Beach Boys…New Book! (Review)

The new book The Beach Boys by The Beach Boys has arrived!

This is the “bookstore version”, which is a reasonably priced ($65 list) heavy coffee-table book.  It’s approximately 12×10 inches, has an embossed hard cover, and is 408 pages long.  It’s packed with photos, and has commentary that covers the members of The Beach Boys from childhood.

They quickly move on to the formation of the band in 1961, and then the book follows them to about 1980.

For most of their career, the group was made up of the three Wilson brothers Brian, Dennis, & Carl, plus Mike Love (their 1st cousin), Al Jardine, and Bruce Johnston.

The first part of the book reveals how The Beach Boys’ early influences shaped their sound.  Brian Wilson was into the intricate four-part harmonies of The Four Freshmen vocal group, and jazz instrumentals like “Rhapsody In Blue” by George Gershwin.  Mike Love was into vocal groups that were more Rhythm & Blues based.  Carl Wilson learned guitar at an early age, and was influenced by Chuck Berry and other Rock & Roll artists.  Al Jardine also started on guitar early, and favored Folk Music.  You can hear all of those elements as you listen to The Beach Boys.

The written comments are from previous interviews The Beach Boys had given.  So even though Carl and Dennis Wilson are no longer with us, they are well represented.  To give you examples of the text, here are two sections in the book from Carl and Mike.  They give us a sense of how gifted Brian was at an early age, and how The Beach Boys developed their amazing vocal blend.



The normal breakdown of the vocal harmony for The Beach Boys had Brian with the clear high falsetto, and Mike with the bass vocals.  Carl. Dennis, and Al filled in the middle parts of the complex harmonies.  Also, not long after Brian stopped touring in 1965, Bruce Johnston took over those high falsetto vocals.  Here’s
Mike Love explaining their vocal blend.  In their teens they would harmonize at family gatherings (you might have to click to enlarge):

The lead vocals were mostly Brian and Mike, but eventually each of The Beach Boys had opportunities to sing lead.  Who sang the lead was Brian’s decision as the producer/arranger.

When the book reaches 1966 and Pet Sounds, we not only get comments from The Beach Boys, but from a whole host of famous musicians who were influenced by the group’s best album.

There are photos from each step of their career, such as these two-page spreads of the Smile era of 1967.

If you look closely on the snow sledding page, you can see a list of some of the songs from the Smile album.  Of course they’re not in the order Brian Wilson eventually used on his solo release in 2004.


(The Beach Boys in November 1970 at Coventry Cathedral U.K.)

About three-quarters of the book covers the band in the 60s, and the remainder of the book shows them in the 70s.  To be honest, the commercial success of the band’s recordings fell off a cliff in 1970.  None of their new songs even made it into the Top 40.  Finally, in 1976, a remake of Chuck Berry’s “Rock & Roll Music” made it to #5.  And that was their last major hit until “Kokomo” (#1) in 1988.

Their new studio albums during the 70s also struggled on the charts.  Here are their rankings…Sunflower #151, Surf’s Up #29, Carl & The Passions #50, Holland #36, 15 Big Ones #8 (because of the “Rock & Roll Music” hit), The Beach Boys Love You #53, M.I.U. #151, and L.A. (Light Album) #100.  That’s not to say that these albums don’t have their fans.  I particularly like some of the tracks on Surf’s Up and Holland.

The good news is The Beach Boys always maintained their popularity through touring (like in 1974 above), and the release of their very popular greatest hits collections.

If you’re a Beach Boys fan, you’ll find the book a treasure trove of details provided by the band members themselves.  You don’t have to read it straight through, you can skip around to the albums and eras that were most important to you.  The format combining historical photos and historical comments provides an insightful look at one of America’s best bands.


(The back cover is directly printed on, there’s no sleeve.)

Here’s an audio bonus of the song Brian is talking about.  It’s a custom mix of “Til I Die”.  I took the audio from a bootleg of the unreleased Landlocked album.  This version includes an instrumental introduction.  The song is 2:43.

 

One Reply to “Beach Boys…New Book! (Review)”

  1. Beach Boys were fantastic!! Great sound and songs. The book looks great! Thanks again for a great read.

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