The Beach Boys
Beginning their career as the most popular surf band in the nation, the beach boys finally emerged by 1966 as America s biggest pop group, the only one other group to challenge this was the Beatles. In 1961 debut with the popular hit Surfin, the three Wilson brothers, Brian, Denies, and Carl. Plus cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine constructed the most intricate, gorgeous harmonies ever heard from a pop band. With Brian s studio proficiency growing by leaps and bounds during the mid- 60s, the Beach Boys also proved to be one of the best produced groups of the 60s.
Though Brian s escalating drug use and obsessive desire to trump the Beatles, eventually led to a nervous breakdown after he heard Sgt. Pepper s Lonely heart club band, the group soldiered on long into the 1970s and 80s, with Brian only an inconsistent participant. The band s post 1966 material is often maligned , but the truth is the Beach Boys continued to make great music well into the 70 s. Displayed best on 1970 s Sunflower, each member revealed individual talents that had never been fully developed during the mid- 60s, but they still became America s first, best rock band.
Situated close to the pacific coast. The three sons of a part time song writer and occasionally abusive father, Brian, Denies and Carl grew up a few miles from the ocean, but only Denies had any interest in surfing. The three often harmonized together as youths, spurred on by Brian s fascination with 50s vocal acts like the Four Freshmen and the Hi-Los. Their cousin Mike Love often joined in on the impromptu session, and the group gained a fifth with Brian s high school football teammate, Al Jardine. His parents helped rent instruments, with Brian on bass, Carl on guitar, Denies on drums, and studio time to record Surfin, a novelty number written by Brian and Mike Love. The single, initially released in 1961 on candix and billed to the Pendletones, prompted a little national chart actions and gained the renamed Beach Boys a contract with capitol negotiated by the Wilson s father Murray, who took over as manager for the band.
Finally, in mid 1962 the groups released their major-label debut, Surfin Safari. The single hit the top 20 and helped launch a surf-rock craze that blossomed around southern California and sparked artists like Dick Dale, Jane and Dean , the Chantays, and dozens more. A similarly theme follow up, Surfin USA, hit the top in early 1963 before Jardine returned from school and resumed his place in the group. By that time , the Beach Boys had recorded their first two albums.
By the end of 1963, the Beach Boys had recorded three full LPs, hit the top ten as many times, and toured incessantly. Brian had begun to grow as a producer, and was acknowledged as such by their third LP, Surfer Girl . Though there were still plenty of surf songs on the album, Catch A Wave, In My Room, and the title track presented a leap in song writing, production and group harmony that was simply astonishing considering the brief length of time that the group had actually been recording artists. Inspired by Brian s intense scrutiny of the wall of sound productions by Phil Specter, the song revealed a depth of musical knowledge that was intuitive and unerring.
With the Beach Boys as his musical messengers to the world, Brian began working full time in the studio, writing songs and enlisting the cream of Los Angeles session players to record the instrumental backing tracks before Carl, Denies, Mike and Al returned to add vocals. The single Help Me, Rhonda became the Beach Boys second chart topper in the early 1965. The group s seventh studio LP, the Beach Boys today!, was the great leap forward that saw Brian s production skills hit another level entirely. The rock era s first flirtation with extended album length statements, side two of the record presented a series of downtempo ballads, arranged into a suite that stretched the group s lyrical concerns beyond youthful infatuation and into more adult notions of love.
In late 1965, the Beatles released rubber soule, and Brian was amazed at the consistently high quality of the songs on the album. While the rest of the group continued touring, Brian began writing songs with help from lyricist Tony Asher, and producing session for Pet Sounds, a song suite charting a young mans growth to emotional maturity. Though other group members were resistant to an album with few obvious hits, they spent more time working on the vocals than any other previous project. The results, released in may 1966, were simply astonishing and more than justified the effort. One of the best produced and most influential rock LPs ever released, Pet Sounds was the culmination of Brian Wilson s year of production work and song writing.
After 1979 s M.I.U. album, the group signed a large contract with CBS that stipulated Brian s involvement on each album. However, his brief return to the spotlight ended with two dismal efforts, LA and keepin the summer alive. Mismanagement of financial matters. By 1980, Denies and Carl had left the Beach Boy, both for solo careers. Denies had already released his first album, pacific ocean blue, in 1977, and Carl released his eponymous debut in 1981. Brian was removed from the group one year later, after his weight went over 300 pounds. The tragic drowning death of Denies in 1983 helped bring the group back together for 1985 s the Beach Boys. Though the album was eandemic of overly slick 80s production techniques, it returned the band to the top 40 with getcha back.
It would be the last proper Beach Boys album of the 80s, however. Brian had been steadily improving in mind and body during the mid 80s, though the rest of the group grew suspicious of his mentor, Dr. Eugene Landy, a dodgy psychiatrist who reportedly worked wonders with the easily impressionable wouldn t it be nice and wrote lyrics for Brian s first solo album, 1988s Brian Wilson. Critics and fans enjoyed it, but the charts were unforgiving especially with attention on the Beach Boys once more. The single kokomo, from the soundtrack to Cocktail, hit number one in the US late that year, prompting a haphazard collection named still cruisis. The group sued Brian, more to force Landy out of the picture than anything, and Mike Love later sued Brian for song witing royalties.
Carl s death from cancer in 1996 was a shock to band members, fans and friends. Then, Brian began recognizing his immense on the alternative community, he worked with biggest fans Sean O Hagan and Andy palely on series of songs that would form his second solo album. Again, good intentions failed to carry through, as the recording were ditched in favor of another overly produced, mainstream slanted album named imagination. By early 1999, no less then the Beach Boys connected units were touring the country a Brian Wilson solo tour, the official Beach Boys led by Mike Love, and the Beach Boys family led by Al Jaradine.