Today’s #writing101 assignment, writing about the three most important songs in my life. And do it the way Natalie Goldberg suggested, pen never leaving the paper, writing without editing. I’ll try it, hands on the keyboard, pecking away with two fingers as i do. The challenge for me is thinking of which three songs qualify. Okay, 15 minutes.
Okay. I took a few moments to allow my mind to open to the songs that have meant more to me than all the other wonderful, amazing songs I love, for the longest time. These three showed up, and I believe they are the right ones: “Surfer Girl” by The Beach Boys; “It’s Too Late To Turn Back Now” by Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose; and “Louie, Louie” by The Kingsmen. Yes, that is correct. Good job mind.
If anyone reads this brief musical entry and looks further down my lists of posts they won’t have far to look before coming to one titles “Surfin'” I wrote that not so long ago, about a life-long regret that I have never climbed up on a surfboard and caught a wave, sat on top of the world, hung ten, or any of those dreamy things. I used some Beach Boy songs in my blog, to create a milieu of Southern California dreaming, and “Surfer Girl” was one. While I could sit here and say that maybe it is really “Girls On the Beach” or “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” or “The Warmth Of the Sun”, in the end it always was, and will be, “Surfer Girl”. I grew up in Massachusetts, graduated high school in 1967, and was probably a sophomore when this song arrived. The music is so beautiful, the harmonies, the images, and the simplicity. Do you love me, do you surfer girl? We could ride the surf together. The guitars, the drums, the bass introduction. It’s perfect!! I must confess that I have it on YouTube as I write this. Yay. I did move to Southern California in a drunken, drugged out haze in the mid seventies, but never got up on a board. Oh well, I’m still a kid. I can always sing this to myself: “In my woodie i will take you everywhere I go.”
I believe it was the year i graduated high school, or maybe the next, when “It’s too Late…” came out. The quick little drum intro, never more than two seconds to know what was coming. I believe it is a song about joy, I have always felt that way about it, even though it seems like some cautionary tale. If you scroll further down my blog posts you will come to one called “Take A Leap”. That’s what this is about. “It’s too late to turn back now”. Yes sir. I love this song, I used to sing it in the rear bed of a pick-up truck when i was working for the Park Department on my home town for a couple of summers, running lawnmowers, endlessly back and forth round and around. I grew up in a small town that had about 2/3s white population and 1/3 black. I always considered myself very fortunate, early on getting to be around other people, other ways, other habits, other loves. There was a lot of Motown in my home town. This isn’t Motown, per se, but it’s got soul. “And there’s nothing that I can do.”
And then, of course, I mean is this song not on everyone’s list of the three most important songs in the world, there is “Louie, Louie”. I won’t bother quoting any of the lyrics here, mostly because I can’t. When I was a kid, a young man in the company of other young men, we would sings what we thought were the lyrics. But this song has been done so many times by so many groups – including The Beach Boys – with lyrics other than the ones we heard, that in the end, the lyrics don’t matter, never did. You know what matters. Come on, you can say it. “Da, dum dum dum, da da, dum dum dum, da da. Does all rock and roll music eminate from that chord structure, that most simple 1-4-5? I guess Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly and Fats Domino and a bunch of other folks would say no. But, really, we all know the truth. Before The Beatles, or The Isley Brothers, singing “Twist and Shout”, before the Stones and “Satisfaction, way, way before Led Zeppelin and The Who and The Bay City Rollers, it was all about those chords, and those drums. Too Much. Way too much. I bet if they were here The Ramones would shake their heads in a singular agreement. Name one of the most important songs ever. Louie, Louie.
That’s my list and I am sticking to it.