The Beach Boys

Highly Appreciated


The Beach Boys  are an American rock band, formed in Hawthorne, California in 1961.  The group’s original lineup consisted of brothers Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and friend Al Jardine.  Emerging at the vanguard of the “California Sound”, the band’s early music gained international popularity for their distinct vocal harmonies and lyrics reflecting a southern California youth culture of surfing, cars, and romance.  Influenced by jazz-based vocal groups, 1950s rock and roll, and doo-wop, Brian led the band to experiment with several genres ranging from pop ballads to psychedelic and baroque while devising novel approaches to music production and arranging.   (More from Wikipedia)  
How to describe Hacienda’s music has been a problem for me though.  Because of their 1960’s sensibility and love of harmony vocals, they are often compared with familiar bands from that era – even their website says:  “Think the Beach Boys meet the Everly Brothers”.  That’s a cute headline but isn’t really helpful in terms of a description:  If I were writing about the Everly Brothers, I certainly wouldn’t say, “They are a lot like the Beach Boys” – or Gram Parsons, or The Band, or any of the other artists that I have heard mentioned. 
(January 2011)
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Barbara Sullivan’s connections at Capitol Records didn’t pan out either.  Nik Venet was the point man at Capitol for folk-rock music and would have been a natural to work with Jim Sullivan.  He had produced albums for Fred Neil – to whom Sullivan is often compared – Lothar and the Hand People, and Linda Ronstadt’s first band the Stone Poneysplus more mainstream acts like the Kingston Trio and the Beach Boys.  But Venet turned him down. 
 (October 2011)
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It is easy to argue that “they don’t make ’em like they used to”, and that would also be my main argument I suppose.  For every Beatles and Cream and Beach Boys and U2 and White Stripes that made the big time, there are hundreds of bands that were every bit as good and were also well regarded enough to get a record deal – they just missed out on all of the stardom.  (There are thousands more that didn’t even get signed, but without some recordings, I have nothing to talk about).  

 (January 2012)
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The British Invasion caught American recording artists flat-footed; they were not used to any overseas competition to speak of.  Creedence Clearwater Revival and a revitalized Beach Boys are two of the responses by American recording artists to the British Invasion. 
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But the Pebbles series wasn’t just garage rock and psychedelic rock either:  The Pebbles, Volume 4 LP and the Pebbles, Volume 4 CD showcased rare surf music, illustrating that there was a lot more to the surf scene than the mellow sounds that were hitting the radio in those days by the likes of the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean; while the Pebbles, Volume 6 LP – subtitled “The Roots of Mod” – included several rare British beat bands.  Greg Shaw later followed up with that album with the now-deleted English Freakbeat Series
(January 2013)
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Much to my surprise, in the Rip Chords I finally found a rock band that did not have a listing in Wikipedia with a genuine hit song; their single “Hey Little Cobra was one of the biggest hit songs in surf music, making it to #4 in early 1964, even though the surf scene was already in significant decline following the recent arrival of the British Invasion.  I had recently picked up the second album by the Rip Chords, Three Window Coupe, and it is every bit as good as their common first album, Hey Little Cobra and Other Hot Rod Hits.  I was able to debunk the idea that the Rip Chords weren’t a real band but just a studio fiction that revolved around Bruce & Terry, i.e., Bruce Johnston, who later joined the Beach Boys (and is still in the band) and top producer Terry Melcher (Doris Day’s son). 
 (July 2013)
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In addition to Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson of Heartthere are a host of Wilsons who have made popular music over the years.  The Beach Boys  – “America’s band” according to no less than President Ronald Reagan (whose middle name is Wilson, come to think of it) – was founded in 1961 by Brian Wilson, his brothers Dennis Wilson and Carl Wilson, and their cousin Mike LoveAl Jardine was the one original bandmember not in the family.  Another Nancy Wilson is a top-notch jazz vocalist who started in the 1960’s and frequently crossed over to the R&B and rock charts.  Mary Wilson was one of the founding members of the Supremes; the story of the other bandmembers being eclipsed by lead singer Diana Ross formed the main storyline for the Broadway musical Dreamgirls that later made Jennifer Hudson a star in the film version, Dreamgirls.  Then there are R&B singers Jackie Wilson and Wilson Pickett, country star Gretchen Wilson, comedian and chef Justin Wilson, and many others. 


Wilson Phillips is one of the early second-generation rock bands and features another pair of Wilson sisters – Carnie Wilson and Wendy Wilson (daughters of Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys) – plus Chynna Phillips, the daughter of John Phillips and Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas.  She is the half-sister of actress Mackenzie Phillips, who started out in the film American Graffiti when she was just 12 years old.  Wilson Phillips had a major hit song in 1990 called “Hold On” and has released a total of six albums to date. 


(November 2013)


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George Harrison was the most spiritual of the Beatles.  Along with the other Beatlesthe Beach Boys, and many other celebrities, George Harrison spent time in 1968 with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi; but his interest in Hinduism predated that experience by several years.  Wikipedia mentions several earlier encounters:  “During the filming of Help! in the Bahamas [in 1965], [the Beatles] met the founder of Sivananda Yoga, Swami Vishnu-Devananda, who gave each of them a signed copy of his book, The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga.” 


(September 2014)


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The first time we all saw hula dancing was on Elvis Presley movies and other Hollywood productions, and it was typically winsome girls wearing grass skirts and small tops and flowered necklaces who were swaying gently to slow background music of no particular distinction.  I remember hearing that there was more to hula than that, but it wasn’t until I got to appraise Hilton Hawaiian Village at Waikiki Beach (near Honolulu) that I actually saw how strong and athletic the dancing was (and how there were at least as many men dancing as women) and actually heard the drum-driven music that accompanies that dancing. 


It is much the same with surf music; there is no denying the talent and fun of the music by the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean (and former UARB the Rip Chords for that matter), but there is more to the surf sound than that. 


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My introduction to the tougher sounds of surf music was on one of the compilation albums of that period, Shut Downs and Hill Climbs that I picked up from Columbia Record Club when I was ordering Jan & Dean records and other such.  There are two Jan & Dean songs, “Hot Stocker” and “Little Deuce Coupe”; both are on one of their better albums, Drag City, with “Little Deuce Coupe” being a previous hit by the Beach Boys (and also the name of one of their albums, Little Deuce Coupe).  There are other cool numbers on the album also, such as “Six Days on the Road” by Dave Dudley, “Seven Little Girls Sittin’ in the Back Seat” by Paul Evans, two instrumentals by the Ventures (more about them later), and a cover of the Rip Chords hit “Hey Little Cobra” by a band called the T-Bones


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There is also a rare surf song on the Pebbles, Volume 4 LP having a female lead, called “Thinkin’ ’Bout You Baby” by Sharon Marie.  Another (from Born Bad, Vol. 6) is “Yum Yum Yamaha” by Carol Connors and the CyclesCarol Connors co-wrote the hit song by the Rip Chords, Hey Little Cobra.  “Little Honda” by the Hondells (written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love of the Beach Boys) honored a different brand of Japanese motorcycle and was a Top Ten hit in 1964.


The album, Pebbles, Volume 4 LP was the first time I had heard of Bruce & Terry, two LA studio whiz kidsBruce Johnston, now a member of the Beach Boys, and Terry Melcher to be specific.  (The surf scene seemed to have people like that by the carload – others include Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and Jan Berry of Jan & Dean).  When I looked up the Rip Chords in Wikipedia before starting my post on the UARB, I was redirected to their entry on Bruce & Terry

(December 2014)
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Kim Fowley was a hustler first and foremost and would be a contender with James Brown as the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, at least among those (mostly) working behind the scenes.  The Sun Herald obituary noted:  “[Kim Fowley] went on to write or produce songs for a range of musicians, including the Byrds, the Beach BoysFrank Zappa and the Mothers of InventionGene VincentHelen Reddy, and Warren Zevon” – but the article could just as easily have listed a different half-dozen prominent names. 


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In the Chris Estey interview, Kim Fowley describes his early show-biz work in his usual name-dropping and self-promoting fashion (not that there is anything wrong with that):  “[M]y first major job in the business was working in the publicity, and press, and background music, media, for Doris Day’s production company; and I was the boy genius in the office.  The two movies that I worked on were Please Don’t Eat The Daisies and Pillow Talk.  I brought Bruce Johnston in as a songwriter, and stayed with him his entire career.  He wrote I Want to Teach the World to Sing . . . ’, whatever that was, the Barry Manilow classic ['I Write The Songs'].  And then all those songs for the Beach Boys, I can’t remember all the titles.” 


(January 2015/1)


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Wikipedia lists an almost completely different group of artists in that article (as opposed to those listed above who were backed by Glen Campbell in particular):  “Notable artists employing the Wrecking Crew’s talents included Nancy SinatraBobby Veethe Partridge Family, the Mamas and the Papasthe Carpentersthe 5th DimensionJohn Denver, the Beach BoysSimon and Garfunkelthe Grass Roots, and Nat King Cole.” 


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Superstar record producer Phil Spector used members of the Wrecking Crew to create his famed “Wall of Sound; while Beach Boys bandleader Brian Wilson used these musicians on their acclaimed Pet Sounds album and their Number One hit “Good Vibrations”.  


(February 2015)

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So what is “psychedelic rock” anyway?  I once described it as “music designed to be enjoyed while under the influence of psychotropic drugs such as marijuana and LSD”, but I never intended that to be a definition.  The way that the Wikipedia article on psychedelic rock starts isn’t much better:  “Psychedelic rock is a style of rock music that is inspired or influenced by psychedelic culture and attempts to replicate and enhance the mind-altering experiences of psychedelic drugs.”  The article lists the pioneering bands as being the Beatles, the Beach Boysthe Byrds, and the Yardbirds


(July 2015)


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I have never seen any of these local CD’s anywhere except at the place where I bought them.  But lesser known and unknown albums accumulate with the hit albums, and record stores offering both new and used albums try to sell them also.
I guess I first learned of this when I would go into a record store and start flipping through the stacks.  Many stores have separate sections set up for major artists like the Beatlesthe Beach BoysPat Benatar, the BandBlack Sabbath, David Bowiethe B-52’setc.  Then at the end would be a section simply marked B; here would be found albums by other artists whose names start with B.  Some would be well known – a stray Boston or Blind Faith or Jack Bruce album might be found there, say – but most were utterly unknown to me.  I would kind of flip through them, but I rarely bought anything. 
Now when I go into a record store that has major artists in their own marked sections, I usually pass those by and go straight to the plain “B”!
(December 2015)
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For some reason, over the years the 1970’s have gotten a reputation as a poor decade for music. (So do the 1950’s, for that matter, even though that is where rock and roll came from). It certainly cannot be because everything sounded the same. Most of the British Invasion bands were still active. The top American acts were still going strong as well – Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Carole King, Simon and Garfunkel, Linda Ronstadt, the Beach Boysthe Band, Johnny Cash, Frank Sinatraetc. – and major stars who arrived in the 1970’s include Elton John, Michael Jackson, Queen, ABBA, Billy Joel, Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen, AC/DC, PrinceJames Taylor, and Tom Petty. Anyone who says they are a music fan has to be able to find someone, and probably several someones on that list that they like a lot.
(December 2016)
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Allmusic sends out a weekly email called “New Release Newsletter” listing dozens of new albums, which I have gotten for years; in nearly every one, there are bands and artists represented that I know something about. In the most recent one (dated June 30, 2017), there are new albums or re-releases by the Beach Boys, TLC, Stone Sour, Jesse Malin, and Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires. Nor are these the only ones; Allmusic states in the emails: “Here are our editors’ picks for this week’s most noteworthy new releases.” 
(June 2017)
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We have been bombarded with important anniversaries this year.  In music, they all seem to go back to 1962:  The first albums by Bob Dylan (Bob Dylan) and by the Beach Boys (Surfin’ Safari) were released in the USthe Beatles first single, Love Me Do” b/w “P.S. I Love You was released in the UK (Sir Paul McCartney also turned 70 this year); the Rolling Stones had their first concert; and Andy Williams first began singing his signature song, “Moon River”.  All of this historical context might have gotten rock musicians in a writing mood:  Books by Keith RichardsPete TownshendRod Stewart, and Neil Young all came out this year. 
(Year 3 Review)
Last edited: April 7, 2021