Category: The Beach Boys

California Coverfolk, Vol. 5:
The Beach Boys, The Grateful Dead, & more native sons and daughters

August 15th, 2010 — 01:01 am

There’s so many bands from California, it would be an exercise in futility to try to pay tribute to all of them in a single post. But with two major native singer-songwriters and the entire Punk genre out of the way, we’re left much closer to the mainstream, providing an opportunity to narrow our focus down. Here’s a few major sixties and seventies pop and rock acts that are or were forever associated with the state which gave them their birth.

Though Jerry Garcia’s bluegrass and old timey folk performances have found their way to these pages far more often than those of the band with which most people associate him, there’s no denying that the Grateful Dead epitomize the free love and drug-fueled trance rhythms of Haight Ashbury at its height. Having bussed through the neighborhood – now a sadly gentrified version of hippiedom – just days ago, it’s quite a relief to turn to some true-blue Deadsongs, all grassed up and exquisite as ever in the hands of these well-worn tributaries.

No California tribute series would be complete without the Beach Boys. Though their later work got weird and wild, to most of the world, their name still epitomizes a clean-cut era gone by: wooden-sided wagons, beach blanket harmonies, and what Wikipedia calls “a Southern California youth culture of cars, surfing, and romance” – kind of the antithesis of the sixties which would follow, once the hippies moved in and Skate Punk took over. [To hear what that sort of mash-up might sound like, might I recommend both the Lash version of Wouldn't It Be Nice and Melt Banana's violent take on Surfin' USA over at Cover Freak's recent Beach Boys cover post?]

Glenn Frey was born and raised in Detroit. Don Henley was from Texas. Jackson Browne was born in Heidelberg, Germany, and spent time in the Greenwich Village folk scene on his way to the top. But along with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, New Riders of the Purple Sage, the Doobie Brothers, Linda Rondstadt, and other notable bands and musicians, the Eagles were central to the spread of the California country rock sound, particularly popular in the California music scene of the late 1960s, and their most famous hit Take It Easy – a co-write by Browne and Frey – would go on to define both the genre and the laissez-faire attitude it promoted.

Oddly, covers of Take It Easy are few and far between, though I can picture the song easily in my inner ear, stripped of its country twang, perhaps with a mandolin’s delicacy. And we posted the Gypsy King’s take on Hotel California last week as our journey began. But here’s a few more Eagles covers to keep you soaring.

Finally, The Mamas and the Papas – best known for their smash hit California Dreaming – aren’t that well covered, as it turns out; seems their self-proclaimed “leave folk behind” approach to songwriting doesn’t appeal to the acoustic set. And their cover of John Hartford’s California Earthquake is bombastic and far too funky for a folkblog. But I did find this fingerpickin’ solo instrumental delightful, the perfect lighthearted endcap to a long journey through the Golden State.

Cover Lay Down publishes new features and coverfolk sets each Wednesday, Sunday, and the occasional otherday. Looking for the rest of our California Coverfolk series? Previously on Cover Lay Down:

Coming up: We’ve moved on to Oregon, and so does the last installment of this summer’s Vacation Coverfolk!

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