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.