The Beach Boys: Longevity Rules

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

The Beach Boys
(Back row: Carl Wilson, Brian Wilson, Mike Love Middle row: Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston Front row: Dennis Wilson)

A critical re-evaluation is certainly possible and even necessary for The Beach Boys. Between SMiLE and the onslaught of the 2012 (and hopefully continuing) album reissue campaign, Mark Linett hopes that the casual fan will pick up an album like Friends to expand their knowledge and frame of reference for who The Beach Boys are and were. In the ’70s, he states, “Their image didn’t fit with the underground FM movement, and fortunately, they were still making good music and were able to eventually get past that and become hip again. It’s still reflected in their history that the early, hugely successful material is still much more well-known and popular today than the latest stuff. Friends and Sunflower are still underappreciated by a large part of the audience.”

Some might proclaim that the group’s material hasn’t aged well such as hot rod hits like “409” and “Shut Down,” which find themselves trapped inside a vacuum of time that coincided with another booming era in the US, 1950s and ’60s American car manufacturing. To that end, though, songs of that ilk also encapsulate just that, a historical reference point, that – current or not – also document American societal interests. That they were popular hits and still remain beloved today reinforces the point that their writing and unequalled singing talents didn’t go unnoticed. Furthermore, other material, relating to love gained and lost, is more universal and not tied to any particular point in time. Songs like “God Only Knows” or “Forever” (yet another Dennis Wilson-penned and sung masterpiece) or “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” are masters-level classes in songwriting craft.

Beyond that, the group’s ability to blend doo-wop style in a rock and roll sensibility vocals is breathtaking. Fans of the group helped them to land a Top 3 hit on the Billboard 200 in 2012 with That’s Why God Made The Radio and pushed its title track to a Top 20 placement in the Hot Singles Sales chart. Think about that: a Top 3 hit FIFTY years after releasing their first single.

Perhaps Carl Wilson himself summarizes their success best. In what Boyd says was Carl’s last interview while working on the Nashville Sounds documentary, Wilson’s voice is laid over a bed of Beach Boys musical snippets and vocal notes in “Carl Wilson Coda” to close out the set. To open the track Carl recounts, “I asked Brian one time…, “Why do you think we succeeded in such a big way?” He said, ‘I think the music celebrated the joy of life in a real simple way… with a direct experience of joyfulness.'”

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