Tuesday, February 8, 2011

50th Anniversary (1961-2011)

Today I will interrupt my series of posts to comment upon the significance of this year to Beach Boy fans.

This year (specifically this Fall), marks the 50th anniversary of the band. There appear to be a number of special things in the works to commemorate the occasion, but it seems as though the biggest official push will come next year when the band celebrates the 50th anniversary of their first hit and major record label deal.

But the first anniversary event took place this past Saturday at a celebration of Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday. The Boys have a bit of history with the Reagans. After playing to a huge crowd on the national mall on July 4th, 1980 (during the Carter administration), the Beach Boys returned the next year after Reagan's election. But they were famously not allowed to return in 1982 on the grounds that they drew an "undesirable" crowd. This caused a huge public outcry.

In June of 1983, after playing a show in D.C., the band played a private gig on the White House lawn for Ronald and Nancy in support of the Special Olympics. I guess the Reagans liked the Boys well enough because they were allowed to resume their Fourth of July concerts at the mall the next year. So 1984 saw them back there, as did 1985. And between those summers, they actually performed "Their Hearts Were Full of Spring" at Reagan's inaugural celebration in January of '85.

So as you can see Ronald Reagan and The Beach Boys definitely had some history together (and that's not counting how Dennis Wilson and First Daughter Patti Davis allegedly got to know each other, um, extremely well...).

And for the 100th birthday party this past Saturday, the band performed a set of six songs. To understand what made the show special you need to understand the current state of things in Beach Boy Land.

With the passing of Carl Wilson in February of 1998, the band finally splintered. Brian seemed further estranged from Mike than ever before and Al left the act very quickly (his last show as a Beach Boy was in May of 98). Mike then acquired the legal right to use the name "The Beach Boys" and continued to tour under that name with Bruce and a band of backing musicians.

Al formed The Beach Boys Friends and Family Band, which included his sons as well as Brian's daughters, Carnie and Wendy (of Wilson Phillips fame). Mike then sued Al for misusing the name Beach Boys (forcing Al to change the name of his act to The Endless Summer Band). And later, in 2004, Mike sued Brian for using the Beach Boys name to promote his solo release of SMiLE.

So you can see the mess of things. With Dennis and Carl dead and Mike alienating Brian and Al, it was really-- finally-- at last--the end of The Beach Boys.

...except it wasn't.

Mike and Bruce have continued to tour heavily with a backing band that has changed drastically since Carl's death. A lot of the longtime supporting band members (e.g. Billy Hinsche, Ed Carter, Jeff Foskett) can now be found in either Brian's or Al's band.

In 2007, Al even played a series of dates with Brian, but he has not shared the stage with Mike & Bruce. Not since May of 1998, after the last of the shows for which he was already contracted prior to Carl's death in February, has Al Jardine taken the stage as a Beach Boy.

Until this past Saturday.

At Regan's party, Mike and Bruce made room for Al for the first time in nearly 13 years. Not only that, but Brian had been officially invited to join them. Brian's camp released a statement last week explaining Brian couldn't participate as he is hard at work in the studio working on a new album.

So it wasn't quite a big, official Beach Boys reunion (which by all rights should include not only Brian but David Marks as well), but it was a kinda-sorta mini-reunion having Al finally back with them.

In the six-song set, Al even sang lead on two of them. It wasn't the best show this incarnation of the band is capable of but it seemed to pick up momentum as it went along. Mike looked bad like he might not have been completely healthy, but he is about to turn 70 in a couple of weeks so maybe we can cut him some slack in that area.

Of the six songs, three of them were #1 hits. The set list was California Girls, Sloop John B (Al), Good Vibrations, Kokomo, Help Me Rhonda (Al) and Fun Fun Fun.

The 50th anniversary has the fan community buzzing. Expectations are that Capitol Records will put out a Beach Boys SMILE box set and the possibilities of a proper reunion are still high. In my mind, though, a reunion should include not only Brian and David, but Ricky and Blondie and all of the supporting band veterans like Hinsche, Foskett, et. al.

We shall see what happens. I, for one, am hoping Brian will agree to do some shows. I wonder if they'll even wear their striped shirts?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Singles: Little Saint Nick

We continue to look at Beach Boy singles that were originally released as stand-alone records before they were eventually included on an album.

This holiday staple by Brian and Mike was recorded in October of 1963 and first released that December. It made it to #3 that year on the Billboard Christmas charts and has seen heavy airplay every holiday season since.

The following June, Brian and the Boys were back in the studio recording more holiday songs. Four more Brian Wilson originals and seven covers to traditional songs filled out the classic The Beach Boys' Christmas Album. It was released in early November of 1964 and the first track on it was the already-proven hit from the year before: "Little Saint Nick". The album version, however, lacked the overdubbed sleigh bell sound effects that were included on the single version.

Brian's song "The Man With All the Toys" was released as a single in conjunction with the album and made it to #6 on the holiday charts that year. Another original, "Christmas Day" marked the first time that Al Jardine performed the lead vocal.

The seven traditional songs on the album feature some stunning orchestral arrangements. Discovering this album as I did from a post-Pet Sounds perspective, I assumed for years that Brian was responsible for the arrangements. I have recently discovered that was not the case at all.

It must have been a thrill for Brian to have Dick Reynolds handle those duties. Reynolds was an arranger for The Four Freshmen, famously one of Brian's favorite groups. I am left to wonder how much of an influence seeing Reynolds work on this album had on Brian as he began his path towards Pet Sounds.

And for what it's worth, Brian's vocal on "Blue Christmas" has to be among the most beautiful he ever recorded.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Singles: Surfin' Safari/409

This time around, we continue to look at singles by The Beach Boys that were released with no initial thought or original intent of inclusion on an album.

In our previous installment, I went into a bit of the story of the band's first single. As it turns out, they also had a second single released prior to any definite plans for a full album.


Early in 1962, as "Surfin'/Luau" was still looking for a national audience, the group found themselves back in Hite Morgan's studio after another round of songwriting for Brian.

On February 8th, early versions of "Surfin' Safari" and "Surfer Girl" were recorded along with a couple of more obscure tracks. "Judy" took its name from Brian's first girlfriend and "Beach Boys Stomp" was an instrumental.

A few days after this session, Al Jardine quits the band around the time "Surfin/Luau" breaks the Top 100. It's a blow for a small time band still hoping to break out, but by March David Marks, a very young Wilson neighbor, proves to be a solid guitar player and joins the band.

At this point in history, there are no guarantees The Beach Boys won't prove to be an obscure one-hit wonder. But manager/father Murry Wilson kept them busy in March and April of 1962, booking them into such gigs as high school gymnasiums and hotels.

By all accounts Murry was a monster and it seems in poor taste to say much nice about the guy, but the truth is his relentless drive and his belief in the boys' talent really went a long way to breaking the group out as quickly as they did.

Leaving Hite Morgan, Murry got the boys booked into Western Studios on April 19th for the purposes of producing a high quality demo tape that could be shopped around to major labels. This session yielded a new version of "Surfin' Safari", a cover of The Four Freshmen's "Their Hearts Were Full of Spring" and a pair of new Brian Wilson songs: "409" and "Lonely Sea".

With these songs in hand, Murry went shopping and found a willing buyer in Nick Venet, an executive at Capitol Records. The boys were signed to a contract, the demo was bought and on June 4th "Surfin' Safari/409" was released as a Capitol record, using the April demo recordings.

There were no initial plans for an album as Capitol wasn't going to spend any money on their newest act unless the single was a success.

Long story short, it was quite successful. "Surfin' Safari" climbed all the way to #14 and even the B-side "409" broke the Top 100, peaking at #76, making The Beach Boys' first single as contracted recording artists a double-sided hit.

After the single proved to be a smash, Nick Venet told the band they were going to the studio to produce an album to capitalize on the momentum. The result was the band's debut album, Surfin' Safari, released on October 1, 1962.

And only then did "Surfin' Safari", "409" and the earlier "Surfin'" find their way onto an album, the latter leased from Hite Morgan for inclusion.

Friday, January 28, 2011


During my research for the last post in which I looked for hit singles by The Beach Boys that were never included on any studio albums, I came across a few interesting cases that didn't quite fit that discussion.

It turns out there were several instances where The Beach Boys recorded and released a single with no original intention or immediate plans to have it included on a studio album. In most cases they did eventually end up on an album at some point, the exceptions being listed in my previous post.

Let's take a look at the ones I discovered. If I have missed any, I trust there's a fan out there somewhere that will point it out to me.

In October of 1961, two months before their first live appearance, the group held their first recording session. Over the summer, Al Jardine and two friends (calling themselves The Islanders) had auditioned for a man named Hite Morgan who happened to have put together his own studio.

In August, Jardine returned for another audition, this time with the three Wilson brothers and their cousin. It is possible this audition included a performance of "Sloop John B" but regardless, the response was lukewarm. When Morgan asked if they had any original material, Dennis stepped up and blurted out that Brian and Mike had indeed written a song about surfing. They hadn't really. But that didn't stop them from going home and quickly doing just that.

Brian and Mike's first songwriting efforts together produced "Surfin'". Morgan liked what he heard and immediately put the band in the studio and recorded it along with a pair of songs that he and his wife had written: "Luau" and "Lavender".

Brian, Mike, Carl, Dennis and Al were barely a band at this point. They were calling themselves The Pendletones but it's not clear how seriously they viewed the whole enterprise. They had yet to even perform live anywhere and by February Al would leave to work for Garrett AiResearch. . By no stretch were they polished performers. In fact, Carl was only 15 and still in high school, and Brian had included Dennis only because their mother had made him.

But Candix Records, a small-time label, released "Surfin'" (B-side: "Luau") locally and it did extremely well. Its west coast success quickly earned it a national release where it broke into the Top 100 and peaked at #75.

There were no thoughts of an album when the song was first released. Candix saw it as a novelty record, and the band may have, too. Of course, no one knew what kind of success was in store for The Pendletones but there was more than one person involved with motivation to pursue it further.

Mike was already a father and desperate for a way to make good money. Murry Wilson, the brothers' abusive and domineering father, saw dollar signs and would soon begin aggressively booking the band. Brian... it's hard to imagine the effect that recording a song and hearing it on the radio must have had on Brian. Brian was too much of an artist, too aware of the possibilities of the studio, too eager to follow in the footsteps of The Four Freshmen and Phil Spector to ever think of not continuing chasing a career in recording.

However, none of this was guaranteed when the group entered Hite Morgan's little studio in October of 1961 and recorded their new little song. And certainly there was no thought of producing an entire album (although the song would eventually show up on their debut album). Who could have known it was the first step in a journey that would lead to international celebrity and the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame?

(Side note: The Pendeltones were upset to open up a box of newly pressed 45s of "Surfin"/"Luau" to discover someone had taken the liberty to rename the act The Beach Boys. They fought it, but there was not enough money available to go back to press so they were forced to keep the name.)

NEXT TIME: "Surfin' Safari" and "409"

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Apples and Oranges: Stand-Alone Singles

Any study of The Beach Boys that includes placing their work in the proper context of the 1960s must, at some point, draw comparisons to The Beatles. The Beach Boys were one of the few American bands to hold their own during the height of Beatlemania.

Any time I compare The Beach Boys and The Beatles, I will title it Apples and Oranges in reference to the Beatles' record company and the fruit that stands as another symbol of California.

I've never been any kind of Beatles' historian, but one thing I learned just in the last couple of years was that a majority of their #1 hit songs were never included on any studio albums. (“All You Need is Love”, “Hey, Jude”)

I found that amazing and immediately wondered if the Beach Boys had ever done such a thing. The quick answer was no, all their #1 hits appeared on studio albums. It doesn't take long to run down the list. While the band notched thirty-six Top 40 hits (a record among American rock bands), they only reached the top spot three times in the 60s (thanks largely to the domination of the Fab Four) and once more in 1988.

“I Get Around” led off 1964's All Summer Long album. (One year after Brian had scored his first #1 as producer of Jan and Dean's "Surf City".)

“Help Me, Rhonda” found a home on 1965's Summer Days (and Summer Nights) album,

while “Good Vibrations” eventually appeared on Smiley Smile in 1967.

In 1988, the band scored a surprise #1 hit with “Kokomo” that originally appeared on the Cocktail soundtrack but was also included on the band's Still Cruisin' album the next year.

So the quick answer: No, the Beach Boys never failed to include a #1 song on a studio album. Even if its inclusion occurred well after the song had already been proven a hit.

But had they ever had a hit song of any stature not find a home on an album but remain an unaffiliated single, the way the Beatles had?

The answer is yes, they did. At least once and maybe more depending on how you choose to look at things. On this list are "Be True To Your School", "The Little Girl I Once Knew", "Cotton Fields" and "Break Away".

Astute fans should immediately recognize two of those as being found on studio albums, so allow me to explore each of these songs as I look to answer "Did The Beach Boys ever have a hit single not included on a studio album?"

"Be True To Your School"

A version of this song appears on the Little Deuce Coupe album. It was not released as a single. During the sessions for the album, a few days after recording the first version, Brian re-worked the arrangement. He changed the key, increased the tempo (editing the vocal to match), then brought in female singers to overdub cheerleader parts. These ladies were the recording act The Honeys, which included Marylin Rovell, Brian's future wife.

This new version of the song was then released-- a completely different arrangement from what appears on the album-- and it climbed the charts, peaking at #6 . This new version was not included on any future albums. So does it count? Does it follow the Beatles' habit of unaffiliated hit songs? Or does the song's earlier, unreleased incarnation on the Little Deuce Coupe album disqualify it? You decide. Considering that it was recorded during the same studio sessions as the album, I would personally choose to disqualify it. So let's keep looking...

“The Little Girl I Once Knew”

This song is the one definitive example of a hit single without a studio album to call home.

February of 1965 saw the release of Today and it was followed up in July by Summer Days. Later, as the year was winding down, Brian began his most vital work. Having been inspired by The Beatles' Rubber Soul to create an album that existed as a unified, whole work as opposed to a collection of individual works and filler, Brian realized he was on the threshold of something very special.

Capitol Records, radio station program directors and the public had grown accustomed to the astonishing output of 3 or 4 albums a year from The Beach Boys. But Brian, setting out now to craft a “teenage symphony to God”, knew that his next project needed more time and care to gestate.

So "The Little Girl I Once Knew" was quickly produced and released in the fall of 1965. It's an excellent song and would have been very much at home on either of that year's earlier albums. But Brian, constantly experimenting, had chosen to include long pauses, moments of complete silence in the song. This frustrated program directors who hated dead air and confused DJs who were caught unaware and didn't know when the song was over.

As a result, airplay was reduced and the song only peaked at #20. It was a chart position the band would have killed for a few short years down the road, but in 1965 it was seen as a clear disappointment.

With Capitol Records pressuring for a new album, Brian opted to throw together a quickie album rather than to compromise the project he really cared about, the one that would change The Beach Boys forever. The result was Party!, a collection of cover tunes done acoustically with little more than a guitar and a tambourine. The overdubbing of talking and laughing throughout the album along with the casual singalong scene depicted on the front cover sold the illusion that listeners were eavesdropping in on a private gathering of friends. Here was a glimpse of the band just being themselves, having fun with friends, and we the fans were allowed in.

Without a new original tune anywhere on it, without the elaborate production Brian and grown fond of, with everything about it screaming economy, it was clear the album was done in a hurry by design. But the idea of eavesdropping in on such a fun-sounding party proved intoxicating to the public. It went straight into the Top Ten of the album charts.

Brian had accidentally produced a hit album, peaking at #6 (#3 in the UK).

Being as it was a collection of cover tunes, Capitol had no planned single releases for Party!. Instead, it continued to promote the failing “Little Girl I Once Knew”, which was still in circulation at radio stations at the time Party! came out in December.

So a funny thing happened. The final track on Party!, the one with perhaps the tightest group vocals found anywhere in the relaxed vibe of the album, was a cover of “Barbara Ann”. DJs began dumping “Little Girl” in favor of “Barbara Ann” on their own accord and it caught on. It became a so-called “turntable hit”, finding an audience through disc jockeys playing the track off an LP rather than through the promoted release of a single from the label.

Capitol was quick to roll with it, immediately pulling the plug on “Little Girl” and rushing a single version of “Barbara Ann” into production that cut out extraneous silliness on either end of the song that appeared on the album.

“Barbara Ann” shot all the way to #2 very early in 1966, an accidental hit. And that next project Brian had his sights on? That teenage symphony to God? That would prove to be Pet Sounds.

And what happened to “The Little Girl I Once Knew”? Well, it never made it to a studio album. So there you go, the one definitive instance of a hit song (#20) that only knew life as a stand-alone single. What I'm left to wonder is what if it had been a huge hit? It wouldn't fit in on Party!, Brian surely would not have wanted it on Pet Sounds, and Capitol certainly would have pushed for that to ensure sales on a decidedly non-commercial album. Who knows?

"Cotton Fields"

The story on this song is a little complicated. It is originally a Huddie Ledbetter song made popular by The Highwaymen in 1961. The Beach Boys recorded Brian's version of the song in November of 1968 and it appeared on the 20/20 album in 1969. This album version was titled "Cottonfields" and features Al Jardine on lead vocals. It was never released as a single.

1969 and 1970 proved to be extremely prolific years for the band. During about an 18-month span between studio albums, they worked in a staggering amount of writing and recording around their tour schedule. This 18 month period also included a change in record labels and having an album rejected. Over thirty songs were recorded during this period, including not only everything that would appear on the Sunflower album for their new label, but also gems like "Soulful Old Man Sunshine" which would languish in the vaults for years.

It was during this time of no album releases but prolific recording that Jardine decided to re-visit "Cottonfields". He apparently felt that Brian's arrangement, for once, had missed the mark and came up with his own version. So, eventually, after having toured internationally supporting 20/20, the band recorded Jardine's version in August of 1969.

Retitled "Cotton Fields" (two words), it became the band's last single for Capitol in April of 1970.

It failed miserably in the USA, peaking at #103.

However, it reached #5 in the UK and made it all the way to #1 in Australia and Norway (and #2) in Sweden.

"Cotton Fields" was never included on an American release of a studio album. However, it was included on international versions of Sunflower later that year. (It finally was released in America in 1998 on the excellent Endless Harmony soundtrack, along with "Old Man Sunshine".)

So does it count? A new arrangement, a new title, only a hit in other countries, and included only on international releases of a studio album. Again, you decide. No clean answer.

And our last candidate:

"Break Away"

During the same prolific period in 1969, this song (sometimes listed as "Breakaway") was recorded in March and April and then released in June. Interestingly, Brian's father Murry, from whom he had been estranged since 1964, is credited as lyricist.

This would be the last song listing Brian Wilson as producer for the next five years.

It failed to do well, peaking at #63. It also never appeared on a studio album. Could it have? It was released by Capitol and by the time their next album came out it was for Reprise Records. Not sure "Break Away" could have avoided the fate of no studio album even if it had been a smash.

As it is, it was a commercial disappointment but charted in the Top 100. So does it fit our category? Probably not, but it depends on your definition of a hit. Like so many other of the band's output from 1967 to '71, this song has risen in acclaim over the decades.

Next Up: my research turned quite a few examples of songs released as singles with no thought of future inclusion on albums and also songs with a bit of a fuzzy relationship to their albums. We'll look at these next time!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mike vs Brian: In Search of the Perfect Beach Boys Song

When fans discuss the history and body of work of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys, the conversation will generally center around whether one is talking about the “pre-Pet Sounds” or “post-Pet Sounds” period. Brian's seminal work, the 1966 album that amazed critics and baffled fans, is the clear demarcation line in the band's first decade.

Everything before Pet Sounds tends to get lumped into the same category as “Surfin' USA”, “I Get Around” and “Catch A Wave”. I'm not saying these aren't great songs-- they're some of my all-time favorites-- but they lack the musical sophistication of what was to come. And while it is an unfair generalization that ignores such early gems as “In My Room” and “The Warmth of the Sun”, it is nonetheless a perception that exists.

On the early, pre-Pet Sounds albums, the group seemed stuck on frivolous subject matter. The lightness of the subject would mask what was often deceptively complex arrangements or progressions. Keep in mind for every all-time classic like “Fun Fun Fun” or “Help Me, Rhonda” there were duds like “Finders Keepers” or “Our Car Club”.

I don't think Brian cared very much what the subject matter was. I say this because he often partnered with others that would handle the lyrics. He was more interested in crafting the harmonies and arrangements. The words were almost secondary for an artist focused more on the tone and timbre of human voices in tight harmony. Because of this, the band was slow to break away from the juvenile subject matter that had taken them to such early success. (Prime example: "The Ballad of Ol' Betsy". Beautiful singing and harmonizing, ridiculous subject matter.)

Another huge factor that kept the band's songs focused on surfing and cars for so long was Mike Love. Mike's voice, with its distinctive nasal quality that often sounded put on, largely defined the unique sound of The Beach Boys. Many of the major, pre-Pet Sounds hits featured Mike on lead vocals: “Surfin' Safari”, “409”, “Little Deuce Coupe”, “I Get Around”, “Fun Fun Fun” and "Dance Dance Dance" are just some examples.

These were the types of songs that Mike loved.

Then there were the type of songs that Brian loved.

Mike and Brian can be viewed as the yin and yang of The Beach Boys. Mike can be seen to represent or champion every thing commercial about the band where Brian represents everything artistic.

An early hint of division along these lines can be heard in the light-hearted track "Cassius Love vs. Sonny Wilson".

Mike was always interested radio friendly hit singles that would sell. Brian proved more interested in following his muse and exploring the possibilities of the studio and experimenting with a wider range of instrumentation. The problem, of course, is that Brian came up with all the music, forcing Mike to rely upon him for the commercial hits even after Brian grew past such concerns and was ready to explore new directions.

These conflicting perspectives are at the heart of Mike's famous dislike and disdain for the Pet Sounds and Smile projects. When he first heard the music Brian had composed for those albums, he lost his temper and derided Brian for not sticking to the proven formula. Brian was of fragile psyche and in need of security and encouragement. For the first time, he did not find that in his band and it was a huge factor contributing to his famous and tragic breakdown and the failure of Smile's completion as a Beach Boy album.

The Pet Sounds album represents a culmination of Brian's maturation as an artist and studio auteur. It has been described as a radical departure from anything the Beach Boys had done before, but I don't think that is entirely true.

As I look at it, there were signs of Brian's more introspective and melancholy themes throughout the early albums. Listen to “The Lonely Sea” or “Surfer Moon” to see what I'm talking about. “The Warmth of the Sun”, “Keep An Eye on Summer” and “We'll Run Away” are other examples.

And this doesn't even include the entire second side of the Today album. “Kiss Me Baby” would be right at home on Pet Sounds (and I've argued before that it would make a better fit for that album than “Sloop John B”).

The band's sound changed, more than once, after Pet Sounds. From the psychedelia of Smiley Smile to the soul of Wild Honey; from the regression and withdrawal of Brian to the late emergence of Dennis' songwriting talents, the fact is the band never sounded the same after Pet Sounds.

Any song that vaguely resembled those early surf hits Mike loved so much were considered retro and a fun, temporary throwback. Examples of these would be “Do It Again”, “It's OK”, and “California Callin”.

So there are your two major sides to The Beach Boys sound: Mike Love and the odes to summer with catchy, bouncy lyrics; and Brian Wilson with his increasingly complex musical arrangements.

But where do these two aspects intersect? What song represents both the best?

Where can you find the fun ode to summer that is also, musically, something Brian's fans can point to?

What's the best example of Brian's brilliant arrangements behind Mike's lead vocal, the perfect balance of yin and yang?

Ladies and Gentlemen, I submit “California Girls”. The song finds Mike right where Mike wants to be: front and center. And underneath that you've got tight background harmonies and a surprisingly dense musical wall of sound that actually has the audacity to pull off an old-fashioned, Roy Rogers, cowboy-on-the-range bassline.

I titled this post The Perfect Beach Boys Song. I'm sure many who read this will quickly name other songs they like better (And I hope they do: comments welcome!). I personally love “California Girls”, but it's not at the top of my list where you'll find “Heroes and Villains”, “Please Let Me Wonder” and many others ahead of it.

But by “perfect” I mean the strongest example of what Brian was learning to do in the studio, musically, with the classic Mike Love sound made familiar on the early surf hits.

So understand what I'm going for here. Hey, I like “God Only Knows” and “Let Him Run Wild” as much as you do, probably more. But I'm looking for that balance between Mike and Brian.

I think “California Girls”, especially with its orchestral opening, is the best example.

Can you think of a better one?

So Many Songs

For many years, I was content with buying and listening to various compilations of The Beach Boys greatest hits. I was fascinated by the band's blend of Chuck Berry, Phil Spector and The Four Freshmen.

I thought that once I owned the Good Vibrations Box Set, it would be all I ever needed. And for a few years in the late 90s, I was content with that set. Sometime around 1997 I read “The Nearest Faraway Place” by Timothy White and realized my interest in The Beach Boys was officially more than casual.

By the time I sat in the crowd one summer night in 2000 and listened to Brian Wilson and his new band perform the Pet Sounds album in its entirety as merely the middle third of an amazing show, I knew I needed more.

I began really studying the history of the group (with an emphasis on Brian) and buying up the CD re-issues of the studio albums. I wanted to become familiar with the entire body of the band's work. Not just the greatest hits, not just the songs Mike Love and his touring band repeat every night, but all of it. The good, the bad and the ugly.

I was a self-proclaimed Beach Boy fan but I had never heard “Chug-A-Lug” or “Long Promised Road”.

So I began my education.

And this blog is one outlet for me to share what I've discovered and, hopefully, show others why The Beach Boys were great and Brian Wilson is a genius. On this blog I will assume the reader is already largely familiar with the band. I imagine most of my posts will speak more to the informed fan, not the casual fan that thinks “Surfin USA” is a nice oldie but has never heard of Blondie Chaplain or Van Dyke Parks.

These first few posts have been more autobiographical than I intend for this blog to be. It's not going to be about me, it's going to be about the music and the band members. But understand where I come from: I embrace all of the band's eras and styles. There are different aspects to their music and I can enjoy all of it.

I can (and will) gush at length over the quality and beauty of Brian's work as it matured during the Today and Summer Days (and Summer Nights) albums, bloomed with Pet Sounds and continued to flower on Friends, 20/20 and later works.

But I also enjoy the earlier, fun-in-the-sun songs that most of the public associates with the band. The surfing and drag racing songs with Mike Love's nasal lead delivering simple lyrics.

I love “Little Deuce Coupe” and “This Car of Mine” as much as I do “That's Not Me” or “Wake The World”.

We'll look at all of it, the good, the bad and the ugly. From “God Only Knows” to “Summer In Paradise”.

Next Up: The Perfect Beach Boys Song