Boogaloo It: A Beach Boys Mixtape

On Thursday, May 18, The Beach Boys will perform at the Macon City Auditorium, and while Mike Love & company are guaranteed to play the hits, here are 10 songs that are unlikely to make the setlist– but deserve your pregaming attention!

1. “Meant For You” (1968)

The almost-acapella intro to Friends, a lo-fi keepsake obscured by more provocative 1968 releases like Beggars Banquet and Electric Ladyland, is a 39-second hymn to serenity and companionship whose blessed harmonies recall the ambitions of Pet Sounds and the abandoned Smile, even as the band was moving to the less complex sounds of their post-1976 albums.

2.“Please Let Me Wonder” (1965)

What is rock ‘n’ roll if not a 3-minute glimpse into a sun-kissed alternate reality? This lush, vulnerable ballad from 1965 hints at wish fulfillment– you’re the only one she’s ever loved– but Brian’s vocals, rinsed in doubt, render a fatalism that undercuts any optimism.

3. “Girl Don’t Tell Me” (1965)

An overlooked ballad that threatens to become something more intense if given the chance to exceed its 2:00 mark. A complete package: romantic disillusionment rivaling James Joyce’s “Araby”, Carl Wilson’s debut lead vocal, a chiming 12-string guitar, and teenage boy’s attention to detail: “Your hair’s getting longer and your shorts/Mmm they sure fit you fine.”

4. “Don’t Back Down” (1964)

Surfing as metaphor. In this anxious 1964 banger, the last surf song from the band’s golden-era, Brian Wilson and Mike Love celebrate those who “grit their teeth” and “go a little nuts,” anticipating punk’s refusal to acquiesce. Bully the bullies.

5. “Summer Means New Love” (1965)

The Beach Boys’ LPs are peppered with the occasional instrumental, but none more gorgeous than this gem from 1965’s Summer Days (And Summer Nights). A signpost to the following year’s Pet Sounds, it aches for tomorrow with a plaintive lead guitar that finds deliverance in a life-affirming swell of strings.

6. “Disney Girls (1957)” 1971

The Beach Boys’ well-manicured wholesomeness was anachronistic by the time they entered the 1970s. Despite attempts to court subversiveness, their sensibilities were thrown into sharp relief by this cut from ’71’s Surf’s Up, Bruce Johnston’s paean to the myth of mid-century simplicity and comfort. It’s the sound of a band crippled by addiction, busted marriages, and waning acclaim looking to the way it never was for a way back home.

7. “Forever” (1970)

At once beautiful and impossible to bear, The Beach Boys’ most crushing song and drummer Dennis Wilson’s signal moment, thanks in part to his raspy, near-defeated delivery of “I’ve been so happy loving you” and our knowledge of his tragic biography.

8. “Johnny Carson” (1977)

Perennially baited by “Brian’s Back” sloganeering, fans who cherished his eccentricities and decried Love’s attempts to fix the band in a mid-60s freeze frame got their wish with 1977’s Love You, originally conceived as a Brian solo record. Instead of clashing, the lyrical naivete complements the buzzing synth-heavy production. It’s full of schoolyard choruses (“Let Us Go on This Way”), celestial pontifications (“Solar System”), and infantilized women (“I Wanna Pick You Up”), but no track is more bizarre than this tribute to the King of Late Night and a window into Brian’s insomnia.

9. “All I Want To Do” (1969)

Yes, The Beach Boys are one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most beloved bands, but they’ve never exactly rocked or rolled, their Chuck Berry and early R&B influences muted by a search for something more sublime. Yet they had their moments of abandonment. Dennis’s “All I Want To Do” (not to be confused with the woozy “All I Wanna Do”) is a bona fide stomper, with Love’s uncharacteristically unhinged “Come on, baby!” and session guitarist Ed Carter’s fried leads favoring Nuggets-style intensity.

10. “How She Boogalooed It” (1967)

From the R&B-inflected Wild Honey comes this jump-jive-and-harmonize mover that reflects the band’s need to distance themselves from the orchestration of their previous records, Pet Sounds, the deserted Smile, and Smiley Smile. Here, without any help from Brian, a first in the band’s history, Carl and the gang mine their love of Stax and Motown, and with a scratchy guitar and a roller rink organ solo, find themselves in league with likeminded garage acts like Thee Midniters, Los Shains, and The Human Beings.

Charlie Farmer is a Georgia writer and professor who loves his wife, his daughters, his students, his cats, his books, his LPs, and everything else one should love in life.