[Soundtrack to this post: Beach Boys' Good Vibrations]
As I write this, the Beach Boys are playing New York's Beacon Theater about thirty blocks away. I didn’t dish out $200 to be there tonight, but I did see them perform once.
I lucked into the concert tickets when I was just a frizzy-haired 12-year-old without a pop culture clue: I didn't know the Beach Boys from the Beastie Boys. For example, although I had not been cool enough to have seen Wayne's World at the theater, I eventually heard that it was cool and I asked for “Bohemian Rap City” for Christmas. I got Queen's Greatest Hits in my stocking, to the bewilderment of my uncle Jack. I assured him, that yes, I definitely was a “Queens” fan.
I had also recently discovered WKFR, a Kalamazoo, MI top 40 radio station that was going to turn me into someone who knew about cool things. I remember bragging to my mom about this great new artist I knew about, Eric Clapton, with his new song "Leila" who was apparently quite a guitarist.
Anytime my mom ferried us around in her white and grey striped van, I begged her turn it to 103.3. I’m sure you’ve already guessed that WKFR was never actually cool. There was a legitimately cool radio station out of the local college that played a lot more grunge but it came in fuzzy in our end of town.
I loved listening to WKFR, but I also loved being on the phone with WKFR. I called in with shy requests and left messages on their “rant line” (one time, I said, "this is what I think of you!" and flushed the toilet. It was the craziest, most rebellious way I could think of to say, “You stink!” But my mom picked up the extension just as I did it, to my bright red embarrassment.) And of course, they didn't stink; I cherished them. I also regularly called WKFR to try to win absolutely anything they offered. I was furiously redialing one day when the deep-voiced deejay actually answered. "WKFR, you're caller 103 - you're going to see the Beach Boys!”
I sheepishly told my mom that she could take Dad because I didn't know “who these singers are.” Nah, she said, your Dad doesn't like the Beach Boys. So she took me to my first real concert.
We went to see the old guys with guitars and drums and beach balls play in Battle Creek the next night. Battle Creek was the next city over, a town that had slightly bigger malls where we would one day shop for prom dresses and was home to Kellogg's cereal factories. I remember desperately wanting to be one of the cheerleader-y-beautiful "California Girls" who danced on the stage with the band. We had pretty good seats off to the right of the arena stage and I remember my mom gushing that we were close enough to spit on them as they exited the stage. I looked at her cautiously - was she going to? I mean, it was a school night, I was at a big concert, as far as I was concerned, anything could have happened.
The concert ended and we climbed back into the van. I pulled out the map I had to finish labeling for Social Studies class the next day and my mom began whistling “Wouldn't It Be Nice?” As I grew into a real teenager over the next few years, I would grow to find her cheery whistling unreasonably irritating. But that night, as we crawled along in the post-concert traffic, it was actually kind of cool.
About this blog
I'll use this space to write about movies, bikes, communications trends, pop culture, and my adventures as a new New Yorker.