Brian Wilson’s Birthday: The Celebration of a Legend
Happy number 70, Brian Wilson!
How did you become a Beach Boys fan?
I became a Beach Boys fan very early in life. I grew up in the East San Francisco Bay Area in a town called Livermore. My sisters were teenagers in the ’60s, and although I was only five years old in 1963, I distinctly remember hearing the Beach Boys on the AM radio (“Surfin’ Safari” and “Surfin USA”) and being really excited when my older sister brought home the brand new “Surfin U.S.A.” LP.
That album became a daily ritual in our home, and I felt a strong connection to the faces on the back cover. The Beach Boys were the coolest thing around, yet things changed after we saw The Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show” the following year. We fell into intense Beatlemania in my home and got a bunch of Beatles’ records, and other British Invasion albums, too.
Nevertheless, the Beach Boys remained in our household mix. My family purchased “All Summer Long” and the “Beach Boys Concert” LPs [both 1964] and played them to death. I was in love with the Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Animals, etc…but the Beach Boys always seemed like the home team to me.
They were singing about my California culture as opposed to something exotic and foreign. “All Summer Long” is still my favorite Beach Boys LP. Although my devotion as a fan has ebbed and flowed [I doubt there is another band who had so many highs and lows over such a long period], I’ve been a Beach Boys fan at my core from age five.
Why is “All Summer Long” still your favorite Beach Boys’ album?
“All Summer Long” evokes the feeling of a summer in California in a way that lets you access it again and again every time you put the record on. For 1964 it was a masterpiece of progression (e.g. “I Get Around”, “Little Honda” and Girls on the Beach”) tinged with nostalgia (e.g. “All Summer Long” and “Do You Remember?”). There is a joyous vibe that is tempered with melancholy.
The Beach Boys were still a garage band playing most of the instruments, but the production and vocal arrangements were getting more sophisticated. Tracks like “Hushabye” and “We’ll Run Away” feature some of Brian and the group’s best vocals.
The album represents Brian on the cusp of greatness, with all of the potential for greater things still ahead of him. “All Summer Long” is a golden moment, and the quintessential Beach Boys album in my opinion.
How did the myth get started that the Beach Boys didn’t play on the majority of their classic recordings?
I think the myth came about when writers like David Leaf wanted to give Brian major credit for creating things like “Pet Sounds” independently of the Beach Boys. Somehow that was conflated into a perception that the Beach Boys barely played instruments on any of their classic records, and especially that Dennis Wilson was replaced by ace session drummer Hal Blaine on nearly everything.
The truth is the Beach Boys, including Dennis, played the instruments on the majority of their albums and singles, far more than the Wrecking Crew. That said, the Wrecking Crew did play on many Beach Boys classics (e.g. “Help Me Rhonda”, “California Girls”, and “Good Vibrations”).
However, “Pet Sounds” is really the only Beach Boys album that is nearly 100% Wrecking Crew with little Beach Boys participation on the instruments. Prior to that, the Beach Boys played a major musical role in the studio on every album.
On projects like “All Summer Long” and “Shut Down Volume 2” , it’s still mostly all them, with a few selections either augmented or played by the Wrecking Crew. Before that it’s 99% Beach Boys.
Keep reading on examiner.com…
As the 1970s dawned, the endless summer of nostalgia designated the Beach Boys as its favorite sons. They recorded a critically lauded string of albums even while coping with the knowledge that their creative leader, Brian Wilson, had become a semipermanent recluse and a casualty of his own excess. Still, the Beach Boys continued through controversy, conflict, and death, rising again and again to find more popularity and more commercial peaks into the 1980s and beyond. As the new millennium unfolds, the Beach Boys are still here and continue to be a popular concert attraction and one of rock’s most compelling and important stories. In The Beach Boys FAQ, Jon Stebbins explains how the band impacted music and pop culture. This entertaining, fast-moving tome is accompanied by dozens of rare images, making this volume a must-have for fans.