Monday, May 17, 2010

Brian Wilson

The other day, at the playground, I told my son that it was time to leave and to tell his sister the same. "Tell Madchen it's time to get your things and head to the car". This rarely works as planned but I feel like I have to keep trying. He nodded his understanding and slowly walked in her direction. Judging from the distance I knew he would need to cover before he could pass along the message, I knew he would not get the job done so I started to follow him. He started to wander off the path and I wondered where his mind had taken him. He wasn't headed in the direction of anything in particular, just deeply lost in thought. Watching him allowed me to conjure up the feeling of my own childhood daydreams. I don't remember exactly what I thought about nor do I have any idea what my peers were pondering. When I caught up with him I reminded him that we needed to go. He responded by telling me he liked a particular bush more than a particular tree. Fascinating. Apparently he was formulating a personal preference of the specific flora present in the park. When I thought about it later it seemed like that was probably what I was doing in my daydreams too. If not actively making decisions about preferences, the subjects of my minds gravitation spoke volumes about who I would become and what would touch me.

Even though I haven't written in this blog for a long time, I always think I'm about to start again and the idea is the same - to write about obscure music. I'm not sure if this entry is a promise of more to come but it is not about obscure music. It's actually about someone really really popular and extremely un-punk. If you had told me in high school that I would own a stack of Beach Boys records I would have been angry enough to argue with you. But the thing is, as much as Dazzle Ships is meaningful and moving to me, there is little chance that my children or their children will really discover its beauty. They will find their own beautiful things. There are a few things that will transcend generations. As much as seriously collecting records can be a serious waste of time, it, coupled with having my own children, brought me to understand fully the place of certain pieces of our (pop) culture.

I drove Madchen to gymnastics an hour ago and "God Only Knows" was on in the car. Everyone who knows anything knows this song is a centerpiece of Pet Sounds, the 1966 apex of the Beach Boys' career. As it went along, Madchen decided to let me know that "Daddy, this song is really pretty". Doesn't seem like a big deal? What I realized at that moment is the indestructible perfection of the recording which allows it to transcend any generational gap and keep it in the cultural consciousness for generations. The lyrics were written by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher. Brian Wilson is the composer and producer of the Beach Boys' recording.

From Wikipedia
In Asher's own words, "The general tenor of the lyrics was always [Brian's], and the actual choice of words was usually mine. I was really just his interpreter."

So this is effectively Brian Wilson's thing all the way through. And, for my money, it's his single greatest achievement. This is not a new realization for me, I've thought this for years. I didn't exactly stumble upon this and it's a pretty common opinion. But what I realized today is that his gift to me (I'm being ego-centric) is that somewhere down the line, my great grandchildren will hear that same recording and probably feel the same way about it as Madchen did. Without ever knowing those downstream from me in my family tree, I may already know something tiny about them. I would love it if Dazzle Ships was on their playlist too but I have to be realistic.