Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"God Only Knows", the BBC, and My Son

I want to spend a blog post talking about my son. Yeah, weird, huh? I've made generic mention of him many times, but you may have noticed that I don't ever reveal his name or mention any other specific details about him. I've hardly ever posted pictures of him. There's a reason for this. Several of them, actually. First and by far foremost, I'm aware that there are some sick motherfuckers out there in the world, and I will always err on the side of caution in terms of protecting his safety and security. I'm less rigid about this now than I used to be; physically, the kid is now almost my height and outweighs me by a little bit. He's a teenager and can handle himself just fine. Still, even now, you won't see me talking much about him, whether it's bragging about his successes or complaining about his shortcomings. Let it be known that I am always proud of him, and care about him more than anything in the world. My relative lack of mention of my child is purposeful, and I have no plans of changing that at least until he's an adult... which is only a few years away, frighteningly enough.

Long preamble aside, that's not why I'm writing today. This morning, I awoke at 6AM as I do every Monday through Friday. This allows me to semi-leisurely shower, dress, check some email, and sip coffee before taking the aforementioned kid to school at 7:25. I hate being hasty in the morning. Anyway, early on this particular morning, I saw a news item about a new BBC Music promotional piece. In case you're unfamiliar, these BBC pieces showcase various musicians -- some famous worldwide, others hardly known outside of the UK -- covering a well-known song, usually in connection with a charity. Back in 1997, they did a similar treatment of Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" that I really liked, so I checked out the new one, this time for the classic 1966 Beach Boys song "God Only Knows".

As I listened groggily in the early hour, it struck me (not for the first time) that "God Only Knows" really is one of the most amazing pop songs ever written. Granted, this is hardly news; Pitchfork called it the single best song of the entire 1960s, and it is often listed among the best pop songs of all time. It's Paul McCartney's favorite song, for crying out loud. I was humming the well-known melody the entire time I showered and dressed. After my son was up and about, I called to him from my upstairs office and asked if he had a minute or two. He came up, and I pressed "play" on the BBC video.

"Hey... is that Pharrell?" he asked.

"Mmm hmm. Sure is."

We listened, seeing both familiar and unfamiliar faces and voices go by. I'd point out some of the people I thought he probably might not know.

"Chris Martin from Coldplay."


"That's Stevie Wonder. He's a musical genius."


"Brian May of Queen. Check out all those Vox amps."


"One Direction."


"There's Chrissy Hynde. She was in the Pretenders. She's awesome."


"Hey, there's Dave Grohl."

"Yeah, I know him."

"And this guy, Brian Wilson. He's the guy who wrote this music and sang the original song."

"Wow. That was amazing."

We were quiet while the last notes faded, a barrage of feedback presumably from Brian May's wall of amplifiers. I told my son a bit about the background of this song, and how it's perceived as being among the best. I told him a very brief tale of Brian Wilson, mentioning both the brilliance and the insanity. He seemed interested, though both of us were in a hurry to finish getting ready and get rolling. As I took him to school -- only a mile away, but I always enjoy the brief time we spend together every morning -- he was still asking about "God Only Knows". I told him that the Beach Boys were from Hawthorne, a city just a few miles north of where we live, and that they name-dropped our city, Redondo Beach, in one of their songs. He mentioned that he'd never heard the original version of "God Only Knows", and I said that I'd be glad to play it for him this afternoon when he got home.

"Maybe I'll just listen to it on my own before I get home," he said with that high school-ish note of independence in his rather deep voice, and I shrugged and said that was fine with me. Then I pulled into the school parking lot drop-off area, told him to have a good day as he got out and slung his backpack on his shoulder, and I returned home. But I had to smile; my kid noted something special about a song that was born three years before I was. I doubt a whole lot of his classmates would bother checking out a tune from 1966, but he will. He has a true love for music that goes beyond a typical person's, and I don't know if that's through nature or nurture... and honestly don't care. I'm just happy that he finds the level of enjoyment that I always have from listening to music, and that he's capable of recognizing a great song when he hears it. Those are the moments when you know how much that being a parent has enriched your own life. And to wrap up this post, God only knows where I'd be without music, or without my son. Both bring me joy every day.

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