In 2012, The Beach Boys celebrated 50 years of being signed to the legendary Capitol Records, having been together as a band for only a short time before that. To celebrate, the band performed on the Grammys, put together a lengthy reunion tour that – truth be told – had its shaky moments, and reissued a dozen studio albums as well a two versions of greatest hits packages. As if that wasn’t enough, the prior year, the group finally released its “lost” album SMiLE in various configurations, of which the multi-disc deluxe set beat out such musical luminaries as Paul McCartney and Woodie Guthrie for Best Historical Album honors.
During this busy stretch, Mark Linett and Alan Boyd have been integral pieces in the group’s legacy, having producer, engineering, and archiving roles among other things. The pair have a longstanding history with the group – Linett since the late ’80s and Boyd since the late ’90s – which allows a comfort level among all parties involved. During an interview, Linett expressed feeling “a sense of privilege and history” to be involved with the group’s projects, a sentiment heartily shared by Boyd. Through all the work they’ve done, they estimate that approximately 90% of the Beach Boys’ output has been archived and referenced, bolstered primarily by the active support of the group.
With that arsenal of material at their disposal, “it makes all kinds of projects a whole lot easier,” says Linett. One such project is the latest career-spanning box set Made In California. The 6CD set covers their well-known tunes as well as the feverishly-anticipated official release of Dennis Wilson’s “Wouldn’t It Be Nice To Live Again” and other previously unreleased material including home recordings (“Surfin'”), alternate versions (“Amusement Parks USA”), vault material (“California Feelin’,” “Meant For You”), live songs (ranging from a rousing “Wild Honey” to the healthful “Vegetables” to “Sail On Sailor”), and the first official stereo mixes of some songs (“Country Air,” “Do It Again”). The quality of that work leads Mark Linett to the conclusion that “they left more great stuff in the can than most (artists) have on their albums.”
Altogether, a staggering 174 tracks are presented for listeners and packaged in a 12″x12″ yearbook. Flipping through the pages, it’s instantly apparent just how much work went into it from the moment you open the cover (screened signatures of the surviving band members) to the end (a Never To Be Forgotten page honoring the contributions and lives of Carl and Dennis Wilson). To close out the book, an Alumni Association page painstakingly details in alphabetical order additional studio personnel, musicians, and singers who have played with the Beach Boys across two pages in an uber-small font.
The group, of course, has been anthologized in the past. The 5CD, but now out of print, Good Vibrations: Thirty Years Of The Beach Boys celebrated the group’s 30th anniversary while other box sets have chronicled their US singles and the classic The Pet Sounds Sessions alongside the aforementioned The SMiLE Sessions. When asked who the target audience for another another box set was, both Linett and Boyd agreed that hardcore fans will be attracted to the unreleased material as well as the sound quality and that new and casual fans will be treated to a comprehensive overview.
It’s the middle years that are often lost upon the casual fan. After blazing the Billboard Pop Singles charts in the ’60s with 27 Top 40 hits, the ’70s and ’80s only saw a collective 8 Top 40 hits (9 if you count the 1974 reissue of “Surfin’ USA”), while the ’90s through the ’10s saw 1 (the nostalgic “That’s Why God Made The Radio”). With or without chart success, Alan Boyd was fervent in his belief of all of their work: “I’ve always been struck by this incredible diversity and versatility to the group’s catalog. If you look at their entire career, particularly through the ’60s and ’70s, they did so many kinds of music so well that they actually developed multiple divergent and, at times, completely incompatible fanbases. One of things I wanted to stress in this box set was just how incredibly talented all of the members of the group were and to put a spotlight on the different kinds of music they recorded over the years.” Brian Wilson often duly receives a ton of respect for the Beach Boys’ sound, but the rest of the members all each left their own distinct mark.
Dennis Wilson’s “Wouldn’t It Be Nice To Live Again,” recorded during the 1971 sessions for the group’s Surf’s Up album, is a perfect example of the progressive style they were growing into from their roots. The cleverly-titled song pays homage to both eras, yet didn’t see release until 40 years later. Repeated listens draw deeper emotions from the listener. As the song opens, a reflective – almost sad – feeling overcomes you, but as the song opens into an ever-changing chorus, Wilson conquers the track by expanding his vocal range in a way that haunts/inspires you even hours later. A flute-laden instrumental section closes the song out as he rhetorically asks, “Don’t you think we could live again?”
The track isn’t the only Dennis Wilson-penned song to grace the set. The sixth disc also gives us “My Love Lives On,” a beautiful piano-led tune from 1974 that Boyd says even bootleggers haven’t gotten hold of. Tracks like these were supported for inclusion by none other than Mike Love, a member for whom a number of longtime fans have a love/hate feeling, as well as Al Jardine. Additionally, Linett extols, “Mike Love allowed us to make a better box set due to his input.”
As massive as the scope of material on Made In California covers, the well isn’t completely dry from the vaults or from a reissue perspective. Given their druthers, both Linett and Boyd would like to do more. Linett notes, “The whole genesis of that (12-album reissue from 2012) project came from a request from EMI Japan to coincide with the group’s tour over there, and there was talk earlier this year of doing several more (not all of them). That has not moved forward. We always wanted to do deluxe editions of all these albums including bonus tracks, outtakes, and things like that.” Adds Boyd, “From the Friends album, there are some really beautiful tracks left in the vault. Had the album come out later, they might have finished some of those things.” In addition, Mark Linett still hopes to complete a stereo version of 1967’s Wild Honey, although technological challenges stand in the way such as missing multitracks for “Mama Says,” in particular, that have yet to be located.