The Beach Boys…Surprising Facts

While researching for an article about The Beach Boys, I was surprised by some strange statistics.

Here are the studio albums from 1962 to 1973 by The Beach Boys in order of release (minus a Christmas album & live albums).

So, out of all these classic albums, how many of them went platinum (sold a million copies) in those years?

I was shocked that none of The Beach Boys’ regular albums sold a million.  I was expecting that nearly all of them would have passed that mark.  Decades  later, only two of their studio albums finally became platinum, Little Deuce Coupe and Pet Sounds.

Back in 1963, I was too young to get a drivers license, but not too young to love the “car songs” by The Beach Boys.  The very first album I ever bought was Little Deuce Coupe, which came out in October of 1963.  It was the fourth album by The Beach Boys, who had only been recording for a year.  Oddly, the main songs on the album, “Little Deuce Coupe”, “Shut Down” and “409”, had already been released on the group’s previous albums.  The title song had even been featured on the Surfer Girl album which had been released only three weeks earlier.  All but one of the eight new songs on the album were about cars.  That one, “Be True To Your School”, is another of the best tracks, and became a single in a remixed form.

I was also one of the 500,000 or so who bought Pet Sounds in 1966.  At that time, the album’s performance was considered disappointing.  Since then, the album has been elevated as one of the greatest of all time.  Because of that, it should have sold many millions by now.  According to the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) Pet Sounds has only one-million in sales.  That makes no sense.  Compare that to another critical favorite from 1966…Revolver…which has sold over 27-million copies.

Here’s another numerical curiosity about The Beach Boys.  They recorded 29 studio albums, yet there have been 56  “Greatest Hits” albums and various collections.  Since we now know The Beach Boys’ regular albums sold way less than expected, the group’s popularity was mostly in its hit singles.  Five of those greatest hits collections have gone multi-platinum, and Capitol Records keeps pumping them out.  Sometimes they use “remastered” or “remixed” as reasons for us to again purchase the same songs.

The first big double album of hits was 1974’s Endless Summer.  It covered most of The Beach Boys hits up to, but not including, Pet Sounds.  It’s sold over 3-million copies, and is the only Beach Boys album of studio recordings to hit #1 (another surprise!). The other double album above, Sounds of Summer, covers the group’s entire career.  It’s from 2003, and has also sold over 3-million copies.  One problem with it is that some of the songs are presented in mono, even though there are excellent stereo versions available of nearly every Beach Boys song.

Do you know which song written by Brian Wilson was the first to hit #1?  Despite a bunch of great songs by The Beach Boys in 1963, it was not one of theirs.  Instead, the song was recorded by Brian’s friends Jan Barry & Dean Torrence.  It was in the summer of 1963 that “Surf City” (“Two girls for every boy.”) became the first surf song to hit #1.  Brian Wilson had written the music and played it for Jan Berry.  Jan finished off the lyrics.

Brian almost always wrote with a lyricist, and he worked on about a dozen songs with Jan & Dean.  You might remember that The Beach Boys’ song “Catch A Wave” was reworked into “Sidewalk Surfing” by Jan & Dean.  The line “Catch a wave, and you’re sitting on top of the world.” became “Grab your board, and go Sidewalk Surfing with me.”  Other Jan & Dean hits included “Dead Man’s Curve”, “Drag City” and “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena”.

By the way, The Beach Boys’ first #1 was “I Get Around” in 1964.  The flip side was “Don’t Worry Baby”.  What a great single!

Thought Beach Boys fans might like to see another fan’s “Best Of” playlists.  As I bought these songs through the years, I eventually found the best stereo versions, instead of mono or re-channeled stereo.  Only “Surfin’ Safari” is mono.

You can see the lists are chronological.  Best 1 is a lot of fun, with a few serious songs mixed in.  The quality continues with Best 2, and the arrangements are at an even higher level.  The vocal harmonies throughout are off the charts.

Recently we’ve been hearing about the astronomical sums of money aging classic artists have been getting for the rights to their songs.  Back in 1969, their manager and the father of three of The Beach Boys, Murray Wilson, apparently thought their music would become passé, because he sold the publishing rights for $700,000.  Even translated to today’s money, that’s way underpriced.  The rights to those songs are now owned by Universal Music.  Fortunately, the band still retained the rights to some of their songs & master recordings, and their name.

(Bruce Johnston, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, and David Marks…he was in The Beach Boys for their first year.)

In 2021, The Beach Boys sold the controlling interest for their music and image to Iconic Artists Group run by longtime music manager Irving Azoff.  No money amount was announced.  The company is marketing the band and developing projects to keep Beach Boys music popular far into the future.

Extra:  After the success of The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show in February of 1964, Ed started booking bands regularly.

The Beach Boys first appeared in September of 1964.  They performed “I Get Around” and “Wendy”.

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