Sunday, December 25, 2005

Out into the blackness

I promise I’m not going to talk about the genius of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. I’ll try not to talk about their great body of work and their personal drama. I’m not going to talk too much about the Pet Sounds/Smile era, or the fun-loving early hits. Because really, those things have been held up to the light quite a bit lately.

Instead I just want to talk about one song called “Lonely Sea.” I first found this song on Mrs. West’s vinyl copy of the “Surfin’ USA” LP. I remember being shocked it wasn’t included on the otherwise fine “Good Vibrations: 30 Years of the Beach Boys” box set. I was shocked because it’s such a great song, and it seemed so ahead of its time. It has to be the very first really sad B. Wilson song.

It was written by Wilson and Gary Usher and recorded in June of 1962 for the 2nd Beach Boys album. If you just casually put on the LP you might miss it, because it’s surrounded by the more upbeat surf and car numbers. When you first hear “Lonely Sea” you might pick up on the Elvis Presley style talk-singing in the middle of the song. You may then notice Phil Spector’s influence on the composers. But once you listen again and really get it, you’ll hear all the emotional weight and beauty Brian would carry through Pet Sounds and beyond.

I promise you this is the perfect song to listen to if ever you find yourself somewhere near Hawthorne, CA, in the middle of the night, and you can’t sleep because something has gone wrong in your life. You might get in your car and drive down the coast a bit. You park in a beach parking lot overlooking the water, but you can’t really see the ocean on this moonless night. You just hear the hush of the surf, smell the salty air, and listen as the first slow guitar arpeggios of the song roll out from your car stereo, out into the blackness.

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