Thursday, June 27, 2013

#2 Baggies and Furs (Ten at Fifty)

You'd see 'em wearin' their baggies
Huarache sandals too

"Surfin' U.S.A." - The Beach Boys

The Beatles had probably already covered "Roll Over Beethoven" on the BBC before Brian Wilson conceived the idea of having a "listing song" like "Land of a Thousand Dances" or the later "Dancing in the Streets", but focused on surf culture. But he focused on another similar Berry song, "Sweet Little Sixteen", to be the engine of those lyrics. The song diverged somewhat from the jangly style of Dick Dale or The Ventures, which were associated more with the early surf sound, but had no little relationship with Jan and Dean's "Surf City" from the same year, focusing on tightness in both the harmonies and the driving rhythm.

The Beach Boys have recently proved they still have the chops:

The surf sound this song exemplifies didn't prove to have a lot of staying power, but definitely established the cultural imperative that keeps many non-surfers wearing "baggies" and flip-flops in the Western States to this day. And the likes of "Surfin' U.S.A." and "Surf City" are almost certain to be played on some stations for another fifty.

Dressed in all pink, 'cept my gator shoes, those are green
Draped in a leopard mink, girls standin' next to me
Probably shoulda washed this, smells like R. Kelly's sheets

"Thrift Shop" - Macklemore

This is yet another collaboration between a rapper and, sort of, a pop singer, but it's reversed relative to "Suit and Tie" or "Scream and Shout" - the nominal artist is the rapper, and the guest, Wanz aka Michael Wansley, is the "singer". Wansley is an unusual case as well, since this collaboration catapulted him into stardom, after years spent as a Software Quality Assurance Engineer (something I happen to know about) while moonlighting as an R&B singer.

"Thrift Shop" appears to have gathered more than its share of scorn, including this observation from one blogger:

Undoubtedly, “Thrift Shop,” which also features the singer Wanz, is a hip-hop song, though one that bears almost no connection to hip-hop as a living genre.

- and he says that like it's a bad thing... the comment "for people who don't like rap" keeps surfacing, among those who blog about hip-hop, in connection with this song. It is built on a very repetitive, but pleasantly angular, sax riff, and decries the materialism of rap culture, making the point that recycled clothing can be as much a statement as new, and perhaps with more creative potential. It spawned a substantial fad of thrift store buying, not a new thing though:

And in fact, Barbra Streisand's cover of the flapper era song generated its own Goodwill Fandom. But I suspect that this song's divergence from whatever might be construed the hip-hop center will not represent any direction that will last even as long as surf music.

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