That’s Why God Made the Radio
The first 45 that I ever purchased was Surfing USA by the Beach Boys in the early Summer of 1963, and even though the song was a total rip-off of Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen,” the Beach Boys went on to become the dominant American rock and roll band – basically the only one to stand up to the British Invasion of the mid-sixties.
The Beach Boys have been making records for more than fifty years. To commemorate that achievement, they are touring this summer following the release of their 39th studio album, That’s Why God Made the Radio. All of the living members of the group (Brian Wilson, Mike Love and Al Jardine) are participating, plus Bruce Johnston and David Marks, who joined the group in the early years. Brian’s brothers Carl and Dennis Wilson have passed away.
To me, the Beach Boys will always be the sound of summer. Even though the California lifestyle was just a dream for us, we could all imagine surfing and bombing around in hot rods.
What is appealing about this latest album, though, is that instead of pretending they are teenagers again, they reflect on being young – riding in their car, going to the beach, enjoying the summer love, etc. This is most evident in “Summer’s Gone,” when Brian Wilson sings, “It’s finally sinkin’ in … We laugh and cry, we live and die and dream about our yesterdays.”
The CD is in two parts. The first several songs are more upbeat, with the best being the title track, “That’s Why God Made the Radio,” and “Isn’t it Time.” The last four songs – “Strange World,” “From There and Back Again,” “Pacific Coast Highway” and “Summer’s Gone” – are particularly strong. Some might argue that they’re among the best the band has made for many years.
The harmonies are still great (remember: the original members are seventy now) and are reminiscent of the Surf’s Up sessions or “God Only Knows.” Brian Wilson is back writing, producing and singing, which is great to see, given the problems he’s had in his life.
Old fans of the band will enjoy “That’s Why God Made the Radio,” and perhaps this CD will make the Beach Boys some new fans.
By Phil Wood
Phil Wood is McMaster University’s Associate Vice-President (Student Affairs) and Dean of Students. He is also the host of “Soul in the Hole,” a radio show on 93.3 CFMU that airs every Wednesday at 10 a.m.