Who would have believed that a new group could hit the charts so fast? By now there must be a groove worn in the single released last week by James Watt and the Beach Boys.
Nevertheless, fame is fleeting in the world of musical politics, and there's a real risk that this group may become a flash in the old tin pan. So before they fall from the top 40 to the golden oldies, somebody ought to notice that there was more to this tune than just a catchy melody.
In fact, if you run the record again, slowly, or even backward, it's possible to hear the subliminal message: it is a lot riskier to attack musicians than to attack the environment.
The Friends of the Beach Boys are in much higher places than the Friends of the Beaches. There were fewer than 24 hours from the moment Watt banned The Beach Boys because they would attract the wrong sort of people to the Fourth of July celebration to the moment when he was forced to recant.
In this amount of time, the only environmental impact study that counted was the impact on the White House. It turned out that Nancy liked the Beach Boys. George Bush liked them. The kids liked them. Even Philip Habib, a man from whom "no comment" is a true confession, criticized the latest Watticism.
The way in which this particular endangered species--label them "Boys, Beach"--was rescued, suggests a couple of things. For openers, James Watt may have finally slated himself for extinction. His cardinal sin isn't ignorance about the environment, but ignorance about music.
Consider the ironies of that. Here we have a man who has compared environmentalists with Nazis and Communists, a man who has suggested that our Indian policy was failed socialism, a man who implied that we don't have to worry too much about saving the environment because the ultimate savior is on his way.
What does he get the plaster foot for? Not knowing the difference between the Beach Boys and the Sex Pistols.
In some peculiar way, Watt seems to be the Reagan administration's Martha Mitchell: they all thought he was cute until he started to talk about something serious.
But there's another verse in this hit single. It wasn't just the people in the White House who recognized Watt's hazardous taste. This was a mass-market event. The man who has tried to hatchet his way through the interior tripped on the public image of "good vibrations."
As Ron Way, Beach Boy fan and spokesman for the National Wildlife Federation, said: "We're frankly thankful for the comment. Jim Watt is the best enemy we've had. Just think of what he could do for the light-footed clapper rail, or the monkey-face pearly mussel."
Well, okay, think about it. It appears that there is now a larger constituency for music freaks than eco- freaks, for the sound than the silence. As Richard Beamish of the Audubon society quips, "Maybe we'll have to become rock fans in a less literal sense."
We may have a new coalition in the making, or at least new music. The possibilities are delicious. We already have, for example, one real-life Grammy-award-winning group called The Survivor and another called A Flock of Seagulls.
Why not a group named after a more endangered species? The Furbish Louse Worts sounds vaguely punk, the Selkirk Caribou sort of soft rock, and the Grizzly Bears has a New Wave growl about it.
If you prefer other environmental issues, the Acid Rain would be a good handle, except that it might attract the drug crowd. Dioxin is another possibility, or the PCBs perhaps. If all else fails, they could co-opt another label from the right wing and call themselves Left-Wing Cultists.
The thing to remember is that a bunch of slightly paunchy middle- aged men called The Beach Boys came out of last week's jam session with a lot of new bookings. Want to make a follow-up hit for the air, the water and the earth? Play it again, Jim.