Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The Beach Boys and Culture Change

The fam brought She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed and me to the Beach Boys' 50th anniversary show at Summerfest.

That was fun!

(The Summerfest grounds have changed a bit since I volunteered to work there in '72 and '73.  No more straw-bales to cover the mud between the venues, meaning that the charming odor of spilled beer mixed with (slowly) rotting-in-the-heat straw is absent from the grounds.  And the Summerfest main office is not a converted Army Air Force barracks!)

Anyhoo, the Beach Boys have history:  The group has had 36 US Top 40 hits (the most by an American rock band) and 56 Hot 100 hits, including four number-one singles. (Wiki)

Two of the originals are dead.  Brian Wilson, the songwriter, re-joined the band for this tour.  While he got a great reception from the crowd, it is very clear that his mental-health and drug-related challenges have effectively disabled him as a performer.  Sad.

The Beach Boys had two "periods" in their music-making.  The first included such songs as "Surfin' USA", "Little Deuce Coupe," "Fun, Fun, Fun," and "I Get Around."  The second "period" migrated from the doo-wop/slightly bluesy/upbeat towards a more original and somewhat more reflective style which included "Good Vibrations" and "California Girls".  The second period work retains the Four Freshmen-influenced vocal harmony and the rolling-bass, but aside from that is very different stuff from the first period.

The Wiki article mentions that the Beach Boys lost their #1 ranking to the Beatles.  That's no surprise; the Beach Boys (in a way) represent the apotheosis of the '50's and early-'60's America:  big cars with horsepower, big (mostly innocent) fun, joie de vivre, Buddy Holly, Elvis, and

The Beatles, on the other hand, were at the very beginning of a much darker period for the USA:  Viet Nam, Nixon, and the sex/drugs culture, all beginning (roughly) in the mid-1960's and only now coming to an end.  Pop music reflected that change.  The contrast in tone and style cannot be ignored; the music got darker.  (Curiously, Country/Western never changed too much--if anything, the style and tone adopted some of the light-bright pops/rock, and of course, the technology.)

The Marcus crowd's reaction to the concert's tune selection was noteworthy, by the way.  When the BBs did their "early period" music, the crowd was extremely enthusiastic, clapping and dancing; when they got into their '70's stuff, the crowd was quiet, sitting, (and out for a quick beer-stop.)

The show included 6 (count 'em!!) backup players with various instruments who also (apparently) sang some of the harmonies.  The drums were doubled by one of the backups, which occasionally was irritating, and a couple of times it was clear that their sound-mix guy lost track of who was the lead vocalist.

But you don't go to an outdoor concert for recording-studio sound.  You go for other reasons.  For this crowd, it was to re-live the happy-go-lucky, tight and clean harmony of the early 1960's.



Jim said...

My early favorites were I Get Around and Don't Worry Baby. First record I ever bought.

But I miss Carl. For some fun songs from Carl check out:

Funky Pretty

Grim said...

Respectfully, my friend, it may be that you don't know a great deal about country or western music. :)

Dad29 said...

There you're right, G.

It would be more accurate for me to say that "I have not NOTICED much change" in C/W music....

Tim Morrissey said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your review. The Mrs. and I thought seriously about trekking over to SommerFest for that show, but never pulled the trigger on tickets. One thing that I don't like about the way they do SommerFest now is the way they spread the bands out all over the venue. Used to love the "Miller Jazz Oasis" and the way they'd set up bands by genre in pretty much the same (brewery-sponsored) stage. Any time you wanted to hear jazz, you knew where to go...polka, blues, cowboy, each had their own location.

Dad29 said...

It's retail-merchandising theory, Tim.

They want more people to trek past more retail booths (food, knick-knacks, etc.) to get to whatever destination.

IOW, 'follow the money.'