By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
The Beach Boys: “God Only Knows”
Publicly declaring one’s favorite love song is an intensely revealing endeavor. In an effort not to expose too much, there is an initial tendency to fall back on the accepted classics of the genre, time-honored odes to yearning and vulnerability, songs such as Whitesnake’s “Slide It In.” But instead I’m going to place my heart squarely on my sleeve and, ever so briefly, bare my romantic soul.
I am aware that there are some women out there who might read that and laugh. These are the same women who, throughout the years, have compared my heart to a lump of coal or various desert plants. But to those judgmental souls, I say: If you had looked past my perpetually frozen expression and inability to bestow the slightest compliment and actually listened to the songs that moved me, you would have discovered — as my wife has — a deeply closeted sentimentalist.
And so after several hours of teary-eyed and occasionally nude fetal-positioned research, my top honors go to what I believe is the greatest love song of the last 30 years: “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys. It is an obvious choice, but there is good reason for the song’s acclaim. In the end it’s not the revolutionary and influential arrangement — a stunning psychedelic Wall of Sound with melodic harpsichord and mournful French horn — that elevate it, but the vocals, and one chorus in particular.
From the opening refrain, Carl Wilson’s singing sounds the quintessential Southern California kid — like some surfer from Tom Wolf’s Pump House Gang, laying it all on the line for his girl. The music is masterful, but the song could be played on a single piano and retain most of its power. And when the final chorus eventually hits, it is something truly stunning, Carl’s plaintive voice now joined by his brother Brian’s and band mate Bruce Johnston’s, all three perfectly overlapping one another with the same yearning declaration. It is operatic pop music at its very best, building effortlessly to a bittersweet crescendo — at which point, anyone with a heart, even a miniscule scrap like mine, might well be moved to tears. (John Albert)
Queen: “I’m in Love With My Car”
This is love of a vehicular kind. Not the sappy love of whizzing down an open highway on a sunny day, or singing car-aoke with friends, or driving while holding hands with your main squeeze. This is love for a “machine of a dream” that, unlike your old man or old woman, doesn’t talk back.
Queen drummer Roger Taylor wrote “I’m in Love With My Car” as a B-side to “Bohemian Rhapsody” (off 1975’s A Night at the Opera ), dedicating it to John Harris, the “boy racer to the end” who was the band’s roadie and drove a Triumph TR4 sports car. (Taylor owned an Alfa Romeo.) “Told my girl I’ll have to forget her/Rather buy me a new carburetor.” Taylor relishes his own and the band’s pomposity while his Alfa’s engine is heard roaring at the end.
Yeah, there’s no sentimentality here: We’re thinking Taylor and Harris couldn’t have had very many sunny days driving around in dreary old England. But in an auto-obsessed town like L.A., where your wheels are as much about freedom, sex and rock & roll (and the ever-present smell of cigarettes and French fries) as they are about getting around, this is a tune for every Angeleno’s driving soundtrack. (Siran Babayan)
Aretha Franklin: “Prove It”
People think Aretha’s genius, the spine of her musical legacy, is the vocal wail that’s released when the head is thrown back, the eyes squeezed shut, and the lungs turned up to 10. But listen to this track from 1967, when the Queen of Soul was just coming into her power, and be reminded of what her true, true talent was. “Prove that it won’t bother me to become your used-to-be/Prove that I can just ignore all the love we shared before . . . ” The opening lines to “Prove It” are perched upon the barely drawn breath, the one it hurts you to take, and that leaves you exhausted. Post-tears distress. The vocals are strong and unwavering but paradoxically delicate. The beauty and the power of the performance is in the shading, the raw letting of pain. It’s in the lived knowledge of how a broken heart depletes all of you and leaves you wasted. Yes, Miss Franklin does deliver cathartic, pure belting later in the song, and the glorious interplay of lead and backing vocals is the stuff that created soul-boy fanatics around the globe. But what first pulls you into this song is the nakedness and fragility with which she begins. And when the emotional fallout hits, with no-holds-barred blues shouting at the song’s climax, you know this isn’t volume masquerading as passion. It isn’t undisciplined shouting to hide weak lyrics. It’s the distilled sound of loss and grief and a bewildered, tossed-aside lover’s pleas and recriminations. Dear Mary J., please don’t ever cover this . . . please, please . . . for real, please. (Ernest Hardy)