Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Song Lyric of the Day (Brian Wilson, in All His Sad Glory)

“Sometimes I feel very sad
(Can't find nothin' I can put my heart and soul into)
I guess I just wasn't made for these times.”—“I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times,” written by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher, from the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds LP (1965)

It shouldn’t shock me that Brian Wilson turns 70 today; after all, the troubled genius behind the Beach Boys has been on the music scene for half a century this year.

But unlike virtually all the other people in your life, whom you might see, day by day, age before your eyes, entertainers can seem frozen in time. The image of resolute, strong Kirk Douglas in Spartacus endures, even though the actor is 96, with his speech and gait noticeably slowed. My mind still flashes back to my family's first Beach Boys LP, The Beach Boys Today!, with songs such as “Dance, Dance, Dance,” “When I Grow Up to be a Man,” and “Help Me, Rhonda”--sung by young men barely out of their teens, and with the sun-kissed California early '60s wholesome look to go with it.

Though I heard the hits (“Wouldn’t It Be Nice?,” “Sloop John B”) early on, it would be decades before I listened to the other songs from their classic album Pet Sounds. It was all a far cry from little deuce coupes, high school cheerleaders and surfing. In particular, “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” hints at the pressure and pain that led to Brian’s breakdown in 1967.

When this song was first released, its lyrics spoke to the fragility of belief and sanity. But by the mid-1990s, when a documentary on Wilson that took its name from this song came out, the composer’s singing voice sounded frayed, revealing a different kind of fragility—the fragility of youth.

This summer marks the release not just of a reunion tour of the surviving Beach Boys members but also of a CD, That’s Why God Made the Radio. The title of one tune sounds especially elegiac, inevitably implying the fragility of life itself: “Summer’s Gone.” 

Perhaps it is, but not the pain, somehow made beautiful, from the young man who, nearly 50 years ago, sang for all of those who, like himself, felt they could never fit in, anywhere.

(Photo by Richard King of Brian Wilson during a performance at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, January 2007.)

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