Sax von Stroheim writes:
(An admission: the Beach Boys’ car songs never quite hit for me the way their surf songs did. I grew up in the wintery North East: surfing was a kind of mystical ideal I could dream about, but cars, I knew, and they were just for getting from place to place.
It wasn’t until I finally visited the South West while in my 20’s and I saw all these cars from the 50’s/60’s/70’s still on the road, still in perfect condition, that I finally grokked California Car Culture.)
I should mention Roger Christian: he was an El Lay D.J. and hot rod enthusiast who wrote the lyrics for the car songs. Much of the accuracy of these songs is down to him. As for the authenticity… Well, let’s save that one for later.
What is a “Little Deuce Coupe”? A 1932 Ford Model B, pictured on the cover.
Christian gives us the SoCal Teen equivalent of a great double-entendre-laden blues song. The poetry is in the details: “Just a little deuce coupe with a flat head mill/But she’ll walk a Thunderbird like it’s standing still/She’s ported and relieved and she’s stoked and bored/She’ll do a hundred and forty with the top end floored.”
The songs on the album deal with the Age Old Question: can a boy love a girl as much as he loves his first car?
The Beach Boys’ sound is Rock and Roll: the Genuine American Folk Music, that is, living, breathing, American folk music. Like all real rock and roll bands, they love Doo Wop:
Rock and Roll – a secret brotherhood, with its own language: “We’ll get the roughest and toughest initiation we can find/And if you want to try to get in we’ll really put you through the grind.”
Mano-a-mano: proving yourself worthy through competition, through putting it all on the line. Hemingway, SoCal style: “Pedal’s to the floor, hear the dual quads drink/And now the four-thirteens lead is startin’ to shrink/He’s hot with ram induction but it’s understood/I got a fuel-injected engine sittin’ under my hood.”
Along the way, they do acknowledge the darker side of the Car Culture, though truly wrestling with mortality is still beyond their scope. R.I.P. all you James Deans:
The album also contains an important non-car song. Their great patriotic song and strong statement of their most cherished ethical principles. It’s a personal favorite: