Monday, August 18, 2014

Even The Beach Boys Ain't Who They Used To Be

Thanks to our good friends Joyce and Robin who bought us tickets, we got to go to a Beach Boys concert today (Sunday August 18th) at a very nice outdoor venue - Indian Ranch in Webster Massachusetts.

The Ranch is actually a campground/resort (we didn't stay there) on "Lake (see photo for the name)" which, back in our school days we learned meant "Lake You Fish on Your Side - I Fish on My Side - and Nobody Fish in the Middle" which of course is an approximate translation of the Nipmuk words. You can google it if you are curious. Now they call it "Webster Lake" - it almost touches the Connecticut border.
The Name Was Too Long For My Camera
and I Couldn't Back Up For a Wider Angle
But back to the Beach Boys concert. One thing about the Beach Boys music is that it is fun and happy music. The Beach Boys were singing about girls, cars and surfing before the Beatles came to America, before Vietnam was a daily news story, before we noticed that the world was going to hell.

Unfortunately for us gay guys, they were/are very straight and their music was/is very straight. It is so obviously straight, and that they play to a straight audience; that being there at the concert one realizes the depth to which straight people dominate our social discourse and our culture. But I digress again.

We gay boys were coveting surfer boys while the Beach Boys were crooning over the Surfer Girl. But, at least for some of us, the music touched us even though it made us feel both sexy and a little confused at the same time. (I just googled various permutations of "gay fans of beach boys" and came up dry.)

There were other articles that popped up including those that talked about the Boys' politics and their split up and divergent tours.

We saw Mike Love (who has the license or legal right to use the trade name "Beach Boys") and Bruce Johnston who was an early, but not truly an "original" Beach Boy.

Of course they were good, had good backup singers and instrumentalists and they sounded "original" to my ears. At first, I almost thought they were lip-syncing to their old music.

They had just about everyone up and dancing, clapping, singing along. I must say I enjoyed it.

But when they sang "Don't Worry Baby" I got a little emotional. Under my sunglasses my eyes got a bit moist. Crazy, I know, but why?

I was 16 when that song came out. I bought the 45 and probably played it a thousand times. I have difficulty describing the emotions of a 16 year old who knew he was different and did not belong to the world that was occupied by the adolescents he knew - a boy who did not belong to the world of Beach Boys and Surfer Girls, but who felt a deep, empty longing to belong...for some reason those old emotions got a bit of a stir. Silly me.
Except for Mike Love, the Boys's Outfits
Were Not Very Beachy
(actually a few looked like they shopped at Wally Mart)
And now, at sixty-six, I am dealing with this age thing...seeing the Beach Old Guys singing and being all fun and nostalgic while trying to recognize some kind of continuity between youth and old age, between past and present, between the person that I used to be and who I am now...

The concert was a hoot, but I was seeing it all with a philosophical eye: aging bodies dancing and singing like we were sixteen again, like age was/is, at least for the moment, just a joke, a meaningless transformation, a jest of the gods, an illusion. The grey, the wrinkles, the flab, the waddle, the liver spots...just a disguise for 16 year olds, incognito.

I'd say the majority of those in attendance were over fifty, many in their sixties (like me) and seventies.

Mike Love is, what 73 years old now? Not a Beach "Boy" by any means.

We are all in this boat together. A boat that takes us on a voyage where we lose our youth, our hair or at least or hair color, our strength, our complexion, our posture, our hearing, and eventually our health and our breath.

We are all on this boat together.

For a few moments this afternoon, it was the "Sloop John B."

Surfin' USA


  1. They also recorded one of Charles Mansosn's songs called "never learn not to love."

    Dennis Wilson may have been responsible for inadvertantly placing Sharon Tate in Manson's path.

  2. Professor,
    Kind of not the gist of the post, but you do have an interesting blog.

  3. ". . . the depth to which straight people dominate our culture and discourse . . ."

    Frank, at least 95 percent of the world - 19 out of 20 - is straight. So get used to it, already. Grin.

    That said, a very nice meditation on youth and aging, and I concur with all your thoughts. It's really such a cruel thing, getting old, because inside you are sort of ageless, but the body betrays you in all sorts of ways you never expected. Which sucks but what can we do about it?

    Oh yes, I agree the BB's are way straight - a magical sound with that family harmony going, but after soaking up a little of that teenage straight-boy attitude, I have to

    go listen to something else. Really, it's that way with all the rock and pop stars we idolized as kids - now I see them as ordinary straight boys, and can only take so much of it. But I'm glad you and Leon got to go to the concert, I would have enjoyed it too.

  4. I always liked them and tried to change the feminine gender side of their lyrics to the masculine.

    "God only knows what I'd be without you." I always think of my pet dogs and cats. I know sounds silly but works for me..

  5. I saw the Beach Boys in concert when I was in college in the early '70s. My friends and I talked about "the old guys" then! I mean, they were in their 30s for god's sake!

  6. Your blog really touches me very much, Frank, and yet, I can't believe it's the Beach Boys which prompt me to comment. During their early popularity, BB's music seemed bland and insipid compared to Motown and the English (African American blues inspired) Invasion. That has changed over time. In this, my sixty-eighth year, I have discovered the genius of Brian Wilson's song writing and arranging, and it's not only "Pet Sounds." Two songs stand out for me: "Sail on Sailor," (Bruce Johnston vocal and perhaps the bluesiest song Brian Wilson ever wrote) and "Heroes and Villains." I call the latter a rock'n'roll concerto. It is so beautifully done, it moves me to tears. Here is the link to a 2004 live performance by BW and his band:

    I agree with you about their early song content, not much to identify about. Also, I spent a bit of time in Bristol during the years I lived in CT; currently residing in central VT.

  7. Thanks, Chuck for the comment and for reading. It always surprises me which posts get comments. And one's taste in music is so individual.



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