THE BEACH BOYS
The Beach Boys are an American rock and roll band. First formed in 1961, they gained popularity for their close vocal harmonies and lyrics reflecting a California youth culture of surfing, girls and cars. Brian Wilson's growing creative ambitions later transformed them into a more artistically innovative group that earned critical praise and influenced many later musicians.
The group initially comprised singer-musician-composer Brian Wilson, his brothers, Carl and Dennis, their cousin Mike Love, and friend Al Jardine. This core quintet, along with early member David Marks and later bandmate Bruce Johnston, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. The Beach Boys have been called "America's Band" and have had thirty-six U.S. Top 40 hits (the most of any U.S. rock band), including four number one singles.
The Beach Boys first promo record was released December 1961
Many changes in both musical styles and personnel have occurred during their career, notably because of Brian Wilson's mental illness and drug abuse (leading to his eventual withdrawal from the group) and the deaths of Dennis and Carl Wilson in 1983 and 1998, respectively. Extensive legal battles between members of the group have also played their part. After Carl Wilson's death, founding member Al Jardine was fired by Mike Love. Love and Bruce Johnston then leased the rights to the band's name and continue to tour as The Beach Boys.
The Wilson brothers were born to Murry Wilson and Audree Korthof. Mike Love was the eldest of six children born to Milton and Emily Love.
In the beginning, the group relied on Brian Wilson; brother Dennis would later say: "Brian is the Beach Boys, and we are his messengers."
Until the age of sixteen, Brian shared a bedroom with his two brothers. He watched his father play piano and listened intently to the harmonies of vocal groups like The Four Freshmen. One night he taught his brothers a song called "Ivory Tower" and how to sing the background harmonies. "We practiced night after night, singing softly, hoping we wouldn't wake our Dad." For his sixteenth birthday, Brian received a reel-to-reel tape recorder. He learned how to overdub, using his vocals and those of Carl and his mother. He would play piano and later added Carl playing the Rickenbacker guitar he got as a Christmas present.
Soon Brian was avidly listening to Johnny Otis on his KFOX radio show, a favorite station of Carl's. Inspired by the simple structure and vocals of the rhythm and blues songs he heard, he changed his piano-playing style and started writing songs. His enthusiasm interfered with his music studies at school. He failed to complete a twelfth-grade piano sonata, but did submit an original composition, called "Surfin'".
Family gatherings brought the Wilsons in contact with cousin Mike Love. With his sister and a friend, Brian taught them harmonies. Later, Brian, Mike and two friends performed at Hawthorne High School (Hawthorne, California), drawing tremendous applause for their version of The Olympics' "Hully Gully". Brian also knew Al Jardine, a high school classmate, who had already played guitar in a folk group called The Islanders. One day, on the spur of the moment, they asked a couple of football players in the school training room to learn harmony parts, but it wasn't a success - the bass singer was flat.
Brian suggested to Jardine that they team up with his cousin and brother Carl. It was at these sessions, held in Brian's bedroom, that 'The Beach Boys sound' began to gel. Brian says: "Everyone contributed something. Carl kept us hip to the latest tunes, Al taught us his repertoire of folk songs, and Dennis, though he didn't [at the time] play anything, added a combustible spark just by his presence." It was Love who encouraged Brian to write songs and he also gave the fledgling band its first name: The Pendletones.
Although surfing motifs were very prominent in their early songs, Dennis was the only member of the group who surfed. He suggested that his brothers compose some songs celebrating his hobby and the lifestyle which had developed around it in Southern California.
Jardine and a singer friend, Gary Winfrey, went to Brian's to see if he could help out with a version of a folk song they wanted to record - "Sloop John B." In Brian's absence, the two spoke with his father, Murry Wilson, a music industry veteran of modest success. In September 1961, Murry arranged for The Pendletones to meet publishers Hite and Dorinda Morgan at Stereo Masters in Hollywood.. The group performed a straight forward rendition of "Sloop John B.", but failed to impress them. After an awkward pause, Dennis mentioned they had an original song, called "Surfin'". Brian was taken aback - he had not finished writing the song - but Hite Morgan was interested and asked them to call back when the song was complete. With help from Mike, Brian finished the song and the group hired guitars, drums, amps and microphones. They practiced for three days while the Wilsons' parents were on a short vacation. A few days later they auditioned for the Morgans again and Hite Morgan declared: "That's a smash!"
On October 3, 1961, The Pendletones recorded twelve takes of "Surfin'" in the Morgans' cramped offices (Dennis was deemed not yet good enough to play drums, much to his chagrin). A small quantity of singles was pressed. When the boys eagerly unpacked the first box of singles, on the X Records label, they were surprised and angered to see their band name had been changed to "Beach Boys". Murry Wilson, now intimately involved with the band's fortunes, called the Morgans. Apparently a young promotion worker, Russ Regan, had decided on the change to more obviously tie the group in with other surf bands of the time. The limited budget meant the labels could not be reprinted.
Released December 8, 1961, "Surfin'" was soon aired on KFWB and KDAY, two of Los Angeles' most influential radio stations. It was a hit on the west coast, and peaked at #75 on the national pop charts.
The Beach Boys rare group colour photo
The influence of Murry Wilson
As an eight-year-old, Brian Wilson says his "young life was already being shaped and influenced by music... None affected me more than the music I heard when my father played the family piano... I watched how his fingers made chords and memorized the positions".
Murry had limited success as a songwriter, peaking with "Two Step Side Step" when it was recorded for a Bachelors album in 1952. Despite his musical ability and any wish to educate Brian in particular, Murry Wilson "was a tyrant", quick to offer discouraging criticism and who "abused [his sons] psychologically and physically, creating wounds that never healed." Carl found comfort in food and Dennis rebelled against the world to express his anger. Brian would immerse himself in music to cope, but though he longed to learn piano as a child, he was too frightened to ask and even too scared to press the keys when his father was at work.
Eventually Brian surprised his parents by showing he had learned how to play the piano by watching his father. Thereafter, "playing the piano... literally saved my ass. I recall playing one time while my dad flung Dennis against the wall... That was just one of many incidents when I didn't miss a note, supplying background music to the hell that often substituted for a family life..."
At first, Murry Wilson steered The Beach Boys' career, engineering their signing with Capitol Records in 1962. In 1964, Brian Wilson fired his father after a violent confrontation in the studio. Over the next few years, they became increasingly estranged; when Murry died in 1973, Brian and Dennis did not attend the funeral.
German 1962 single release of Surfin' Safari
Murry Wilson told the boys he did not like "Surfin'". However, "he smelled money to be made and jumped on the promotional bandwagon, calling every radio station..." He got the group's first paying gig on New year's Eve, 1961, at the Ritchie Valens Memorial Dance in Long Beach, headlined by Ike and Tina Turner. Brian recalls how he wondered what they were doing there; "five clean-cut, unworldly white boys from a conservative white suburb, in an auditorium full of black kids". Brian describes the night as an "education" - he knew afterwards that success was all about "R&B, rock and roll, and money." The boys went home with $50 apiece.
In February of 1962, Al Jardine left the band to continue his college studies. David Marks, a fifteen-year-old neighbour and friend of Carl's, replaced him (Jardine, at Brian's request, rejoined the group in July of 1963).
Though Murry effectively seized managerial control of the band without consultation, Brian acknowledges that he "deserves credit for getting us off the ground... he hounded us mercilessly... [but] also worked hard himself". He was the first to stress the importance of having a follow-up hit. They duly recorded four more originals, on June 13 at Western Studios , Los Angeles, including "Surfer Girl", "409" and "Surfin' Safari". The session ended on a bitter note, however: Murry Wilson unsuccessfully suggested and then demanded that The Beach Boys record some of his own songs because, "My songs are better than yours.".
On July 16, on the strength of the June demo session, The Beach Boys were signed to Capitol Records. By November, their first album was ready - "Surfin' Safari". Their song output continued along the same commercial line, focusing on California youth lifestyle. The early Beach Boys’ hits helped raise both the profile of the state of California and of surfing. The group also celebrated the Golden State’s obsession with hot-rod racing ("Shut Down," "409," "Little Deuce Coupe") and the pursuit of happiness by carefree teens in less complicated times ("Be True to Your School," "Fun, Fun, Fun," "I Get Around"). From 1962-65, they had sixteen hit singles in a very competitive Top Forty. Although their music was bright and accessible, these early works belied a sophistication that would emerge more forcefully in the coming years. During this period, Brian Wilson rapidly progressed to become a melodist, arranger and producer of world-renowned stature. Their early hits made them major pop stars in the United States and other countries, although their status as America's top pop group was usurped in 1964 by the emergence of The Beatles, who became The Beach Boys' major creative rival.
Apart from the Wilsons' father and the close vocal harmonies of Brian's favorite groups, early inspiration came from the driving rock an roll sound of Chuck Berry and Phil Spector's Wall of Sound.
Some of Brian's songs were modeled after other songs; most famously "Surfer Girl" shares its rhythmic melody with "When You Wish Upon a Star". In his autobiography, Brian states that the melody of "God Only Knows" was inspired by a John Sebastian record.
Brian's innovations and personal difficulties
The stress of road travel, composing, producing and maintaining a high level of creativity was too much for Brian Wilson to bear. On December 23, 1964, while on a flight to Houston, Brian suffered from an anxiety attack and left the tour. Shortly afterward, he announced his withdrawal from touring to concentrate entirely on songwriting and record production. Glen Campbell served as Wilson's replacement in concert, until his own career success required him to leave the group. Bruce Johnston was asked to locate a replacement for Campbell; having failed to find one, Johnston subsequently became a full-time member of the band, first replacing Wilson on the road and later contributing his own talents in the studio.
Jan & Dean, close friends with the band and opening act for them in concert in 1963 and 1964, encouraged Brian to use session musicians in the studio. This, along with Brian's withdrawal from touring, permitted him to expand his role as a producer. Wilson also wrote Surf City for his opening act. The Jan & Dean recording hit #1 on the U.S. charts in the summer of 1963, a development that delighted Brian Wilson but enraged father/manager Murry Wilson, who felt his son had "given away" what should have been the Beach Boys' first chart-topper. A year later, the Beach Boys would notch their first #1 single with "I Get Around."
By 1964, traces of Brian Wilson's increasing studio productivity and ideas were noticeable: "Drive-In," an album track from All Summer Long features bars of silence between two verses while "Denny's Drums," the last track on Shut Down, Vol. II, is a two-minute drum solo. As Wilson's musical efforts became more ambitious, the group relied more on nimble session players, on tracks such as "I Get Around" and "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)." "Help Me, Rhonda" became the band's second #1 single in the spring of 1965.
1965 led to greater experimentation behind the soundboard with Wilson. The album Today! featured less focus on guitars, more emphasis on keyboards and percussion, as well as volume experiments and increased lyrical maturity. Side A of the album was devoted to sunny pop tunes, with darker ballads on the reverse side. The Boys followed up their #3 smash "California Girls" in November 1965 with another top 20 single, "The Little Girl I Once Knew." It is considered to be the band's most experimental statement prior to Pet Sounds, using silence as a pre-chorus, clashing keyboards, moody brass, and vocal tics. Perhaps too extreme an arrangement to go much higher than its modest #20 peak, it was only the band's second single not to reach the top 10 since their 1963 breakthrough.
Pet Sounds (1966) marked a higher level of sophistication
in the band's recording techniques
Wilson's growing mastery of the recording studio and his increasingly sophisticated songs and complex arrangements would reach a creative peak with the acclaimed LP Pet Sounds (1966). The tracks "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and "God Only Knows", showcased Wilson's growing mastery as a composer, arranger and producer. "God Only Knows" is said to have been the first pop single ever released in the U.S. to include the word "God" in its title; supposedly for this reason, it was denied radio airplay on many stations and only reached #39 on the national singles chart. "Caroline, No," also taken from Pet Sounds, was issued as a Brian Wilson solo single, the only time Brian was credited as a solo artist during the early Capitol years.
The album's meticulously layered harmonies and inventive instrumentation (performed by the cream of Los Angeles session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew) set a new standard for popular music. It remains one of the more evocative releases of the decade, with a distinctive strain of melancholy and nostalgia for youth. The album is still widely regarded as a classic of the rock era. Among other accolades, Paul McCartney has named it one of his favorite albums of all time (with "God Only Knows" as his favorite song). McCartney has frequently said that it was a major influence on the Beatles' album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, similar to Brian Wilson stating he was inspired to make Pet Sounds upon listening to The Beatles' Rubber Soul. Despite the critical praise it received, the album was indifferently promoted by Capitol Records and failed to become the major hit Brian had hoped it would be (only reaching #10). Its failure to gain wider recognition hurt him deeply.
Because of his withdrawal from touring, Wilson was able to complete almost all the backing tracks for the album while the Beach Boys were on tour in Japan. They returned to find a substantially complete album, requiring only their vocals to finish it off. There was some resistance from within the band to this new direction. Lead singer Mike Love is reported to have been strongly opposed to it, calling it "Brian's ego music," and warning the composer not to "fuck with the formula." Other group members also fretted that the band would lose its core audience if they changed their successful musical blueprint. At Love's insistence, Brian changed the title of one song from "Hang On to Your Ego" to "I Know There's an Answer." Another likely factor in Love's antipathy to Pet Sounds was that Wilson worked extensively on it with outside lyricist Tony Asher rather than with Love, even though Love had co-written the lyrics for many of their earlier songs and was the lead vocalist on most of their early hits.
Seeking to expand on the advances made on Pet Sounds, Wilson began an even more ambitious project, originally dubbed Dumb Angel. Its first fruit was "Good Vibrations," which Brian described as "a pocket symphony". The song became the Beach Boys' biggest hit to date and a US and UK # 1 single in 1966 — many critics consider it to be one of the best rock singles of all time. In 1997, it was named the "Greatest Single of All Time" by Mojo music magazine. In 2000, VH1 placed it at number 8 on their "100 Greatest Rock Songs" list, and in late 2004, Rolling Stone magazine placed it at number 6 on their "500 Best Songs of All Time" list. It was also one of the more complex pop productions ever undertaken, and was reputed to have been the most expensive American single ever recorded at that time. Costing a reported $16,000, more than most pop albums, sessions for the song stretched over several months in at least three major studios.
In contrast to his work on Pet Sounds, Wilson adopted a modular approach to "Good Vibrations" — he broke the song into sections and taped multiple versions of each at different studios to take advantage of the different sound and ambience of each facility. He then assembled his favorite sections into a master backing track and added vocals. The song's innovative instrumentation included drums, organ, piano, tack piano, two basses, guitars, electro-theremin, harmonica, and cello. The group members recall the "Good Vibrations" vocal sessions as among the most demanding of their career.
Even as his personal life deteriorated, Wilson's musical output remained remarkable. The exact nature of his mental problems was a topic of much speculation. He abused drugs heavily, gained an enormous amount of weight, suffered long bouts of depression, and became paranoid. Several biographies have suggested that his father may have had bipolar disorder and after years of suffering, Wilson's own condition was eventually diagnosed as schizophrenia.
The original cover of Smile. More than 400,000 Smile covers were made
and kept in a Pennsylvania warehouse before disposal in the late '80s
There are reportedly fewer 12 original Smile covers in existence
While putting the finishing touches on Pet Sounds, and just beginning work on "Good Vibrations," Brian met fellow musician and songwriter Van Dyke Parks. In late 1966, Brian and Parks began an intense collaboration that resulted in a suite of challenging new songs for the Beach Boys' next album, which was eventually named SMiLE. Using the same techniques as on "Good Vibrations," recording began in August 1966 and carried on into early 1967. Although the structure of the album and the exact running order of the songs have been the subjects of endless speculation, it is known that Wilson and Parks intended Smile to be a continuous suite of songs that were linked both thematically and musically, with the main songs being linked together by small vocal pieces and instrumental segments that elaborated upon the musical themes of the major songs.
But some of the other Beach Boys, especially Love, found the new music too difficult and too far removed from their established style. Another serious concern was that the new music was simply not feasible for live performance by the current Beach Boys lineup. Love was bitterly opposed to Smile and was particularly critical of Parks' lyrics; he has also since stated that he was deeply concerned about Wilson's escalating drug intake. The problems came to a head during the recording of "Cabinessence," when Love demanded that Parks explain the meaning of the closing refrain of the song, "Over and over the crow cries uncover the cornfield." After a heated argument, Parks walked out of the session, and shortly thereafter his creative partnership with Wilson came to an equally abrupt end.
Many factors combined to put intense pressure on Brian Wilson as Smile neared completion: Wilson's own mental instability, the pressure to create against fierce internal opposition to his new music, the relatively unenthusiastic response to Pet Sounds, Carl Wilson's draft resistance, and a major dispute with Capitol Records. Matters were complicated by Wilson's reliance on both prescription and illegal drugs, amphetamines in particular, which only exacerbated his underlying mental health problems.
In May 1967, Smile was shelved. Over the next thirty years, the legends surrounding Smile grew, until it became the most famous unreleased album in the history of popular music. Some of the tracks were salvaged and re-recorded at Brian's new home studio, in drastically scaled-down versions. These were released, along with the completed versions of "Good Vibrations" and "Heroes and Villains", on the 1967 LP Smiley Smile, which would prove to be a critical and commercial disaster for the group.
Despite the cancellation of Smile, interest in the work remained high and versions of several major tracks—including "Our Prayer", "Cabinessence", "Cool, Cool Water", and "Surf's Up"— continued to trickle out. Many were assembled by Carl Wilson over the next few years and included on later albums. The band was still expecting to complete and release Smile as late as 1972, before it became clear that Brian had been the only one who could have made sense out of the endless fragments that were recorded. A substantial number of original tracks and linking fragments were included on the group's 30th anniversary CD boxed set in 1993. The full Smile project did not surface until Wilson and Parks completed the writing, aided by Darian Sanahaja who helped in sequencing, and Brian re-recorded it as Brian Wilson Presents "Smile" in 2004.
After their peak popularity with the song "Good Vibrations" came a period of declining commercial success. Smiley Smile and subsequent albums performed poorly on the U.S. charts (although they fared better in the UK). Their image problems took a further hit following their withdrawal from the bill of the 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival as a result of Carl's draft problems. The event could have been crucial in establishing their new sound and staking a claim to relevance, had they been able to present their new material there.
The 1967 album Wild Honey, regarded by some critics as another classic, features songs written by Wilson and Love, including the hit "Darlin'", and a rendition of Stevie Wonder's "I Was Made to Love Her". Friends (1968) is a largely acoustic album, influenced by the group's adoption of the practice of Transcendental Meditation. The title single, however, backed by Dennis' songwriting debut "Little Bird," was their least successful since 1962. This was followed by the single "Do It Again," a return to their earlier "fun in the sun" style, which was moderately successful in the US, but went to #1 in the UK.
As Brian's mental and physical health deteriorated in the late 1960s and early 1970s, his song output diminished and he became increasingly withdrawn from the group. To fill the void, the other members of the group began writing songs. Carl Wilson gradually took over leadership of the band, developing into an accomplished producer. To complete their contract with Capitol Records before signing with Reprise Records, they produced one more album, 20/20 (1969), primarily a collection of leftovers (including remnants from "Smile"), old songs by outside writers, and several new songs by Dennis Wilson. One of those songs, "Never Learn Not to Love", featured uncredited lyrics by Charles Manson and was originally titled "Cease to Exist". Besides "Do It Again", the album included their cover of the Ronettes' "I Can Hear Music", their last new top 40 hit for seven years.
Their first two LPs for Reprise Records were Sunflower (1970) and 1971's Surf's Up, featuring new songs by Brian and all the group members, plus selections from the aborted "Smile" project. According to the liner notes for the 2004 version of Smile, Reprise expected the legendary missing album to be completed and released as part of the new contract, but this did not happen. The albums that did emerge, however, included some of their most evolved and complex music since the Smile period.
The addition of Ricky Fataar and Blondie Chaplin in 1972 led to a dramatic departure in sound for the band. Carl and the Passions-"So Tough" was an uncharacteristic mix that included several songs drawn from Fataar and Chaplin's previous group, Flame; these are nearly unrecognizable as Beach Boys songs. Although it has its supporters, the album is widely considered to be one of their most muddled and inconsistent. Continuing with Fataar and Chaplin, 'Holland' (recorded in 1972 and released in 1973) was more successful, and showed that the band could produce contemporary songs with wide appeal. The album's lead single "Sail on Sailor," a brief return to the collaboration between Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, was one of the more emblematic of Beach Boys songs. The album rose to #37 on the Billboard album chart, and Holland was also popular on FM radio, which embraced tracks like Mike Love's "California Saga".
The new Beach Boys
In the summer of 1974, Capitol, in consultation with Love, released a double album compilation of the Beach Boys' pre-Pet Sounds hits. Endless Summer, helped by a sunny, colorful graphic cover, caught the mood of the country and surged to #1 on the Billboard album chart. It was the group's first gold record since "Good Vibrations", and remained on the album chart for three years. The following year another compilation, Spirit of America, also sold well. These compilations revived interest in the classic Beach Boys sound.
In 1975, the Beach Boys staged a highly successful joint concert tour with Chicago, with each group performing some of the other's songs, including their previous year's collaboration on Chicago's hit "Wishing You Were Here". Beach Boy vocals were also heard on Elton John's 1974 hit "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me." But following Holland, the group produced no new albums until 1976.
With the release of "Endless Summer", the Beach Boys suddenly became a hit again. But sadly, they were considered an oldies band. Nostalgia had settled into the Beach Boys hype. As stated earlier, the group produced no albums of new material from 1973 to 1976. At concerts, they would play old material, especially their hits from the 1960s. The Beach Boys needed new material, and looked to Brian Wilson for help.
15 Big Ones marked the return of Brian Wilson as a major force in the group. This album included several new songs composed by Brian, and several of his arrangements of favorite old songs by other artists, including "Rock and Roll Music" (which made #5), "Blueberry Hill", and "In the Still of the Night". Brian and Mike's "It's OK" was yet another return to their earlier "summertime fun" style, and was a moderate hit. The album was publicized by an NBC-TV special telecast in September of 1976, The Beach Boys: It's OK, produced by Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels and featuring appearances by cast members John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. Brian amiably agreed to poke fun at the rumors surrounding his 5-year hiatus from performing, and cameras recorded his (somewhat embarrassing) attempts to actually surf -- something he had never done before.
The 15 Big Ones album was trumpeted by Capitol Records with a Brian's Back advertising campaign, though Wilson was reportedly dismayed with the sentiment. As a response to Capitol, Mike Love recorded a lushly-orchestated, affectionate tribute titled Brian's Back, featuring backup by the Beach Boys and verses by Carl Wilson, adding his comment, "They say that Brian is back... I never knew that he was gone." Though his sentiment was sincere, Brian was reportedly hurt by the song and requested that it not be publicly released, though it did appear on several unauthorized bootleg recordings. Fourteen years later, Brian's Back did surface on the 2000 compilation CD Endless Harmony.
In 1977 the Beach Boys released the LP Love You, a collection of 14 songs mostly written by Brian alone, including more "fun" songs ("Honkin' Down the Highway"), a mature love song ("Let's Put Our Hearts Together")—a quirky mix ranging from infectious to touching to downright silly. Although not a commercial success, the album is one of the more popular offerings in the Beach Boys' later oeuvre.
However, Brian's contributions diminished over the next several albums, until he again virtually withdrew from the group. Although he appeared sporadically with them in concert, he contributed little to their performances or recordings. Despite a much-publicized "Brian's Back" campaign in the late '70s, most critics believed the group was past its prime. Many expected that Brian Wilson would eventually become the latest in a long line of celebrity drug casualties.
Deaths of Dennis and Carl Wilson
In the late 1970s, Dennis Wilson also suffered increasingly from drug and alcohol abuse. Some of the group's concert appearances were marred when he and other band members showed up on stage drunk or stoned. The band was forced to publicly apologize after a poor performance in Perth, Australia in 1978, during which several members of the group appeared to be drunk. In spite of his own frequent drinking, Dennis Wilson managed to release his first solo work, Pacific Ocean Blue, and to launch the work-in-progress Bamboo, with friend and musician Carli Muñoz.
In 1980, the Beach Boys played a Fourth of July concert on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. before a large crowd. This gig was repeated in the next two years, but in 1983 Secretary of the Interior James Watt banned the group from playing on the Mall, saying that rock concerts drew "an undesirable element." This drew howls of outrage from the many of the Beach Boys' American fans, who stated that the Beach Boys sound was a very desirable part of the American cultural fabric. First Lady Nancy Reagan apologized, and in 1984 the group appeared on the Mall again. Love and Johnston most recently appeared on the Mall in 2005 for the Fourth of July concert.
Meanwhile, Dennis Wilson's personal problems continued to escalate, and on December 28, 1983 he accidentally drowned while diving from a friend's boat, trying to recover items he had previously thrown overboard in fits of rage.
Despite Dennis's death, the Beach Boys soldiered on as a successful touring act: on July 4, 1985, The Beach Boys played to an afternoon crowd of one million in Philadelphia and the same evening they performed for over 750,000 people on the Mall in Washington (the day's historic achievement was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records). They also appeared nine days later at the Live Aid concert. They enjoyed a resurgence of interest later in the 1980s, assisted by tributes such as David Lee Roth's hit version of "California Girls." In 1987, they played with the rap group The Fat Boys, performing the song "Wipe Out" and filming a video for it.
In 1988, they unexpectedly scored their first #1 in 22 years with the song "Kokomo", which was featured on the soundtrack of the hit Tom Cruise movie Cocktail. It became their biggest-selling hit ever. In 1996 they guested with Status Quo on a re-recording of "Fun, Fun, Fun," which was a British Top 30 hit.
Members of the band appeared on sitcoms such as Full House and Home Improvement in the late 1980s and 1990s, as well as touring regularly. In 1995, Brian Wilson appeared in the critically acclaimed documentary I Just Wasn't Made for These Times, which saw him performing for the first time with his now-adult daughters, Wendy and Carnie of the group Wilson Phillips. The documentary also included glowing tributes to his talents from a host of major music stars of the '60s, '70s and '80s.
On February 6, 1998, Carl Wilson died after a long battle with lung cancer. Although Love and Johnston continued to tour as The Beach Boys, no other original members accompanied them. Their tours remained reliable draws, even as they came to be viewed as a nostalgia act. Meanwhile, Brian Wilson and Al Jardine (both still legally members of the Beach Boys organization) each pursued solo careers with their new bands.
Many legal difficulties developed from Wilson's psychological problems. In the early 1980s, the band hired controversial therapist Eugene Landy in an attempt to help him. Landy did achieve some significant improvements in Wilson's overall condition; from his own admissions about his massive drug intake, it was highly likely that Wilson would have died if Landy had not intervened. Landy successfully treated Wilson's drug dependence, and by 1987 Wilson had recovered sufficiently to record his first solo album. But Landy became increasingly possessive of his star patient. After accusations that Landy was using his control over Wilson for his own benefit, the band successfully entreated the courts to separate Landy from Wilson.
In addition to the challenges over the use of the band's name and over the best way to care for Wilson, there have been three significant legal cases involving the Beach Boys in recent years. The first was Wilson's suit to reclaim the rights to his songs and the group's publishing company, Sea of Tunes, which he had signed away to his father in 1967. He successfully argued that he had not been mentally fit to make an informed decision. While Wilson failed to regain his copyrights, he was awarded $25 million for unpaid royalties.
The second lawsuit stemmed from Wilson's reclamation of his publishing rights. Soon after Wilson won his Sea of Tunes case in 1989, Mike Love sued him in 1992 to gain credit for his co-authorship of a number of important Beach Boys songs, including "California Girls", "Catch a Wave," "I Get Around," "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)," "Be True to Your School," "Help Me, Rhonda," "I Know There's an Answer," and numerous others, winning $13 million in 1994 for lost royalties. In interviews, Mike revealed that on some songs he wrote most of the lyrics, on others only a line or two.
In November 2005, Love filed another lawsuit against Wilson. Love alleges that the UK publication The Mail on Sunday and Wilson’s representatives gave the false impression to the readers of The Mail on Sunday that their joint promotional giveaway of nearly three million copies of the CD called Good Vibrations was authorized by Mike Love and The Beach Boys. This free CD, Love alleges, includes five of Love and Wilson’s co-authored hit Beach Boys songs, and was done to promote Wilson's solo CD, Smile. Love also says that Smile and Good Vibrations were marketed using The Beach Boys’ names and images without permission. He is seeking several million dollars in damages, and also a million dollars to cover costs of advertising to correct the perceived damage to the band's reputation.
Love has stated: “Once again the people around Brian, my cousin and collaborator on many hits, who I love and care about, have used him for their own financial gain without regard to his rights, or my rights, or even the rights of the estates of his deceased brothers, Carl and Dennis, and their children... Unfortunately, history repeats itself. Because of Brian’s mental issues he has always been vulnerable to manipulation. I simply want to stop the infringers and stop the deception!”
There has been speculation that Love's lawsuit is an attempt to pressure Wilson into agreeing to let him continue to use the profitable Beach Boys name for his and Johnston's touring efforts.
Wilson’s website listed the following statement in response: “The lawsuit against Brian is meritless. While he will vigorously defend himself he is deeply saddened that his cousin Mike Love has sunk to these depths for his own financial gain.”
Pet Sounds 40th anniversary reunion
On June 13, 2006, the major surviving Beach Boys (Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, and David Marks) all set aside their differences and reunited for a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the album Pet Sounds and the double-platinum certification of their greatest hits compilation, Sounds of Summer: The Very Best of the Beach Boys, in a ceremony atop the Capitol Records building in Hollywood. Plaques were awarded for their efforts to all major members, with Brian Wilson accepting for his late brothers Carl and Dennis. Wilson himself implied there was a chance that all the living members (not having performed together since September 1996) would reunite again.
Awards and recognition
The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, with Mike Love delivering a memorably cranky speech that assailed Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney and the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and Diana Ross. The band was chosen for the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1998. In 2001, the group received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Brian Wilson was inducted into the UK Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in November 2006. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked the Beach Boys #12 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
Personnel changes through the years
From the start, The Beach Boys have undergone many variations in composition, being represented by fill-ins onstage as often as not. Wilson neighbor David Marks appeared on their first five albums, played with the group in its formative stages, and was a member from 1962 to 1963 as a replacement for Jardine, who had left the group to pursue a career in dentistry. Jardine returned to the band in 1963 as an onstage fill-in for Brian Wilson, who was already feeling the stresses of touring. Marks rejoined the band in 1997, during Carl Wilson's last illness, and remained with them for two years.
Glen Campbell toured for several months with the group in 1965, as a touring replacement for Brian, who had played bass in concert. Campbell was subsequently replaced by Bruce Johnston, who later became a permanent member. During the mid-1970s drummer Ricky Fataar and guitarist Blondie Chaplin joined the band.
Though not corporate members of The Beach Boys, supporting players have featured many notable musicians over the years. Keyboard players Daryl Dragon & Toni Tennille, later famous as the pop duo The Captain & Tennille, toured with the band. Carli Muñoz, who had been playing keyboards with the band since 1970, in 1971 replaced Daryl Dragon as keyboard player until 1979. Mike Meros took over the position from May 1, 1979 to July 4th, 2000. Drummer Mike Kowalski and bassist/guitarist Ed Carter were two of the first outside musicians to join the group in 1969. Percussionist/drummer Bobby Figueroa was added in the mid-seventies until 1984. Adrian Baker joined the band in 1981 as a vocalist/guitarist. Jeff Foskett replaced Baker in 1982 as a guitarist and vocalist and remained with the group until 1989, Foskett is currently a member of Brian Wilson's group. Adrian Baker re-joined the band in 1989 to 1993 as a vocalist/guitarist. Billy Hinsche, of Dino, Desi, & Billy fame, was also a longtime member of the supporting band throughout the '70s, '80s and '90s. Matt Jardine, son of Beach Boy Al Jardine also joined the band in 1989 through 1998 as singer / percussionist. In 1998, Adrian Baker re-joined the band (for a record-breaking third time) in 1998 until 2004. Randell Kirsch replaced Baker in 2004 to present as falsetto vocalist/guitarist.
Some of the changes in The Beach Boys' organization were less formal. They enjoyed a casual collaboration with fellow Southern Californians Jan and Dean. Much to the consternation of other band members, Wilson composed "Surf City" and gave the song, without compensation, to Dean Torrence. Jan and Dean, at the time not nearly as popular as The Beach Boys, recorded the song and scored their first number one single, a year before the Beach Boys finally reached the same milestone. Years later, Torrence happened upon the studio where the Beach Boys were recording their "Beach Boys' Party!" album. He joined in the singing, and can be heard singing harmony in the "Barbara Ann" cut from that album.
To the surprise and delight of fans around the world, Wilson has mounted several major tours under his own name with a band containing members of The Wondermints and led by former Beach Boys guitarist Jeff Foskett plus other supporting musicians. Their note-perfect live performances of the entire Pet Sounds album earned some of the most glowing concert reviews of Wilson's career, with some commentators calling the shows "the concert of a lifetime". In 2003 and 2004, he and Van Dyke Parks reunited to complete the unfinished sections of Smile, and in 2004 Wilson and his band toured the world performing a live concert version of the album. They then recorded a new studio version of Smile using vintage recording equipment and including sessions at the fabled Sunset Sound Studios in Hollywood, where some of the original recordings were made.
Jardine toured for a while with the Beach Boys Family & Friends (which for legal reasons quickly became Alan Jardine Family & Friends Beach Band, then Al Jardine's Endless Summer Band), featuring his sons Matt and Adam, Wilson's daughters Carnie and Wendy, and Carl's brother-in-law Billy Hinsche, among others. Jardine now tours as the Endless Summer Band which includes his two sons, Hinsche, and several other performers. He also tours with other artists, including Stevie Heger and members of the pop/rock band Tripsitter. Most recently, Brian Wilson and Jardine performed several joint shows in honor of "Pet Sounds'" 40th anniversary and are about to embark on a joint European tour (summer 2007). Litigation continues between Jardine and Love.
The Wilsons' Hawthorne house, where the Wilson brothers grew up and the group began, was demolished in the 1980s to make way for Interstate 105, (the Century Freeway) and California Landmark #1041 at 3701 West 119th Street, dedicated on May 20, 2005, marks the location.
First Beach Boys promo record released December 1961
having changed name from The Pendletones
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