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THE EVERLASTING FIRST: The Beach Boys

Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.

This was originally posted as part of a longer piece covering both pop music and comic book characters. It’s separated here for convenience.

As I’ve said before, it took me a little while to become a Beach Boys fan.  But there was a Beach Boys LP in the family library when I was a kid: Surfer Girl. As hard as it may be to believe, the title track from that album is the only Beach Boys song I remember contemporaneously. I know, I know–I was there (in my role as me), and I have difficulty buying the idea that I wasn’t aware of “In My Room” or “Surfin’ USA” or “Help Me, Rhonda” or “I Get Around” or “Our Car Club.” Well, okay, maybe that last mental omission is understandable. But how could I have missed the entirety of The Beach Boys’ ’60s output in the ’60s? Beats me. All I can tell you is that I didn’t start listening to The Beach Boys at all until the mid-’70s, and I didn’t become a big fan until much later.

But I got there. As a teen, I borrowed my cousin Maryann’s Beach Boys records (along with her Dave Clark Five, SearchersBeatlesAnimals, and Rolling Stones collection). I got a copy of the cultural prerequisite 2-LP set Endless Summer via the RCA Record Club, and I figured I was permanently set with all the Beach Boys I’d ever need. Probably more than I’d ever need–the only track missing (in my view at the time) was “Good Vibrations,” and I could live without that if I had to.

(I think I may have been surprised to learn that “In My Room,” a track included on Endless Summer, had originally been done by The Beach Boys. I knew it as an early ’70s single by local singer Nanci Hammond, whose cover of the song received significant AM radio airplay in Syracuse. It was the follow-up to her earlier local hit, “You Were Made Just For Me,” and I confess that I preferred “You Were Made Just For Me” to “In My Room.” At the time, man, at the time!)

In high school, I knew a guy named Larry Siedentop. Larry was a big fan of The Beach Boys, probably the only one of my peers who was really, really into them (though I do recall that another friend, Mary Saur, also liked The Beach Boys, but not as fervently as ol’ Larry did). Larry spoke of The Beatles and The Beach Boys with equal reverence, and to me, that was just crazy, freakin’ nuts. Those square, decidedly outta-fashion California beach bums on a par with the brilliance of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? That was like telling me that Up With People! was a peer to Bob Dylan. Sure, even my self-conscious efforts to make myself into a cooler-than-thou proto-hipster couldn’t deny the pop savvy of The Beach Boys’ best hit singles, but c’mon!

But now, even a slow-to-the-epiphany guy like me can look back and recognize how right Larry Siedentop was. Forty years later, I prefer Pet Sounds to Sgt. Pepper; that’s a turnaround in opinion that would have been inconceivable to me in 1976. I finally appreciate the greatness of The Beach Boys. Hell, I’m even okay with “Kokomo,” which makes me uncool, but I don’t care. And I got to see Brian Wilson play Pet Sounds in 2016! So much for first impressions, I guess, or even some subsequent impressions, too. Sometimes it takes me a while to catch on, and it certainly took me a while to catch a wave.

And I like “Surfer Girl” now. I love “Surfer Girl” now. I mean–look at her!

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Our new compilation CD This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin’ pop, starring Pop Co-OpRay PaulCirce Link & Christian NesmithVegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie FlowersThe SlapbacksP. HuxIrene PeñaMichael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave MerrittThe RubinoosStepford KnivesThe Grip WeedsPopdudesRonnie DarkThe Flashcubes,Chris von SneidernThe Bottle Kids1.4.5.The SmithereensPaul Collins’ BeatThe Hit SquadThe RulersThe Legal MattersMaura & the Bright LightsLisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here. 

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