A Few Subtle Red Pill Moments From An Unlikely Source: The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys are one of those bands that nobody listens to even though they are idolized by every important musician or producer ever. Although they retained their popularity in Europe, Americans remember the band more for their bad radio hits than for Brian Wilson’s innovations in recording, composing, and arranging. His mental illness defined their entire career, and it was both their making and their undoing.

People adore the Beatles, but they have little knowledge of the band that pushed them to that position. Just as Shakespeare was not the most popular poet when he was alive, so too will Brian Wilson be remembered as the indisputable greatest of popular music in 100 years. This year there’s a biopic on him coming out called Love and Mercy that had outstanding reviews at last year’s independent film festivals, so hopefully the movie will shift public opinion some.

Today the Beach Boys’s saccharine radio fodder is mostly what populates their greatest hits CDs, so it’s difficult to collect a sample of what a true “best of” would be. Fortunately for you, I have all the albums from their artistic height (1966-1973) plus a few more, so I’ve done the synthesizing for you. But first let’s give a little background.

A Little History

Mike Love, Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis wilson, and David Marks, 1962. Al Jardine had briefly quit the band, and Bruce Johnston hadn't joined until 1965.

From left: Mike Love, Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, and David Marks, 1962. Al Jardine had briefly quit the band, and Bruce Johnston did not join until 1965.

People remember the Beatles vs. Stones rivalry, but that was all marketing hype. The real rivalry was between the Beatles and the Beach Boys. It was a classic rock arms race between the two countries, and Brian Wilson (pictured above) was determined to prove America was the better one.

The two bands were constantly building off of the what the other did. Although the Beatles greatly admired Brian Wilson, the sentiment was not entirely mutual. His mentall illness escalated so much that he thought they had stolen his master tapes in late 1966. When he first heard “Strawberry Fields Forever” on the car radio, he told his friend, “They got there first.”

The Beach Boys was the original boy band, but they soon grew tired of writing surf rock. The record label was very hesitant to let them break out of the genre because it had sold so well. If you look at the lyrics to “Don’t Worry Baby,” nominally about drag racing, it becomes apparent that the song was supposed to be about Brian’s mental illness and the record company forced them to make it into radio fodder.

Still, many (but not all) of these early songs had brilliant chord progressions and amazing harmonies, although the best songs from that era usually weren’t on the radio and sometimes weren’t released until decades later.

In early 1966, Brian Wilson put together the album Pet Sounds. Although it was too progressive and original to flourish commercially, critics and colleagues adored it, and it inspired the Beatles to make Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club BandPet Sounds is so layered and orderly—more like a painting than a pop album—that Andrew Loog Oldham, the then-manager of the Rolling Stones, said in a later interview, “I was raised in an agnostic family, and Pet Sounds actually gave me faith.”

I doubt most people will have such an existential experience with it, but it was the album that a) began psychedelia and b) presented an album as a collective whole instead of a cobbler of hits and filler songs. Yes, the Beatles had made some headway into that with Rubber Soul (1965), as did Dave Brubeck in 1959 with Time Out, but Pet Sounds was the big bang that changed the foundations of the music industry. All of the music you love from the next few years was trying to play catch-up to it.

However, acid and schizophrenia don’t mix well, and there was constant resistance to the new direction from singer and cousin Mike Love. In early 1967, Brian Wilson imploded shortly before he could finish his psychedelic Americana pseudo-classical opus, SMiLe. The album would have forever crushed the Beatles and won the rock n’ roll cold war for the Americans. But the album was shelved, and many of the songs were reworked in gloomy and strange ways for a different low-budget release, Smiley Smile. You can hear the defeatism in its arrangements in stark contrast to the prior optimism.

Smiley Smile was a fantastic album, but it wasn’t what was promised and left the listeners confused. With sparse commercial success in their psychedelic phase, the Beach Boys were still remembered as a dorky surf band, a genre of music Americans were no longer interested in. The band soon lost all popularity in America, although the drummer Dennis Wilson still kept his alpha image. The next several years saw some truly beautiful releases, but the American people had forgotten about the band and moved on. The band in turn gradually began to focus their touring on Europe.

Dennis Wilson, 1971.

The Beach Boys were (generally) not sanctimonious and preachy like the Beatles, but the band still offered up plenty of social commentary. Although it would be erroneous to say they were consistently red pill, they certainly had their moments when there were strong shadows of it.

1. “California Girls” (1965) – Being A Sex God

This song was an early attempt to thumb their nose at British rock. It actually isn’t about girls from California. It’s about how the band has travelled the world and banged lots of groupies. They’ve found that American girls were the most enjoyable in the world, and so they’re wishing all the girls from the east coast and midwest could move to California so they could continue banging them. My, how things have changed…

Brian Wilson said in a later interview,

It goes back to 1965 when I was sitting in my apartment, wondering how to write a song about girls, because I love girls. I mean, everybody loves girls.

Don’t you just love his phrasing?

In 1962, he began dating a 14-year-old groupie. Hot, right? She’s in the title picture, so you can cast your judgements. Two years later Brian married her. Such is the appeal of the coveted. This distant crooner, oozing with good looks, charisma, and talent. And out of all the fan girls, he chooses you.

2. “Here Today” (1966) – Oneitis Is Poison

The narrator warns his friend about this girl he’s seeing. The narrator used to go out with her, and he knows she’s toxic. Sure, she’s tons of fun at the beginning, but be warned that she’ll crush your heart.

You know, it seems like most songs ranting about a girl are from the perspective of after the breakup, not before. Instead Brian gives some preventative maintenance. Don’t be fooled by illusory notions of infatuation. Keep your options open and don’t get attached, or she’ll leave you a fragment of a person.

See also from the same album “I’m Waiting For The Day,” which gives a good insight into the beta mind.

3. “Surf’s Up” (written 1966 but released 1971) – The Fallibility Of Established Society

Perhaps this was originally a prediction about the fall of old aristocratic culture, but today insane liberals occupy the place that stodgy conservatives did then. “Surf’s Up” is a reminder that ideologies change and systems fall. The feminazis will not rule forever. The title of the song itself was a reference to how the band was finished with surf rock.

Just as the song’s music has abrupt shifts in tone, so too do social systems. The lyrics are written so that one is not entirely sure what is going on, much like a transient society.

Yet it is also a warning. No culture is impervious. Protect your society, or else it will crumble under a tsunami. In our case, that tidal wave is modern liberalism, which (among other things) seeks to distort the nature of the sexes and deny that people act on the values of their racial culture.

4. “Til’ I Die” (written 1969 but released 1971) – You Are Not Special Or Unique

This song is so depressing that the band didn’t want to release it. Brian came up with the inspiration for it while on the seashore, brooding on how insignificant and mortal everything is. He was lauded as one of the greatest composers of the 20th century, yet even he did not consider himself anything monumental. The chords try to imitate the shifts of the ocean.

This is one of the few songs Brian wrote without a lyrics consultant. He compares himself to a drop in the ocean, a rock in a landslide, and a leaf on a windy day. His realization of this is painful for him, yet he comes to terms with the inevitability of it all. It is a song of hopelessness, morbidity, and resignation.

It’s like he was trying to write a song for drinking alone. The song is perfect with a pack of heavy cigarettes. The CD should come with a razor.

5. “This Whole World” (1970) – Girls Crave Drama

A weird song where the different sections don’t quite fit with each other. But there is a verse,

When girls get mad at boys and go,
Many times they’re just putting on a show.
But when they leave, you wait alone.

Despite the trendy leftism of the time, the Beach Boys had been around enough women to be wary of trusting them. In a song otherwise optimistically celebrating love and human unity, Brian gives an unapologetic blanket stereotype that girls want attention and emotions even if it hurts others. Girls are crazy and selfish, Brian Wilson warns us. They will be the sweetest or the most brutal people you will ever know.

Women will be all into you, and then they’ll flip in an instant for no real reason, and often there is nothing you can do about it. All that time and money you spent on her? Gone, and she won’t even tell you why. You’ll blame yourself, you’ll think you were too upfront or too coy, but really, she’s just a narcissistic child in an adult’s body. Every woman has this within her, even if she doesn’t realize it. God only knows why women are so cold.

6. “Disney Girls (1957)” (1971) – The End Of The American Dream

This one actually was written by Bruce Johnston, and it’s one of my favorites. A bit of an acquired taste, though.

Bruce laments the fall of the American Dream. The white picket fence of the 1950s? The Ward and Judy Cleaver? All fantasies now. As fantastical as Disney itself. Liberalism has begun its course, and society is the worse off for it. Maybe it’s not unattainable, and the song seems optimistic. But it’s clear that this is no longer common reality. The nuclear family has become historical fiction.

But perhaps there’s another layer to this. He’s lived the international rock star life. And what is it he’s wanting? The simplicity of suburban living. He realizes all he’s ever wanted was a good church girl to have a family with and return to the juvenility that Disney represents. It’s an abrupt nostalgia after an abrupt social upheaval.

Oh reality, it’s not for me,
And it makes me laugh.
Oh, fantasy world and Disney girls,
I’m coming back. […]

She’s really swell,
Cause she likes
Church, bingo chances, and old time dances. […]

It’d be a peaceful life
With a forever wife
And a kid someday.

But it’s also clear that this is a wish upon a star. His lyrics are toying. Bingo chances and old time dances? A person only wants something that dorky if he lives in a culture of suffocation. He never explicitly says any of this, so there’s not a specific lyric I can point to. But you feel the theme running deep throughout the whole of the work.

As a final note, in 2012 Bruce Johnston called Obama a “socialist asshole” at an autograph signing. He continued, “And who’s the Republican asshole? Our guy isn’t any good.” No apologies. Capitalism is as American as apple pie (although neither are very prevalent anymore). And the Beach Boys are America’s band.

Read More: What Happened To Coming Of Age Movies For Boys?

71 thoughts on “A Few Subtle Red Pill Moments From An Unlikely Source: The Beach Boys”

  1. I love the Beach Boys and grew up on them. My mom was a Beatle-manic, but my old man was squarely in the Beach Boys camp. However, don’t forget they also wrote some super sappy shit like “Wouldn’t it Be Nice.”
    Oh, little known fact – the Beach Boys used to be called the Pendletons after the shirt manufacturer that surfers loved. Pendleton just released vintage style wool board shirts and they are awesome. I bought two.

    1. The Beach Boys did “Wouldn’t it be nice”. The Beatles did “O blah di, o blah dah”.

  2. They’ve never been my favorite band but no one would deny their musicianship. The vocal harmonies are second to none.

    Brian Wilson was also chummy with Charles Manson. He was fairly “Red Pill”.

    1. The entire LA scene of the 1960’s was infiltrated by the intelligence community. For more info, see David McGowan’s book on Laurel Canyon. Jim Morrison’s dad, in fact, started the Vietnam war.

  3. As a side note, I think the “Disney girls” was a reference to Annette Funicello, the long time face of Disney during the late 50s and 60s.
    Funicello was the lead player on the popular TV show “The Mickey Mouse Club” and portrayed as the “hot-but-good-girl-next-door” and had several lead roles in Disney family movies at this time. Walt Disney himself was especially “close” with her, although nothing untoward was ever alleged or implied. She was the first girl you thought of then if you said “Disney girl” , much as an late 90s/early 2000s kid would have thought of Hilary Duff when they heard the phrase “Disney girl”,
    Anyway, after she outgrew the Disney roles, Funicello went out and made a string of hit teeny bopper movies…SURF movies. “Beach Party” and its sequels/spinoffs/knockoffs were a huge 60s phenomenon that sprang up and then died out within the entire decade.
    So if Funicello is the “Disney” girl of the title as I suspect …then the allusion comes full circle back to surf, sand, and the beach.
    Well done, Bruce Johnston, well done.

  4. I liked Pet Sounds well enough and still have my original copy in a flight case, but it never hit me the way it did others, perhaps because, like Zappa, I was listening to Edgard Varèse at the time.
    Sgt. Pepper on the other hand . . . , but as you say, without Pet Sounds there would have been no Sgt. Pepper.
    On the other hand, without Rubber Soul there would have been no Pet Sounds. It was a feedback cycle between great rivals, pushing each other places neither one would have gone without the other.

  5. I’m pretty sure that Pet Sounds is Paul McCartney’s favorite album, and you can definitely here the influence on Beatles albums.
    “It was later…it was Pet Sounds that blew me out of the water. First of all, it was Brian’s writing. I love the album so much. I’ve just bought my kids each a copy of it for their education in life—I figure no one is educated musically ’til they’ve heard that album. I was into the writing and the songs.”
    -Paul McCartney

  6. Was listening to Zuma by Neil Young yesterday. Lots of great red pill moments there. Drive Back in particular.

  7. I used to have smiley smile on vinyl. I love the stuff Brian wrote with van dyke parks. And the eerie sound of that Baldwin organ.

    1. The Beatles are the most overrated band in history. A brilliantly marketed though mediocre pop bad…and mediocre is being kind.

        1. Both are inferior to the Kinks. What I’ve noticed is the important music is firmly rooted in a time and a place in history. The good stuff is never merely some competent remix of preceding ideas. The Kinks are rooted in English culture. “Arthur” and other Kinks albums tell about the experience of a people: the English people in the post-war era. The Beach Boys tell about the people of southern california in the 50s and 60s.
          The Stones basically ripped off some chicago blues and made it palatable to white people. The Beatles did much the same but the primary sources were a bit more southern gospel. Later, Harrison threw in some Indian “samples.” It’s all a bit boring to me. Hendrix is boring for the same reason. It’s just redone mississippi blues from the previous 20 years.
          As far as I’m concerned, neither the stones nor the beatles have anything that holds a candle to “Waterloo Sunset” or “God Only Knows.

        2. Hendrix’s guitar playing is transcendent. Agree about everything else, although the stones had transcendent moments too. Gimme shelter, street fighting man.

      1. People forget the Beatles were a cover band in their day. They were found, dressed up and vigorously marketed just like the Stones and the Who.

      2. Glad to see lolknee has just celebrated his 17th birthday and knows everything already. Sit down and do some real listening to the music before you spout diatribe like that, son.

        1. Wow. You would make an excellent feminist. This was the bad music fan equivalent to calling me a basement dweller living with my mother. Way to go.
          A “real listening” is actually a good suggestion. I did this last year. I listened to the whole discography. There is about 9 good songs…none great. Most of them are just boring and pretentious.
          Sorry if you think this is real music. I am sure it has nothing to do with how it was marketed to you and your idiot parents.
          Also, as a side note, two sentences is not a “diatribe.” I would take the time to really point out how much of a moron you are, but you aren’t worth it. Like arguing with girls…..not worth the effort.
          Go listen to octopus’s garden and let the boys talk sweetheart.

        1. Most are probably too stupid to realize what is being sung. They’re just there to stare at Mick Jagger. The other 30% wish they were under his thumb.

    1. The kids these days with their hip and hop and fancy pro tools… why I remember when you’d just pop a quaalude, do a line, and spend the next 36 hours in a cramped studio playing until your fingers bled…

  8. The beach boys are by far my favorite band. If I had to listen to one band for the rest of my life it would be them. If anyone hasn’t heard the more recently completed album Smile by Brian Wilson, I suggest you listen. It’s definitely not for everyone but I think Surf’s Up is up there for best song of all time.

    1. The second movement is absolutely gorgeous.
      Also look into his new works, particularly Lucky Old Sun.

  9. From reading the comments on this article it’s good to find there are members from my generation. Hope to read advice from old married guys/ boomers who’ve red pilled and wonder what the fuck to do now. It’s a little late after all. Still a lot of life to live though.

    1. At 83 years old, paralyzed on his left side from a stroke, half blind from cataracts, my grandfather woke up one morning in upstate NY and thought to himself, “Not . . . one . . . day . . . more,” got in his car and headed off for a daughter’s house in Alabama.
      He would have made it in one go if not for the cataracts making him more than half blind after dark, so he had to stop in Tennessee.
      Turns out he had advanced cancer as well, but he lived his last few months free and happy for the first time since he was in his 20s.
      It’s never too late, the question you have to ask yourself, and give yourself an honest answer: what do you want?

    2. Don’t take this personally, but I think most posters here would tell boomers to go take a long walk off a short pier. You guys had your chance, could of had it all, but screwed it all up and left the mess for us youngsters.

      1. ” . . .screwed it all up and left it for us youngsters.”
        That would be The Old Men of Versailles. A century later and they’re still fucking up everything.

  10. Beach boys are one of my dads favourate bands I grew up listening to them. I’ve always noticed the red pill type themes of their lyrics even before I knew what red pill was.

  11. I listened to the Beach Boys a lot growing up, a long with the Beatles, the Who, etc.
    There’s a painting I saw of Wilson, sitting at a piano, his feet in a sand underneath, while outside, in the sun, other people were living the lives that Wilson wrote about.*
    And really, that is what his songs are about, an imagined, “Walter Mitty” life that he could be living it he wasn’t trapped in his introversion, his mental illness, etc.** He may have wanted is life to be more “I Get Around” but it was more “In My Room”.
    And sure, some of their stuff is pretty Blue Pill (“Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, “Girl Don’t Tell Me”, “Help Me Rhonda”, “When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)”), but from a musician’s perspective, that shit will get you laid, too.
    First, basically every girl, once she finds out you are a musician, wants you to write a song for her–if you’re not fucking her already, that should be the admission ticket. Oh, and have one go-to song that you don’t play out. I’ve been recycling the same one for a couple of decades now. A girl may be coming over to your flat to break up with you (I guess now they just flake, instead) but she discovers you’ve written a song “just for her” and she’ll wind up fucking you instead. Um, not that that’s happened to me, or nuthin’, just saying. 😉
    *As an aside, someone sent me a link to an Alexander Tikhomirov video that pretty much nailed it: beach lifestyle vid with girls in bikinis, bonfires on the beach, free diving of of boats, etc. Had that Emily Radajsalphabet girl in it. That was what Wilson was trying to capture – free, sexy, guiltless fun, enjoying life in the moment with girls who wanted to be girls and not SJW fat-ass, shrieking bitches. It was a bit depressing, actually, because I remember doing similar stuff in my youth, which guys today can’t b/c of creeping, PC paternalism. It makes me weep for the Republic. Anyway, I am going to go drown myself in a pool of nostalgia now, while you guys finish reading my post.
    **The Wilson’s father, Murray, who also served as their manager, initially, was apparently something a authoritarian nutbag.

    1. It all went wrong when Grunge came along – full on Beta music.
      Just reading your post makes me feel as old as I am. Nostalgia indeed.

      1. Nirvana is one of the most overrated bands of all time.
        Alice in Chains, chris cornell(not a big soundgarden fan, like his solo stuff) and mark lanegan are a few good things to come out of that scene. even mother love bone had a few great tunes.

    2. The thing I love about Brian’s blue pill songs though is that he shows all facets of romance. Most people are not strictly blue pill or strictly red pill. They flow back and forth as context changes. He’s not giving a message; he’s painting a picture.

  12. ROK opened my eyes to seeing masculinity in places I never did before. High pitched voices like Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys or Frankie Vallie I always just dismissed as silly old 1950s stuff from another era, like wearing nerdy socks to your knees or huge horn rimmed glasses. But if you stop and actually listen to the lyrics, it’s quite red pill. The typical male of that era was so much more masculine, and of course the women more feminine as well.
    I think the selling of these messages in a catchy, pop, fun way that appeals to the masses is akin to how Shakespeare would craft his message to both the upper and lower classes at the same time. Someone doesn’t have to sing like Barry White to be masculine, and in fact a lot of the songs in falsetto voice is more red pill than anything Barry ever sang.
    I now realize that poets, artists, singers, dancers, painters, architects, authors and other creative men are all masculine. And of course men dominate in all of these fields. Or at least they used to–the masculine male is fading away, or perhaps just fleeing the west for greener pastures. The west is emasculating.

        1. Upping the ante with 32-20 blues (original Robert Johnson version) as well as Look On Yonder Wall by Elmore James (one of my favorite lyrics ever: your husband went to the war / I know it was rough / don’t know how many men he killed / but I know he done killed enough so look on yonder wall and hand me down my walking cane / I got me another woman and yonder come your man

        2. And I’ll double down these two from the Rolling Stones (also from that era):
          Under My Thumb
          Get Off My Cloud.
          Honorable Mention : Not Fade Away

      1. that song is pretty badass. I stopped listening to contemporary anything 5 or 6 yrs ago. I have been digging that doo wop sound of my parents’ wonder years of late…

        1. The old stuff is pretty amazing but I’ve always been more about the rock n roll. Are you into Buddy Holly? He was always my favorite from that late 50’s transition period. That kid could write great and play guitar like madman.
          I haven’t given up on the modern stuff, you just have to go past the radio – Gaslight Anthem, Drive-By Truckers, the Hold Steady and Lucero are all really good, solid rock n roll groups.

        2. Patterson Hood is fairly liberal, but Sink Hole, Heathens and Something’s Gotta Give off of Decoration Day are three of my red pill anthems.

        3. Also, Isbell’s Different Days is a pretty straightforward red pill statement of a former captain save a ho who has seen the light.

        4. Those couple albums they did with Isbell are just mind blowing.
          Also, find me an artist worth his salt who isn’t fairly liberal.

    1. Compare this stuff to the lyrics full of faggotry of today’s artists such as Maklemore, and there is clearly a big difference.

  13. Fun, fun, fun is the anthem to the Americunt.
    Well she got her daddy’s car
    And she cruised through the hamburger stand now
    Seems she forgot all about the library
    Like she told her old man now
    And with the radio blasting
    Goes cruising just as fast as she can now
    And she’ll have fun, fun, fun
    Till her daddy takes the t-bird away

    Well you knew all along
    That your dad was gettin’ wise to you now
    (You shouldn’t have lied now, you shouldn’t have lied)
    And since he took your set of keys
    You’ve been thinking that your fun is all through now
    (You shouldn’t have lied now, you shouldn’t have lied)
    But you can come along with me
    ‘Cause we gotta a lot of things to do now
    (You shouldn’t have lied now, you shouldn’t have lied)
    And we’ll have fun, fun, fun now that daddy took the t-bird away

  14. Beach Boys forever. Great surf and car music. Too bad they got into all the depressive stuff.
    What happened to Good Vibrations? Not a mention here, when it was supposed to be genre changing.

  15. “…old time dances? A person only wants something that dorky if he lives in a culture of suffocation.”
    O really?

  16. In 1962, he began dating a 14-year-old groupie. Hot, right? She’s in the title picture, so you can cast your judgements.

    Not as uncommon as you’d think. Jimmy Page was banging a 14-year old groupie when he was in Led Zeppelin.

  17. I never paid much attention to the Beach Boys. I’ll dedicate some time to paying close attention to some songs you recommended this weekend.

  18. This post is so familiar. I was talking to a friend about music a dozen years ago, and I said to him, “The only music from our era that will be played a hundred years from now is The Beatles and The Beach Boys.” He balked at The Beach Boys and served up other bands. “No.” I answered, “Shakespeare is remembered today because of the truth in the work. Beauty and Truth are the only qualities that survive into future generations, and The Beatles and Beach Boys have both.”

  19. How can it be, neither the author nor commentators has mentioned Dylan at all? I guess you had to be there…

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