'Round, 'round get around, I get around

By Dave Barry

I may be 51 years old, but, darn it, I'm still a "rock and roll kind of animal." So when a friend named Gene offered me some tickets to a Beach Boys concert, I jumped at the chance. As a result, I strained my back and had to lie down for six days.

But after the pain subsided I was very excited, because I'm a huge Beach Boys fan. I'll never forget the first time I saw them in person, back in 1964, at a fantastic concert in New York. ... Wait, no, it was Philadelphia, and it might have been 1967. And come to think of it, it wasn't The Beach Boys; it was the Bee Gees. Or maybe the Turtles. It was definitely a plural name. Although now that I think of it, I'm not 100 percent sure I was there.

But never mind the details. The point is that I've loved the Beach Boys' music since WAYYY back when I was in junior high school, and America was happy and carefree because the Civil War was finally over. I went through puberty with the Beach Boys (not LITERALLY, of course; we all had separate rooms). Their songs expressed a new kind of feeling that was stirring deep within the bowels of my loins; a feeling of vulnerability, of tenderness, and - yes - of sexual desire.

For cars, I mean. When the Beach Boys sang, "She's real fine, my 409 ... my four-speed, dual-quad, Posi-Traction 409," they were giving voice to the fantasy of every pimple-speckled male at Harold C. Crittenden Junior High. We LUSTED for Posi-Traction! Whatever it was!

I still know all the words to all the Beach Boys' car songs. When I'm driving, and the radio plays "Shut Down," which is about a drag race, I sing along at the top of my lungs: "He's hot with ram induction, but it's understood; I got a fuel-injected engine sittin' under my hood." The truth is that I have no idea what kind of engine I have sittin' under my hood. I could have a food processor sittin' under there. But the Beach Boys still make me feel like Mr. Stud Piston.

And the Beach Boys were not just limited to car songs. They took on the important social issues, too, in songs such as "Be True To Your School" (actual lyric: "Rah rah rah rah sis boom bah!") and "I Get Around" (actual lyric: "I'm a real cool head! I'm makin' real good bread!").

They don't make music like that these days. In fact, sometimes they don't even make MUSIC. I saw a TV show recently wherein a group of "hip-hop" DJs competed to see who was the best at making sounds with a record turntable. They'd put the needle on a record, then they'd spin the turntable forward and backward violently, thereby creating unique, by which I mean ugly, noises. I used to do that when I was 7, and my mom would yell, "STOP FOOLING WITH THE RECORD PLAYER!" But these guys were SERIOUS; they had expressions of intense concentration on their faces, as though it took vast artistic skill to simulate the sound of deranged squirrels fighting in an amplifier. A panel of judges looked on, frowning thoughtfully, as though they were listening to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony (actual lyric: "Dum dum dum DUM"). I wanted to scream at the TV screen: "A turntable is NOT A MUSICAL INSTRUMENT, you morons! It's an APPLIANCE, like a toaster-oven! Or an accordion!"

So, OK, I'm too old to appreciate "hip-hop." But I'm smack dab in the middle of the Beach Boys' demographic, to judge from the crowd at the concert I attended. Many of us are grayer than we once were, and our loins are larger. But we still know how to "party hearty." We had our cell-phone ringers set on "vibrate" and were ready to ROCK AND ROLL when the Beach Boys stormed onto the stage.

OK, "stormed" is a little strong. "Shuffled" is more accurate. Because the Beach Boys have gotten older, too. Although some of them apparently have gotten YOUNGER. A couple of the ones I saw definitely had not been born yet when they made their first record.

But even though some of the older Beach Boys could enter the Ernest Hemingway Look-alike Contest, they still SOUND like the Beach Boys, and that was all that mattered. Within 15 minutes the crowd was on its feet (it would have been on its feet sooner, but it has to be careful with its back). The Beach Boys sang a medley of their car songs, and I sang right along with them, and when, together, we sang the technical part of "Little Deuce Coupe" ("She's ported and relieved, and she's stroked and bored") there was genuine emotion in my voice. But without question the highlight came when the entire crowd - not just us older folks in our 50s, but also the young people in their late 40s - joined together to sing "Barbara Ann," all of us united for the moment by our inability to remember that one verse that goes something like:

"Tried Betty Sue

Did the boogaloo

Went to the zoo

And I saw a tiger poo"

It was a great night. And even though I didn't get home until almost 10:20 p.m., I was so excited that I stayed awake until almost 10:27. Round round get around, I get around.
This classic Dave Barry column was originally published April 25, 1999.

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