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The A to Z of The Beach Boys
Here it is! The basic information anyone would ever want or need to know about the music group The Beach Boys. The band is an "American Institution" and has some of the most beloved music ever recorded. Today, much of the band is alive and reportedly kicking....and hopefully all living members will be headed out on the road for the first time in years this year. All of the information you would want to know regarding the Beach Boys is listed below in a fun alphabetic format, from “A,” all the way to the letter “Z.” Enjoy.
A: Is for Al Jardine. Al was an original founding member, vocalist, and long-time rhythm guitarist for The Beach Boys. Al briefly left the group in 1961, only to be asked back in 1963 to replace his “replacement,” David Marks. Al left the touring version of the band in 1998 after Carl Wilson died, however he remains an official member of the band via the Beach Boys corporation. Al also sang lead vocal on The Beach Boys’ number one hit “Help Me, Rhonda.”
B: Is for Brian Wilson. Brian was the lead composer, music arranger, bassist, keyboardist, co-lead vocalist, and back up vocalist for The Beach Boys. Brian was essentially the “genius” behind the band, and is credited as being one of the best song writers ever. With each album released by the Beach Boys, Brian’s growth of creativity was evident. Due to anxiety disorders, he eventually stopped touring with the band, but continued to write and record with the band. He was replaced in concert by first Glen Campbell, and then finally Bruce Johnston. He eventually became addicted to various drugs, which also contributed to a period of mental illness. Other members of the band felt that the people Brian associated with were the cause of his issues, and felt that they often took advantage of his condition. Over the last several years, Brian has regained his health, and continues to write music to this day. He can be heard contributing to various artists’ music as a back-up vocalist. It is hopefully that he and the band will re-join for their 50th Anniversary.
C: Is for Carl Wilson. Carl Wilson was a co-founding member of the Beach Boys, and served largely as its lead guitarist. Carl can also be heard on several of the Beach Boys signature tunes, including “Good Vibrations” and “God Only Knows.” He is the youngest brother of the band’s Wilson brotherhood, and became the “leader” of the band when Brian “retired” from the live performance aspect of the group. He was involved with the band up until his death in 1988, with touring and performing on the band’s last number one song, “Kokomo.”
D: Is for Dennis Wilson. Dennis Wilson was the 2nd oldest “Wilson” brother, co-founder and drummer for the Beach Boys. Of all the members, he was the one that most lived up to the lifestyle portrayed in the Beach Boys music. He was what you could call the “bad boy” of the group in the early days, as he was often involved in some scrape with the law or other issues. In the early 1970’s, Dennis injured his hand to the point where he was unable to play drums with the band. He had an addiction to alcohol and smoking that eventually contributed to his demise in 1983, when he drowned next to his yacht in a marina on the edge of Los Angeles.
E: Is for Endless Summer. “Endless Summer” was a compilation album released in 1974 that contained The Beach Boys most popular songs prior to the album “Pet Sounds. “ The album went to number one, and was a multi-million seller. It is still a staple of all Beach Boys fans’ music collections.
F: is for Fiftieth Anniversary. In 2011, The Beach Boys celebrated their 50th anniversary of existence with all living members going on tour, and putting out a new album. Sadly, upon completion of the the contracted reunion tour, Mike Love continued his own tour of The Beach Boys without the other members as he had been doing prior to the reunion shows. Fans and former members of the group were disappointed to say the least.
G: Is for Glen Campbell. Glen Campbell was already a successful country music artist when he joined the Beach Boys as a touring member in 1963. He was asked to step in for Brian Wilson who had decided not to tour anymore due to health reasons. Campbell was a “member” through 1964, and ended his time with the band when he found he was unable to devote as much time to the band due to his own music interests and activities. Campbell went on to be a large success, and had hits such as “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Southern Nights.”
H: is for Help Me, Rhonda. “Help Me, Rhonda” became the band’s 2nd #1 song (after “I Get Around”). The song features Al Jardine on lead vocal, and has two different versions - an album version and a “single” version. The single version is the most commonly heard. The song was originally titled “Help Me, Ronda.” Capital Records changed the name to the current “Rhonda.”
I: is for I Get Around. In 1964, the Beach Boys had their 1st number one hit with the song “I Get Around.” The single featured the song “Don’t Worry Baby” that went to #24 on the chart as well. The recording sessions that this song came from are reportedly the ones where Brian “relieved” his father Murry from being their manager. One of the sticking points was that Brian had written a song for the group Jan and Dean called “Surf City.” That song became the 1st number one song for Jan and Dean, which infuriated Murry as the Beach Boys had not had a #1 yet.
J: is for Bruce Johnston. Bruce Johnston joined the Beach Boys in 1965 after Glen Campbell was no longer able to fill-in for the ill Brian Wilson. He joined in time to record the song “California Girls.” He left the band in 1972 and struck out on his own, mainly as a song writer for others. He won a Grammy for penning the Barry Manilow hit, “I Write the Songs.” He also contributed to albums by Elton John and Pink Floyd. In 1978, he was asked to return to the group and has been part of the band ever since. He has been part of the touring group featuring Mike Love ever since.
K: is for Kokomo. The last #1 song released by the Beach Boys was the song “Kokomo” in 1988. It was featured on the album “Still Cruisin’,” as well as the soundtrack for the Tom Cruise movie “Cocktail.” The song was their 1st number one since the release of “Good Vibrations” in 1966.
L: is for Lawsuits. While the members of the band can sing in wonderful harmony, the same cannot be said for their relationships over the years. Many lawsuits have come and gone, and many dollars have been exchanged by the various parties.
M: Is for Mike Love. Mike Love is a co-founder and long-time lead vocalist for the Beach Boys. He is the cousin of fellow Beach Boys: Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson. He is also credited as a writer, or co-writer of many of the Beach Boys hit songs. For the most part, Love has been the most litigious member of the group and has sued various members over the years over naming rights, royalties, and writing credits. He is the only original member touring under the “Beach Boys” name today.
N: is for Number Ones. The Beach Boys have only had only two (2) number one albums, none of which were of original content. The first was the 1964 live concert record “Beach Boys Concert,” and the second was the 1974 greatest hits compilation “Endless Summer.” The albums “Surfin’ U.S.A.” released in 1963 and “Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!)” released in 1965 did make it to number two on the album charts. The singles that hit the top of the Top 40 charts were “I Get Around” in 1964, “Help Me, Rhonda“ in 1965, “Good Vibrations” in 1966, and “Kokomo” in 1988.
O: is for Other Members. There have been a few other members that were associated with the group. David Marks was an early member of the band, from early 1962 to mid-1963. His entry into the band was to replace Al Jardine who left the group, and then left when Jardine returned. At the time he joined the group, he was only 13 years old. He played rhythm guitar, and sang back up harmonies on the 1st 4 Beach Boys albums. Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar were briefly in the band starting in 1972, and left in 1973 and 1974 respectively. The material they helped the Beach Boys with was a dramatic departure from the “sound” fans had been accustomed to, and left due to disagreements with management and the band members.
P: is for Pet Sounds. The 1966 album “Pet Sounds” was at the time one of the most ambitious and ground breaking albums due to the studio techniques employed by Brian Wilson. Capitol Records did not know how to properly market the album due to its unique sound, and the sales were not great. Today, the album is cited by many as being a major influence on music and an outstanding contribution to music.
Q: is for Quarrels. The Beach Boys are known for their great music, and unfortunately for their ability to not get along. As mentioned under “Letter L,” the members of the group have often turned to the court system to help solve their issues with band members, management, and any other entity that crosses their path. In the early days, sparks and fists were known to fly in the studio between the Wilson Brothers (Carl, Dennis, and Brian), cousin Mike Love, and their manager Murry Wilson (The Wilson brothers’ father). Murry held the management reins with dictator-like actions, and often did things without the band’s knowledge. Early on, he sold the band’s publishing rights to a portion of their music catalog, which created some of the lawsuits in recent years. He also butted head with the boys over general creativity. Everyone one had their own vision of what they wanted the band to do, but Murry was usually not in agreement. Brian discharged his father of being their manager in 1964. He died in 1973.
R: is for Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Beach Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. In a shocking turn of events, Mike Love gave a speech at the induction ceremony that was very critical of a few of their fellow inductees like The Beatles and Diana Ross. He went as far as to call Mick Jaggar a “chickensh*t” for never getting up on stage with the Beach Boys. Many thought Mike had to be under the influence of something, but nothing has ever been confirmed. It did serve to be one of the more memorable speeches at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame though.
S: Is For Surfing. For the Southern California teenager in the 1960’s, there wasn’t much in life but girls, cars, and surfing. The Beach Boys music captures these feelings so accurately and truthfully through the writing prowess of Brian Wilson. Songs like “Surfin’ U.S.A.,“ “Surfin Safari,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” and “I Get Around” brought the beach to fans all over the world.
T: is for Teenagers. Much of the music created by The Beach Boys celebrates the lifestyle of teenagers living in Southern California in the 1960’s. The core of the music focuses on cars, surfing, girls, and having fun.
U: is for Untimely Deaths. The Beach Boys were affected by having two of their founding members die untimely deaths during the band’s lifetime. The Wilson family was easily most affected as most of their members have died in the band’s lifetime. Former manager and father Murry Wilson died in 1973 of a heart attack. His son and the band’s drummer Dennis Wilson died due to drowning probably caused by alcohol intoxication in December 1983. Carl Wilson followed them in death in 1998 after battling cancer for a few years. Both of their deaths left brought sadness to both fans and band-members alike.
V: is for Van Dyke Parks. Van Dyke Parks was a one-time collaborator with Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. Wilson was said to have been in awe over the lyrics Parks would present him during writing and recording sessions. Parks immediately butted heads with the other members of the band, primarily Mike Love who thought the music Parks was providing was absurd. It was also thought that Parks may have caused and/or contributed to the decline of Brian Wilson’s mental status due to his frequent influence of drugs. It was around this time that Brian Wilson’s contributions to the band began to wane as well. Parks reportedly still works with Wilson on occasion, and they are reportedly working on new material.
W: is for Wipe Out.In 1987, the Beach Boys backed up the rap group “The Fat Boys” on their remake of the 1963 Safaris hit, “Wipe Out.” It was featured on The Fat Boys’ album “Crushin,” and on the Beach Boys album “Still Crusin’.” The single went to #12 on the U.S. charts.
X: is for eXample. (Yeah I know that is a stretch) Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys are still one of the most beloved and inspirational bands in the United States. Brian Wilson has been named by certainly more than one artist as one of the best music composers ever. At the time when the Beach Boys came on the scene, there was nothing like them. They set the bar for the many artists that followed in their genre of music. Jan & Dean, The Ventures, Dick Dale, and many of the “beach music” artists of the 60’s all credit the Beach Boys with helping make their music popular. The progressive nature of all of Brian’s music may not have always been appreciated by the music buying populations, but the critics and musicians alike praised it. The album “Pet Sounds” was the most progressive stuff anyone had seen at that time.
Y: is for You Messed Up Murry. In 1969, Murry Wilson sold the publishing rights to most of the Beach Boys hits that were published under the “Sea of Tunes” catalog formed in 1962. Murry, by then was no longer their manager, but did still manage the publishing. Thinking the Beach Boys’ best days were behind them, he thought selling them for $750,000 to A&M Records was a great deal. Sadly, he was mistaken. Brian Wilson and Mike Love both sued to get their publishing rights restored, and while they were unsuccessful with that venture, they both received millions of dollars in unpaid royalties and damages.
Z: is for Zero. While they did receive the “Lifetime Achievement Award” Grammy in 2001, the Beach Boys as a group have never received a Grammy for any of their released albums or singles. Bruce Johnston received a “Song of the Year” Grammy in 1977 for writing the Barry Manilow hit “I Write the Songs. Despite the adulation from the music critics over the years, Brian Wilson never received a Grammy until 2004. It was in the “Best Rock Instrumental” for “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow.” It was on his album called “Brian Wilson Presents Smile.” The album featured re-worked material from a Beach Boys album called “Smile” that was not released until 2011 due to the tensions and troubles the band endured in the 1960’s and 70’s.
Well, there you have it! The A to Z of the Beach Boys. Let’s hope the remaining members can put aside their differences and can get together in 2012 more than once. Their music will forever be loved and timeless. It would be doing their fans a disservice not to go out on their own terms.