Few musical groups today can claim they created a genre. The Beach Boys are one of the few. To commemorate the 50th year of the Beach Boys, today’s feature is dedicated to the boys from California.
It was 1961, Hawthorne, California. Brothers Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson, cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine, gathered around the piano at the Wilson home and kicked around an idea. The wanted to start a band to reflect the culture of Southern California–surfing, hot rods and girls. Out of those earliest private sessions, “The Pendletons,” were born. They took their name from the Pendleton woolen wear company whose shirts were very popular at the time.
Brian Wilson was 19.
In December of ’61, the boys changed their name to the Beach Boys and heard their music on the radio for the first time. “Surfin” was released on the Candix label on December 4th.
The overbearing patriarch of the Wilson clan, Murry, drove their formative years and acted as manager and producer. He was responsible for negotiating their first contract with Capital Records. By 1964 relations with their father reached an impasse and Brian assumed creative and functional control of the Beach Boys.
Through the coming years The Beach Boys would become one of the most successful American born groups. Their popularity rivaled the best of the British invasion. Since their inception they have had 36 top-40 hits, (the most of any American band.) 56 Top-100 hits (including 4 #1 singles) and they sit at #12 on Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list.
In 1988, the original five–the Wilsons, Love and Jardine, were inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of fame.
In spite of their phenomenal success the band went through many internal battles. In the mid to late sixties they moved from their beach music roots and started exploring the more psychedelic sounds of the period. Their 1965 album, Pet Sounds, was their most ambitious to date and relied heavily on multi-level harmonies and exotic instruments. Brian began experimenting with LSD and ultimately suffered a nervous breakdown like his British counterpart Syd Barret (Pink Floyd).
Later that same year they released the single Good Vibrations which became their most successful effort yet. It sits at #6 on Rolling Stone’s — 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Dennis Wilson tried his hand at acting and in 1971 starred along side James Taylor and Warren Oates, in the critically acclaimed, Two Lane Blacktop, one of my favorite movies of that era. He played the “Mechanic” to Taylor’s “Driver” role.
In 1983, Dennis Wilson drowned at Marina Del Ray after a full day of heavy drinking. He was buried at sea.
In 1998 Carl Wilson lost his battle with cancer. Even after the diagnosis he continued to tour with the band for as long as his health would allow.
Brian Wilson was estranged from the Beach Boys for many years but would return for the occasional promotional event such as Live Aid.
These days the Beach Boys are still touring with founding members Mike Love and Al Jardine still fronting the band. There is some talk of a Brian Wilson reunion.
We can only hope.
The Beach Boys and JFK Stadium for Live Aid – 1985