlock-pop nostalgia when it comes time to raise money. Who is it that enjoys stuff like Frontline and Nova but coughs up pledge lucre only if regaled by a marathon dose of Yanni, The Four Unoriginal Tops, and geriatric doo-wop?

I'm now convinced George F. Will is one of those people.

Anonymous said...

....yeah, harmonies of the Four Freshmen minus any notes beyond triads. That's not rock and roll, and besides, it takes effort to sing those silly, pretentious sevenths, seconds and sharp-ninths. I even feel just too darned artsyfartsy merely mentioning those numbers.

Hmmm, wonder if GFW even understands his "beloved" baseball beyond epidermal dandruff level.