Friday, March 29, 2013

Paul Williams (1948–2013)

The music critic Paul Williams has died. He founded Crawdaddy!, the first magazine of rock music criticism, and wrote frequently about the music of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. A sample, about “Fun, Fun, Fun”:

Notice that the rebellious, fun-loving, fast-driving hero of the song is female. Notice that in every verse, every line except the last ends in “now,” and it works! (One of the jobs of poetry is to capture not the actual words but the subjective impact of everyday speech.) Notice the understated, very specific, rhythmic sound of the words “fun, fun, fun” in the chorus, and the contrasting open-endedness of “away.” Notice the easy, natural, wildly complex interplay between the voices and combinations of voices. Notice the neat double meaning in the second verse, “A lot of guys try to catch her,” referring both to her elusive sexuality (“you look like an ace now”) and her automotive ability (“you drive like an ace now”). Notice how Dad’s futile attempt at discipline only serves to throw her (potentially) into “my” realm and bigger and better trouble. And I know you can't fail to notice one of the sweetest fade-outs ever, the brilliant ordinariness of the song totally transcended in two brief moments of soaring falsetto. Fun, indeed.

Paul Williams, from Brian Wilson & The Beach Boys: How Deep Is the Ocean?: Essays and Conversations (1997).
Related reading
Paul Williams website
Crawdaddy! archive (Wolfgang’s Vault)
Billboard obituary
Los Angeles Times obituary

comments: 0