Monday, April 15, 2024

The Beach Boys by The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys go well beyond being merely a group of musicians. It wouldn’t be inappropriate to describe them as a cultural, even maybe a sociological phenomenon. Alongside artists like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, they established domination of the nineteen sixties early in the decade with their sun-drenched songs of innocence and youthful fun. They made their mark before The Beatles, they were the first band to last longer than ten years and, in one form or another, are still around.

This is the story of The Beach Boys, looking at their most famous songs and albums, as told by the surviving band members themselves .. Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Bruce Johnson and Al Jardine .. with the posthumous words of Carl Wilson and Dennis Wilson also being included in the narrative. There’s even something from the forgotten Beach Boy, David Marks, who was in the original lineup … look on the cover of their Surfin’ USA  album, he’s the one on the left, sitting on the bonnet of the car looking out at the ocean.  

The book takes the reader through the career of the band, starting in August 1961 in a garage in Hawthorne, California, and going up to their becoming a global phenomenon through their recording of some of the most gloriously complex and harmonious pop songs ever, with songs like ‘God Only Knows (‘a teenage prayer to God’),’ ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ and ‘Good Vibrations’ going on to be heralded as ‘classics,’ becoming benchmarks in pop’s high canon, and in the process becoming one of the most influential bands ever .. as Paul McCartney says, without the Beach Boys, albums like Rubber Soul and Revolver would have sounded very different. 

Where the book’s at its best, for this reviewer, is in the middle section, when they were recording seminal albums like Pet Sounds and, in Al Jardine’s words, “were moving away from being a three albums in one year band towards taking two years to make one album.” It also catalogues the inter-band tensions arising from Brian Wilson’s new direction for the band, away from surfing, with Mike Love openly dubious about what he referred to as ‘ego music,’ though he fervently denies saying ‘don’t f**k with the formula.’ Their label, Capitol Records was also doubtful, claiming Pet Sounds is ‘alright’ but how about more hits? The story of Brian’s descent, after the failure to release the Smile album, into drugs and mental illness is well known and is handled delicately by all parties, though Dr Eugene Landy, given his negative impact on Brian Wilson, gets off very lightly here. The Beach Boys’ story hasn’t been all ‘fun in the sun,’ but conflicts aren’t overplayed here.

If you’ve read books like ‘Catch A Wave’ and ‘The Nearest Faraway Place,’ or even ‘The Beach Boys In Their Own Words,’ you’ll probably not find too much new here. But if you know little about the band beyond their music, this book will provide a fascinating read, with contributions from all the main players, though there are few new interviews, though if you’re looking for a deeper dive into the Beach Boys, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Buy the book at the following link: https://geni.us/beachboysbook

Laurence Todd
Laurence Todd
Took early retirement after many years as a teacher in order to write books as well as about music. A long-time music obsessive, has wide and eclectic tastes but particularly likes prog rock and rock in general. Enjoys going to gigs and discovering new acts.

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1 COMMENT

  1. No, that’s Carl Wilson on the left. David Marks is on the far right. He wasn’t an original, he stepped in for a brief time when Al Jardine went to college briefly.

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The Beach Boys go well beyond being merely a group of musicians. It wouldn’t be inappropriate to describe them as a cultural, even maybe a sociological phenomenon. Alongside artists like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, they established domination of the nineteen sixties early...The Beach Boys by The Beach Boys