March 4, 2007

"On cultural issues, Richardson has the distinct advantage of not setting off any culture war vibes."

"He was in college in the late 1960s, but he was listening to the Beach Boys, not Janis Joplin."

David Brooks on Bill Richardson. (TimesSelect link.)

I like the idea of giving Richardson more attention, but I want to talk about this shorthand: the Beach Boys, not Janis Joplin. Is this some way to say clean-cut, straight-arrow, drug-free, "Wouldn't It Be Nice If We Were Married?"?

The Beach Boys sang:
Though it's hard I try not to look at my wind chimes
Now and then a tear rolls off my cheek
Close your eyes and lean back now listen to wind chimes
In the late afternoon you're hung up on wind chimes
Though it's hard I try not to look at my wind chimes
I tend to think there were some drugs in the picture. Meanwhile, Janis Joplin was singing:
Whoa, I need a man to love me.
Don’t you understand me, baby ?
Why, I need a man to love.
I gotta find him, I gotta have him like the air I breathe.
One lovin’ man to understand can’t be too much to need.
You tell me who had their head on straight. Nothing against Bill Richardson. I'm just monitoring memes from the 60s.
I'm gonna be round my vegetables
I'm gonna chow down my vegetables
I love you most of all
My favorite vege-table
That's the Beach Boys. And here's Janis:
I ain’t the kind of woman
Who’d make your life a bed of ease, ha ha ha ha!
No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.
I’m not the kind of woman, no,
To make your life a bed of ease.
Yeah, but if you, if you just wanna go out drinkin’, honey,
Won’t you invite me along please.
Oh, I’ll be so good to ya babe, yeah!
Whoa, go on!
Which leftever 60s heart would you prefer?

And, by the way, just as an aside, I'd like to say I ain’t the kind of woman who’d make your life a bed of ease. Ha ha ha ha!



IN THE COMMENTS: Gerry says:
This is one of the rare times where I see sexism in something you do not. Much more frequently are the cases where we both see sexism, or that you do and I don't.

Joplin is viewed as an aggressive, sultry, sexually aggressive woman, not like those guys who were only into surfing, driving, sex, and pleasure-seeking (including drugs). You know, just beach boys being boys.
Interesting. Yes, well, you can detect in my writing here that I was bonding with the Janis mindset and feeling threatened by the elevation of the Boys. And I was thinking about bringing in the subject of Hillary Clinton as I was adding those "Turtle Blues" lyrics and identifying with them.

31 comments:

Kirby Olson said...

The Beach Boys were involved in orgies with the Manson family. Charlie Manson even wrote one of their B-side singles and received royalties for it. This is in Ed Sanders' book The Family.

AllenS said...

Who will be the first to ask the question: "So, what did you do during the war?"

I heard he was almost drafted, by some baseball team, which turned out to be false, but there was also another draft taking place during that time.

P. Rich said...

Marry me, Ann. Anyone who appreciates Delta Blues has got to have a lot going for her.

In the interests of full disclosure: I graduated from Clarksdale, MS, high school in 1962. Oh, wait. Does that bring the age thing into the picture?

Zeb Quinn said...

... the Beach Boys, not Janis Joplin. Is this some way to say clean-cut, straight-arrow, drug-free, "Wouldn't It Be Nice If We Were Married?"?

It's a politician's perception thing. One of my problems with Richardson is his inclination to play these kinds of image games, and he does it so ineptly.

Christy said...

I thought the Beach Boys were boring, but the kids who liked them seemed to be having a lot more fun than the Janis Joplin fans I knew. I was more a Blood, Sweat and Tears/ Allman Brothers girl myself, but then, I never hear the words to songs.

Fen said...

I'd like to hear more from Richardson. I appreciate that he beleives its too early to wrestle with Cliton and Obama, but he's the only Dem [other than Lieberman] who would get my vote.

Gerry said...

This is one of the rare times where I see sexism in something you do not. Much more frequently are the cases where we both see sexism, or that you do and I don't.

Joplin is viewed as an aggressive, sultry, sexually aggressive woman, not like those guys who were only into surfing, driving, sex, and pleasure-seeking (including drugs). You know, just beach boys being boys.

somefeller said...

"The Beach Boys were involved in orgies with the Manson family."

What difference does that make? The same can be said for George Will, back in the day. Or am I confusing him with somebody else?

The Drill SGT said...

I like Richardson and the Beach Boys and Janis.

I hope Richardson gets more vis and doesn't have any skeletons. I womdered what this meant:

touchy-feely (to a fault),

Janis doing "Piece of My Heart". She put it all into her craft.

Bissage said...

Is it true that you’ll experience an acid trip if you take two aspirin, drink a coke and listen to "Pet Sounds" through headphones?

I’ve always been afraid to try.

But I’ll bet Governor Richardson knows for sure!

Jeff said...

The Beach Boys' lyrics were almost beside the point. The music is what mattered, and it is what made Brian Wilson a genius.

Janis Joplin was a wigger who fronted a band of hacky white-blues playing wannabe-black musicians. The results were nothing original in the least, and certainly nothing of genius.

Comparing their lyrics is as pointless as comparing Bob Dylan and Joan Baez's guitar playing.

Patrick said...

I'm not sure how this got to be a BB vs. JJ issue. Consistent with Christy's observation above, Brooks's point had to do with differences between their fans, no?

Ann, do you mean to suggest that you perceived no discernable difference back in the day (of the sort Brooks implies) between the BB fan base and the JJ fan base? If that's the case, your perceptions were very different from mine. And if it's not, what's your beef with Brooks? Or did the juxtaposition just spark in you an urge to defend JJ's (relative) honor?

johnstodder said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
johnstodder said...

The Beach Boys were conflicted in the late 60s. Some of them wanted hippie credibility, but their biggest hit of that period was 'Do It Again,' meaning surfing, woodies, girls. It's hard to imagine what the audience was for a song as weird as "Heroes and Villains," their other late 60s hit, but I doubt they were clean-cut kids in argyle sweaters.

Brian and Janis were deeply lonely people who translated their loneliness and yearning for love into enduring art. Wilson was the more musically innovative of the two, but Joplin was just as brave in exposing herself emotionally. For Richardson or Brooks to find some deeper meaning in preferring one to the other means they have only a shallow understanding of the music they made. Points taken off for both of them.

Ron said...

If Hillary accepts a fur coat from the Jack Daniels people, like Janis, she gains a bit o' cred with me!

Ron said...

Let us compromise between Janis and the Beach Boys with The Fugs!

(Oh, if only Janis had sung "Slum Goddess from the Lower East Side," or "Saran Wrap!")

Wade_Garrett said...

The difference is that the Beach Boys look like middle america, and therefore they look like Republicans, or at least moderates. Janis Joplin just looks like the type of person who Bill O'Reilly would rail against. Don't you think that's it?

I love both artists, but I'm wary of politicians comparing themselves to singers. Remember when Ronald Reagan, and later Bob Dole, could enter campaign rallies to "Born in the USA," not realizing that it was a protest song? That was awesome.

Steven said...

Oh, I'll grant it was intended as a protest song, but it was an utter failure as one. Total incompetence by Springsteen at matching musical composition and evoked emotion to intention.

The result is a song that quite clearly proclaims pride in being an American, despite the biographical commentary. The message of the song as it exists is "Sure, I've been knocked around, but I'm still an American, and that puts me up on points!"

Springsteen utterly failed in his intention with the song, and created a song quite appropriate for the Reagan campaign.

Old Dad said...

Bill Richardson is a pol's pol. He's a cross between Bill Clinton and the old Dick Daley.

And yes there are skeletons--not Clinton type skeletons--but the guy plays the game for keeps, and New Mexico is famously corrupt.

As to his taste in music, he'd be flexible. The guys a fantatstic hustler. Beach Boys, Joplin, the Dead, whatever it takes.

He's my Governor. didn't vote for him, but I like him, and he's doing a pretty good job.

I can't penetrate the veil of the old grey lady (gross I know), but the touchy feely reference may not be what it seems. He's touchy feely alright. He can't keep his hands off you. Again, not in a Clintonesque way. He managed to PO his Lt. Governor, Diane Denish, a grandma for crissakes, because he was pawing her.

Ann Althouse said...

"Ann, do you mean to suggest that you perceived no discernable difference back in the day (of the sort Brooks implies) between the BB fan base and the JJ fan base? If that's the case, your perceptions were very different from mine."

How do you get that from what I wrote? I'm saying they're different but that there's a way to look at it that would make Janis people more together mentally. She's singing about wanting a lover. The Beach Boys were singing about being alone and self-absorbed. That's all I'm saying. The one person I knew who had the Beach Boys as her favorite band had a psychotic breakdown and committed suicide.

Gerry said...

"He's my Governor. didn't vote for him, but I like him, and he's doing a pretty good job."

OK, of all of the Democrats, I should probably prefer Richardson, as he seems to be the least leftish, and he actually does seem to have some sort of appreciation for capitalism, unlike most of his party's faithful.

But here's the thing. My first job was in the weapons complex. I got to experience the changes in the DOE under his stewardship. While it was not as extreme of an unmitigated disaster as was the Hazel O'Leary tenure, it was still pretty bad. I am going to have a hard time getting past that.

So I guess if I have to have a Democrat, I am rooting Obama. At least he talks the language of reconciliation of partisan divides, and does not act as if religious people are worthy of unrestrained disdain and hatred. He may be more liberal than just about any other serious candidate, but he has the above going for him and he seems to be free of corruption; with Hillary around that matters a lot.

Or I could root for Biden. But that would be like pulling for Brownback-- they have no chance at all.

George said...

"The Beach Boys were singing about being alone and self-absorbed."

Professor, what band are you talking about?

Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys sang probably several make-out sessions worth of gorgeous love songs...All Summer Long; This Whole World; Do You Wanna Dance?; Help Me, Rhonda; Dance, Dance, Dance; Please Let Me Wonder; She Knows Me Too Well; Then I Kissed Her; Don't Worry Baby; Surfer Girl; The Warmth of the Sun, not to mention scads of early '60s goofy teen love tunes like Pom Pom Play Girl; Girls On the Beach, Drive-In, and the immortal "In the Parking Lot," an ode to making out in a car before school starts.

For every "'Til I Die" or "In My Room," there's a tune like Disney Girls; I Can Hear Music; Darlin'; Marcella; Wouldn't It Be Nice, Caroline, No, Please Let Me Wonder, or Barbara Ann, and lots more.

And contrary to a comment above about "The Beach Boys" hanging out with Charles Manson, my recollection is that Dennis Wilson rented a house to Manson (or Manson came to his home), wouldn't leave! and Dennis was terrified.

And you write..."The one person I knew who had the Beach Boys as her favorite band had a psychotic breakdown and committed suicide."

Good thing she wasn't a fan of Pink Floyd, the Dead, or Black Sabbath....

rsb said...

Yes, Dennis knew them briefly and then realized how frightening and insane they were and made himself scarce. As far as artists go, I get chills listening to Janis sing and Brian's incredible gift of music is obvious.

Drew W said...

John Stodder made the point above that by the late ’60s, the Beach Boys weren’t making the same kind of music, and their chart presence had slipped greatly. In fact, if Richardson was really into the Beach Boys at that late date, I think it would make him a little more quirky and interesting than Brooks intended. (I’d bet that Brooks didn’t really think all that much about the Beach Boys/Janis Joplin musical timeline when he stuck in that comparative reference.) Lots of people were listening to Janis Joplin in the late ’60s, but you’d have to be kind of weird to still be listening to the Beach Boys at that point.

And certainly the Beach Boys (meaning Brian Wilson) made a far greater contribution to pop music than did Janis Joplin. Joplin’s tragic rock’n’roll story of self-indulgence and death has always been compelling, but her music hasn’t had a commensurate lasting impact. (I know people will think I’m excessively snarky for saying this, but a lot of interest in her came from R. Crumb’s cover art for Cheap Thrills.) She was a good white blues singer, and a riveting performer, but once she was gone, much of the enchantment surrounding her was gone, too. Maybe if she’d lived long enough to leave a bigger body of work. The Beach Boys, through squeaky-clean and decidedly weirder periods, have left a large and sometimes fascinating body of work. (My big sister had their latter-day album Holland, which included the lovely “Sail On Sailor.”) The Beach Boys’ licensing of so many of their songs for TV commercials devalued them a lot, I think.

And in reference to the Beach Boys song “Vegetables” (which Wilson co-wrote with Van Dyke Parks), I’d heard that it was a kind of oddball response song to The Mothers Of Invention’s “Call Any Vegetable.” I’m not sure if that’s really true, but Zappa did represent pretty much the polar opposite of the Beach Boys as a Southern Californian musical phenomenon.

johnstodder said...

I think Brian Wilson was sincerely excited about eating some vegetables. The song is almost a public service announcement concerning the wonders of vegetables. I'm surprised Archers Daniels Midland hasn't adopted "Vegetables" as their theme song.

Janis Joplin was unable to locate any blues songs about vegetables, but Led Zeppelin did sing one song with the lyric "squeeze my lemon until the juice runs down my leg," as well as another song called "Tangerine." So they had the citrus-growers' vote.

TMink said...

Steven wrote: "Total incompetence by Springsteen at matching musical composition and evoked emotion to intention."

I would not be comfortable in using the words "total incompetence" and Springsteen in the same sentence. To me, the Boss did a wonderful job of matching mass appeal with substantial artistry. Now, the drive and energy that he gave that particular song did leave it open for misinterpretation, but perhaps the song was more complicated for Springsteen than the words would suggest.

Something similar happens in Neil Young's latest, Living with War. I highly recommend the record, it is Neil's most passioned work in years. While I disagree with his politics, the record rocks. But a close listening reveals some minor ambivelenve or mixed feelings on his part as well.

And while Janis could really sing powerfully, and I enjoy her music, Brian Wilson was and is a genius that has affected pop music for the last 40 years. He will continue to have an influence for at least 40 more.

Trey

George said...

Incidentially, Paul McCartney plays carrot on "Vegetables" and possibly celery as well.

True.

Todd and in Charge said...

The Beach Boys in the late 60s were a heavy-duty hippie/drug band, appearing on double-bills with The Grateful Dead, singing about "Student Demonstration Time," and vegging out with tremendous records such as Sunflower and Surf's Up.

Typically, Brooks' binary view of the world (and his shallow understanding it) is laid bare once again.

Yandalf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven said...

I'm going by Springsteen's stated-in-interviews intentions, note, rather than the lyrics alone. And, it was certainly better than merely competent as piece of musical art evaluated separately from the intentions. The failure (yeah, perhaps "incompetence" was too strong) is entirely in the delivery of the message.

And, message-wise, it is about as effective as 99 Luftballons is in invoking the horrors of nuclear war.

(Reposted because I didn't realize Google was going to use a Groups nickname to post a blog comment. Grrr.)

TMink said...

Good point Steven. It raises another interesting point. There are the artist's intentions, then there are what the audiesnce hears and responds to.

"Every Breath You Take" was written as a jealous stalker song, but was heard as a love song! "Shiny Happy People" was taken as satiric and ironic when Michael Stipe states it was straightforward. I am sure it is a big list, but the artist loses control of the art when it is published.

I cannot imagine how irked The Boss was when Reagen appropriated his song.

Trey