Friday, June 1, 2007

The Hondells/ The Beach Boys/ Yo La Tengo - Little Honda

Today's a cover entry, however rather than being the original and a cover, it'll be the original and two covers. However in this case it's debatable to which is actually the original. You see, the song was written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love in 1964, however it was given to the fake studio incarnate band The Hondells to record. According to Beach Boys expert David Elliott, the Hondells even contained a few of the Boys' session men. When the Hondells' version of "Little Honda" cracked the top 10, the Beach Boys took them on tour as the opening band.

Now the Beach Boys went and recorded a version of the song for their All Summer Long album the same year. As you can hear, their version isn't particuarly different from the Hondells,' so it's no surprise the song wasn't a smash hit.

The Hondells - Little Honda

The Beach Boys - Little Honda

"I'm gonna wake you up early cause I'm gonna take a ride with you
We're going down to the auto shop, I'll tell you what we're gonna do
Get on the ride, no sweat, sure we'll take you anywhere you want me to

First gear, it's all right
Second gear, hang on tight
Third gear, ain't I right
Faster, it's all right

It's not a big motorcycle, just a groovy little motorbike
It's more fun than a barrel of monkeys, that two-wheel ride
We'll go on into the hills or anywhere you wanna decide

We'll ride some hills like a champ because my Honda's built really light
When I go into the turn, lean with me, hang on tight
I think I'll put on the lights, so I can ride mine under the night"

Jump ahead 33 years. Thirteen years in their music career Yo La Tengo release what is arguably their best album, I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One in 1997. Their cover of "Little Honda" from the album is probably one of the coolest covers I've ever heard. It's very Jesus and Mary Chain-esque, a band that was a significant influence on Yo La Tengo. On the counterpart, second to the Velvet Underground, the Beach Boys were JAMC's biggest influence. If you pay attention to the structure of their songs, specifically Psychocandy era, their song structures, chord progressions and melodies are all very reminisent of the Beach Boys. People look at the Jesus and Mary Chain and see what they accomplished with feedback and guitar noise, but the pop songwriting they had underneath all that I feel should get more praise. But Yo La Tengo...yeah. They're cool too.

Yo La Tengo - Little Honda

And the videos! First up is the Hondells promo. It's pretty dated and cornball, with simulated honda bike riding that looks more along the lines of dry humping than off road action.

Next up is the Beach Boys video. This one has a little introduction scene featuring a battle for the dial between two brothers with a significant age gap. You see, the younger lad thinks the Beach Boys are "boss!" yet his brother "doesn't like that surfin' shit." In this case I'm not siding with either. Now with the performance section of the video, everyone's least favorite Beach Boy, Mike Love chooses to rather hold his hands out midair rather than faking playing an instrument. You can assume he wants us to believe he's pretenting to drive a honda while singing a song about his little honda. Mike was never one for subtlety. The way he's doing it though looks like he's holding onto an invisible hula hoop. You know he think's he's the hottest shit ever. Not surprising from a guy who currently sports the fashions popular at Florida retirement homes during 1986.

Now I can't find a good video of Yo La Tengo's version so instead here's a video called "Petite Honda." Nothing I can say will prepare you for this... Why do the French fail so badly at music?!

Oh and the recently released Beach Boys compilation, The Warmth of the Sun features "Little Honda." Pick it's got all the great but lesser known singles that couldn't fit on the Sounds of Summer disc. There's some good rather obscure stuff too.

The Beach Boys - The Warmth of the Sun
Yo La Tengo - I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One

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