Beach Boys – “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times”

There are two kinds of outsiders: those who reject society and those who find themselves rejected. In pop music, the former can be found in Johnny Cash’s altruistic “Man in Black” or the Clash’s good-hearted “Bankrobber.” The latter produces the betrayed rage of Black Flag’s “My War,” but also the almost sheepish awkwardness of the Beach Boys “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times.”

There is no shortage of songs about class warriors and criminals and a significant percentage of punk records addresses outsider rage, but there was so little to reflect the truest and most common place we find ourselves when we’re unwanted, at least until the self-loathing 90’s, and even then Cobain’s mosquitoes and libidos were a very stylized version of walking through a world in which it seems we don’t belong. The Beach Boys addressed this in 1966. It is not insignificant that it was Sub Pop that released the song as a single three decades later in the wake of an era of misfit cool. Brian Wilson and Tony Asher are not quite poetic, but they do capture, perhaps better than any other song, that feeling of being weird among the normal around us. Maybe not everyone can relate, but for those who can, this is our anthem. Of course, in our own very non-anthemic terms.

About bobvinyl

bobvinyl, writer and co-editor of No Song is an Island, founded its predecessor, Rock and Roll and Meandering Nonsense (whose archives are found here), in 2005 and served as editor and principal contributor until it went on hiatus in 2010. He has also been published in AMP and Loud Fast Rules! (in print) as well as Glide and FensePost on the web. He has been an avid record collector since he was seven years old and enjoys sharing his love of music from the common to the esoteric.

1 thought on “Beach Boys – “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times”

  1. Chuck

    I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard this before, and even if I had, I’ve never HEARD it. I don’t love the song but I love what it says.

    All of the songs you mentioned about the ones who find themselves rejected are angry. They’re angry about being on the outside, angry that the world is the way it is. But this song isn’t angry at all. It’s just sad.

    You could argue that it’s a song about depression, about the long-term sense of isolation and exclusion that drives people to substance use or suicide or other attempts to numb the pain of being an outsider. I don’t hear it that way though. I hear an understanding that I’m just different from the world around me.

    This sent me down a rabbit hole of songs about not fitting in that are simply sad. Not angry, not bitter, not seeking revenge, and not self-loathing, but just sad about not fitting in. And you know what? I can’t find very many. There are a gazillion songs about situational sadness (broken hearts mostly), and a gazillion more about hope to help you through sadness. But songs that simply recognize and accept the situation for what it is? Not many.

    I’m curious if other songs jump out to you as kindred spirits to “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times.” Regardless, though, I’m glad you turned me onto this. It’s a good song to have in my arsenal for those days when I just feel sad because I don’t really fit into the world as well as I’d like to.

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