Do you remember the first song or album you loved? I mean, truly adored, with play-it-over-and-over again type obsession.
I was pretty young. The album wasn’t really an album at all. It was a collection of singles by The Beach Boys on a cassette that had somehow managed to leave my father’s collection and end up in my possession.
I grew up with 2 types of music in my life: Christian (usually kind of hippie stuff, like Keith Green) and what would be labeled “Oldies.” That included everything from obvious classics like the aforementioned Beach Boys, The Beatles, Elvis and Buddy Holly to maybe less obvious greats such as The Shangri-Las and Dion & The Belmonts (absolutely love this song, and come to think of it, reminds me of a girl I know).
There was also Simon & Garfunkel, The Turtles, and dozens of other bands that must have been deemed appropriate for us young-ens. I know my parents listened to the Stones and Fleetwood Mac and plenty more, but those bands don’t play as large a role in my childhood memories as those 50s and early 60s classics. My mother’s early 70s conversion to Christianity is probably responsible for that. The music she loved when she converted was tainted with the “world”, so while she undeniably still loved it, she felt a need to put distance between herself and the music, for her faith.
But the music of my parents’ youth remained forever a part of their personalities, and was thus passed down to me.
None more-so than The Beach Boys. Before I grew to love the Beatles with all of my heart, it was those swaying California harmonies that captured my ears and informed my idea of what music could and should be.
There were so many great songs on that run down cassette, all of the classics that most of us know, even if only as a faint memory. “Surfin’ Safari”, “Barbara Ann” and “California Girls” (before Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg shit all over the concept) just to name a few. But my favorite:
I’d argue that pure pop music has rarely ever achieved such heights.
I listened to this tape constantly. I have memories of taking my little portable tape player into the bathroom with me just so I could listen to it.
I only own two cassettes these days, a copy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (that my brother bought me for a birthday years ago, beginning my true love affair with the Beatles) and that Beach Boys greatest hits collection.
Going back to those foundational songs are a balm for tough days, friends in lonely moments. My musical taste has expanded considerably since then (go ahead, look at my Last.fm Chart), but I still return to these early songs frequently, because there are no tainted memories associated with them. Before the family fell apart, before my childhood dreams dissolved, before I lost my faith (really, before I had a faith to lose), before my heart had been broken and I had broken other hearts, these songs existed in untouchable purity.
Some artifacts of the past will never rust.