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BOYS OF SUMMER
Written By: Stone Scruggs
*Click images below to view larger versions.
BOYS OF SUMMER
Hello fellow native Baltimorons and sports fans. That title may have elicited mixed feelings about Charm City (a nice place to leave), but no cognitive dissonance about dem first place Os, hon! Best in baseball (Chicago doesn’t count). But best in music this time of year - especially this fiftieth anniversary of Pet Sounds year - is of course, The Beach Boys, who were truly boys - baby Wilson brother Carl was fourteen when he played guitar on the first single in October 1961 ("Surfin", naturally) -  when they were living up to their raison d'etre. I like to say beach, or summertime, music comprises the three Bs: Beach Boys, Bob (Marley, as a metaphor meaning reggae), and Jimmy Bubba Buffett. As a child, this was my pre beach week (of which there were usually two or three a season) soundtrack; now it has regnancy over my non new playlist year round. Which brings one to the subject of  vacation break, which by all rights should adhere to the meteorologists' definition of summer: three months, June/July/August. Kids get summer off. Memo day to Labor Day. Full stop. 
Before songwriter/producer/pianist/ bassist/singer/resident genius/big brother Brian Wilson got all arty (according to singer/lyricist/frontham, er, man/cousin Mike Love, whose infamous bemused/disapprobatory/clueless response to Pet Sounds: "don’t f--- with the formula" subsequently became his cacoethes and a metaphor for commercialism versus art) in 1966, The Beach Boys were a, yes, commercial, hit making pop group after the early sixties surf trend. So to celebrate the season (which we know to be second best at this beach; the Second Season of Falltumn is favored by locals) here are the first eight - for August, the eighth month of the year - summer songs by America's band.
SURFIN USA (January 1963)
"We'll all be gone for the summer/we're on safari to stay" was familiar to those of us who worked here for the season as a kid. The title track of Boys' second album was first to feature session drummer Hal Blaine of The Wrecking Crew, Brian's idol Phil Spector's musicians whom the elder Wilson would utilize, as a superior substitute for nascent drummer Denny Wilson, the only true surfer of The Beach Boys (he would prove a better pianist/songwriter/producer by the seventies). Brian gave a co-credit to Chuck Berry and "Sweet Little Sixteen"'s chorus...recycled five summers later by Paul McCartney (not "Lennon/McCartney") for "Back In The USSR". This is all timely as Jimmy Page's (alleged) plagiarizing ass is sued for "Stairway To Heaven"...but inspiration in music is ephemeral. And that's all I have to say about that. I will say that in 1964 the Boys would record "Do You Remember"..."all the guys that gave us Rock And Roll", Chuck Berry in particular. His praises will continue to be sung by Sonic Notes. Note: "Sweet Little Sixteen" was part of a February 1958 supersession that included "Reelin And Rockin" and "Johnny B Goode" and Willie Dixon on bass. Just another day at the office.
BACK HOME (June 1963)
Not as it appeared in the remake on 15 Big Ones in 1976, but for our purposes the original Brian solo production which can be found on Made In California, another Beach Boys fanatics only collection assembled a couple years ago; it's on Spotify, and is essential. Bigger production than the famously under produced "Brian's Back" - hyped release. 
YOUR SUMMER DREAM (July 1963)
Speaking of super sessions and another darg, this was one of at least eleven tracks recorded for the third album Surfer Girl...over two days.
KEEP AN EYE ON SUMMER (February 1964)
Brian's beloved harmony group of the fifties, The Four Freshmen, should have been credited on this classic example of prime early Beach Boys harmony. All voice and staccato guitar. Only inches from The Four's "Graduation Day", which our lads had already covered.
THE GIRLS ON THE BEACH (April 1964)
"The sun in her hair/the warmth of the air/on a summer day" as sung by resident dreamboat Denny from behind the kit was sure to send swooning screams from adolescent teens. This was the hard touring days of the group, whose hard lovin' - and resulting stds - would be subject to monetary fine ala James Brown against his Famous Flames under the whip of manager dad/frustrated songwriter Murry Wilson. Despite the squeaky clean image. Well, for now at least guitarist Al Jardine's only offense was listening to folk music and baby Carl's was his babyfat; Brian's potsmoking would be verboten, as would Dennis' drinking, who, together with Mike,  was amassing a legacy of sexual conquests to rival Bill Wyman's. The girls were backstage and in hotel rooms, not on the beach. Note: Al returned for album number four, Little Deuce Coupe, having been replaced by fourteen year old David Marks since the first album in 1962.
Marks was a lot more fun than folky, not funky,  Jardine, who, to be fair, would contribute some decent songs beginning in 1968 with Brian favorite Friends.
ALL SUMMER LONG (May 1964)
As in "we been havin fun...", sweet innocence cum naivete cum guilelessness. Hence Brian's lead xylophone (glockenspiel? marimba?) and the whistle 'n' sax solo. "T-shirts cutoffs and a pair of thongs", indeed. Yes, please.
GIRL DON'T TELL ME (April 1965)
Speaking of swooning...sigh..., such a great song from Brian, obviously having heard his rivals' "Ticket To Ride". 
SUMMER MEANS NEW LOVE (May 1965)
Summer in name only as this was an instro by, of course, Brian, pre Pet Sounds and "Let's Go Away For Awhile". Quiet genius at work...
Cheers and happy summer.
 
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