I was never a super fan of the Beach Boys. I liked all of their hit singles – and there were a LOT of them – at least those that were played on the radio after I started paying attention to rock and roll music, which was when The Beatles hit America in 1964, when I was 8 years old. I may have even owned a copy of their first No. 1 single, “I Get Around,” which is still one of my favorite songs of the era. Either I owned it or I borrowed it from our friend Billy Evans, because I have distinct memories of playing it on my record player in my bedroom.
But as I alluded to (and as you know if you’ve been reading my scribblings for any time) I was a Beatles guy. Their music had a power driven by their big Mersey Beat, catchy songcraft, and endearing vocals, including some pretty great three-part harmonies. And there were just four of them, on four instruments – two guitars, bass and drums – with an occasional piano or harmonica thrown in. They seemed a little bit exotic, too, coming as they did from someplace in England with the weird name of Liverpool. And they wore odd clothes: pointy half-boots, tightly tapered pants, collarless jackets. And they had those hair-dos that seemed to make adults really upset.
The Beach Boys on the other hand … who knew how many of them there were. Five, six, eleven? Much harder to keep track of or even care about than John, Paul, George and best of all Ringo. They were from Southern California, and they sang about cars and surfing, all of which wasn’t very exotic to me. We had relatives in the Los Angeles area, and one of my cousins was a surfer – he also came up to Oregon and went camping with us sometimes. We went there once and watched him surf on Seal Beach, but all this 5-year-old got out of it was a pair of feet covered with tar from the beach, which had to be cleaned off with a gasoline-soaked rag … yuck! As for hot rods, every kid I knew was into them, all my friends and their big brothers, and all the teenagers and some adult guys in the neighborhood too. I was a little interested, but never very much.
That was the attitude of very young me, of course. It’s undeniable that the Beach Boys were a formidable force in pop and rock music throughout the 1960s. The Beatles recognized them as one of their very few peers and rivals, and they and music critics rightly saw Brian Wilson as a compositional genius on a par with Lennon and McCartney, and an arranger and producer without peer in his generation.
Still, I never owned any of their gazillion albums, not even their Capitol greatest hits compilation Endless Summer. And certainly never cared much about what they did after their last U.S. top 40 single “I Can Hear Music.”
That’s why I’m so impressed by the job done by the hosts of the Discord & Rhyme podcast in their episode about two quite different Beach Boys albums, 1964’s All Summer Long (which leads off with “I Get Around”) and 1970’s Sunflower. They made me seriously re-evaluate my thoughts and feelings about the Beach Boys, and I came away with greater respect for their career as a whole, even some of the later albums that I’d never heard of and that hardly made a dent on the charts. That’s the mark of a good music podcast.
Discord & Rhyme is an album review podcast, on which a rotating cast of seven Millennials review their favorite albums track by track. The seven current hosts are Rich Bunnell, Amanda Rogers, Mike Defabio, Phil Maddux, John McFerrin, Benjy Marlin, and Dan Watkins. Generally, as few as three and as many as six take part in each show, with one acting as host (or chief cheerleader) for the album in question, and one as moderator to keep things moving along.
As a group their favorite band – and the one that’s been the topic of the most episodes – is The Moody Blues. I used to be a Moody Blues fan (not so much anymore) and I love listening to their episodes about the band, which remind me of why I liked them so much back in the day, often make me laugh out loud, and just as often cause me to reconsider some of my opinions about the band, the albums, and the songs.
They’re all rock fans but their tastes are quite eclectic, and although they cover quite a few albums that they have loved since being introduced to them as children by their Boomer parents, their episodes have ranged quite far afield, from jazz and fusion to soul and R & B, punk and New Wave to compilations of all sorts and experimental music – all from pretty near every decade from the ’60s through the 2000s. Pere Ubu, Al Yankovich’s polka albums, the complete Motown singles, Electric Light Orchestra, John Coltrane, the Jam, Phil Ochs, Yo La Tengo, Camille Saint-Saëns, all have received the Discord & Rhyme treatment.
I started listening to them in about 2019 with episode 47 on The Handsome Family’s Singing Bones, after the band posted links to it on their social media feeds. Some of my other favorite episodes have been on Meat Puppets’ Forbidden Places, Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life, Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica, Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Inner Mounting Flame, Paul and Linda McCartney’s Ram, Richard and Linda Thompson’s I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, The Pogues’ If I Should Fall From Grace With God, Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy … and their tour de force double episode on The Beatles’ The Beatles (aka The White Album). That one was a special one for the podcast’s 100th episode; generally for “milestone” episodes they will do two albums from different periods by one artist: this most recent one on the Beach Boys was No. 125.
They obviously have a fairly large and supportive fan base, to reach 125 episodes (plus a bunch of specials), supported only by Patreon subcribers and Amazon partner links. Discord & Rhyme has a robust website, and the podcast and some of the hosts are active on Twitter and Instagram. If you enjoy listening to knowledgeable music nerds talking with reverence, respect, kindness and humor about the music they (and most likely you) love, you might enjoy Discord & Rhyme.