411 Music Hall Of Fame Class of 2010: The Beach Boys
THE BEACH BOYS’ MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS:
- 36 Top 40 singles including four #1s
- 20 Gold, 9 Platinum and 6 Multi-Platinum albums
- The best selling American band of all time
- Inducted Into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (1988)
- One of Rolling Stone’s Top 15 Greatest Artists of All Time
- America’s Band
Often called “The American Band”, The Beach Boys began their career in 1961. The original members were Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson, (all brothers), their cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine. The band became known for its vocal harmonies and lyrics which dealt with the youth culture of early 60’s Southern California, including cars and (most notably) surfing. Dennis, ironically, was the only surfer in the group.
The guys’ initial recording was made with plenty of help from the Wilsons’ father, who helped the band rent instruments and pay for studio time. The song that was recorded that day – “Surfin'” – blew up into a huge hit, and Murry Wilson soon became the band’s manager. The band had a strained relationship with Murry, to say the least. He was an abusive man and not actually keen on rock music. His relationship with Brian – the creative force behind the group – was particularly volatile. But, as is sometimes the case in history, that strained relationship combined with a working relationship seemed to push Brian Wilson and the band to new heights, becoming much more than just a 60’s one-off vocal group.
Over the course of their long career, the band had 36 Top 40 hits, including 4 chart toppers – “I Get Around”, “Help Me, Rhonda”, “Good Vibrations” and the 80’s comeback hit “Kokomo”. Their album sales place them as the best selling American band of all time. Beach Boys songs resonated with the sunnier side of America, as the group sang about life as a teenager – dating, driving and surfing. The irony was that Brian Wilson’s experiences with these things was largely limited to his music – Brian was reclusive, and became even moreso as the trials of fame and drug use challenged him as the Beach Boys legend grew.
But it wasn’t just sun and girls and cars. The British Invasion of the mid-60’s led to the band to experiment with its sound, mostly under the direction of Brian. This experimental phase of their career led to what many consider the Beach Boys’ finest album, Pet Sounds, released in 1966. The album featured innovative studio techniques and some of the most sophisticated pop songs ever recorded. Paul McCartney has since said The Beatles’ own classic, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, was an attempt to match the sophistication of The Beach Boys. But history is kinder to Pet Sounds than the public was in its day – upon its release, the album was not a hit, which led to tensions between Brian and the other members of the band.
The tension led to line-up changes. Brian decided to focus solely on recording, leading the band to add a new bassist to their touring line-up. This would lead to the entrance of Bruce Johnston (after the strange addition of Glen Campbell), who still serves in the band today.
With the Beach Boys still touring to great success, the scene at home couldn’t have been more different. Brian’s attempt to “top” Sgt. Pepper’s led to a legitimate nervous breakdown. The Beach Boys continued to record, sometimes with and without Brian, throughout the 70’s and into the mid-80’s. Their last album of original material was 1985’s The Beach Boys, which was recorded without Dennis Wilson, who died in 1983 – drowning in Marina Del Rey.
Aside from the major hit “Kokomo” and a minor hit cover of surf rock classic “Wipe Out with The Fat Boys, the band spent much of the 80’s and 90’s in the court room with one another instead of in the recording studio. Carl Wilson died after a bout with cancer in 1998, further fracturing the group.
These days, Love and Johnston continue to tour as The Beach Boys, while Jardine tours with many of the studio musicians used on Beach Boy albums as The Endless Summer Band. Brian Wilson seems to have finally risen above his mental and emotional issues and continues to record and tour as a solo act. Reunions of the original line-up are often rumored.
Why The Beach Boys Were Selected:
When you look at rock ‘n’ roll history, especially in the 60’s, there seems to be a heavy UK bias when it comes to assigning greatness to bands. Not that it’s undeserving – bands like The Beatles and the Rolling Stones changed the world and few bands can stand up with those acts and saying, yes, we impacted culture just as hard. The Beach Boys can say that. Some bands defy having “that one hit single” – The Beach Boys are that too. You could make a list of your five favorite Beach Boys songs and, even ten casual fans would likely make ten totally unique lists. They were just that good.
Like The Beatles, though, The Beach Boys were not happy just making giant pop hits. They helped push the boundaries of what bands could do on record. They made beautiful harmonies and they made music that sounded like it came out of some psychedelic California time warp. They defined a genre – surf rock – that would likely just be a small footnote in rock history without them. The Beach Boys’ music tapped into the teenage dreams and frustrations of all of us, even these many generations later. And for that – and their endless summer – they’re deserving of this Hall of Fame.