The Top 10 of a Musical Genius

From the time the Beach Boys hit the surf and the top of the charts in the 1960s, Brian Wilson has been considered a musical genius. His prolific songwriting propelled the careers of the original “Boys.” Their music remains popular to this day.

Wilson was not just trying to crank out rock and rolls songs for public consumption. He was trying to create a new sound, the “California” sound of blended harmonies and instruments. His obsessive work in the studio while seeking a certain type of perfection was both his strength and ultimately his weakness.

Brian Wilson

Today Brian is again touring, writing and producing. His opinions on music are held in high esteem by songwriters everywhere.  Many, including Paul McCartney, Bono, James Webb (American songwriter), and Rolling Stone Magazine, consider Wilson’s “God Only Knows” among the best songs of all time.

So when Brian offers an opinion regarding rock and roll music, it usually garners some attention.  A few years ago he gave us a top ten list of his favorite songs of summer.  To no one’s surprise, a couple of Beach Boys’ songs made the list, but there are also a few interesting choices:

1. Hot Fun In The Summertime: Sly and the Family Stone.
2. In The Summer Time: Mungo Jerry.
3. I Get Around: The Beach Boys.
4. Be My Baby: The Ronettes.
5. California Girls: The Beach Boys.
6. Give Me Some Lovin’: Spencer Davis Group.
7. Hey Jude: The Beatles.
8. Honky Tonk Women: The Rolling Stones.
9. My Obsession: The Rolling Stones.
10. Mony Mony: Tommy James and the Shondells.

I don’t know how some of these songs were chosen for a summertime list, but it is Brian’s list so he can do as he pleases.  I am happy to modify it a bit. You can follow with your own list in the comments if you are so inclined. First of all, any song I have to look up because I never heard of it needs to go.

“My Obsession” by the Rolling Stones is an early hit that really offers little in the way of music and lyrics.  It is certainly forgettable in every way and a surprise on any list provided by Wilson.  Of course, we all have early rock favorites that will probably sound weird to anyone else.  So, I am kicking that one off the list and replacing it with one of the Beach Boys’ top hits of all time, Little Surfer Girl.

Next, I have to replace the overdone Hey Jude. While McCartney still uses this epic to kill 10 minutes of every concert, I think it is time to retire it. Seriously, have you seen any performance of McCartney, live or on television, that did not contain an overblown version of this hit?  I can not associate it with summer anyway, so I am replacing it with “Summer in the City” by the Lovin’ Spoonful.  Every oldies station will indeed play the heck out of this song from now until Labor Day, but I never tire of it. That’s my standard.

I like “Honky Tonk Woman” and “Mony, Mony” but let’s replace them with Summer hits.  Add Jan and Dean’s number one hit from 1963, “Surf City.”  With a similar sound to the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean successfully rode the airwaves on their musical surfboards for many years, cashing in on the California style rock.  Another song I’m adding is “Saturday in the Park.” by Chicago — if for no other reason than to include a song from one of my all-time favorite bands, but will it make my Top Ten?

When I discovered Billboard’s list of the Top 30 Summer Songs I see there are a few more that could go on my list by the masters of their style, the Beach Boys.  Go forth and create your own list and enjoy the sounds of summer.

Yes, next week you will get my top ten summer songs that are really about summer. I know you can’t wait. Just sing Hot Fun In The Summertime until then.



Many of our birds show up in twos and threes, but only the Goldfinches show up in flocks. They may be small, but when they show up, they take over the feeders. All three of them. I took a few pictures.

There were a lot more Goldfinches but they kept taking off and landing with some little bits of airtime confrontations. They were in the trees, on the rail, and on the reverse side of the feeders where I can’t take pictures.

TIME AND TIME AGAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

As kids, we can’t imagine getting old. I suppose that’s normal, especially in this society where young people have very few experiences with elders and are not taught to respect or admire their accomplishments. I didn’t have any living grandparents. All four of them died before I was five, so I really had zero experience with anyone older than my parents and teachers — mostly people in their thirties, forties, and maybe fifties.

That gap — growing up young with no insight into the life and experiences of older generations — is an dangerous gap. We lose our history. We lack understanding of what age brings, both good and bad. All we see are television or movie images of crotchety old people who are supposed to be my age, but look much older.

Our generation has not aged like our grandparents. Assuming we have had decent food to eat, have not gotten grossly obese, or have seriously damaged bones and muscle problems, we don’t wrinkle  up and can usually still walk. Those of us who have kept in shape may do even better.

I’ve had a lot of issues with bone and muscle, not to mention heart and other parts, so while my brain is (mostly) alive, the rest of me hurts. It’s worse at night. When I’m up and moving around, the pain diminishes. I often find myself getting up several times a night to walk around for a few minutes, hoping that the pain in my lower back will ease up.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

The problem is, I also need sleep. On a day like today and yesterday, when I’ve been up and down all night, I’m cranky. I live from lidocaine patch to lidocaine patch. Now that it’s summer, I can wear long loose dresses that help keep the patches from falling off. For lidocaine patches, the issue is always glue.

To get back to the intended subject, I didn’t start to get a grip on what I could learn from the elders of my human tribe until I went to Israel. One of our neighbors was an Auschwitz survivor and she had three big fears: men with loud voices, big dogs, and open fires. You can take a guess why these were foremost in her group of terrors. Of course there was also fear of not having enough food to eat, confinement, and having a gun pointed at you.

We watched a show last night where someone was supposed to have been a camp survivor — an old Magnum episode. Anyway, Higgins told his two Dobermans to guard the lady and they promptly took up close guard positions.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Two guys fishing by the river

I looked at Garry and said, “She isn’t a camp survivor. She isn’t afraid of the dogs.” And, of course, she wasn’t. No survivor would have been able to be in close quarters with guard dogs. She taught me a lot about what happens when the country you thought was your own suddenly isn’t. The initial belief that “this can’t be happening here,” Followed by “They don’t mean … ME …?”

I had tried, before I left for Israel, to talk with my eldest aunt who had been a child when she came from the Old Country — which might have been Poland, Russia, or Austria — depending on the year. But she was in her late 80s and she pointed out that the stuff that had happened was more than 75 years earlier. She didn’t remember most of it, at least not clearly. She wasn’t demented. She was simply old. I wish i had  asked more questions sooner.

I got a lot of history from my mother. She would talk to me while she worked around the house. About being a Communist, but changing to Socialism because the guys were more attractive. I’m pretty sure McCarthy would not have accepted that as a reason for joining the group, but it was even true when I was in college. Protests are great places to meet people who agree with you.

She told me how the U.S. government had too much food during the Depression, so they threw it in dumps and poured poison on it so no one could eat it. And how our anti-Semitic  government made up of rich white guys were willing to let Hitler kill Jews. No problem. They only took up arms against him when he threatened American interests.She was always sure the Nazis would come back. I never believed her. But she was right and I was wrong. The haters never go away. They lay low when they must, but pop up like Whack-A-Moles when they have an opening.

There’s a lot to be learned from older people, the ones who were there, who lived a life and not an easy one. I learned a lot from books, but I learned more from my mother and the neighbors in Jerusalem.

Now we have grown old. Younger people somehow think we caused all their problems. Of course, we didn’t. We just rode the wave. Europeans and many Asians have been doing their best to destroy the earth for a long time. When our population expanded so between one city and another were more cities. Since they had trees, these places were called “suburbs.”

The damage was uncontainable. There is no giant hole into which trash can be tossed. You can’t mine or run oil pipelines through aquifers and expect the water to remain drinkable. When you burn or cut-down millions of trees, there is less air to breathe. Did WE do it? My generation?

We all did it. Individually and collectively. Corporations did a lot more and for us to earn money to live on, made us do more too. Even without a corporate push, we were lazy. We  tried to create recycling and Earth day and that stuff, but too few people were willing to be inconvenienced. It didn’t work.

We set up a country — the U.S. — based on minimalism. On the presumption that anyone and everyone from anywhere could build a life, even if they had nothing to work with and even when they were poor, hated, downtrodden, and oppressed.

Everyone wants to help make things better until it means they are personally inconvenienced. Everyone feels there’s plenty of time to deal with whatever personal, regional, or international problems exist. We have families at war within themselves and nations that do their best to destroy anyone who isn’t “just like them.”

By the time we are old too, we  no longer have the energy to fix all the stuff that’s been waiting for us. One day, the Nazis DO come back. Not the same Nazis. New ones. Same beliefs, just without the uniforms — at least so far.

A new disease sweeps the world and we’ve forgotten that exactly 100 years ago, it we had the worst pandemic ever. It happened many times before. Each time, everyone thinks it’s the first time because they never learned history and don’t read books.

So the world changes. Our future plans dissolve. We aren’t traveling. We aren’t going to repair broken relationships. The future has stopped for us. How did that happen? How did we let it happen?