how to sharpen your listening skills with the Beach boys

How to sharpen your listening skills with the Beach Boys

Level A2; Genre: Pop / Rock

(You’ll find a short vocabulary list at the bottom of this article containing the underlined words. If there are any other words you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to ask).

Hi and welcome to my latest blog post. Today you will learn how to sharpen your listening skills with the Beach Boys, one of the USA’s most successful bands of the last 50 years. Before this exercise, we are going to look at these questions:

Who were the members of the band?

The Beach Boys were a family band, managed by the dad, Murry Wilson. Its members were three brothers: Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson, their cousin Mike Love and Brian’s schoolmate Al Jardine. Others would later join the band, but they were not relatives of the Wilson family.

When did they play their music?

The Beach Boys started off as a garage band in California. In 1962, they changed their name The Pendletones to the Beach Boys. For the next 50 years, there would be different formations of the band. Carl and Dennis died in 1998 and 1983 respectively, leaving Brian Wilson, Mike Love and Al Jardine as the only founding members alive.

What sort of music did they play?

Creative band

The Beach Boys were a very creative band. They played a mixture of pop music and rock music. Brian Wilson, the songwriter of the band, created songs produced with beautiful melodies and harmonies. The song ‘Good Vibrations’ compliments all parts of the band including Brian’s high-pitched voice, which can be heard in the chorus. Furthermore, there is a violin player, playing a very quick backing sound in the chorus. This sound took numerous takes to perfect, according to the biopic of Brian Wilson ‘Love & Mercy’.

Typically West Coast

The music of the Beach Boys is typical of West Coast American music in the 1960s: highly complex, yet in another sense very simple. The melodies are extremely catchy and can stick in your mind very easily. Take, ‘Do It Again’ for example. Its rocky backing track is something very easy to hum to and get stuck on. 

Genius

Due to Brian Wilson’s expertise in song writing and production, there are many layers to a Beach Boys song, not just a simple melody and singing. All the songs were created so as to create a crescendo of sound. He took this approach from a number of his contemporaries, for example Phil Spector, who managed the Beatles in the USA. Spector was well-known for the ‘Wall of Sound’.

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    spot the rhyming words

    Now I would like you to listen to the song ‘Sloop John B’. To improve your listening skills in six simple steps, read this blog post. Now I would like you to get a pen and a piece of paper ready. Try to write down the words that rhyme at the end of lines in this song. 

    Did you get any words? If so, well done. If not, then here are the lyrics so you can read them while listening

    As you might have heard, there were words that rhymed in pairs, here they are:

    • ‘B’ (from the name) and ‘me’
    • ‘night’ and ‘fight’
    • ‘drunk’ and ‘trunk
    • ‘stone’ and ‘alone’
    • fits’ and ‘grits

    Now try to think of words that would rhyme with the pairs above and add them at end of each line. 

    What is the Sloop John B?

    The Sloop John B was a West Indian boat that sunk off Nassau, in the Bahamas. The wreck was found in 1926. Many versions of the song were written. This version, by the Beach Boys was not the original.

    Shipwrecked boat

    What else can I learn from this song?

    For more advanced learners, this song gives you a chance to get into the mind of Beach Boys. In particular you can look at things like what the other meaning of ‘trip’ is – it is when you are high on drugs. You can also expand your vocabulary by looking at definitions of different words.

    Tell me how you sharpened your English skills with this blog post.

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      Vocabulary list for Beach Boys

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