Sunday, August 10, 2014

Understanding What the Song Means, or Not

Song 211: This week the song added to the playlist is I Get Around by The Beach Boys, written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love. Somehow I managed to get well past the 200 mark on the list without including a Beach Boys song, and I don't have a good excuse for that, but I hope Brian Wilson will forgive me. Before the Beatles came along in February of '64, I wasn't all that focused on music and the radio, although the summer before the British Invasion, I had developed a strong liking for a couple of folk hits, which have already appeared on the list, and a couple of country songs as well. That same summer, Surf City also got my attention, mainly because my good friend Dave from across the road, who was my partner in boyhood mischief, was such a big fan of the tune, and would sometimes sing it. At that point I probably didn't know the Beach Boys from Jan and Dean (who recorded the hit single version of Surf City), but by the following summer, I was paying a lot more attention to the radio, whenever I could, and in addition to all those cool songs by the Beatles and the other English bands, I heard this tune a lot as well, and really liked it. I tried to sing along with the record when it came on the radio, but the chorus was actually about all I knew -- it would take me a while to be able to get the verse lyrics on records from the radio. Listening to this song would give you no clue that during the making of the record Brian Wilson fired his father Murry, who had managed the Beach Boys for their first few years. If you've read any of the early history of the group, you probably know something about the conflicts between Brian and his father, and some of the ways that Murry belittled his son. I heard a story from my late-'70s Oakland housemate Doug who told me that Murry actually told Brian the lyrics to I Get Around should be rewritten because the words made no sense to him, and apparently he even mocked Brian while quoting some of the lines, and he asked Brian what certain phrases in the song meant. If you've read much about the conflict between the father and son, you know that Murry did much worse things to Brian, but if this story is true, I can understand why Brian decided around that time to fire his father, and it was probably a wise decision. Personally, I always like the lines on this song, and no one ever had to explain to me what they meant, but I guess Murry was just showing his age when it came to trying to understand the jargon of the younger generation.

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