Fun, Fun, Fun
I live by the axiom, “So many records to listen to, so little time.” That’s not an excuse; just reality. And it has nothing to do with being a music writer. If you’re a voracious music fan, there’s no way, no matter how many records per day you slug through, that you can hear it all. If today, I started listening to just my Beethoven Symphony cycles, it would literally be months before I could come up for air.
So in the vein of, “I finally got to listen to…,” Brian Wilson’s That Lucky Old Sun is a fairly amazing little concept record. Wilson’s returned to his most fertile source of inspiration, those now increasingly golden memories of 60’s California. If it’s a sentimental journey back to “Fun, Fun, Fun” and “Little Surfer Girl,” you seek, then this is your record.
I probably could have done without the spoken interludes, called “narratives” here, all of them written by longtime Wilson collaborator Van Dyke Parks. Lines like “Venice Beach is poppin’/Like live shrimp dropped on a hot wok,” seem more than a little silly. But tunes like “Morning Beat” “Forever She’ll Be My Surfer Girl,” and the closer, ‘Southern California,” are all wellcrafted but nostalgic as hell, archetypal Brian Wilson songs: spectacular, swooping vocal arrangements, a thorough knowledge of pop song craft, his worseforwear tenor, and in this case, lots of lyrics about the “dodger blue sky” “Summer `61” and “Pumps drunk with oil/Dance like prehistoric locusts on the hills to L.A.X.”
There’s also autobiography of course, but the good news is it’s not maudlin or overwhelming. “I had this dream/Singing with my brothers,” (from Southern California) or “At 25 I turned out the light/Cause I couldn’t handle the glare in my tired eyes,” (from Going Home) are actually welcome additions and add needed weight to what is obviously a very personal project for Wilson.
A couple years ago I interviewed Wilson at SXSW in Austin and judging by the way he looked and acted then, I would have bet against his ever making a record this good. Above anything else, the guy is a survivor.
I attended a performance of Lucia di Lammermoor at the Met last night and have three observations. First, soprano Diana Damrau and tenor Piotr Beczala were absolutely, positively superb in the lead roles. Really wonderful!
Next, anyone going to the Met had better be prepared to camp out. Because the intermissions lasted 45 minutes to an hourto allow more time to sell drinks and eight dollar sandwichesthe last act began at 11pm. New Met general director Peter Gelb, who ran Sony Classical before taking the Met job, is well on his way to turning the opera company into a money making machine. And new ideas like opera broadcasts in the theatres and the new displays of old photos and costumes that are now up in the Met’s Lincoln center home are great, but turning an already long opera into a 4 hour experience is a mistake. I saw some older, glamorized grand dames looking very peeved about having to remain awake that late. Of course I also saw a grown man in cowboy boots and blonde dreadlocks but that’s another story.
A ticket scalper on Broadway near Lincoln Center (in a thick New York accent): “Hey get your tickets here for Looocia di Lahhmamooor.”