#509: Good Timin’ by The Beach Boys
Brian Wilson was born in Inglewood, California, in 1942. In biographer Peter Ames Carlin’s book, Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, he relates that when Brian Wilson first heard George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” it had a huge emotional impact on him. As a youngster, Wilson learned to play a toy accordion and sang in children’s choirs. In his teens he started a group with his cousin, Mike Love and his brother, Carl. His named the group Carl and the Passions in order to convince his brother to join. They had a performance at Hawthorne High School, where they attended. Among the people in the audience was Al Jardine, another classmate. Jardine was so impressed with the performance that he let the group know. Jardine would later be enlisted, along with Dennis Wilson to form the Pendletones in 1961. The first song Brian Wilson wrote would become “Surfer Girl.” A demo of the tune was made in February 1962 and would go on to be a Top Ten hit when it was released a year later in 1963. However, their first recording was a doo-wop-surf tune called “Surfin’” in October 1961. It was released in November ’61 on the Candix Enterprises Inc. label. The surprise for the group was that the record label had changed the group’s name from the Pendletones to the Beach Boys. Consequently, as each time the record was played by a DJ in America, radio listeners were being introduced to the Beach Boys. The name Pendletones was now history.
In 1962, neighbor David Marks joined the group for their first wave of hits with Capitol Records, leaving in late 1963. In 1965, Bruce Johnston joined the band when Brian Wilson retired from touring to focus on writing and producing for the group. The Beach Boys signed with Capitol Records in July 1962 and released their first album, Surfin’ Safari, later that year. The album spent 37 weeks on the Billboard album chart, launching the young group known for its shimmering vocal harmonies and relaxed California style into international stardom. The Wilson/Love collaboration resulted in many huge international chart hits. Under Brian Wilson’s musical leadership, the band’s initial surf-rock focus was soon broadened to include many other themes, helping make The Beach Boys one of America’s most successful bands of the 1960’s.
The Beach Boys charted 13 Top Ten hits into the Billboard Hot 100 in the ’60’s. This began with “Surfin’ USA” in 1963. The only American pop group in the 1960’s who had more songs chart into the Top Ten on the Billboard Hot 100 was The Supremes, who had 18 singles reach that threshold. Though, in Vancouver, the Beach Boys had 23 songs chart into the Top Ten while The Supremes charted 18 songs into the Top Ten in Vancouver on either CKLG or CFUN, making The Beach Boys the top charting American band in Vancouver during the Sixties.
Among the Top Ten hits The Beach Boys charted in Vancouver were “I Get Around” (#3) “Don’t Worry Baby” (#3), Help Me Rhonda” (#2), “Sloop John B” (#2), “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” (#1), “Good Vibrations” (#1) and “Barbara Ann” (#2). The B-side to “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, “God Only Knows,” peaked at #5 on CFUN. Among their Top Ten hits in Vancouver were “She Knows Me Too Well” and “Wendy”.
The Beach Boys were at the top of their popularity into the mid-60’s. They released their hit album, Pet Sounds, in May 1966, with the hits “God Only Knows,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “Sloop John B” all doing well on the pop charts, especially in Vancouver. It was their ninth of ten successive albums that made the Top Ten in the Billboard 200 Album charts. 1966 was also the year The Beach Boys had their #1 hit, “Good Vibrations,” which was their third #1 hit in three years.
From 1967 onward, The Beach Boys chart successes were sporadic. However, they have continued to tour over the decades. Among their few Top Ten hits in Vancouver (BC) in the 1970s were “Rock And Roll Music” and “Good Timin'”.
“Good Timin'” was co-written by Brian and Carl Wilson. The song is about learning about good timing. Life goes on and the world keeps on turning. Good timing is when a placement or occurrence of something is just right, as in the timing of the sale or purchase of a home, a proposal of marriage, or a pass between players in a sporting match that leads to scoring on one’s opponent.
Since the age of the Ancient Greeks, there has been a concept of good timing. The Ancient Greeks had a word for the concept which they named kairos. Kairos meant the right, critical, or opportune moment. The ancient Greeks had two words for time: chronos and kairos. The former refers to chronological or sequential time, while the latter signifies a proper or opportune time for action. While chronos is quantitative, kairos has a qualitative, permanent nature. Greek philosophers had examples to point to a kairos moment. In archery, kairos denoted the moment in which an arrow could be fired with sufficient force to penetrate a target. In weaving, kairos denoted the moment in which the shuttle could be passed through threads on the loom. Both examples illustrate moments when an exact choice needs to be made.
In life, we can move through our days without being aware of choices that require action. We can miss our mark, shying away from action, deferring decisions, dithering our lives away. But good timing involves the courage to apprehend what the moment calls for in any given situation and having the courage and skill to act decisively. In the field of rhetoric, kairos is “a passing instant when an opening appears which must be driven through with force if success is to be achieved.” The leading debaters in thought about kairos were Plato and Aristotle.
“Good Timin'” climbed to #8 in Vancouver (BC), and San Diego, and to #9 in Toronto, and Bangor, Maine. The single stalled at #40 on the Billboard Hot 100.
After “Good Timin'”, the Beach Boys had several more Top 20 hits. The first was titled “The Beach Boys Medley” which was a #12 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in the fall of 1981. The medley included a mix of the Beach Boys hit singles “Good Vibrations”, “Help Me Rhonda”, “I Get Around”, “Shut Down”, “Surfin’ Safari”, “Barbara Ann”, “Surfin’ U.S.A” and “Fun, Fun, Fun”. In January 1982 the Beach Boys had their cover of the 1957 Del-Vikings hit “Come Go With Me” climb to #18 on the Hot 100.
Tragedy struck when Dennis Wilson, plagued with alcohol and drug addiction, drowned after he came out of rehab in December 1983. He was 39 years old. In 1988, “Kokomo”, a song penned by John Philips (formerly of The Mamas & the Papas), Scott McKenzie (who had a #1 hit in Vancouver (BC) in June 1967 titled “San Francisco”), and the Beach Boys Mike Love, climbed to number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The Beach Boys achievement ended a 22-year drought in the number one spot for the group.
The Beach Boys have had four singles – “Good Vibrations,” “California Girls,” “In My Room” and “I Get Around” – and one album, Pet Sounds, inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame between 1994 and 2017.
In 1997, Carl Wilson was diagnosed with lung and brain cancer. While on tour, and receiving chemotherapy, he sat on a stool while performing the Beach Boys hits. Carl Wilson died at the age of 51 in February 1998. In 2016 Mike Love published Good Vibrations: My Life As A Beach Boy, while Brian Wilson published his memoir, I Am Brian Wilson.
Between November 30, 2019, and March 7, 2020, The Beach Boys have scheduled 30 concert dates across ten states in the USA. Their most recent concert in Vancouver (BC) was on August 31, 2019. The current lineup includes Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, Christian Love, and John Cowsill (formerly of the Cowsills). Brian Wilson is touring separately with former Beach Boy, Al Jardine, and a backing band.
December 30, 2019
The Beach Boys – About, The Beach Boys.com
Jeff Slate, How Brian Wilson Found Inspiration in the Artists Working Beside Him, Esquire, New York, October 11, 2016
Tony Asher Interview, Surfer Moon.com April 4, 1996
Wilson, Brian with Greenman, Ben. I Am Brian Wilson: A Memoir. DeCapo Press. Boson, MA, 2016
Lambert, Philip. Inside the Music of Brian Wilson: The Songs, Sounds, and Influences of the Beach Boys’ Founding Genius. Continuum International Publishing, New York, 2007.
The Beach Boys Concert Dates, The Beach Boys.com
C-FUNTASTIC FIFTY, C-FUN 1410 AM, Vancouver, BC, September 12, 1964.
Cathy Nelson Price, “Second-generation Beach Boy Christian Love Shares the Stage with Dad Mike,” Midland Daily News, Midland, Michigan, July 30, 2010.
“CFUN Top 30,” CFUN 1410 AM, Vancouver, BC, July 21, 1979.
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