When I Grow Up: The Beach Boys - "Dance, Dance, Dance"

To close out Side A, the Beach Boys give us a seemingly straightforward dance song about hedonistic escapism, and, of course, dancing!

The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys Today!

Label: Capitol
US Release Date: 1965
UK Release Date: 1966

To close the a-side of The Beach Boys Today!, the group includes another straight-forward dance song. And just to be sure you got the message, they titled it three times: “Dance, Dance, Dance”. In many ways, it feels like the band trying to create another hit in the same vein as “I Get Around”, and while it never reached number one, it was a sizable top 10 hit for the group at the end of 1964. But like so many of their fun, up-tempo songs, “Dance, Dance, Dance” is surprisingly sophisticated.

The guitar-driven song—with a killer riff contributed by Carl Wilson, earning him his first songwriting credit on a Beach Boys single—was first recorded in Nashville while the band was on tour in 1964. Unhappy with the original arrangement, they re-recorded the track in L.A. a few weeks later with additional studio musicians, some new lyrics, and a surprising key change. Even more so than the updated version of “R(h)onda”, the second attempt of “Dance, Dance, Dance” was a necessary improvement.

The new arrangement starts off with the main riff performed on the bass before getting doubled by Carl’s 12-string guitar and an acoustic guitar played by session musician, future touring Beach Boy (and famously rhinestoned cowboy) Glen Campbell. Following a very short verse sung by Mike Love, the full band comes in for the chorus, which is led by Brian Wilson’s soaring falsetto and rhythmic harmonic chanting from the rest of the group. Throughout the track, Brian has session drummer Hal Blaine add Phil Spector-esque percussion with sleigh bells, tambourine, castanets, and triangle. Subtle touches of saxophones and accordion pad the buildup in the chorus. They’re almost too low in the mix to even hear, but they add a thickness to the already loud three-guitar arrangement. Much like “When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)”, this song really shows off the Beach Boys as instrumentalists. Despite being joined by some studio players, it's Carl’s 12-string playing, especially his solo, and Dennis Wilson's ecstatic drumming that are the real driving forces behind the song.

The most exciting change from the original version, which was later released as a bonus track for the The Beach Boys Today!/Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) twofer CD, is the key change in the final verse. It was not uncommon for a Beach Boys song -- or any pop song -- to raise the key for the last chorus. It adds excitement and interest, keeping the track from getting too repetitive. But on “Dance, Dance, Dance”, Brian chooses to spontaneously move up a half-step right in the middle of the verse. After the first phrase of the third verse, the band modulates up, finishes the next phrase, and enters the chorus in the new key. It happens so suddenly that you barely have time to notice how unusual it is before you’re already back in the chorus singing along.

The lyrics here are certainly simple; each verse is only two lines long and the chorus is mostly just the word “dance”. But conceptually, there’s more going on underneath the surface. It’s a song about trying to escape the pains of reality through music and dancing. School’s too hard? Turn up the radio. Feeling down? Grab a “chick” and turn up the radio. Faced with existential dread? That’s right: turn up the radio. The chorus makes it clear how imperative this hedonistic escapism really is. They don’t sing “I wanna dance”, they sing “I gotta dance”. And for adolescents, this isn’t necessarily hyperbole. With overwhelming emotional stress, the chance to get out to the “weekend dance” can really feel life or death. It makes sense then that the word “dance” is repeated 72 times throughout the song. It’s as if by singing it over and over again they can make everything else disappear. It helps too, of course, that music is so perfect for actually dancing while they sing about dancing.

Side A of The Beach Boys Today! was an important step for the band. With songs like “Don’t Hurt My Little Sister” and “Dance, Dance, Dance”, the band members showed that they could add depth to their seemingly straightforward and fun pop songs, while the bizarre and unusual “When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)” and “Help Me, Ronda” proved that their experimentation could still be accessible. But it’s on Side B that we’ll really see Brian Wilson stretch his wings as a songwriter and an arranger.

Previous Installments:


*"Do You Wanna Dance?"

*"Good to My Baby"

*"Don't Hurt My Little Sister"

*"When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)"

*"Help Me, Ronda"

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.