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The Beach Boys, “It’s A Beautiful Day” (1979)
Theme from the movie Americathon
From Ten Years of Harmony
Caribou Z2X 37445

The weather is so dominant a topic of conversation with the crossing guard that a strong interest in meteorology ought to be a prerequisite for the job. Still, there are days—like today—when it would be plain ungrateful not to say out loud, “What a beautiful day!”

The Beach Boys have spent half a century trying, explicitly or otherwise, to get that feeling into song. What began as poetry soon passed into cliché, then into a cottage industry and a vehicle for self-mythologizing (this would be neither the first nor last BB song to quote a previous BB hit), and finally exists as a sort of pure musical reflex. Originality is no longer a criteria; the Beach Boys own this territory, with greater (see the miracle of That’s Why God Made the Radio) and lesser (present case) results.

For long swaths of their career the Boys presumed (hoped?) that the sound of their voices was enough. They didn’t really need to deliver the songs so long as they delivered the sound. Sometimes it was enough, but not really here. This is  just barely a song: It needs one more hook, or bridge, or perhaps an actual idea beyond the title phrase. No doubt it would have had one of these things had Brian Wilson, who had a knack for making even awful songs work somehow (c.f., MIU Album), been involved. And no doubt this is why it didn’t make the cut for LA (Light) Album and showed up on the soundtrack of a dreadful movie (“A puerile exploitation of one very thin joke during 98 very long minutes.”—Roger Ebert) before finally showing up on this odd compilation covering a very odd period of the Beach Boys career. Whether that title, Ten Years of Harmony, was sadly-wide-of-the-mark wishful thinking or simply marketing doublespeak I’ll leave up to you.

And yet, with Carl’s voice silent now for 15 years, how good it is to hear him. It’s almost enough.

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Slim Whitman (1923–2013)

“By the Waters of Minnetonka” (1952)
from Slim Whitman Sings Million Record Hits
Imperial LP 9102

“Mr. Whitman told the AP in 1991 that he wanted to be thought of as ‘a nice guy’ and a good father. ‘I’d like people to remember me,’ he said, ‘as having a good voice and a clean suit.’”

There is a code for living born in a far different time inherent in that “good voice, clean suit” statement.

Based on the evidence of the inner sleeve, Whitman might not have had to take to TV in the late 1970s to hawk his wares, and Imperial Records might still be around, if the marketing department had not called three out of every four of his albums Slim Whitman Sings.

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