My parents had a family picnic this past Saturday. Early on, my sister, my wife, and I drove to the local ACME to pick up some last-minute party things. My sister had Pet Sounds playing in her car, and she asked me if it was possible that the Beach Boys might be better than the Beatles.
I hedged my bets. I acknowledged that the Beach Boys’ rich five-part harmonies can sound richer and more dazzling than the Fabs’ mere three-vocal frontline. But, I said, no one in the Beach Boys could sing loud, nasty rock ‘n’ roll like John Lennon.
My sister is four years younger than me, in her early 30s. I pointed out that the Beach Boys have so many albums, many of them with a lot of crap, but also a lot of great songs that people of our generation didn’t always get to here at first—like “Let Him Run Wild,” “Darlin'” and “Surf’s Up.” All we knew of the Beach Boys growing up consisted of their many ’60s hits on oldies radio, and of course Mr. Mod’s beloved “Kokomo.” On the other hand, the Beatles have fewer albums and, growing up, there was always a Beatles Sunday Brunch or somesuch weekly show on oldies, classic-rock or AOR radio stations. So once you get into the Beatles—as I did in fourth grade—it’s surprisingly easy to get familiar with the entire canon. This breeds familiarity which eventually can breed you-know-what, or at least make it difficult to hear those songs with new ears after x amount of years.
Now, I can think of at least one Townsperson who definitely prefers the Beach Boys. But, just as we once contemplated the ways the Kinks might be preferable in some ways to the Beatles, can we all think of ways that the Beach Boys might be better? Are, in fact, some of the preferable ways related to the weird lurking corners of the post-“Do it Again” era?
Incidentally, it’s no contest as far as my wife is concerned. She like the Beatles better, and thinks they were much more influential and significant. For example, she points out that the Beach Boys didn’t inspire male teenagers all over the world to stop cutting their hair.
Also, isn’t it funny that the battle is always “Beatles vs Stones,” rather than “Beatles vs not-Stones”? Some media narratives die extra-hard, I guess.
I look forward to your responses.