Click photo to enlarge
The Beach Boys, back in an earlier, less complicated time.

'In My Room' by The Beach Boys (1963)

A transplant to Santa Cruz from the Bay Area, my family moved into a Victorian on Second Street two blocks from the beach and Boardwalk in 1963. The airwaves played tunes that twisted the emotions of immature 12-year-olds: "Mr. Lonely" by Bobby Vinton, Roy Orbison's "Only the Lonely." As if these weren't enough to push an introverted kid into a quiet, pensive place, along came "In My Room" by The Beach Boys, released on the album "Surfer Girl" just before Halloween on Oct. 28, 1963.

I was an eighth-grader at Mission Hill Junior High School. Mr. Miller threw erasers at students who couldn't understand the New Math curriculum. Milo Badger taught us how to play soccer. On Nov. 22, while I hummed the lyrics to "In My Room" during Social Studies, the principal came in and whispered to Mr. Crampton, who turned to us and announced that President Kennedy had been assassinated.

As it did for so many adolescents wading through awkward puberty in the early 1960s, "In My Room" became my anthem. A short song at 2:11, I wore a groove into the LP on my parents' hi-fi.

"There's a world where I can go, and tell my secrets to ..." It was no secret that I was shy and had difficulty making new friends in my third school in three years, that I preferred staying in my room listening to music, staring at the black-light posters on the walls and ceiling. My secret was the crush I had on a girl I'll call Michelle. At our first school dance, I played the wallflower, glued to a fold-up chair against the cafeteria wall, and watched her with other boys. When "In My Room" came on, I stood and moved toward her, sweating. Another boy wearing a confident grin got there first.


"In this world I lock out all my worries and my fears ..." I retreated to my room, played the Strat-o-Matic Baseball game my parents gave me containing teams from the 1962 season, the Giants vs. the Yankees in the World Series, Willie Mays hitting 49 home runs. I created a league of my own, calculated batting averages, ERAs and win/loss percentages. I pushed thoughts about the crush from my head, worries about the children of JFK who no longer had a father.

"Do my dreaming and my scheming, lie awake and pray..." Thoughts of Michelle would drift back. I imagined holding her hand — The Beatles having something to do with that — dreamed of another school dance with a different outcome.

"Now its dark and I'm alone, but I won't be afraid ..." My youthful anxieties were eased knowing that Brian Wilson and millions of others across the country had formed a secret club that knew what it was like in my room. Membership in the club gave me a sense of normalcy, helped me to understand I was OK. It empowered me to look forward to new schools, new crushes, with a sense of wonder rather than fear.

Do you have an essay for our Words on Music series? Email