The Battle of the Bands

Brian Wilson has a website. On that site, there are music lovers who have been playing a game for the past nine years. It’s called “The Battle of the Bands”. Someone posts videos for four songs. Usually there is a theme that ties the songs together. People then rank the four songs. They also post their own videos. There is discussion. It’s almost always very polite. Each battle lasts one week. You have to register on the site in order to participate. It’s free and nobody will bother you with annoying advertisements or solicitations. The whole thing is kind of fun.

Oh, one of the four songs has to have a connection to Brian Wilson or the Beach Boys. 

This week’s battle is called “It’s Over”. These are the four songs.

The Everly Brothers — “Crying inthe Rain” (1962). Co-written by Carole King.

The Miracles — “Ooo Baby Baby”(1965). Co-written, produced and sung by Smokey Robinson.

Neil Young — “Like a Hurricane”(1977). This is a live version from 1982. The studio version is equally long. 

The Beach Boys — “I Just Wasn’tMade For These Times” (1966). Co-written with Tony Asher. It’sthe end of innocence? optimism? faith in one’s fellow human beings?


In case you’d like to visit and maybe even participate, please go here. The people who do participate are very nice and will thank you for showing up.

(Plus, we rarely discuss politics. Although it’s sometimes hard to resist, considering the present situation.)

Twilight Time

Daybreak is some people’s favorite time of day. It’s peaceful but promising. It’s when journeys so often begin:

When the rosy-fingered Dawn appeared, we drew our ships into the water, and put our masts and sails within them…

When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, Ulysses put on his shirt and cloak…

Personally, I avoid dawns and daybreaks whenever possible. They tend to be too early in the morning.

Twilight, on the other hand, is wonderfully appealing. The day’s work is done. The sky explodes with color. Who knows what the night will bring?

Yet this most evocative time of day is often the saddest. It’s natural to feel a sense of loss when the sun disappears. There’s darkness ahead. Loneliness too.

1024px-Baker_beach_at_twilight_41

But cheer up! There’s twilight music – and some of it’s even upbeat.

Electric Light Orchetra, 1981:

The Raveonettes, 2005:

Elliott Smith, circa 2002:

Antony and the Johnsons, 1998:

The Platters, 1958:

The Fendertones Take Us Back to 1965

The Fendertones are an informal group of white guys from the Philadelphia area who have so far blessed the world with 17 YouTube videos and a Facebook page. They occasionally get together to reproduce the complex sound Brian Wilson created for the Beach Boys. It’s one more win for the Internet.

They posted four videos yesterday, including “Sloop John B” (a big hit for the Beach Boys in 1965) and “Kiss Me Baby” (a relatively unknown but brilliant album track from the same year):

While we’re at it, two performances from a 2004 charity concert: 1965’s “California Girls” and its flip side, one of my favorites, “Let Him Run Wild”:

Memories Are Made of Something

A lot of us old people are excited about the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. It was February 9, 1964. A Sunday night, of course. I was 12 years old and we were living in an isolated area six miles west of Lancaster, California, in the desert about 70 miles north of Los Angeles. I remember watching the program, as we did every Sunday night, right before Bonanza. Everybody watched Ed Sullivan and Bonanza.

I also remember being excited about the Beatles’ performance that night and how excited my friend Dwight was too. Dwight was a tall, skinny kid, three or four years older than me, which was a little odd, but there weren’t many kids my age where we lived. That night is one of my favorite memories from those years.

Today, however, it occurred to me that by 1964, I was in junior high (the 7th grade) and we had moved into Lancaster, where I attended Piute School (it’s still there). We weren’t living in the desert outside of town anymore and I couldn’t have talked about the show with Dwight. I’m pretty sure he and I never saw each other again after my family moved into town. 

Maybe Dwight and I watched something else one night and were excited about that? And as the years went by I somehow combined that memory with the Beatles on Ed Sullivan? Is it ok that some of the best things we remember never happened? 

At least I don’t remember being at the show in New York City with all those screaming girls, but give me a few years. 

Friedrich Nietzsche on Doing It Again

Friedrich Nietzsche had a recurring thought about recurrence.

In one of his early works, he imagines people being asked “whether they would wish to live through the past ten or twenty years once more”.

In a later work, he appears to raise the stakes:

What if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: “This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more” … Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: “You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine”.

Assuming the demon and I didn’t get hung up on questions like “Who are you anyway?” and “Are you sure about that?”, I’d want some clarification. (I can’t imagine gnashing my teeth, since I don’t know what that is.)

Tell me, demon. Would I know that I was living my life again? There wouldn’t seem to be much point in doing it again from scratch.

The demon would probably have a ready answer: if you knew you were living it again, it wouldn’t be the same as living it the first time. You’d have more knowledge the second (or third, or fourth) time around, and presumably be in a position to make different choices.

Right, the Debbie Anderson thing again.

But if I didn’t know anything more this time or remember how things turned out before, what difference would it make? Even if things turned out differently, I wouldn’t know they were turning out differently. I’d simply be living my life as if it were the first time. In fact, for all I know, I’m living my life right now for the umpteenth time, even though it sure feels like the very first (and only) time.

The demon might be nonplussed at this point. Hey, he might say, I never thought of it that way. If you remember you’re doing it again, you’re not really doing it again. But if you don’t know you’re doing it again, you might as well be doing it for the first time. Oh well, I guess it was a stupid question to begin with.

Nietzsche clearly didn’t think it was a stupid question. He thought that a superior person would willingly live the very same life over and over again. To do so would be the highest affirmation. Life is tragic and full of pain, but the best among us will embrace it anyway.

He’s probably right about that, even though the idea of “eternal recurrence” is a dead end.

What some of us really want, of course, is to go back and do things differently. If I could only go back to that one moment ten years ago, or forty years ago, I’d do it better this time.

Since we’re merely human, fantasizing about the past is much easier than getting the future right.

The Everly Brothers – “Oh, So Many Years”

The Everly Brothers’ first album, released in 1958, featured songs like “Bye Bye Love”,  “Wake Up Little Susie” and “Rip It Up”. Later that year, they released their second album: Songs Our Daddy Taught Us. It was a surprising choice as a follow-up, since it included no rock and roll at all. 

Don Everly, 76, released a statement tonight: “I loved my brother very much. I always thought I’d be the one to go first.”

“Oh, So Many Years” was originally recorded by the Bailes Brothers in the 1940s. The Everly Brothers sang it like nobody else on Songs Our Daddy Taught Us: