Notes

The behind-the-scenes "making of" documentary essay series about preparing songs for performance.

Hawaii

-- (1963; Words & Music by Brian Wilson and Mike Love)

From the script for “A Little Travelin' Music”:

Song Intro:

Surfing has been a central part of Polynesian culture for centuries.  As the only US state in Oceania, Hawaii has become a major site for surfers from around the world, and surf rock music of the ‘60s soon followed.

Recap: The Sounds of Indiana barbershop chorus presented what we call ‘The Travel Show’ in 2018, following the same “standard documentary format” that had been so enthusiastically received for the previous year’s ‘The Indiana Show.’  As before, this concert format presents a mix of chorus and quartet songs set around a particular theme, interspersed with slides of short video clips each paired with a Ken Burns-style voice-over narration to introduce and sometimes close out each song.  The song order for The Travel Show was determined roughly by the geography of each song.  After opening Act II in California, we’ve now headed out into the Pacific Ocean to visit the Hawaiian Islands.

 

Google gives the definition of surfing as “the sport or pastime of riding a wave toward the shore while standing or lying on a surfboard.”  The modern sport of surfing, however, distinguished by using a board instead of one’s body (i.e. body-surfing) is a relatively recent innovation that can be traced directly to native Hawaiians.  Several of first Europeans to travel to the Hawaiian Islands remarked on the native surfers in their logs and journals in the late 1700s.  The Hawaiian people did not treat the activity as a sport or recreation as we know it today, but as an art form that was highly integrated into their wider culture and spirituality.

 

But following contact with the Western World, Hawaiian culture changed dramatically.  Christian missionaries, in particular, tried to quash many aspects of native beliefs, including viewing surfing as a frivolous pastime.  The growth of Waikiki, a neighborhood of Honolulu along the southern shore of O’ahu island, as a tourist destination in the early 20th century helped bring surfing back into popularity.

 

Surf music, on the other hand, originated in the 1960s as a part of the larger surf culture, growing up particularly in California.  Wikipedia tells us that two forms emerged: “The first is instrumental surf, distinguished by reverb-drenched electric guitars played to evoke the sound of crashing waves, largely pioneered by Dick Dale and the Del-Tones. The second is vocal surf, which took elements of the original surf sound and added vocal harmonies, a movement led by the Beach Boys.”

 

The Beach Boys’ song Hawaii was recorded and released in 1963 on the album Surfer Girl.  Its lyrics embody the youthful pastime as an escape from everyday life on the mainland.

Do you want to go
Straight to Hawaii
(Hawaii) Hawaii (Hawaii)
Straight to Hawaii (Hawaii, Hawaii)
Oh do (Honolulu, Waikiki) you want to come along with me
(Do you want to come along with me)

 

I heard about all the pretty girls
With their grass skirts down to their knees
All my life I wanted to see
The island called Hawaii

 

Go to Hawaii
(Hawaii) Hawaii (Hawaii)
Straight to Hawaii (Hawaii, Hawaii)
Oh do (Honolulu, Waikiki) you want to come along with me
(Do you want to come along with me)

 

Now I don't know what town you're from
But don't tell me that they got bigger waves
Cause everyone that goes
Comes back with nothing but raves

 

That's in Hawaii
(Hawaii) Hawaii (Hawaii)
That's in Hawaii (Hawaii, Hawaii)
Oh do (Honolulu, Waikiki) you want to come along with me
(Do you want to come along with me)

 

And pretty soon this winter
They'll hold the surfing championship of the year
Surfer guys and girls
Will be coming from far and near

 

Go to Hawaii
(Hawaii) Hawaii (Hawaii)
Go to Hawaii (Hawaii, Hawaii)
Oh do (Honolulu, Waikiki) you want to come along with me
(Do you want to come along with me)

 

And you now (Honolulu, Waikiki)
You want to live Hanah Lee
(Do you want to come along with me)
Ooo ooo ooo (Honolulu, Waikiki)
Ooo ooo ooo (Do you want to come along with me)
Ooo ooo ooo (Honolulu, Waikiki)
Ooo ooo ooo (Do you want to come along with me)
Ooo ooooo (Honolulu, Waikiki)

 

The ’60s held much debate about what exactly “surf music” was.  So-called purists favored the instrumental version described above.  Others divided the vocal version between surf rock and surf pop and claimed the Beach Boys straddled the line between both.  Both types are often used interchangeably with the term “California sound,” while hot rod rock evolved from all of them as the subject of songs progressed from surfing to cars and girls.  Brian Wilson commented in 1964, however, “It wasn’t a conscious thing to build our music around surfing.  We just want to be identified with the interests of young kids.”  And the next year he expressed, “I hate so-called ‘surfin’’ music.  It’s a name that people slap on any sound from California.  Our music is rightfully ‘the Beach Boy sound’—if one has to label it.”

 

And who knows better than the co-author of some of the most famous songs of the genre, whatever it may be called?

 

The Travel Show is nearing the end of its itinerary!  Next week, we’ll take off for further destinations beyond the shores of the United States.  I hope you’ll join me.

In harmony,

Andy

 

January 13, 2019