Finding Meaning

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Good Vibrations

By Skip Hellewell

We all seek transformative experiences, processes that elevate the soul, but they’re not easily found. It happened for the Beautiful Wife and me at the Laguna Playhouse last weekend. Dear friends invited us to the Beach Boys tribute, “Surfin,’” and we fell into a time warp that took us back to the early ‘60s when the Beach Boys exploded on the rock scene as voice for the California surf culture. Good vibrations were rumbling through the Playhouse.

There were a number of influences behind the Beach Boys—a family-based garage band of the three Wilson brothers, cousin Mike Love, and friend Al Jardine—who popularized surf music and became the dominant rock band of their time. Their sound included the tight harmony of the Four Freshmen from the ‘50s, combined with the pounding, fast-picking, high-reverb sound of the late Dick Dale.


The Surfin’ tribute band is named after the first record released by The Beach Boys in 1961. Photo courtesy of Laguna Playhouse

Their lyrics reflected a simpler, more innocent era based on the teen basics of hot rods, surfing, and, especially, girls, that established coastal southern California as the center of ‘cool.’ The song “Surfin’” launched the Beach Boys and their California Sound, inspired when brother Dennis noted that surfing was spreading and they should do a song about it. Before the song became famous, Brian Wilson, the group’s creative genius, submitted it for a high school music class assignment where it got an “F.” (Two years ago the school formally changed the grade to “A.”) Their fame grew with “Surfin’ Safari,” notable for its recognition of Laguna. Cars got their due in songs like “Little Deuce Coupe” (with the secret of what was under the hood), “I Get Around,” or the hit “Fun, Fun, Fun” (about a girl enjoying her T-bird, before her dad takes it away).

The common theme of the Beach Boy message—they began, after all, as adolescent boys—was an abiding fascination with girls—especially “California Girls,” termed the “cutest girls in the world.” Our Playhouse audience had lived in the early ‘60s, that sweet, romantic era before the protests began, and was moved by “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” with its innocent yearning for love’s union. Likewise with “God Only Knows,” a song Brian Wilson likened to a religious rite, that wondered “what I’d be without you,” and finished with the plaintive “If you should ever leave me . . . the world could show nothing to me . . . so what good could living do me?” It seemed a reference to the transformational power of love. By this time the couples were holding hands, aided by “Help Me, Rhonda,” a song of lost love, and the assuring melody of “Don’t Worry, Baby.”

I thought “Good Vibrations,” voted one of the greatest rock songs ever, was a good summation of the show. The audience arrived as strangers, disconnected. By degrees, we engaged with the music, clapping, and singing along. Lovers bonded anew and strangers connected. When the applause died away, we left as one happy, laughing, smiling group. I thought the evening less a tribute concert than a process for happiness, one that warped us back to the joys of our youth and then brought us, joy intact, back to the present. We should all keep those good vibrations a’ happening. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email: [email protected]

 

Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):

Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.

Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.

Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 6 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.

Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.

First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.

ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.

Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.

Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.

Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.

United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.

St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, Sunday 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish). Saturday: 4 pm Reconciliation, 5:30 Mass.

St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 8:00 & 10:30 a.m.

Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.

 

 

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