I can hear music

I love the Beach Boys' song, I Can Hear Music. The ardour of young love and the sweet harmony capture all that is beautiful in life. Yes, it's just a teenage love song, but listen to the jangling guitars, insistent beat and plaintive voices. Isn't that what life is all about: wishing and hoping and, if you are lucky, getting what you want?

Popular music perhaps most faithfully articulates our feelings, for it changes with every generation, and no two generations have ever seen eye to eye. I can't stand rap music any more than the rappers have time for the Beach Boys and the Beatles. This evanescence is what makes popular music so appealing, for it mirrors our own lives. We know it's going to fade away, just as we will, but that's why it's all the more dear to us, because we can identify with it.

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Love songs for Valentine’s Day: Mid-60s to 70s

Here are some wonderful love songs from the mid-1960s and the Seventies to follow up the classics from the mid-50s and early Sixties. Here we have the Monkees, Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, the Doors, the Beach Boys, John Denver, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Kris Kristofferson, the Temptations, Roberta Flack and Fleetwood Mac.

The Monkees, I'm A Believer, 1966

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Much of the early Beach Boys’ songs are about high school and teenagers. Some of them are quite funny, but they aren’t as naughty and knowing as Chuck Berry’s celebrations of teenage life. The Beach Boys’ Fun, Fun, Fun, for example, is as infectious and more filled with harmony than anything composed by Chuck Berry, but the lyrics aren’t in the same league as a Chuck Berry classic like Nadine. In fact, I was about to describe the early Beach Boys’ lyrics as "jejune". Not "childish" or "juvenile" but something "adolescent".

Adolescent they are but they can’t be called "jejune". Though "jejune" is lumped together with "juvenile" and "puerile" in the thesaurus, there is a difference according to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary. According to it, "jejune" means "naive and simplistic" and can also mean "dull". The Beach Boys are by no means dull. But that’s what "jejune" means according to the COED. It says the word comes from the Latin "jejunus", which means "fasting, barren".

I am surprised that a word derived from the Latin for "barren" became a synonym for "juvenile". The Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary categorically says "jejune" means "juvenile" and "puerile". "Juvenile", "puerile", "infantile" all come from Latin words for children. But "jejune" originally had nothing to do with children. How did it come to be associated with "juvenile"?

Meanwhile, here’s Chuck Berry performing Roll over Beethoven. I did find a clip of him performing Nadine with Keith Richard. But this is an all-time classic.   

Sloop John B

The Beach Boys and the Grateful Dead are my favourite American rock groups. They may be very different but both are strong on guitars and harmony and both came out of the West Coast. This is my favourite Beach Boys song, Sloop John B, performed at a concert in England in 1980, long after their glory days in the early 1960s when they were the most successful American band with their "California sound". A very different California sound from that of the Eagles, whom I don’t dig at all. The lyrics of the Beach Boys’ early songs may be inconsequential, but the harmony is heavenly. Brian Wilson is a genius.

Greatest albums of all time?

Elvis_presley_album The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd make the list along with Jimi Hendrix and the Who but not the Rolling Stones and the Doors and Simon and Garfunkel. There is Joni Mitchell but not Joan Baez, Black Sabbath but not Led Zeppelin. There is Velvet Underground but not the Grateful Dead.

Even Elvis Presley appears on the Observer newspaper’s list of "50 albums that changed music". That really surprised me because, though he is still my King, I can’t recall any of his albums being lauded as a seminal piece. But how much do I really know of the 1950s?

Elvis Presley — the album on the list — must have really rocked the house when it came out in 1956. I just checked the play list and it’s an absolute gem with tracks like Blue Suede Shoes, Heartbreak Hotel, I Got a Woman, Lawdy Miss Clawdy, I Want You, I Need You, I Love You, My Baby Left Me, Blue Moon, Tutti Frutti, and Shake, Rattle and Roll. Sure, some of the songs were recorded by others as well, but Elvis was — and still is — the King.

The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club, of course, has to be on the list though I personally prefer to listen to their earlier tracks these days. Psychedelia I love, but rock’n'roll is wild.

The Beach Boys are also on the list, for Pet Sounds. It contains my favourite Beach Boys’ song, Sloop John B, and the lovely Wouldn’t It Be Nice? Critics may prefer the track, God Only Knows, but it’s not as catchy or radio-friendly.

Pink Floyd makes the list for The Dark Side of the Moon, Bob Dylan for Bringing It All Back Home and Jimi Hendrix for Are You Experienced? The Who are there for the album My Generation. The title track is a classic.

But why no Stones? "Because, brilliant though they are, they picked up an established musical idiom and ran with it rather than inventing something entirely new," says the Observer. That’s true.

Maybe that explains why Joan Baez, Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead — some of my other favourites — are also not on the list.

But did anyone sound fresher than Simon and Garfunkel? Methinks not. But then again I thought Led Zeppelin was the greatest of all heavy metal bands.Now, with age, I prefer something softer  — like the early Beatles and the Beach Boys!

There is some great soul music too on the list too: James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye. But it also includes Kraeftwork and rap. Yech!