The Beach Boys

  • Rock band formed in 1961 in Hawthorne California. The original line up was brothers Brian (vocals, keyboards, bass guitar), Dennis (vocals, drums) and Carl Wilson (vocals, lead guitar), their cousin Mike Love (vocals, saxophone), and their friend Al Jardine (vocals, rhythm guitar).
  • As a teenager, Brian taught his younger brothers the details of harmonization after listening to jazz and barbershop vocal groups. For his 16th birthday, he received a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and he learned how to overdub vocals.
  • Family gatherings got cousin Mike Love interested in the vocal sound that the brothers made, and Brian’s high school classmate Al Jardine also showed interest. The five formed a band, called The Pendletones. The early songs that Brian wrote had surfing themes that featured their harmonies.
  • In October 1961, the band recorded 2 demo songs with rented equipment – Surfin’ and Surfin’ Safari. Wilson’s father took the demo to a record label, and the band was signed in December. When the single Surfin’ was released, the band was shocked to find that the name of the band had been changed to The Beach Boys – the record label wanted to associate the band name with the music they performed, but The Surfers was already taken by another band. The single was a hit on the west coast, and on New Years’ eve, they played their first paying gig.
  • In early 1962, Jardine left the group and was replaced by David Marks. Their music attracted the attention of Capitol Records, and they were signed to the label. In June that year, they released a re-recorded version of Surfin’ Safari, backed by 409. 409 is the first song of the hot-rod music craze of the 60s. It refers to Chevrolet’s 409 cubic inch V8 engine. The single led to national success for the band, and they recorded additional songs to put together their first album, named Surfin’ Safari, released in October 1962. It peaked at #32 on the Billboard album chart.
  • Their second album, Surfin’ U.S.A., was released in March 1963. It hit #2 on the album chart, and the single peaked at #3. The song is on the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s list of 500 Songs that Shaped Rock & Roll. Al Jardine rejoined the band at Brian’s request and a third album was released in September that year – Surfer Girl – followed by another album one month later – the hot rod themed Little Deuce Coup. Marks left the band, and the Beach Boys were a 5-member group again. That December, they released a Christmas single, Little Saint Nick. By now, Brian’s songs and the sound of The Beach Boys was a global phenomena.
  • 1964 was the year of their last surf and hot rod songs. Shut Down Volume 2 (with the single Fun Fun Fun) and All Summer Long (with the single I Get Around and B-side Don’t Worry Baby) were released. I Get Around was their first #1 single, and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2017. Don’t Worry Baby is #176 on Rolling Stones list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
  • Due to the stress of writing and producing hit songs, Brian stopped touring with the band in 1965, and was replaced by Glen Campbell for a year and a half. After Campbell’s career took off, he was replaced by Bruce Johnston. Brian remained focused on song writing, production, and studio performance.
  • Four more albums were released in 1964 and 1965, including the #1 single Help Me, Rhonda. In 1966, they released the album that is considered their masterpiece, Pet Sounds. Rolling Stone ranked it #2 on their list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. It is preserved in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress. The singles from the album were Sloop John B and Wouldn’t It Be Nice, with the B-side God Only Knows. It is considered the first concept rock album ever. Brian stated that after listening to Rubber Soul by The Beatles, he was inspired to make the greatest rock album ever made, where each song stood on its own as a work of art.
  • Their next single was their last #1 of the 60s – Good Vibrations, released in 1966. This song is unprecedented in its production, containing instruments like the cello, the Jew’s Harp, and the electro-theremin. The song is in the Grammy Hall of Fame, and is #6 on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
  • They continued to record in the late 60s and the 70s, releasing 12 studio albums between 1967 and 1979, as well as live and compilation albums. In 1976, their cover of Chuck Berry’s Rock and Roll Music peaked at #5. In the 80’s, 3 albums were released, and they had a surprise #1 hit in 1989 with Kokomo. 
  • In the late 70s, tensions were building in the group, fueled by substance abuse. Various members left the group, but then returned after a period of time. Dennis Wilson and Mike Love actually filed restraining orders against one another in 1983. While in rehab, Dennis died in late 1983, drowning in California while diving from a friend’s boat. The band continued to successfully tour.
  • Carl died in 1998 of lung and brain cancer. After his death, the band split up, though Love and Johnston continued to tour, first as “America’s Band,” and later as The Beach Boys after getting the license to use the name. Subsequently, the surviving band members reunited. And, they are touring even today with a full concert schedule.
  • In total, they released 29 studio albums and 71 singles, with 36 singles charting in the top 40 and 4 peaking at #1. They were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. They won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award in 2001, and their 2011 compilation box set The Smile Sessions won a Grammy for Best Historical Album. Rolling Stone ranks them at #12 of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
  • The Beach Boys – an amazing rock and roll band, with a sound that defined an entire genre. So many great songs to choose – I went with this clip of I Get Around. 

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