THE BEACH BOYS
Sounds of Summer: The Very Best of The Beach Boys
Listening to the earliest, deeply familiar hits of the Beach Boys, it’s easy to think of them as a mere fresh-faced flush of (post-)rock’n’roll youthful, preppy allAmerican exuberance, akin to The Archies or Happy Days. The reality, as observed in the booklet accompanying this reissue, is that their only peers, up until 1967 at least, were The Beatles and Motown.
The tracks in Sound of Summer are arranged non-chronologically, so you get little narrative sense in the sequencing of their transition from songs of innocence to songs of experience; their awkward relationship with the late 60s, followed by the twisted, psychedelic flowering of Surf’s Up.
Nevertheless, their legacy is clear. We see how Wilson and co. were creating pop vehicles; how there are through-routes from Little Deuce Coupe to Prince’s Little Red Corvette, from Fun, Fun, Fun to Kraftwerk’s ‘fahren, fahren, fahren’ chant on Autobahn. We see the run for the money the Beach Boys gave The Beatles — ultimately losing out in terms of quantity but exceeding anything the Fab Four ever did with God Only Knows and Good Vibrations, both of which have the quality of sacred music.
We see also that they weren’t just the Brian Wilson band — even Al Jardine had a vocal shot on Help Me, Rhonda, Mike Love’s lyrical and vocal contributions are heaven sent, Dennis Wilson emerged as a songwriter with the likes of Forever, and Carl Wilson not only contributed the vocal on God Only Knows but also wrote the ecstatic Feel Flows, one of the very greatest Beach Boys songs. And, with the likes of Vegetables, co-written with outsider Van Dyke Parks, they showed they weren’t so far from, of all people, Frank Zappa. They had a hit as late as 1988, with Kokomo. Sixty years in our lives, our pop lives. Most won’t endure; they will.