Thursday, May 22, 2008

when you say california girls, what do you really mean by that?

i recently purchased "Sounds of Summer: The Very Best of the Beach Boys," for the low low price of $12.99. this purchase has renewed my faith in iTunes as a music purchase medium. finding this was kinda like if your parents steal your baby blanket from you because you are 18 and still carry it around, give it to goodwill, someone buys it, then you find it at some jobber down the street's garage sale a few years later for 50 cents. iTunes has sold me back my childhood, and at what those in the biz call "a steal."

my dad used to bump the beach boys in the car. he had a different greatest hits tape, but it included all the standards - beginning with "kokomo," around to "wouldn't it be nice" and "i get around." the sweet harmonies and unmistakeable falsetto are ingrained in my brain. anna might make fun of me, but listening to the beach boys takes me back to a time way before i even began to think that someday i might really enjoy the feeling of nostalgia.

ANYWAY, in my now (hopefully) more mature and educated state, how i listen to some of these songs has changed. one too many higher level literature classes has ruined my ability to enjoy words (whether written or sung) without thinking about what the really MEAN. this leads me to the "california girls conundrum."

the beach boys are renowned for singing about the simple things: girls, living in sunny california, going to the beach, surfing, and being popular in high school. ironically, wasn't brian wilson addicted to cocaine or something? anyway thats beside the point.

the song "california girls," on the surface, seems to fit right into this mold: the Boys wish to champion those bikini-clad, bleach-blonde, ditzy-yet-lovable girls that reside in their home state. or DO THEY?

in the first verse, they sing:
"well east coast girls are hip/
i really dig those styles they wear/
and southern girls with the way they talk/
they knock me out when i'm down there/

the mid-west farmers daughters/
really make you feel all right/
and the northern girls with the way they kiss/
they keep their boyfriends warm at night."

as he goes on to croon "i wish they all could be california girls," the listener assumes that he has experienced, even enjoyed, all of these girls from different areas of the states, but that they could never top the girls he knows and loves from california. he even begins with a conversational marker, "well," that while not officially, at least in use suggests that he might continue later with a "but." "well, these girls are great, but california girls are the best."

but, keep listening! in the next verse he continues:

"the west coast has the sunshine/
and the girls all get so tanned/
i dig a french bikini on hawaii island/
dolls by a palm tree in the sand/"

this verse is startling because, in all the 1000 times i'd heard this song, i thought this entire verse was about girls from the west coast and/or california. but upon further research, he mentions hawaii! another example of girls he likes that are NOT california natives.

and finally, the death blow:

"i been all around this great big world/
and i seen all kinds of girls/
yeah, but i couldn't wait to get back to the States/
back to the cutest girls in the world."

so here's what i'm thinking. the Boys are not suggesting that california girls are superior to girls from all other places, domestic or foreign; they are suggesting that they prefer girls from the United States and they wish that all of these different, wonderful girls could all live in california and, therefore, in closer proximity to where they live.

doesn't this blow your freakin' mind? all my life i was under the impression that i was somehow inferior to my west-coast counterparts (and if you've ever seen the video for david lee roth's cover of this song, thats probably the way he interpreted it, too. in fact, you should watch this video, it's hilarious: david lee roth, already too old and it's still only 1985. in fact, he tried as hard as he could to ruin that song by including confederate flags, suggestively shucking an ear of corn, and singing in the key of H. and still failed. )

anyway, i wonder if my dad knew what he was getting my brain into when he harmlessly sung along with these beach boys ditties... that i'd still be thinking about it 15-20 years later.

now, if you'll excuse me, i'm going to go watch van halen videos on youtube.

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