Jesse Jarnow

endless summer

“The Warmth of the Sun” – The Beach Boys
from Shut Down, vol. 2 (1964)
also on Endless Summer (1974)
released by Capitol Records (buy)

(file expires on February 20th)

Here at the Bourgwick cabana it was a snow day, and — while savoring the falling whiteness — my mind naturally wandered to warmer climes. And I got to considering Endless Summer — the 1974 greatest hits collection that put the Beach Boys back on top of the charts — as a concept album. Why not? Why shouldn’t it be thought of as a continuous series of abstract scenes and innocent (and not-so-innocent) encounters shot on sunbleached stock, like French New Wavers on the lam in Los Angeles?

Why shouldn’t the mysterious Rhonda help the main character rid his memory of another woman, named Wendy (who he went together with for so long)? Can we take him seriously as he proclaims his love to a series of nameless women? After several of these, it begins to seem like slapstick: a joke repeated over and over and over.

Why shouldn’t he be offered riddle-like information from a stranger? “The girls on the beach are all within reach, if you know what to do,” he is told. No, he replies, as a matter of fact, he doesn’t know what to do. But no matter, the girls are still on the beach. He interacts with grotesque boardwalk caricatures that offer their own geographies, evaluating the quality of the land by the quality of women (“the east coast girls are hip,” he is assured) and the oceanic conditions.

(And, if it’s not, it’s at least a great docudramatic proto-Google map of the white southern Californian teenage gestalt circa 1963. In the real world, “The Warmth of the Sun” was the immediate reaction of two early-20something cousins to the Kennedy assassination.)

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