February 08, 2006

Today's Earworm, Installment #3

“Be True to Your School” by the Beach Boys

When some loud bragger tries to put me down
And says his school is great
I tell him right away
Now what’s the matter buddy
Ain’t you heard of my school
It’s number one in the state

It goes without saying that I always thought this song was a dippy piece of cornball fluff and an embarrassing display of conformist mindlessness, but now I hear it through the ears of Agent 97, a nine-year-old Beach Boys fan, and I hear a glamorous promise of what being a teenager will be like; and returning to my own perspective I hear a wistful vignette of soon-to-be-lost youth, a touching and fragile effort at self-assertion dependent upon the most fleeting of identities, and an elliptical glimpse at the purest American experience. Sigh!

Lyricist Mike Love – who deserves more credit than he gets, although not as much as he thinks he deserves, for the Beach Boys’ success – knew his subject and wrote about it from the inside and knew how to express its essence in the fewest and simplest words so that they would be memorable. The lines burst with adolescent male insecurity and mousy bravado, like the muscles of a skinny boy who’s been lifting weights.

And now my mental jukebox is changing discs: “Little surfer, little one/ Will you love me, little surfer girl/ Surfer girl, my little surfer girl, woo-oooh…”

This goes out to everyone out there who’s true to their school and to their surfer girl or boy, and may you remain in that state throughout a long and sun-filled life.

PS: Agent 95 prefers Nine Inch Nails and says that the Beach Boys are “good, but too light and springy.” Both kids come together, of course, in loving the Beatles: the perfect intersection of Nine Inch Nails and the Beach Boys and just about everything else in pop music.