Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Songs that left me speechless - Part 1

Okay okay, I know this was going to be a blog about my thoughts on albums I love, and that will happen. So why the hell is my first real article about individual songs? Because these really are songs  I fell in love with the moment I met them. That's the great thing about songs - you don't have to be monogamous. In fact, all the better if you aren't.

So, I love a lot of songs. I mean A LOT of songs. So what specifically is this article about? This is going to be part of an ongoing series of articles when I feel like doing so about songs that on first playing, really made me feel like I had to sit down and think about what had just happened. I don't want to sound like a pretentious twat or anything, but if we accept that music really has a power to hit your emotions, and it's not just lyrical rhetoric or romanticism, then here is the first article about songs that have done just that to me. There may be songs I love more, but these are songs that knocked me out the first time.

1) Surf's Up - The Beach Boys

I first heard this via a bootleg of Smile, the Beach Boys album that never was. Over the course of the Beach Boys recordings, Brian Wilson had gone through a series of different lyricists. One biography I read claimed that Brian always considered his lyricist his "new best friend". Van Dyke Parks was the best friend over the Smile period. Much has been written about Brian's change from the songs of surf, holding hands and cars to his own personal religious experiences on Pet Sounds. Smile was a step further out again. Since Brian re-recorded Smile as a suite with his touring band,there has been a lot of revisionism with the question being asked whether it was ever worth waiting for. While certianly not as cohesive as Pet Sounds, it's still a wonderful experience and  for me, there had never been a song quite like Surf's Up.

What is it that does it for me? Not the lyrics. Van Dyke's words are pretentious twaddle, and yet would the song have worked half-as-well if it had made sense? Another song about really riding the surf? Probably not with that melody. "Columnated Ruins Domino?" What the hell does that mean? A WW2 spy code? Certainly it's not a song with a conventional verse-chorus structure, so was never destined to be a single. Yet, this is a beautiful work of art. It's not rock (the Beach Boys never really were). It sounds like Brian was listening to Burt Bachrach for compositional inspiration and guidance. Paul Mccartney was jealous, and with all due deference to Macca's Beatles-era writing skills, he had every right to be jealous. If no other part of this mini symphony in 2 movements moves you, then the last 30 or so seconds of Beach Boys harmonies and counter harmonies will. If not, seriously check your pulse.

1 comment:

  1. Could domino actually be a verb, as to push over in waves? I can see similarities b/w the action of the waves at the beach, and an en-masse demonstration of the domino effect. Columnated ruins could refer to the parralel lines of collapsing waves.

    Still pretty wanky, though