The Beach Boys at 60: A salute to one of rock music's most influential groups
The Beach Boys are one of the most influential groups in rock history. In celebration of a new film about Brian Wilson, entitled Long Promised Road, we take a look at how they altered the musical landscape for generations to come.
The Beach Boys have sold over 100 million records during their 60-year career, and the core quintet of the three Wilsons, Love, and Jardine were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
Their UK Official Chart history is very impressive. Their 1966 compilation Best Of The Beach Boys Vol.1 spent 55 weeks in the Top Ten.
While none of their studio albums reached the top, their 1976 Number 1 compilation 20 Golden Greats was the second-biggest selling album of 1976 spending 85 weeks on the list. Their 40 charting albums have racked up 593 weeks in total. They’ve enjoyed 28 Top 40 hit singles, including two Number 1s (Good Vibrations and Do It Again) and spent 281 weeks on the chart.
Check out the trailer for Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road here:
The Beach Boys were formed in 1961 in Hawthorne, California. The group's original line-up consisted of brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and friend Al Jardine, having originally called themselves Carl and the Passions during high-school.
Their vocal harmonies and musical genius saw them become one of the most influential acts of the rock area, initially scoring a string of massive hits in the US that reflected their primary interests of girls, cars and surfing such as Surfin’ USA, I Get Around and Help Me, Rhonda and albums such as Surfin’ Safari, Surfin’ USA and Surfer Girl and Little Deuce Coupe. A lot of surfing, basically.
In 1966, the band released Pet Sounds, probably their best-known record. Packed with tracks, it was engineered almost solely by Wilson, and included more ambitious production and lyrical work. Containing the singles God Only Knows and Wouldn’t It Be Nice, and has gone on to become one of the most influential albums of all time, regularly featuring in Best Albums Ever lists by publications such as NME and Pitchfork.
Both Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson have admitted in the past how they drew inspiration from the other one’s music and thus people began pitting them against each other. It was a healthy competition inspiring each other, and Macca also declared that God Only Knows is “the greatest song ever written”, adding that “I’ve often played Pet Sounds and cried.”
Brian took time out of touring with band, as he became obsessed with writing the perfect pop song. This stalled work on the follow-up to Pet Sounds; Smile is now considered probably the most well-known unfinished album in music history. Never released in its original form, the making of the album stretched Wilson to breaking point, although a 'downscaled' version called Smiley Smile was released in 1967.
The closest we'll probably ever get to a finished version is a 2011 compilation called The Smile Sessions. Brian did present his own version of Smile - Brian Wilson presents Smile - as a solo record, but he's said many times it differs from his original vision.
Towards the end of the decade, Brian began creating increasingly complex songs such as Good Vibrations and Heroes and Villains, often spending days in the studio to get the music he was hearing in his head on to tape.
Although many of The Beach Boys albums at the turn of the seventies weren’t huge sellers at the time, titles such as Wild Honey, 20/20, Surf’s Up, Sunflower and Holland became increasingly influential with a whole new audience.
The Beach Boys have inspired no end of acts such as Teenage Fanclub, Elton John, Saint Etienne, Philip Glass, Led Zeppelin, Weezer, Bee Gees, Foo Fighters, Earth Wind & Fire, Bruce Springsteen, Jesus and Mary Chain and have also seen their songs covered by David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Status Quo, Ronnie Spector, Paul Simon, Sonic Youth, Neil Diamond, The Ramones and Willie Nelson.