If you haven't discovered my long-term love for this band, I suggest checking out this post (my second-ever post on The Good Groupie) that documents my love for the Beach Boys. For kicks, check out my post-Record Store Day post on my quest to find the ONLY release I had to have.
With that, I present The Good Groupie's Beach Boys Listening Project:
What all do I intend for this project to entail? For starters, I'm sticking to studio albums. No concert recordings. No compilations (because there's a plethora). Looking at this list of nearly 30 albums, I may even omit their single Christmas album. (Tragic.) Second, I'm going for first impressions. This isn't meant to be a review/critique of the album, just thoughts of all this beloved music and how it all adds up to my version of the Beach Boys. Each album gets three listens (dedicated listens, not background music listens). Third, to assist with any background info I might be looking for, I expect most of it to come from Keith Badman's "The Beach Boys" - a MUST have for any fan. It details the band day by day from 1961 - 1976. It's truly a masterpiece.
- Surfin' Safari: This song immediately hits you with the harmonies. The English major in me thinks starting an album with a song so chock full of surfer jargon and surfing spots could have been a risky move - you immediately alienate non-surfers. But at the same time, it instantly creates the Beach Boys niche, and sometimes niches can be more powerful than the mainstream.
- County Fair: So kitschy! I almost couldn't stand it. I like narrative songs, and while all the fair elements incorporated into the background (bells dinging, carnies yelling, etc.) definitely add a unique aspect to the song, it feels a bit over-the-top. But that's kind of the point of pop music, isn't it? Also noticed the narrator ends up as the underdog in the song when his girl is taken away by a guy who can win her the stuffed dog - very popular theme in Beach Boys songs, being the underdog.
- 10 Little Indians: Isn't this a kids song? But maybe re-imagined? I remember reciting a poem similar to these lyrics when I was very little. What audience is this supposed to appeal to? (And upon consulting my book - how the hell did this ever get released as a single?!)
- Chug-a-lug: The Four Freshman were a huge influence on the Beach Boys, and I felt like this was the first song on the album that really brought in that doo-wop sound. Also, I love that they make the song personal by characterizing all the band members. (Brian Wilson wanted this to be the second single - I agree this would have been a strong second choice. Unlike 10 Little Indians...)
- Little Girl (You're My Miss America): First song on the album not sung by Mike Love. Whether it's him or the lyrics, Dennis Wilson has a more authoritative voice, perfect for this ballad-esque song that surely made teenage girls daydream.
- 409: It's NOT a song about a kitchen cleaner, people. I always thought the car songs came later, but 409 was actually the B-side on the "Surfin' Safari" (song) single. Much like "County Fair," I think it was genius - and better done here - incorporating the car sound effects into the song.
- Surfin': This was the first truly Beach Boys song, ever. And while the Beach Boys are by name and by song known for their surf songs, I found myself surprised while listening to this tune that their first album isn't surf-heavy.
- Heads You Win - Tails I Lose: I felt like a lot of this album was 'filler.' Some of it was good. But this song is proof not all of it is. I'll pretend I never heard it...
- Summertime Blues: Given this is one of those songs everyone recorded in the early 1960s to sell albums, I yawned and waited patiently for it to be over each time.
- Cuckoo Clock: Love the organ used on this song. It adds a different aspect to the song, and perhaps is the first look into the depths Brian Wilson will go to create a perfect song. Very innocent, charming lyrics and beautiful musically.
- Moon Dawg: Very "Wipeout"-esque and the only instrumental song on the album, which I found surprising. Was that a common trend on albums in the early 60s? Curious...
- The Shift: Um...a song about a dress? Really? Filler to the max. And the guitar is VERY similar to "Surfin' USA."
Overall: I was surprised how short the album was - just over 24 minutes total, and the longest song was only 2:19! It hits on a lot of iconic images from this time period, but it also a lot of filler. The thought did run through my head that maybe this self-assigned listening project may be a bad idea - by listening to every album, I'm overturning a lot of...less-than-stellar songs. Hoping that this idea doesn't completely blow my overall impression of my favorite band...