by Ray Keating
September 21, 2020
Brian Wilson, the primary creative force behind the Beach Boys, once said, “Summer means happy times and good sunshine. It means going to the beach, going to Disneyland, having fun.”
While summer 2020 officially ends on Tuesday, September 22, for fans of the Beach Boys and Disney, does summer ever really come to an end? I like to think not.
It also turns out that Wilson and the Beach Boys have a long summertime relationship with Disney.
Back in 1957, Bruce Johnston, later a Beach Boy, penned a song called “Disney Girls.” It wasn’t released until the Beach Boys’ 1971 album Surf’s Up. “Disney Girls” is a nostalgia-laden, fantasy song. Johnston took the lead on the song, and at one point sings:
Oh reality, it's not for me
And it makes me laugh
Oh, fantasy world and Disney girls
I'm coming back
Patti Page and summer days
On old Cape Cod
Happy times making wine
In my garage
Country shade and lemonade
There also have been a couple of Disney movies with Beach Boys tie-ins. First, the Beach Boys actually appeared in the 1965 Disney movie The Monkey’s Uncle, in which they performed the title song – with Annette Funicello. The song was written by the Sherman Brothers. We’ll try to forgive the Beach Boys, Annette and the Sherman Brothers for this one.
It would be another 23 years, but the Beach Boys would experience great success with the song “Kokomo,” which was the theme song for the movie Cocktail. The song has the Beach Boys hitting all the right notes and telling us…
Off the Florida Keys, there's a place called Kokomo
That's where you want to go to get away from it all
Bodies in the sand, tropical drink melting in your hand
We'll be falling in love to the rhythm of a steel drum band
Down in Kokomo
Sounds good. Count me in.
Cocktail, starring Tom Cruise, never lived up to the song. But it was produced by Disney’s Touchstone and released by the company’s Buena Vista Pictures.
“Kokomo” made history. It hit #1 on the charts, with the last time the Beach Boys claiming a #1 hit being in 1966 with “Good Vibrations.” That 22-year gap turned out to be the longest stretch between chart toppers for an American band.
In 2002, according to Disney.fandom.com, the Beach Boys also performed at the “Rockin’ the Bay” concert series at California Adventure. This appearance reflected the divisions within the band, with Mike Love and Bruce Johnston performing, but not Al Jardine or Brian Wilson. (By this time, Dennis and Carl Wilson had passed away in 1983 and 1998, respectively.)
Time passed, but in 2011, Brian Wilson reunited with Disney to release the album In the Key of Disney. For the fans of both Disney and the Beach Boys (well, at least, Brian Wilson), this makes for a fun (though thin) album. It features 11 Disney favorites done in very Brian Wilson-style. Some tunes work – such as “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” “The Bare Necessities,” “Kiss the Girl,” and “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” – and others fall short.
In the end, In the Key of Disney makes for a pleasant addition to the rolling summer that is both Disney and the Beach Boys. But the two crossovers that warrant our appreciation and provide the best Disney-Beach Boys combos capturing an ongoing summer are “Disney Girls” and “Kokomo.” These are, to steal the title from a Beach Boys album, the sounds of summer.
Also, get the paperback or Kindle edition of Ray Keating’s new book Behind Enemy Lines: Conservative Communiques from Left-Wing New York.