We’re somehow confined to our name, the Beach Boys; it confines you to a certain image, but there’s so much there that’s so rich.
~The Beach Boys
“I approach my music-making as an art-form–something pure from the spirit to which I can add dynamics and marketable reality.
Music is genuine and healthy and the stimulation I get from molding it and adding dynamics is like nothing else on earth.”
~Brian Wilson, 1966
“Every once in a while, an individual is born into the world whose whole being is music. I think Brian is one of those rare people.”
~Carl Wilson, 1969
The Beach Boys – Surfin’ USA [Live]
Beach Boys – Surfin Usa HD
The Beach Boys – Surfin’ Safari (1962)
The Beach Boys – surfer girl – live concert 1964.
The Beach Boys – Wendy (1964)
The Beach Boys – In My Room (’64)
Beach Boys – 409
The Beach Boys ~ Barbara Ann ~ 1965
The Beach Boys – Help Me Rhonda
The Beach Boys – Wouldn’t it be nice
Behind The Sounds: Wouldn’t It Be Nice
The Beach Boys – God only knows (1966) fully restored video
THE BEACH BOYS- “FUN, FUN, FUN” (FROM THE LOST CONCERT)
The Beach Boys – Little Deuce Coupe
The Beach Boys – Surfin’ USA/Things We Did Last Summer
The Beach Boys – Sloop John B (Original Video)
Beach Boys – I Get Around
The Beach Boys – Don’t Worry Baby
Beach Boys – I can hear music 1969
Beach Boys When I Grow Up to be a Man
the beach boys barbara ann live
The beach boys -good vibrations
The Beach Boys – Good Vibrations – Rare Studio Recording Film Footage
Beach Boys California Girls
The Beach Boys – Kokomo (Soundtrack Cocktail)
Kokomo – The Beach Boys HD
The Beach Boys – California Dreamin’
Beach Boys Medley 1980 – Good Vibrations – Goin´ on.
BEACH BOYS JULY 4th 1980 washington D.C.
“The Beach Boys – Endless Summer” 1976
The Beach Boys and Lorrie Morgan – Don’t Worry Baby (1996)
I can hear music Kathy Troccoli and Beach Boys
The Beach Boys – Surfin’ USA live 2012
The Beach Boys – Little Deuce Coupe / 409 / Shut Down / I Get Around (Live 2012)
The Beach Boys 2012 Live In Japan [FULL SHOW]
The Beach Boys 50th Anniverary
Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan Love tribute by the beach boys…
The Beach Boys with President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy
The Beach Boys: The Very Best Of (Full Album)
01. Surfin’ Safari
02. Surfin’ USA
03. Surfer Girl
04. Catch A Wave
05. In My Room
06. Fun, Fun, Fun
07. Don’t Worry Baby
08. Why Do Fools Fall In Love
09. I Get Around
10. All Summer Long
11. Help Me, Rhonda
12. The Warmth of the Sun
13. California Girls
14. Please Let Me Wonder
15. Kiss Me, Baby
16. She Knows Me Too Well
17. In The Back Of My Mind
18. Wouldn’t It Be Nice
19. Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)
20. God Only Knows
21. I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times
22. Caroline, No
23. Good Vibrations
24. Heroes and Villains
27. Surf’s Up
28. Can’t Wait Too Long
31. Busy Doin’ Nothin’
32. Do It Again
33. I Can Hear Music
34. I Went To Sleep
35. Time To Get Alone
36. Break Away
37. Soulful Old Man Sunshine
38. Slip On Through
39. This Whole World
41. Cool, Cool Water
42. Feel Flows
43. ‘Til I Die
44. Wouldn’t It Be Nice (To Live Again)
46. The Trader
47. I’ll Bet He’s Nice
48. Let’s Put Our Hearts Together
49. It’s Over Now
50. Still I Dream Of It
51. Think About The Days
52. From There To Back Again
53. Pacific Coast Highway
54. Summer’s Gone
Background Articles and Videos
The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys are an American rock band, formed in Hawthorne, California in 1961. The group’s original lineup consisted of brothers Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and friend Al Jardine. Initially managed by the Wilsons’ father Murry, the Beach Boys signed with Capitol Records in 1962. The band’s early music gained popularity across the United States for its close vocal harmonies and lyrics reflecting a Southern California youth culture of surfing, cars and romance. During the early to mid-1960s, Brian Wilson’s creative ambition and songwriting ability would dominate the group’s musical direction. The primarily Wilson-composed Pet Soundsalbum and “Good Vibrations” single (both released in 1966) featured a complex, intricate and multi-layered sound that represented a departure from the simple surf rockof the Beach Boys’ early years.
Starting in 1967, Wilson gradually ceded control to the rest of the band, reducing his input due to mental health and substance abuse issues. Though the more democratic incarnation of the Beach Boys recorded a string of albums in various musical styles that garnered international critical success, the group struggled to reclaim their commercial momentum in America, despite the period when they were the primary competitors to the Beatles. Since the 1980s, much-publicized legal wrangling over royalties, songwriting credits and use of the band’s name transpired. Dennis Wilson drowned in 1983 and Carl died of lung cancer in 1998. After Carl’s death, many different live configurations of the band fronted by Love and Bruce Johnston continued to tour into the 2000s while other members pursued solo projects. For the band’s 50th anniversary, they briefly reunited as the Beach Boys for a new studio album, world tour, and career-spanning retrospective box set.
The Beach Boys have often been called “America’s Band”, and AllMusic stated that their “unerring ability…made them America’s first, best rock band.” The group had over eighty songs chart worldwide, thirty-six of them United States Top 40 hits (the most by an American rock band), four reaching number-one on the Billboard Hot 100chart. The Beach Boys have sold in excess of 100 million records worldwide, making them one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time and are listed at number 12 onRolling Stone magazine’s 2004 list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”. The core quintet of the three Wilsons, Love and Jardine were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
1958–66: Brian Wilson era
A historical landmark at 3701 W. 119th St., Hawthorne, California marking where the Wilson family home once stood
At age 16, Brian Wilson shared a bedroom with his brothers, Dennis and Carl, in their family home in Hawthorne. He watched his father, Murry Wilson, play piano and listened intently to the harmonies of vocal groups such as the Four Freshmen. One night he taught his brothers a song called “Ivory Tower” and how to sing the background harmonies. For his 16th birthday, Brian was given a reel-to-reel tape recorder. He learned how to overdub, using his vocals and those of Carl and their mother. Brian would play piano with Carl and David Marks (an eleven-year-old longtime neighbor) playing guitars they got as Christmas presents.
Soon Brian was avidly listening to Johnny Otis on his KFOX radio show, a favorite station of Carl’s. Inspired by the simple structure and vocals of the rhythm and blues songs he heard, he changed his piano-playing style and started writing songs. His enthusiasm interfered with his music studies at school. Family gatherings brought the Wilsons in contact with cousin Mike Love. Brian taught Love’s sister Maureen and a friend harmonies. Later, Brian, Mike Love and two friends performed at Hawthorne High School. Brian also knew Al Jardine, a high school classmate who had already played guitar in a folk group called the Islanders. Brian suggested to Jardine that they team up with his cousin and brother Carl. It was at these sessions, held in Brian’s bedroom, that “the Beach Boys sound” began to form. Brian says: “Everyone contributed something. Carl kept us hip to the latest tunes, Al taught us his repertoire of folk songs, and Dennis, though he didn’t [then] play anything, added a combustible spark just by his presence.” Love encouraged Brian to write songs and gave the fledgling band its name: “The Pendletones”, a portmanteau of “Pendleton“, a style of woolen shirt popular at the time and “tone“, the musical term. In their earliest performances, the band wore heavy wool jacket-like shirts which were favored by surfers in the South Bay. Although surfing motifs were very prominent in their early songs, Dennis was the only avid surfer in the group. He suggested that his brothers compose some songs celebrating his hobby and the lifestyle which had developed around it in Southern California.
Jardine and a singer friend, Gary Winfrey, went to Brian’s to see if he could help out with a version of a folk song they wanted to record—”Sloop John B“. In Brian’s absence, the two spoke with Murry, a music industry veteran of modest success. Murry arranged for the Pendletones to meet publisher Hite Morgan. The group performed a slower ballad, “Their Hearts Were Full of Spring“, but failed to impress the Morgans. After an awkward pause, Dennis mentioned they had an original song, “Surfin'”. With help from Love, Brian finished the song and the group rented guitars, drums, amplifiers and microphones. They practiced for three days while the Wilsons’ parents were on a short vacation.
In October, the Pendletones recorded twelve takes of “Surfin'” in the Morgans’ cramped offices, David Marks was not present at the session as he was at school. A small number of singles were pressed. When the boys eagerly unpacked the first box of singles, on the Candix Records label, they were shocked to see their band name changed to “Beach Boys”. Murry Wilson, now intimately involved with the band’s fortunes, called the Morgans. Apparently a young promotion worker, Russ Regan, made the change to more obviously tie the group in with other surf bands of the time. Released in December 1961, “Surfin’” was soon aired on KFWBand KRLA, two of Los Angeles’ most influential teen radio stations. It was a hit on the West Coast, going to number three in Southern California, and peaked at number 75 on the national pop charts. By the final weeks of 1961 “Surfin'” had sold more than 40,000 copies. Murry Wilson told the boys he did not like “Surfin'”. By now the de facto manager of the Beach Boys, he landed the group’s first paying gig on New Year’s Eve, 1961, at the Ritchie Valens Memorial Dance in Long Beach, headlined by Ike & Tina Turner. Brian recalls how he wondered what they were doing there: “five clean-cut, unworldly white boys from a conservative white suburb, in an auditorium full of black kids”. Brian describes the night as an “education”—he knew afterwards that success was all about “R&B, rock and roll, and money”.
Early successes with surf and hot rod-themed rock
An excerpt from Brian Wilson and Mike Love’s “I Get Around” demonstrating Love’s iconic nasal delivery and a surf-rock-styled guitar solo played by Carl Wilson. “I Get Around” would be the first US number one charting song for the band.
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Although Murry effectively seized managerial control of the band, Brian acknowledged that he “deserves credit for getting us off the ground… he hounded us mercilessly… [but] also worked hard himself”. In the first half of February 1962, Jardine left the band and was replaced by Marks. The band recorded two more originals on April 19 at Western Studios, Los Angeles; “Lonely Sea” and “409“, also re-recording “Surfin’ Safari“. On June 4, the band released their second single “Surfin’ Safari” backed with “409”. The release prompted national coverage in the June 9 issue of Billboard where the magazine praised Love’s lead vocal and deemed the song to have strong hit potential. After being turned down by Dot and Liberty, the Beach Boys eventually signed a seven-year contract with Capitol Records on July 16 based on the strength of the June demo session. By November, their first album was ready—Surfin’ Safari which reached 32 on the US Billboard charts.Their song output continued along the same commercial line, focusing on California youth lifestyle.
In January 1963, three months after the release of their debut album, the band began recording their sophomore effort, Surfin’ U.S.A., placing a greater emphasis on surf rock instrumentals and tighter production. It has been hypothesized that the shift to a sound more typical of the surf rock genre was in response to the Californian surfer locals who were dismissive of the band’s debut as it strayed from the sound of other surf acts. After the moderate success of Surfin’ Safari, Surfin’ U.S.A., released on March 25, 1963 met a more enthusiastic reception, reaching number two on the Billboard charts and propelling the band into a nationwide spotlight. Five days prior to the release of Surfin’ U.S.A. Brian produced “Surf City“, a song he had written for Jan and Dean. “Surf City” hit number one on the Billboard charts in July 1963, a development that pleased Brian but angered Murry, who felt his son had “given away” what should have been the Beach Boys’ first chart-topper.
Sometime around late 1963, Brian Wilson heard the song “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes for the first time, which “revamped” Wilson’s creative interests and songwriting. “Be My Baby” was later claimed by critics to be the epitome of Phil Spector‘s Wall of Sound production technique, a recording method that would fascinate Wilson for the next several decades. Wilson later in life stated: “I was unable to really think as a producer until I really got familiar with Phil Spector’s work.” Apart from Murry, Spector and the close vocal harmonies of Brian’s favorite groups, early inspiration came from Chuck Berry. “Surfin’ U.S.A.” is a variation of Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen“. Under pressure from Berry’s publisher, Wilson’s father and manager, Murry Wilson, had given the copyright, including Brian Wilson’s lyrics, to Arc Music.
The 1932 Ford that appeared on the cover to the platinum certified Little Deuce Coupe album
At the beginning of a tour of the Mid-West in April 1963, Jardine rejoined the Beach Boys at Brian’s request. As he began playing live gigs again, Brian left the road to focus on writing and recording. Around this time, Brian began utilizing members of the Wrecking Crew, session musicians also used by Spector. The session musicians were never an outright replacement for members of the band, but were used to augment arrangements or save recording time. The result of this arrangement produced the albums Surfer Girl, released on September 16, 1963 and Little Deuce Coupe, released less than a month later on October 7, 1963. This sextet incarnation of the Beach Boys didn’t extend beyond these two albums, as Marks officially left the band in early October due to conflict with manager Murry, pulling Brian back into touring.
Following a successful Australasian tour in January and February 1964, the band returned home to face the “British invasion” through the Beatles appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show. Reportedly, Brian wanted more time to complete their next album, yet their record label insisted they finish recording swiftly to avoid being forgotten in the throes of the impending “invasion”. Satisfying these demands, the band hastily finished the sessions on February 20, 1964 and titled the album Shut Down Volume 2. Critics have found evaluating the album’s worth difficult through the years. Though songs like “The Warmth of the Sun” and “Don’t Worry Baby” are widely acclaimed and seen as impressive milestones in the artistic growth of the band, others have not lasted.
In April 1964, during recording of the single “I Get Around“, Murry was relieved of his duties as manager. Brian reflected, “We love the family thing – y’know: three brothers, a cousin and a friend is a really beautiful way to have a group – but the extra generation can become a hang-up”. When the single was released in May of that month, it would climb to number one, their first single to do so. Two months later, the album that the song later appeared on, All Summer Long, reached number four on the Billboard 200 charts. The album was a swan-song to the surf and car music the Beach Boys built their commercial standing upon. Later albums took a different stylistic and lyrical path.
The group’s early songs made them major pop stars in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and other countries. They had sixteen hit singles between 1962 and 1965. The Beach Boys were one of the few American bands formed prior to the 1964 British Invasion to continue their success. Their early hits also helped raise the profile of the state of California and associated the band with surfing, hot-rod racing, and the pursuit of happiness by carefree teens.
Today! and Summer Days
A Rickenbacker 360/12identical to the 12-string guitar used by Carl Wilson in the early to mid-1960s
By the end of 1964, the stress of road travel, composing, producing and maintaining a high level of creativity became too much for Brian Wilson. On December 23, while on a flight, he suffered an anxiety attack and left the tour. In January, 1965, he announced his withdrawal from touring to concentrate entirely on songwriting and record production. For the rest of 1964 and into 1965, Glen Campbell served as Wilson’s temporary replacement in concert, until his own career success pulled him from the group in April 1965. Bruce Johnston was asked to locate a replacement for Campbell; having failed to find one, Johnston himself subsequently became a full-time member of the band on May 19, 1965, first replacing Wilson on the road and later contributing in the studio, beginning with the vocal sessions for “California Girls” on June 4, 1965.
During the recording sessions for The Beach Boys Today!, Love told Melody Maker that he and the band wanted to look beyond surf rock, to avoid living in the past or resting on their laurels. The resulting LP had largely guitar-oriented pop songs such as “Dance, Dance, Dance” and “Good to My Baby” on side A with B-side ballads such as “Please Let Me Wonder” and “She Knows Me Too Well“.
In June, 1965, the band released Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!). The album included a reworked arrangement of “Help Me, Rhonda” which had become the band’s second number one single in the spring of 1965, displacing the Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride“. “Let Him Run Wild” tapped into the youthful angst that would later pervade their music. In November 1965, the group followed up their US number three charting “California Girls” from Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) with another top-twenty single, “The Little Girl I Once Knew“. It was considered the band’s most experimental statement thus far, using silence as a pre-chorus, clashing keyboards, moody brass and vocal tics. Perhaps too extreme an arrangement to go much higher than its number 20 peak, it was the band’s second single not to reach the top ten since their 1962 breakthrough. In December they scored an unexpected number two hit (number three in the UK) with “Barbara Ann“, which Capitol released as a single with no band input. A cover of a 1961 song by the Regents, it became one of the Beach Boys’ most recognized hits.
Pet Sounds, “Good Vibrations”, and Smile]
Brian Wilson at a Pet Sounds session
Pet Sounds is regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time and is one of the most universally acclaimed in rock history
In 1966, the Beach Boys formally established their use of unconventional instruments and elaborate layers of vocal harmonies on their groundbreaking record Pet Sounds. An early album in the emerging psychedelic rock style, Pet Sounds has been championed and emulated for its experimental and revolutionary baroque instrumentation. In the same year, they released “Good Vibrations“, one of their best known and most celebrated songs. The song made use of a Tannerin (an easier-to-manipulate version of a Theremin) which helped them claim a new hippie audience.
Pet Sounds displayed Wilson’s growing mastery of studio recording. His increasingly sophisticated songs and complex arrangements peaked with this work. Influenced by psychedelic drugs, Brian turned inward and probed his deep-seated self-doubts and emotional longings. The piece did not address the problems in the world around them, unlike other psychedelic rock groups. The album’s meticulously layered harmonies and inventive instrumentation (performed by Los Angeles session musicians known as the Wrecking Crew) set a new standard for pop and rock music. It remains one of the most evocative releases of the decade, with distinctive lushness, melancholy and nostalgia. The tracks “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “God Only Knows” showcased Wilson’s growing mastery as a composer, arranger, and producer as did “Caroline, No“, which was issued as a Brian Wilson solo single, the only time he was credited as a solo artist during the early Capitol years. The album also included two instrumental tracks, “Let’s Go Away for Awhile” and the title track. Because of his withdrawal from touring, Wilson was able to complete almost all the backing tracks for the album while the Beach Boys were on tour. They returned to find a substantially complete album, requiring only their vocals and a small amount of instrumental work to finish it.
Despite the critical praise it received, Pet Sounds was indifferently promoted by Capitol and failed to become the major hit Wilson had hoped it would be. Its failure to gain wider recognition in the US hurt him deeply. Pet Sounds reached number ten in the US and number two in the UK, an accomplishment which helped the Beach Boys become the strongest selling album act in the UK for the final quarter of 1966; dethroning the three-year reign of native bands such as the Beatles.
One of the Beach Boys’ defining songs and their most well known psychedelic track. It was the Beach Boys’ third song to top the Billboard Hot 100.
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With the 1966 Pet Sounds album, and then songs like “Good Vibrations” and “Heroes and Villains“, Wilson had become America’s equivalent of the Beatles with his ability to expand the limits of popular taste.
Seeking to expand on Pet Sounds’ advances, Wilson began an even more ambitious project, originally dubbedDumb Angel; in due course, the project became Smile. Its first fruit was “Good Vibrations”, which Brian described as a “pocket symphony”. The song became the Beach Boys’ biggest hit to date and a US and UK number one single in 1966; many critics consider it to be one of the best rock singles of all time. It was one of the most complex pop productions ever undertaken, and was reputed to have been the most expensive American single ever recorded at that time. Costing a reported $50,000, more than most albums, sessions for the song stretched over several months in at least four major studios. According to Wilson, the electro-theremin work itself cost $15,000. In contrast to his work on Pet Sounds, Wilson adopted a modular approach to “Good Vibrations”: he broke the song into sections and taped multiple versions of each at different studios to take advantage of the different sound and ambience of each facility. He then assembled his favorite sections into a master backing track and added vocals, the sessions being the most demanding of the group’s career.
While putting the finishing touches to Pet Sounds, Brian Wilson met musician and songwriter Van Dyke Parks. In mid-1966, Brian and Parks began an intense collaboration that resulted in a suite of challenging new songs for Smile. Using the same techniques as on “Good Vibrations”, recording began in August 1966 and carried on into early 1967. Although the structure of the album and the exact running order of the songs have been subjects of speculation, it is known that Wilson and Parks intended Smile to be a continuous suite of songs that were linked both thematically and musically, with the main songs being linked together by small vocal pieces and instrumental segments that elaborated upon the musical themes of the major songs.
I’m doing the spiritual sound, a white spiritual sound. Religious music…That’s the whole movement…That’s where I’m going and it’s going to scare a lot of people when I get there.
Many factors combined to put intense pressure on Brian Wilson as Smile neared completion: his own mental instability, the pressure to create against fierce internal opposition to his new music, the relatively unenthusiastic response to Pet Sounds in the United States, Carl Wilson’s draft resistance, and a major dispute with Capitol Records. Further, Wilson’s reliance on both prescription drugs and amphetamines exacerbated his underlying mental health problems.Smile was shelved in May 1967, and would go on to become the most famous unreleased album in the history of popular music. Comparable to Brian Jones and Syd Barrett, Brian Wilson’s use of psychedelic drugs—especially LSD—led to a nervous breakdown in the late-1960s. As his legend grew, theSmile period came to be seen as the pivotal episode in his decline and he became tagged as one of the most notorious celebrity drug casualties of the rock era.
1967–75: The Beach Boys as a democratic unit
Smiley Smile and Wild Honey
Some of the Smile tracks were salvaged and re-recorded in scaled-down versions at Brian’s new home studio. Along with the single version of “Good Vibrations”, these tracks were released on Smiley Smile, an album which elicited positive critical and commercial response abroad, but was the first real commercial failure for the group in the United States. By this time the Beach Boys’ management (Nick Grillo and David Anderle) had created the band’s own record label, Brother. One of the first labels to be owned by a rock group, Brother Records was intended for releases of Beach Boys side projects, and as an invitation to new talent. The initial output of the label, however, was limited to Smiley Smile and two resulting singles from the album; the failure of “Gettin’ Hungry” caused the band to shelve Brother until 1970. Despite the cancellation of Smile, several tracks—including “Our Prayer“, “Cabin Essence” and “Surf’s Up“—continued to trickle out in later albums often as filler songs to offset Brian’s unwillingness to contribute. The band was still expecting to complete and release Smile as late as 1973 before it became clear that only Brian could comprehend the endless fragments that had been recorded.Smiley Smile was followed up three months later with Wild Honey, featuring songs written by Wilson and Love, including the hit “Darlin’” and a rendition of Stevie Wonder‘s “I Was Made to Love Her“. The album fared better than its predecessor, reaching number 24 in the US.
[By] 1967, the Beach Boys had become cultural dinosaurs. And it happened almost overnight.…Monterey was a gathering place for the “far out” sounds of the “new” rock, and the Beach Boys in concert really had no exotic sounds to display. The net result of all [their] internal and external turmoil was that the Beach Boys didn’t go…and it is thought that this non-appearance was what really turned the “underground” tide against them.
Compounding the group’s recent setbacks, their public image took a cataclysmic hit following their withdrawal from the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival for the reason that they had no new material to play while their forthcoming single and album lay in limbo. Their cancellation was seen as “a damning admission that they were washed up [and] unable to compete with the ‘new music'”. This notion was exacerbated by Rolling Stone writer Jann Wenner, whom within contemporary publications criticized Brian Wilson for his oft-repeated “genius” label which he called a “promotional shuck” and an attempt to compare with the Beatles. However, Wenner later responded to their Wild Honey album with more optimism, remarking two months later that “[i]n any case it’s good to see that the Beach Boys are getting their heads straight once again”.
Friends, 20/20, and Sunflower
After meeting Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at a UNICEF Variety Gala in Paris, France on December 15, 1967, Love, along with other high-profile celebrities such as Donovan and the Beatles traveled to Rishikesh in India during February and March 1968. The following Beach Boys album Friends (1968) had songs influenced by theTranscendental Meditation taught by the Maharishi. The album reached number 13 in the UK and 126 in the US, the title track placing at number 25 in the UK and number 47 in the US, the band’s lowest singles peak since 1962. In support of the Friends album, Love had arranged for the Beach Boys to tour with the Maharishi in the US, which has been called “one of the more bizarre entertainments of the era”. Starting on May 3, 1968, the tour lasted five shows and was cancelled when the Maharishi had to withdraw to fulfill film contracts. Due to disappointing audience numbers and the Maharishi’s withdrawal, twenty-four tour dates were subsequently cancelled at a cost estimated at US$250,000 (approximately US$1,610,000 today) for the band. This tour was followed by the release of “Do It Again“, a single critics described as an update of the Beach Boys’ surf rock past in a late-1960’s style. The single went to the top of the Australian and UK single charts in 1968 and was moderately successful in the US, peaking at number 20.
For a short time in mid-1968, Brian Wilson sought psychological treatment in hospital. During his absence, other members began writing and producing material themselves. To complete their contract with Capitol, they produced one more album. 20/20 (1969) was one of the group’s most stylistically diverse albums, including hard rock songs such as “All I Want to Do“, thewaltz-based “Time to Get Alone” and a remake of the Ronettes‘ “I Can Hear Music“. The diversity of genres have been described as an indicator that the group was trying to establish an updated identity. The album performed strongly in the UK, reaching number three on the charts. In the US, the album reached a modest 68. In spring 1968, Dennis began a tenuousrelationship with musician Charles Manson which persisted for several months afterward. Dennis bought him studio time at Brian’s home studio and recorded one song: “Cease to Exist” rewritten as “Never Learn Not To Love“. It was released as a Beach Boys single. Growing fearful, Dennis gradually distanced himself from Manson, whose family had taken over his home. Manson was eventually convicted for murder conspiracy; Dennis was too afraid of the Manson family to ever speak publicly on his relationship.
On April 12, 1969, the band revisited their 1967 lawsuit against Capitol Records after they alleged an audit undertaken revealed the band were owed over US$2,000,000 (US$12,860,000 today) for unpaid royalties and production duties. The band’s contract with Capitol Records expired on June 30, 1969, after which Capitol Records deleted the Beach Boys’ catalog from print, effectively cutting off their royalty flow. In November 1969, Murry Wilson sold Sea of Tunes, the Beach Boys’ catalogue, to Irving Almo Music, a decision which according to Marilyn Wilson “devastated Brian”. In late 1969, the Beach Boys reactivated their Brother label and signed with Reprise. Around this time, the band commenced recording for a new album. At the time the Beach Boys tenure ended with Capitol in 1969, they had sold 65 million records worldwide, closing the decade as the most commercially successful American group in popular music.
In 1970, armed with the new Reprise contract, the band appeared rejuvenated, releasing the album Sunflower to critical acclaim. The album features a strong group presence with significant writing contributions from all band members. Brian was active during this period, writing or co-writing seven of the twelve songs on Sunflower and performing at half of the band’s domestic concerts in 1970. Sunflowerreached number 29 in the UK and number 151 in the US, the band’s lowest domestic chart showing to that point. A version of “Cottonfields” arranged by Al Jardine appeared on European releases of Sunflowerand as a single, reached number one in Australia, Norway, South Africa and Sweden and the top-five in six other countries, including the UK.
Surf’s Up, Carl and the Passions, and Holland
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After Sunflower, the band hired Jack Rieley as their manager. Under Rieley’s management, the group’s music began emphasizing political and social awareness. During this time, Carl Wilson gradually assumed leadership of the band and Rieley contributed lyrics. On August 30, 1971 the band released Surf’s Up, named after the Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks composition “Surf’s Up“. The album was moderately successful, reaching the US top 30, a marked improvement over their recent releases. While the record charted, the Beach Boys added to their renewed fame by performing a near-sellout set at Carnegie Hall, followed by an appearance with the Grateful Dead at Fillmore East on April 27, 1971. The live shows during this era included reworked arrangements of many of the band’s previous songs. A large portion of their set lists culled from Pet Sounds and Smile, as author Domenic Priore observes, “They basically played what they could have played at the Monterey Pop Festival in the summer of 1967.”
Johnston ended his first stint with the band shortly after Surf’s Up’s release, reportedly because of friction with Rieley. At Carl’s suggestion, the addition of Ricky Fataar and Blondie Chaplin in February 1972 led to a dramatic restructuring in the band’s sound. The album Carl and the Passions – “So Tough” was an uncharacteristic mix that included two songs written by Fataar and Chaplin. For their next project the band, their families, assorted associates and technicians moved to the Netherlands for the summer of 1972. They rented a farmhouse to convert into a makeshift studio where recording sessions for the new project would take place. By the end of their sessions, the band felt they had produced one of their strongest efforts yet. Reprise, however, felt that the album required a strong single. This resulted in the song “Sail On, Sailor“, a collaboration between Brian Wilson, Tandyn Almer, Ray Kennedy, Jack Rieley and Van Dyke Parks featuring a soulful lead vocal by Chaplin. Reprise subsequently approved and the resulting album, Holland, was released early in 1973, peaking at number 37. Brian’s musical children story, “Mount Vernon and Fairway (A Fairy Tale)”, narrated by Rieley and strongly directly influenced by Randy Newman‘s Sail Away album, was included as a bonus EP. Despite indifference from Reprise, the band’s concert audience started to grow.
The Beach Boys in Concert, a double album documenting the 1972 and 1973 US tours, was another top-30 album and became the band’s first gold record under Reprise. During this period the band established itself as one of America’s most popular live acts. Chaplin and Fataar helped organize the concerts to obtain a high quality live performance, playing material off Surf’s Up, Carl and the Passions and Holland and adding songs from their older catalog. This concert arrangement lifted them back into American public prominence. In late 1973, the soundtrack to American Graffiti, 41 Original Hits from the Soundtrack of American Graffiti, was released to mass commercial and critical success. The soundtrack included early Beach Boy songs “Surfin’ Safari” and “All Summer Long” and was a catalyst in creating a wave of nostalgia that reintroduced the Beach Boys into contemporary American consciousness. In 1974, Capitol Records issued Endless Summer, the band’s first major pre-Pet Sounds greatest hits package. The record sleeve’s sunny, colorful graphics caught the mood of the nation and surged to the top of the Billboard album charts. It was the group’s first multi-million selling record since “Good Vibrations”, and remained on the album chart for three years. The following year, Capitol released a second compilation, Spirit of America, which also sold well. With these compilations, the Beach Boys became one of the most popular acts in rock, propelling themselves from opening for Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to headliners selling out basketball arenas in a matter of weeks. Rolling Stone named the Beach Boys the “Band of the Year” for 1974, solely on the basis of their juggernaut touring schedule and material written over a decade earlier.
Rieley, who remained in the Netherlands after Holland‘s release, was relieved of his managerial duties in late 1973. Chaplin also left in late 1973 after an argument with Steve Love, the band’s business manager (and Mike’s brother). Fataar remained until 1974, when he was offered a chance to join a new group led by future Eagles member Joe Walsh. Chaplin’s replacement, James William Guercio, started offering the group career advice that resulted in his becoming their new manager. Under Guercio, the Beach Boys staged a highly successful 1975 joint concert tour with Chicago, with each group performing some of the other’s songs, including their previous year’s collaboration on Chicago’s hit “Wishing You Were Here“. Beach Boys vocals were also heard on Elton John‘s 1974 hit “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me“. Nostalgia had settled into the Beach Boys’ hype; the group had not officially released any new material since 1973’s Holland. While their concerts continuously sold out, the stage act slowly changed from a contemporary presentation followed by oldies encores to an entire show made up of mostly pre-1967 music.
1976–77: Second Brian Wilson era
15 Big Ones included a stylized version of the Beach Boys’ name by Dean Torrence which would later become their official logo
15 Big Ones (1976) marked Brian’s return as a major force in the group. The album included new songs by Brian, as well as cover versions of oldies such as “Rock and Roll Music” (#5), “Blueberry Hill“, and “In the Still of the Night“. Brian and Love’s “It’s O.K.” was in the vein of their early sixties style and was a moderate hit. The album was publicized by an August 1976 NBC-TV special, simply titled “The Beach Boys”. The special, produced by Saturday Night Live (SNL) creator Lorne Michaels, featured appearances by SNLcast members John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd.
For the remainder of 1976 to early 1977, Brian Wilson spent his time making sporadic public appearances and producing the band’s next album Love You (1977), a quirky collection of 14 songs mostly written, arranged and produced by Brian. Brian revealed to biographer Peter Ames Carlin that Love You is one of his favorite Beach Boys releases, telling him “That’s when it all happened for me. That’s where my heart lies.” Love You peaked at number 28 in the UK and number 53 in the US and developed a cult following; regarded as one of the band’s best albums by fans and critics alike.
“A diseased bunch of motherfuckers if ever there was one…But the miracle is that the Beach Boys have made that disease sound like the literal babyflesh pink of health…Maybe it’s just that unprickable and ingenuous wholesomeness that accounts not only for their charm, but for their beauty—a beauty so awesome that listening to them at their best is like being in some vast dream cathedral decorated with a thousand gleaming American pop culture icons.”
After Love You was released, Brian began to record and assemble Adult/Child an effort largely consisting of songs written by Wilson from 1976 and 1977 with select big band arrangements by Dick Reynolds. Though publicized as the Beach Boys’ next release, Adult/Child reportedly caused tension within the group and was ultimately shelved.Following this period, his concert appearances with the band gradually diminished and their performances were occasionally erratic.
The internal wrangling came to a head after a show at Central Park on September 1, 1977, when the band effectively split into two camps; Dennis and Carl Wilson on one side, Mike Love and Al Jardine on the other with Brian remaining neutral. Following a confrontation on an airport tarmac, the band broke up for two and a half weeks, until a band meeting on September 17, at Brian’s house. In light of a potential new Caribou Records the parties negotiated a settlement resulting in Love gaining control of Brian’s vote in the group, allowing Love and Jardine to outvote Carl and Dennis Wilson on any matter.
1978–present: fluctuating control
Infighting and the Wilsons’ retreat
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The Beach Boys’ last album for Reprise, M.I.U. Album (1978), was recorded at Maharishi International University in Iowa at the suggestion of Love. Dennis and Carl made limited contributions; the album was mostly produced by Jardine and Ron Altbach, with Brian appearing as “Executive Producer”. M.I.U. was largely a contractual obligation to finish out their association with Reprise, who likewise did not promote the result. The record cemented the divisions in the group. Love and Jardine focused on rock and roll-oriented material while Carl and Dennis chose the progressive focus they had established with the albums Carl and the Passions and Holland. Dennis withdrew from the group to focus on his second solo album and follow-up to Pacific Ocean Blue entitled Bambu. However alcoholism and marital problems overcame all three Wilson brothers and Bambu was shelved. Carl appeared intoxicated during concerts (notably at appearances on their disastrous 1978 Australia tour) and Brian gradually slid back into addiction and an unhealthy lifestyle.
After departing Reprise, the Beach Boys signed with CBS Records. They received a substantial advance and were paid $1 million per album even as CBS deemed their preliminary review of the band’s first product, L.A. (Light Album) as unsatisfactory. Faced with the realization that Brian was unable to contribute, the band recruited Johnston as producer. The result paid off, as “Good Timin’” became a top 40 single. The album featured outstanding performances by both Dennis (cuts intended Bambu) and Carl (“Full Sail”). The group enjoyed moderate success with a disco reworking of the Wild Honey song “Here Comes the Night” which was followed by their highest charting UK single in nine years: Jardine’s “Lady Lynda” peaked at #6 in the UK Singles Chart. 1980 saw the release of Keepin’ the Summer Alive, with Johnston once again producing. Carl Wilson was the only Wilson to influence the finished product. Brian managed to contribute several ideas, as seen in the Going Platinum television special documenting the album’s release, but was otherwise persona non grata. Dennis’ ongoing personal problems kept him out of the special and album, though his drumming is heard on the cover version of Chuck Berry’s “School Days“.
From 1980 through 1982, the Beach Boys and The Grass Roots performed Independence Day concerts at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., attracting large crowds. However, in April 1983, James G. Watt, President Ronald Reagan‘s Secretary of the Interior, banned Independence Day concerts on the Mall by such groups. Watt said that “rock bands” that had performed on the Mall on Independence Day in 1981 and 1982 had encouraged drug use and alcoholism and had attracted “the wrong element”, who would mug attendees. During the ensuing uproar, which included over 40,000 complaints to the Department of the Interior, the Beach Boys stated that the Soviet Union, which had invited them to perform in Leningrad in 1978, “obviously …. did not feel that the group attracted the wrong element”. Vice President George H. W. Bush said of the Beach Boys, “They’re my friends and I like their music”. Watt later apologized to the band after learning that President Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan were fans. White House staff presented Watt with a plaster foot with a hole in it, showing that he had “shot himself in the foot”. The band returned to D.C. for Independence Day in 1984 and performed to a crowd of 750,000 people.
In 1981, Carl quit the group due to unhappiness with the band’s nostalgia format and lackluster live performances, subsequently pursuing a solo career. He returned in May 1982 — after approximately 14 months of being away — on the condition that the group reconsider their rehearsal and touring policies, along with refraining from “Las Vegas-type engagements”.
Dennis Wilson’s personal problems continued to escalate, and on December 28, 1983, he drowned in Marina del Rey while diving from a friend’s boat trying to recover items he had previously thrown overboard in fits of rage. Despite his death, the Beach Boys continued as a successful touring act.
Soundtrack appearances, “Kokomo” and nostalgia
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On July 4, 1985, the Beach Boys played to an afternoon crowd of one million in Philadelphia and the same evening they performed for over 750,000 people on the Mall in Washington (the day’s historic achievement was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records). They also appeared nine days later at the Live Aid concert. That year, they released the eponymous album The Beach Boys and enjoyed a resurgence of interest later in the 1980s, assisted by tributes such as David Lee Roth‘s hit version of “California Girls”. In 1987, they played with the rap group The Fat Boys, performing the song “Wipe Out” and filming a music video.
By 1988, Brian Wilson had officially left the Beach Boys and released his first solo album, which received critical acclaim. During this period the band unexpectedly claimed their first US number one hit single in 22 years with “Kokomo“, which had appeared in the movie Cocktail. Written by John Phillips, Scott McKenzie, Mike Love and Terry Melcher, the song became the band’s largest selling single of all time. The video for the song received heavy airplay on the music video channel VH1, and prominently featured actor John Stamos on conga drums. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier in the year, the group became the second artist after Aretha Franklin to hit number one in the US after their induction. They released the album Still Cruisin’, which went gold in the US and gave them their best chart showing since 1976. In 1990, the band gathered several studio musicians and recorded the Melcher-produced title track of the comedy Problem Child. Stamos again appeared on the video, and later appeared singing lead vocals on “Forever” (written by Dennis Wilson for the Sunflower album) and on their 1992 album Summer in Paradise. Having no new contributions from Brian Wilson due to interference from caretaker Eugene Landy, Summer in Paradise was poorly regarded by both critics and fans, was a commercial disaster and would become their last album of original material for two decades. Members of the band appeared on several television shows such as Full House, Home Improvement, and Baywatch in the late 1980s and 1990s.
In 1989, Wilson filed a lawsuit to reclaim the rights to his songs and the group’s publishing company, Sea of Tunes, which he had supposedly signed away to his father Murry in 1969. He successfully argued that he had not been mentally fit to make an informed decision and that his father had potentially forged his signature. While Wilson failed to regain his copyrights, he was awarded $25 million for unpaid royalties. Soon after Wilson won his case, Love discovered that Murry Wilson had not properly credited him as co-writer on dozens of Beach Boys songs. With Love and Brian Wilson unable to determine exactly what Love was properly owed, Love sued Wilson in 1992, winning $13 million in 1994 for lost royalties. In interviews, Love revealed that on some songs he wrote most of the lyrics, on others only a line or two. Even though Love sued Wilson, both parties said in interviews that there was no malice between them; they simply couldn’t come up with an agreeable settlement by themselves.
In 1993, the band appeared in Michael Feeney Callan‘s film The Beach Boys Today, which included in-depth interviews with all members except Brian. Carl confided to Callan that Brian would record again with the band at some point in the near future. A few Beach Boys sessions devoted to new Brian Wilson compositions occurred during the mid-1990s, but they remain largely unreleased, and the album was quickly aborted due to tenuous relations. In February 1996, the Beach Boys guested with Status Quo on a re-recording of “Fun, Fun, Fun“, which became a British Top-30 hit. In June, the group worked with comedian Jeff Foxworthy on the recording “Howdy From Maui”, and eventually released Stars and Stripes Vol. 1 in August 1996. The album consisted of country renditions of several Beach Boys hits, performed by popular country artists such as Toby Keith and Willie Nelson. Brian Wilson, who was in a better mental state at the time, acted as co-producer.
In early 1997, Carl Wilson was diagnosed with lung cancer after years of heavy smoking. Despite his terminal condition, Carl continued to perform with the band on its 1997 summer tour while undergoing chemotherapy. During performances, he sat on a stool and reportedly needed oxygen after every song. Carl was able to stand, however, when he played on “God Only Knows“. By 1998 the cancer had spread to his brain. Carl died on February 6, 1998, two months after the death of the Wilsons’ mother, Audree.
Splintering of the Beach Boys’ name
The touring line-up of Mike Love and Bruce Johnston’s “The Beach Boys Band”, plus guest member David Marks, in 2008
Following Carl’s death, the remaining members splintered. Love, Johnston and former guitarist Marks continued to tour without Jardine, initially as “America’s Band”, but following several cancelled bookings under that name, they sought authorization through Brother Records Inc. (BRI) to tour as “The Beach Boys” and secured the necessary license.Wondermints and other LA/Chicago musicians. Marks also maintained a solo career. Their tours remained reliable draws, with Wilson and Jardine both remaining legal members of the Beach Boys organization.
In turn Jardine began to tour regularly with his band dubbed “Beach Boys: Family & Friends” until he ran into legal issues for using the name without license. BRI, through its longtime attorney, Ed McPherson, sued Jardine in Federal Court. Jardine, in turn, counter-claimed against BRI for wrongful termination. BRI ultimately prevailed after several years. Love was allowed to continue to tour as The Beach Boys, while Jardine was prohibited from touring using any form of the name. Released from Landy’s control, Brian Wilson sought different treatments for his illnesses that aided him in his solo career. He toured regularly with his backing band consisting of members of
In September 2004, Brian Wilson issued a free CD through the Mail On Sunday that included Beach Boys songs he’d rerecorded, five of which he’d co-authored with Love. The 10 track compilation had 2.6 million copies distributed and prompted Love to file a lawsuit claiming the promotion hurt the sales of the original recordings. Love’s suit was dismissed in 2007 when a judge determined that there were no triable issues.
On June 13, 2006, the five surviving Beach Boys (Wilson, Love, Jardine, Johnston and Marks) appeared together for the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Pet Sounds and the double-platinum certification of their greatest hits compilation, Sounds of Summer: The Very Best of The Beach Boys, in a ceremony atop the Capitol Records building in Hollywood. Plaques were awarded for their efforts, with Brian accepting on behalf of Dennis and Carl.
The Smile Sessions, 50th anniversary tour and That’s Why God Made the Radio
The cover for The Smile Sessionsuses the artwork Frank Holmes prepared in December 1966 for Smile
On October 31, 2011, the Beach Boys released surviving 1960s recordings from Smile in the form of The Smile Sessions. The album—even in its incomplete form—garnered universal critical acclaim and experienced popular success, charting in both the Billboard US and UK Top 30. The artwork and packaging featured the original Frank Holmes illustrations and included the photo/illustration booklet insert that was intended for the 1967 release. The format of the recordings utilized Wilson’s 2004 Brian Wilson Presents Smile solo effort as a template. The band was rewarded with glowing reviews, including inclusion in Rolling Stone’s Top 500 album list at number 381. In a 500 set limited edition, the The Smile Sessions came in a box set with a lit-up shop front window. Each of these box sets came with Brian Wilson’s signature on the box. The Smile Sessions deluxe album package went on to win Best Historical Album at the 2013 Grammy Awards. Brian Wilson personally accepted the award stating “I guess Van Dyke and I were on to something after all.”
In February 2011, the Beach Boys released “Don’t Fight the Sea“, a charity single to aid the victims of the 2011 Japan earthquake. The single, released on Jardine’s 2011 album A Postcard From California featured Jardine, Wilson, Love and Johnston, with prerecorded vocals by Carl Wilson. Rumors then circulated regarding a potential 50th anniversary band reunion.
On December 16, 2011, it was announced that Wilson, Love, Jardine, Johnston and Marks would reunite for a new album and 50th anniversary tour in 2012 to include a performance at the New Orleans Jazz Festival in April 2012. On February 12, 2012, the Beach Boys performed at the 2012 Grammy Awards, in what was billed as a “special performance” by organizers. It marked the group’s first live performance to include Brian since 1996. This anniversary lineup performed “Good Vibrations” with Adam Levine and Mark Foster, after Maroon 5 opened the set with “Surfer Girl” and Foster the People played “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” during the ceremony. Johnston said, “I never hoped for [a reunion], because I never thought any of us wanted to do it. We have probably, you know, the presidential honeymoon of six months but then we have to show something to keep it going. We have to make sure we have a great flowing song list but also make sure we don’t sound like a greatest-hits band. We have a lot to balance.” The Beach Boys appeared at the April 10, 2012, season opener for the Los Angeles Dodgersand performed “Surfer Girl” along with “The Star-Spangled Banner”. They also performed at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee on June 14, 2012.
Johnston compared the sound of the new album to one of the band’s least-successful albums but fan favorite Sunflower, while Jardine said the album is “very lush, very PetSound-ing”. The first single from the album, the title track, made its national radio debut April 25, 2012, on ESPN‘s Mike and Mike in the Morning and was released on iTunes and other digital platforms on April 26. That’s Why God Made the Radio debuted at number three on US charts, the group’s highest charting album since 1974’s compilation Endless Summer and its highest charting studio album since 1965’s Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!). It became the band’s first top ten studio album since 1976’s 15 Big Ones. The album made its debut in the UK at number 15, its highest studio album debut since 1971’s Surf’s Up. The album also made US chart history by expanding the group’s span of Billboard 200 top ten albums across 49 years and one week, passing the Beatles with 47 years of top ten albums.
Later in 2012, the group released the Fifty Big Ones and Greatest Hits compilations along with reissues of 12 of their albums. The next year, the group released Live – The 50th Anniversary Tour a 41 song, 2-CD set documenting their 50th Anniversary Tour. While there were no definite plans, Brian stated that he would like to make another Beach Boys album following the world tour. “This time I would like to do some rock n’ roll,” Wilson says. “I would like it to be a bit harder and faster.” Love and Johnston continued to tour, while Wilson expressed in more touring and recording with the band.
Resuming solo careers
On October 5, 2012, Love announced in a self-written press release to the LA Times that the band would return to its pre-50th Reunion Tour lineup with him and Johnston touring as The Beach Boys without Wilson, Jardine and Marks:
Mike Love and Bruce Johnston performing as the Beach Boys in 2014
I did not fire Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys. I cannot fire Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys…I do not have such authority. And even if I did, I would never fire Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys.…This tour was always envisioned as a limited run…As the year went on, Brian and Al wanted to keep the 50th anniversary tour going beyond the 75 dates…However…we had already set up shows in smaller cities with…the configuration that had been touring together every year for the last 13 years. Brian and Al would not be joining for these small market dates, as was long agreed upon.
Brian remained optimistic: “I wouldn’t mind getting together with Mike and the guys and making an exciting rock & roll album…I’m sure by early next year we’ll be ready to rock.” On October 9, 2012, Wilson and Jardine submitted a written response to the rumors stating: “As After Mike booked a couple of shows with Bruce, Al and I were, of course, disappointed. Then there was confusion in some markets when photos of me, Al and David and the 50th reunion band appeared on websites advertising his shows…I was completely blindsided by his press release…We hadn’t even discussed as a band what we were going to do with all the offers that were coming in for more 50th shows.”On December 13, 2012, Wilson and Jardine played a Christmas show at which they performed the Beach Boys Christmas songs, “Little Saint Nick” and “Christmas Day”. Following this appearance, on January 23, 2013, Wilson announced a concert date featuring himself, Jardine and Marks. Wilson then said that these dates would be followed up by 2013 summer shows with Jardine and Marks. Love and Johnston continued to perform under the Beach Boys name, while Wilson, Jardine, and Marks continued to tour as a trio, and a subsequent tour with guitarist Jeff Beck also included former Beach Boy Blondie Chaplin at select dates.
Reflecting upon the band’s recent reunion in 2013, Love stated: “I had a wonderful experience being in the studio together. Brian has lost none of his ability to structure those melodies and chord progressions, and when we heard us singing together coming back over the speakers it sounded like 1965 again. Touring was more for the fans.…It was a great experience, it had a term to it, and now everyone’s going on with their ways of doing things.” In a July 8, 2013 interview, he continued by discussing the potential of another reunion, saying “I don’t know how that sacking controversy started.…The anniversary tour was originally 50 dates, and got extended to 73. At that point, Brian said: ‘No more dates for us, please.’ So once we finished those 73 shows we went back to the line-up of the band before he rejoined.…I’d very much like to get in a room, just him and I, to write more songs.…We didn’t write together on last year’s album, and I’d like to do that more than anything.” On August 27, 2013 the group released Made in California, a six disc collection featuring more than seven and a half hours of music, including more than 60 previously unreleased tracks. Made in California also concluded the Beach Boys’ 50th anniversary campaign. That same year, former members of the Beach Boys touring band, Bobby Figueroa, Billy Hinsche, Ed Carter, Matt Jardine (son of Al Jardine), and Philip Bardowell (sometimes with Randell Kirsch and others) united to form California Surf, Incorporated, performing Beach Boy songs.
Jardine, Marks, Johnston and Love appeared together at the 2014 Ella Awards Ceremony, where Love was honored for his work as a singer. Marks sang “409” in honor of Love while Jardine performed “Help Me Rhonda”. They closed the show by performing “Fun, Fun, Fun”. Wilson’s long time band associate Jeff Foskett also appeared, but not Wilson. On May 15, 2014 the touring Beach Boys (Love and Johnston) announced a tour celebrating “50 Years of ‘Fun Fun Fun'”, named for their 1964 single. The tour will also feature the addition of Foskett replacing Mike’s son Christian.
Regarded by some critics as one of the greatest American rock groups and an important catalyst in the evolution of popular music, the Beach Boys are one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful bands of all time. Influenced by barbershop music and rhythm and blues, they began playing 1950s style rock and roll married to a five part harmony. The band later went on to incorporate many differentgenres, from baroque pop to psychedelia and synthpop.
The Beach Boys’ sales estimates range from 100 to 350 million records worldwide, and have influenced artists spanning many genres and decades. Artists influenced by the Beach Boys include: the Beatles,George Martin, The Velvet Underground, Pink Floyd, Cream, the Who, Elton John, ABBA, Bruce Springsteen, the Ramones, The Stone Roses, Sonic Youth, Beck, R.E.M., Weezer, Neutral Milk Hotel, Radiohead, Of Montreal, The Olivia Tremor Control, The Flaming Lips, My Bloody Valentine, Daft Punk, Air, Kraftwerk, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Belle and Sebastian, The Beta Band, Alex Chilton, Yo La Tengo, Saint Etienne, Pixies,Mr. Bungle, MGMT, Marvin B. Naylor, and Animal Collective.
The Beach Boys Today! (1965), Wild Honey (1967), Sunflower (1970), Surf’s Up (1971), Holland (1973), and The Smile Sessions (2011) are featured in several “Greatest Albums of All Time” lists. The group’s 1966 releases, Pet Sounds and Good Vibrations, frequently rank among the top of critics’ lists of the greatest albums and singles of all time. Pet Sounds is on the greatest-albums lists for Time, Rolling Stone, New Musical Express, Mojo, and The Times. The record had a profound influence on many of the Beach Boys’ contemporaries; McCartney named it one of his favorite albums of all time (with “God Only Knows” as his all-time favorite song). McCartney said that it was the inspiration behind the Beatles’ album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Echoing this sentiment, Beatles producer George Martin said, “Pepper was an attempt to equal Pet Sounds.”
In 1966 and 1967, reader polls conducted by the UK magazine NME crowned the Beach Boys as the world’s number one vocal group, ahead of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. In 1974, the Beach Boys were awarded “Band of the Year” by Rolling Stone. On December 30, 1980, the Beach Boys were awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located at 1500 Vine Street. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. Ten years later they were selected for the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. In 2001, the group received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked the Beach Boys number 12 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Brian Wilson was inducted into the UK Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in November 2006.
The Wilsons’ California house, where the Wilson brothers grew up and the group began, was demolished in 1986 to make way for Interstate 105, the Century Freeway. A Beach Boys Historic Landmark (California Landmark No. 1041 at 3701 West 119th Street), dedicated on May 20, 2005, marks the location.
The Beach Boys also appear in the beach party films The Girls on the Beach in which they perform three songs “The Girls on the Beach”, “Lonely Sea”, and “Little Honda” and The Monkey’s Uncle in which they perform “The Monkey’s Uncle” with Annette Funicello.
The life of the Beach Boys is the subject of two TV movies: Summer Dreams: The Story of the Beach Boys and The Beach Boys: An American Family.
The Beach Boys appeared in an episode of Full House entitled “Beach Boy Bingo”, which aired on November 18, 1988.
The Beach Boys also appeared in Season 6, Episode 4 of Baywatch (1995).
The Beach Boys
Brian Douglas Wilson (born June 20, 1942) is an American singer-songwriter, musician, and producer best known for being the principal songwriter, co-lead vocalist,bassist, producer, arranger, and co-founder of The Beach Boys. After signing with Capitol Records in mid-1962, Wilson wrote or co-wrote more than two dozen Top 40 hits for the group. Due to his unorthodox approaches to song composition and arrangement, and mastery of recording techniques, he is widely acknowledged as one of the most innovative and influential creative forces in popular music by critics and musicians alike.
In the mid-1960s, Wilson composed and produced Pet Sounds, considered one of the greatest albums of all time. The intended follow-up to Pet Sounds, Smile, was cancelled for various reasons, which included Wilson’s deteriorating mental health. As he suffered through multiple nervous breakdowns, Wilson’s contributions to the Beach Boys diminished and his erratic behavior led to tensions with the band. After years of treatment and recuperation, he began performing and recording consistently as a solo artist, being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and winning Grammy Awards for Brian Wilson Presents Smile and The Smile Sessions. On the Beach Boys’ 50th anniversary, Wilson briefly returned to record and perform with the group. He remains a member of the Beach Boys corporation, Brother Records Incorporated.
In 2008, Rolling Stone magazine published a list of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time” that ranked Wilson number 52. In 2012, music publication NME ranked Wilson number 8 in its “50 Greatest Producers Ever” list, elaborating “few consider quite how groundbreaking Brian Wilson’s studio techniques were in the mid-60s.” He is an occasional actor and voice actor, having appeared in television shows, films, and other artists’ music videos. His life will be portrayed in the upcoming biographical filmLove and Mercy.
Wilson was born on June 20, 1942 at Centinela Hospital in Inglewood, California, the son of Audree Neva (née Korthof) and Murry Gage Wilson. He was the eldest of three boys; his younger brothers were Dennis and Carl. He has English, Swedish, Dutch, German, and Irish ancestry. When Wilson was two, the Wilson family moved from Inglewood to 3701 West 119th Street in nearby Hawthorne, California. Speaking of Wilson’s unusual musical abilities prior to his first birthday, his father said that as a baby he could repeat the melody from “When the Caissons Go Rolling Along” after only a few verses had been sung by the father. Murry Wilson said, “He was very clever and quick. I just fell in love with him.” At about age two, Wilson heard George Gershwin‘s Rhapsody in Blue, which had an enormous emotional impact on him.A few years later he was discovered to have extremely diminished hearing in his right ear. The exact cause of this hearing loss is unclear, though theories range from him simply being born partially deaf, to a blow to the head from his father, or a neighborhood bully, being to blame.
While Wilson’s father was ostensibly a reasonable provider, he was often abusive. A minor musician and songwriter, he also encouraged his children in this field in numerous ways. At an early age, Wilson was given six weeks of lessons on a “toy accordion”, and at seven and eight sang solos in church with a choir behind him. Wilson was on the football team as a quarterback, played baseball and was a cross-country runner in his senior year. He sang with various students at school functions and with his family and friends at home. He taught his two brothers harmony parts that all three would then practice when they were supposed to be asleep. He also played piano obsessively after school, deconstructing the harmonies of The Four Freshmen by listening to short segments of their songs on a phonograph, then working to recreate the blended sounds note by note on the keyboard. He received a Wollensak tape recorder on his 16th birthday, allowing him to experiment with recording songs and early group vocals.
Wilson’s understanding of music theory was self-taught. His surviving home tapes document his initial efforts singing with various friends and family, including a song the Beach Boys later recorded in the studio, “Sloop John B“—and “Bermuda Shorts” and a hymn titled “Good News”. In his senior year at Hawthorne High, in addition to classroom music studies, he sang at lunch time with friends like Keith Lent and Bruce Griffin. Wilson and Lent worked on a revised version of the tune “Hully Gully” to support the campaign of a classmate named Carol Hess when she ran for senior class president. Enlisting his cousin and frequent singing partner Mike Love and Wilson’s youngest brother Carl Wilson, his next public performance featured more ambitious arrangements at a fall arts program at his high school. To entice Carl into the group, Wilson named the newly formed membership Carl and the Passions. The performance featured tunes by Dion and the Belmonts and The Four Freshmen (“It’s a Blue World”), the latter of which proved difficult for the ensemble. However, the event was notable for the impression it made on another musician and classmate of Wilson in the audience that night, Al Jardine, who would join the three Wilson brothers and Mike Love in the Beach Boys.
Wilson enrolled at El Camino College in Los Angeles, majoring in psychology, in September 1960. He continued his music studies at the college as well.At some point in 1961 he wrote his first all-original melody, loosely based on a Dion and the Belmonts version of “When You Wish Upon a Star“. The song was eventually known as “Surfer Girl“. Though an early demo of the song was recorded in February 1962 at World-Pacific Studios, it was not re-recorded and released until 1963, when it became a top ten hit.
With his brothers Carl and Dennis as well as Mike Love and Al Jardine, Wilson first appeared as a music group in the summer of 1961, initially under the name The Pendletones. After being prodded by Dennis to write a song about the local water sports craze, Wilson and Mike Love together created what became the first single for the band, “Surfin’“. Over Labor Day weekend 1961, Brian took advantage of the fact that his parents were in Mexico City for a couple of days, and intended to use the emergency money they had left to rent an amp, a microphone, and a stand-up bass. As it turned out, the money was not enough to cover musical expenses, so Al Jardine appealed to his mother, Virginia for help. When she heard the group perform, she was suitably impressed and handed over $300. Al promptly took Wilson to the music store where he rented a stand-up bass. After rehearsing for two days in the Wilsons’ music room, his parents returned home from their trip. His father was irate, until Brian convinced him to listen to what they had been up to. His father was convinced that the boys did indeed have something worth pursuing. He quickly proclaimed himself the group’s manager and the band embarked on serious rehearsals for a proper studio session. Recorded by Hite and Dorinda Morgan and released on the small Candix Records label, “Surfin'” became a top local hit in Los Angeles and reached number seventy-five on the national Billboard sales charts. Dennis later described the first time that Wilson heard their song on the radio as the three Wilson brothers and David Marks drove in Wilson’s 1957 Ford in the rain: “Nothing will ever top the expression on Brian’s face, ever … THAT was the all-time moment.” However, the Pendletones were no more. Without the band’s knowledge or permission, Candix Records had changed their name to the Beach Boys.
Wilson and his bandmates, following a set by Ike and Tina Turner, performed their first major live show at the Ritchie Valens Memorial Dance on New Year’s Eve, 1961. Three days previously, Wilson’s father had bought him an electric bass and amplifier. Wilson had learned to play the instrument in that short period of time, with Al Jardine moving to rhythm guitar. On stage, Wilson provided many of the lead vocals, and often harmonized with the group in falsetto.
In early 1962, producer Hite Morgan asked some of the members to add vocals to a couple of instrumental tracks that he had recorded with other musicians. This derived the short-lived group Kenny & the Cadets, which Wilson lead under the pseudonym “Kenny”. The other members were Carl Wilson, Al Jardine, and the Wilsons’ mother Audree. The only songs the group recorded were two Morgan compositions, “Barbie” and “What Is a Young Girl Made Of?”
Looking for a follow-up single for their radio hit, Wilson and Mike Love wrote “Surfin’ Safari“, and attempts were made to record a usable take at World Pacific, including overdubs, on February 8, 1962, along with several other tunes including an early version of “Surfer Girl”. Only a few days later, discouraged about the band’s financial prospects, and objecting to adding some Chubby Checker songs to the Beach Boys live setlist, Al Jardine abruptly left the group, but rejoined shortly thereafter. When Candix Records ran into money problems and sold the Beach Boys’ master recordings to another label, Murry Wilson terminated the contract. Brian, worried about the group’s future, asked his father to help them make more recordings. But Murry and Hite Morgan (who at this point was their music publisher) were turned down by a number of Los Angeles record companies. As “Surfin'” faded from the charts, Brian, who had forged a songwriting partnership with Gary Usher, created several new songs, including a car song, “409“, that Usher helped them write. Brian and the Beach Boys cut new tracks at Western Recorders including an updated “Surfin’ Safari” and “409”. These songs convinced Capitol Records to release the demos as a single; they became a double-sided national hit.
Early record producer and songwriter era
Brian Wilson (center) performing with the Beach Boys circa 1964.
Recording sessions for the band’s first album took place in Capitol’s basement studios (in the famous tower building) in August 1962, but early on Brian lobbied for a different place to cut Beach Boy tracks. The large rooms were built to record the big orchestras and ensembles of the 1950s, not small rock groups. At Brian’s insistence, Capitol agreed to let the Beach Boys pay for their own outside recording sessions, to which Capitol would own all the rights, and in return the band would receive a higher royalty rate on their record sales. Additionally, during the taping of their first LP Brian fought for, and won, the right to be in charge of the production — though his first acknowledged liner notes production credit did not come until later.
In January 1963, the Beach Boys recorded their first top-ten (cresting at number three in the United States) single, “Surfin’ U.S.A.“, which began their long run of highly successful recording efforts at Hollywood’s United Western Recorders on Sunset Boulevard. It was during the sessions for this single that Brian made the production decision from that point on to use doubletracking on the group’s vocals, resulting in a deeper and more resonant sound. The Surfin’ U.S.A. album was also a big hit in the United States, reaching number two on the national sales charts by early July 1963. The Beach Boys had become a top-rank recording and touring band. Brian was then officially credited as the Beach Boys’ producer on the Surfer Girl album, recorded in June and July 1963 and released in September 1963. This LP reached number seven on the national charts, containing singles that were top 15 hits. Feeling that surfing songs had become limiting, Brian decided to produce a set of largely car-oriented tunes for the Beach Boys’ fourth album, Little Deuce Coupe, which was released in October 1963, only three weeks after the Surfer Girl LP. The departure of guitarist David Marks from the band that month meant that Brian was forced to resume touring with the Beach Boys, for a time reducing his availability in the recording studio.
For much of the decade, Brian attempted to establish himself as a record producer by working with various artists. On July 20, 1963, “Surf City“, which he co-wrote with Jan Berry of Jan and Dean, was his first composition to reach the top of the US charts. The resulting success pleased Brian, but angered both Murry and Capitol Records. Murry went so far as to order his oldest son to sever any future collaborations with Jan and Dean. Brian’s other non-Beach Boy work in this period included tracks by The Castells, Donna Loren, Sharon Marie, the Timers, the Survivors. The most notable group Wilson would attach himself in this era would be The Honeys, which Wilson intended as the female counterpart to the Beach Boys, and as an attempt to compete with Phil Spector-lead girl groups such as The Crystals and The Ronettes.
[I go to] the piano and sit playing “feels”. “Feels” are brief note sequences, fragments of ideas. Once they’re out of my head and into the open air, I can see them and touch them firmly. They’re not “feels” anymore.…My greatest interest musically is expanding modern vocal harmony.
He continued juggling between recording with the Beach Boys and producing records for other artists, but with less success at the latter—except for Jan and Dean. As his productions advanced further with examples ranging from the false fade-outs of “Help Me, Rhonda” to the quasi-avant-garde “The Little Girl I Once Knew“, Wilson became recognized for his pop artistry, vocal harmonization, and incessant studio perfectionism. Session musicians that participated on Wilson’s productions were said to have been awestruck by his musical abilities, as drummer Hal Blaine explained, “We all studied in conservatories; we were trained musicians. We thought it was a fluke at first, but then we realized Brian was writing these incredible songs. This was not just a young kid writing about high school and surfing.” Contemporary John Sebastian of The Lovin’ Spoonful noted: “Brian had control of this vocal palette of which we had no idea. We had never paid attention to the Four Freshmen or doo-wop combos like the Crew Cuts. Look what gold he mined out of that.”
Early influences on his music included not only the previously mentioned Four Freshmen and Chuck Berry, but also the work of record producer Phil Spector, who popularized the Wall of Sound production techniques that Wilson would develop a fervent obsession with for most of his life. In the 1960s, Wilson thought of Spector as “…the single most influential producer. He’s timeless. He makes a milestone whenever he goes into the studio.” Wilson is said to have later stated “I was unable to really think as a producer until I really got familiar with Phil Spector’s work.” Wilson attempted to submit two of his compositions to Spector: “Don’t Worry Baby” and “Don’t Hurt My Little Sister“; both written with The Ronettes in mind. Spector declined “Don’t Worry Baby”, but accepted “Don’t Hurt My Little Sister” on the condition that he rewrite the song as “Things Are Changing (for the Better)”. Wilson was invited to perform piano on the song’s recording, but was thrown out of the session by Spector due to “substandard playing”. It was reported that Wilson attended the session for Spector’s cacophonous “River Deep – Mountain High“, where he sat “transfixed” and “did not say a word”. Wilson later considered both Spector and the Beatles as his chief rivals, and the latter in turn admitted that many portions of Rubber Soul, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and The White Album were conscious attempts at emulating Wilson’s ambience.
The Beach Boys’ rigorous performing schedule increasingly burdened Wilson, and following a nervous breakdown on board a flight from L.A. to Houston on December 23, 1964, he stopped performing live with the group in an effort to concentrate solely on songwriting and studio production. Wilson explained in 1971: “I felt I had no choice. I was run down mentally and emotionally because I was running around, jumping on jets from one city to another on one-night stands, also producing, writing, arranging, singing, planning, teaching—to the point where I had no peace of mind and no chance to actually sit down and think or even rest.” Glen Campbell was called in as his temporary stand-in for live performances, before Bruce Johnston replaced him. As thanks, Wilson “rewarded” Campbell by producing him with the single “Guess I’m Dumb“.
It was during that December that Wilson was introduced to cannabis hesitantly by his friend Loren Schwartz, an assistant at William Morris Endeavor. Attracted by the drug’s ability to alleviate stress and inspire creativity, Wilson completed the Beach Boys’ forthcoming Today! album by late January 1965 and quickly began work on their next, Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!). Sometime in April, Wilson experienced his first acid trip, which unequivocally changed his musical and spiritual perceptions, as he would recall a year later, “I had what I consider to be a very religious experience. I took LSD, a full dose of LSD, and later, another time, I took a smaller dose. And I learned a lot of things, like patience, understanding. I can’t teach you, or tell you what I learned from taking it. But I consider it a very religious experience.” Again, Schwartz was hesitant to provide drugs to Wilson, which he did not feel he was ready for, but has recounted that his dosage was “one hundred and twenty-five mics of pure Owsley,” and that “he had the full-on ego death. It was a beautiful thing.” The music for “California Girls” came from this first LSD experience, a composition which would later be released as a #3 charting single. Wilson continued experimenting withpsychotropics for the next few years, sometimes even during recording sessions. He became fixated on psychedelia, claiming to have coined a slang, “psychedelicate,” and foreseeing that “psychedelic musicwill cover the face of the world and color the whole popular music scene.” A week after his first LSD trip, Wilson began suffering from auditory hallucinations, which have persisted throughout his life.
Pet Sounds and Smile
In late 1965, Wilson began working on material for a new album after releasing a single which was an orchestral reworking of the folk song “Sloop John B“, made famous by The Kingston Trio in 1958. As he began work on the new project, Pet Sounds, Wilson formed a temporary songwriting partnership with lyricist Tony Asher, who was suggested to Wilson by mutual friend Schwartz. Wilson, who had recorded the album’s instrumentation with The Wrecking Crew, then assembled the Beach Boys to record vocal overdubs, following their return from a tour of Japan. Upon hearing what Wilson had created for the first time in 1965, the group, particularly Mike Love, was somewhat critical of their leader’s music, and expressed their dissatisfaction. At this time, Wilson still had considerable control within the group and, according to Wilson, they eventually overcame their initial negative reaction, as his newly created music began to near completion. The album was released May 16, 1966 and, despite modest sales figures at the time, has since become widely critically acclaimed, often being cited among the all-time greatest albums. Although the record was issued under the group’s name, Pet Sounds is arguably seen as a Brian Wilson solo album—Wilson even toyed with the idea by releasing “Caroline, No” as a solo single in March 1966—reaching number 32 on the Billboard charts.
During the Pet Sounds sessions, Wilson had been working on another song, which was held back from inclusion on the record as he felt that it was not sufficiently complete. The song “Good Vibrations” set a new standard for musicians and for what could be achieved in the recording studio. Recorded in multiple sessions and in numerous studios, the song eventually cost $50,000 to record within a six-month period. In October 1966, the song was released as a single, giving the Beach Boys their third U.S. number-one hit after “I Get Around” and “Help Me, Rhonda“. It sold over a million copies.
With the universal success of “Good Vibrations”, Capitol Records decided to back Wilson up for his next project, originally called Dumb Angel but soon re-titled Smile, which Wilson described as a “teenage symphony to God.” “Good Vibrations” had been recorded in modular style, with separately written sections individually tracked and spliced together, and Wilson’s concept for the new album was more of the same, representing a departure from the standard live-taped performances typical of studio recordings at that time. Having been introduced to Van Dyke Parks at a garden party at Terry Melcher‘s home, Wilson liked Parks’ “visionary eloquence” and began work with him in the fall of 1966. After Wilson famously installed a sandbox in his living room, the pair collaborated closely on several Smile tracks. Wilson recorded backing tracks, largely with session musicians, through the winter. Over Christmas of 1966, however, conflict within the group and Wilson’s own growing personal problems threw the project into terminal disarray. Originally scheduled for release in January 1967, the release date was continually pushed back until press officer Derek Taylor announced its cancellation in May 1967.
Reduced involvement with the Beach Boys
We pulled out of that production pace, really because I was about ready to die. I was trying so hard. So, all of a sudden I decided not to try any more, and not try and do such great things, such big musical things. And we had so much fun. TheSmiley Smile era was so great, it was unbelievable. Personally, spiritually, everything, it was great. I didn’t have any paranoia feelings.
—Brian Wilson, January 1968
Following the cancellation of Smile, The Beach Boys relocated to a studio situated in the living room of Brian Wilson’s new mansion in Bel Air (once the home of Edgar Rice Burroughs), where the band would primarily record until 1972. This has been perceived by some commentators as “the moment when the Beach Boys first started slipping from the vanguard to nostalgia.” Throughout mid-to-late 1967, Wilson oversaw the production of only a few heavily orchestrated songs holding continuity with his Pet Sounds and Smile work, such as “Can’t Wait Too Long” and “Time to Get Alone“. After the diminished reception accorded to the lo-fi Smiley Smile and the R&B-inflected Wild Honey culminated in the muted orchestrations and collaborative ethos of Friends—the band’s first unequivocal commercial failure—Wilson’s interest in the Beach Boys began to wane.
Still psychologically overwhelmed by the cancellation of Smile and the imminent birth of his first child Carnie Wilson in 1968 amid the looming financial insolvency of the Beach Boys, Wilson’s creative directorship within the band became increasingly tenuous; additionally, cocaine had begun to supplement Wilson’s regular use of amphetamines, marijuana, and psychedelics. Shortly after abandoning an intricate version of Kern and Hammerstein’s “Ol’ Man River” at the instigation of Mike Love, Wilson entered a psychiatric hospital for a brief period of time. Biographer Peter Ames Carlin has speculated that Wilson had self-admitted and may have been administered a number of treatments ranging from talking therapies to stiff doses of Lithium and the more extreme electroconvulsive therapy during this stay.
In his absence, 1969’s 20/20 consisted substantially of key Smile outtakes (“Cabinessence” and “Our Prayer“), significant contributions from Dennis Wilson & Bruce Johnston, and the long-germinating “Time to Get Alone.” The album’s singles—the Bruce Johnston-produced original “Bluebirds Over the Mountains” (Billboard #64) and the Carl Wilson-produced cover of The Ronettes’ “I Can Hear Music“—won lukewarm attention, with the latter reaching #24 on the Billboard single chart in April 1969; the lead track, the Wilson/Love-authored “Do It Again“, an unabashed throwback to the band’s earlier surf hits, had been an international hit in the summer of 1968, reaching number 20 in the US charts and number one in the UK and Australia while also scoring well in other countries. During this phase, Wilson also collaborated with his father (credited under the pseudonym of Reggie Dunbar) on “Break Away“, the band’s final single for Capitol Records under their original contract; although relatively unsuccessful in the United States (peaking at #63 in Billboard), the song reached #6 on the British singles chart.
At a press conference ostensibly convened to promote “Break Away” to the European media shortly thereafter, Wilson intimated that “We owe everyone money. And if we don’t pick ourselves off our backsides and have a hit record soon, we will be in worse trouble… I’ve always said, ‘Be honest with your fans.’ I don’t see why I should lie and say that everything is rosy when it’s not.” These incendiary remarks ultimately thwarted long-simmering contract negotiations with Deutsche Grammophon. Although Murry Wilson’s sale of the Sea of Tunes publishing company (including the majority of Wilson’s oeuvre) to A&M Records‘ publishing division for $700,000 at the band’s commercial nadir in 1969 renewed the longstanding animus between father and son, he stood in for Mike Love during a 1970 Northwest tour when Love was convalescing from illness. He also resumed writing & recording with the Beach Boys at a brisk pace; seven of the twelve new songs on the 1970 album Sunflower were either written or co-written by Wilson. Nevertheless, the album was a commercial failure in the United States, peaking at #151 during a four-week Billboard chart stay in October 1970. Following the termination of the Capitol contract in 1969, the band’s new contract with then-au courantReprise Records (brokered by Van Dyke Parks, employed as a multimedia executive at the company at the time) stipulated Brian Wilson’s proactive involvement with the band in all albums—a factor that would become hugely problematic for the band in the years to come.
Throughout the early 1970s, Wilson amassed a myriad of home demo recordings which later became informally known as the “Bedroom Tapes.” Most of these recordings remain unreleased and unheard to the public, with vague titles such as “Spark in the Dark,” “Rooftop Harry,” “Symphony of Frogs,” “Patty Cake” and “Song to God”. Some of the material has been described as “schizophrenia on tape,” and “intensely personal songs of gentle humanism and strange experimentation, which reflected on his then-fragile emotional state.” Beach Boys archivist Alan Boyd observed: “A lot of the music that Brian was creating during this period was full of syncopated exercises and counterpoints piled on top of jittery eighth-note clusters and loping shuffle grooves. You get hints of it earlier in things like the tags to ‘California Girls,’ ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice‘ and all throughout Smile, but it takes on an almost manic edge in the ’70s.” Wilson’s daughters have reflected on this period, as Wendy Wilson remembers, “Where other people might take a run to release some stress, he would go to the piano and write a 5 minute song.” Carnie Wilson has recounted:
My memories of him are him wandering from room to room…thinking about something. I always wanted to know what he was thinking, you know? Who knows what he was thinking in his head? I remember one day he wrote a song about a cigarette. He said “I’m gonna go write a song about a cigarette!” and I said ‘OK…,” and literally, three minutes later I walked into the room, the song was done, he was playing on the piano, something about how he was going to flush the butt in the toilet. We got used to what the whole environment was. It was very musical; there was always a piano going. Either “Rhapsody In Blue” was playing, or…”Be My Baby“–I mean—I woke up every morning to boom boom-boom pow! Boom boom-boom pow! Every day.
Even in those years when he was supposedly in seclusion, Brian came downstairs all the time, this great big guy in a bathrobe. And we went places. Brian and I used to get into hisMercedes and drive over to the Radiant Radish, or we’d go toRedondo Beach and hang out with his high school pals, or go look for Carol Mountain. Brian was as normal to me as anyone else.
Sometime in 1969, Wilson opened a short-lived health food store called The Radiant Radish. The store closed in 1971 due to unprofitable produce expenditures and Wilson’s general lack of business acumen. While working there, he met journalist and radio presenter Jack Rieley, who would manage the Beach Boys and act as Wilson’s principal lyricist for the next few years. Reports from this era detailed Wilson as “increasingly withdrawn, brooding, hermitic . . . and occasionally, he is to be seen in the back of some limousine, cruising around Hollywood, bleary and unshaven, huddled way tight into himself.” This notion was contested by lyricist Stanley Shapiro. Nevertheless, Wilson’s reputation suffered as a result of his eccentricities of lore, and he quickly became known as a commercial has-been which record labels feared. When Shapiro persuaded Wilson to rewrite and rerecord a number of Beach Boys song in order to reclaim his legacy, he contacted fellow songwriter Tandyn Almer for support. The trio then spent a month reworking cuts from the Beach Boys’ Friends album. As Shapiro handed demo tapes to A&M Records executives, they found the product favorable before they learned of Wilson and Almer’s involvement, and proceeded to veto the idea. Wilson’s close friendship with Almer reportedly deteriorated soon after due to a variety of factors, including an alleged liaison between Almer and Marilyn Wilson and the purported theft of recording equipment from Wilson’s home studio.
Wilson played and sang on much of the 1971 Surf’s Up album—the band’s highest American album chart placement (#29) since 1967—and wrote or co-wrote four of the album’s ten songs, including the title track. However, only one fully formed original song from Wilson emerged during the album’s nominal recording sessions, the dirge-like “A Day in the Life of a Tree“. According to engineer Stephen Desper, the cumulatively deleterious effects of Wilson’s cocaine and tobacco use began to affect his vocal register in earnest during the Surf’s Up sessions.
In late 1971 and early 1972, he worked on an album for the American Spring entitled Spring, a new collaboration between erstwhile Honeys Marilyn Wilson and Diane Rovell. He was closely involved in the home-based recordings with co-producer David Sandler and engineer Stephen Desper, and did significant work on more than half of the tracks. As with much of his work in the era, his contributions “ebbed and flowed.” According to Dan Peek of America, Wilson “held court like a Mad King as [longtime friend] Danny Hutton scurried about like his court jester” during the ascendant band’s engagement at the Whisky a Go Go in February 1972 Concurrently, he contributed to three out of eight songs on Beach Boys’ Carl and the Passions – “So Tough” (1972).
Later that year, he reluctantly agreed to accompany the band to the Netherlands, where they based themselves to record Holland . Though physically present, he often yielded to his bibulous tendencies (primarily hashish and hard cider) and rarely participated, confining himself to work on “Funky Pretty” (a collaboration with Mike Love and Jack Rieley), a one-line sung intro to Al Jardine’s “California Saga: California“, andMount Vernon and Fairway (A Fairy Tale), a narrative suite musically inspired by Randy Newman‘s Sail Away that was promptly rejected by the band; eventually, Carl Wilson capitulated and ensured that the suite would be released as a bonus EP with the album. When the album itself was rejected by Reprise, the song “Sail On, Sailor“—a collaboration with Van Dyke Parks dating from 1971 that had grown to encompass additional lyrical contributions solicited by Wilson at parties hosted by Hutton—was inserted at the instigation of Parks and released as the lead single. It promptly garnered a considerable amount of FM radio play, became a minor chart hit, and entered the band’s live sets as a concert staple.
I was snorting cocaine, which I shouldn’t have gotten into. It messed up my mind, and it unplugged me from music. I just remember reading magazines. I would say, “Get me aPlayboy! Get me a Penthouse!
Wilson spent a great deal of the two years following his father’s June 1973 death secluded in the chauffeur’s quarters of his home; sleeping, abusing alcohol, taking drugs (including flirtations with heroin), overeating, and exhibiting self-destructive behavior. He attempted to drive his vehicle off a cliff, and at another time, demanded that he be pushed and buried into a grave he had dug in his backyard. During this period, his voice deteriorated significantly as a result of his mass consumption of cocaine and incessant chain smoking. Previously, Wilson claimed that he was preoccupied with “[doing] drugs and hanging out with Danny Hutton” during the mid-1970s. John Sebastian often showed up at Wilson’s Bel-Air home “to jam”, and recollected: “It wasn’t all grimness.” Although increasingly reclusive during the day, Wilson spent many nights fraternizing with Hollywood Vampire colleagues including Alice Cooper and Iggy Pop, who were mutually bemused by an extended, contumacious Wilson-led singalong of the folk song “Shortnin’ Bread” at Hutton’s house and related environs; other visitors of Hutton’s residence included Vampires Harry Nilsson, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and Keith Moon. Micky Dolenz recalls consuming LSD with Wilson, Lennon, and Nilsson, where Wilson “played just one note on a piano over and over again”. On several occasions, Marilyn Wilson dispatched her friends to climb Hutton’s fence and forcibly retrieve her husband. Jimmy Webb reported Wilson’s presence at an August 2, 1974 session for Nilsson’s “Salmon Falls“; he kept in the back of the studio playing “Da Doo Ron Ron” haphazardly on a B3 organ. Later that month, he was photographed at Moon’s 28th birthday party (held on August 28 at theBeverly Wilshire Hotel) wearing only his bathrobe. Sometime in 1974, Wilson interrupted a set by jazz musician Larry Coryell at The Troubadour by leaping onto stage and singing “Be-Bop-A-Lula“, again wearing slippers and a bathrobe.
During the summer of 1974, the Capitol Records-era greatest hits compilation Endless Summer reached number one on the Billboard charts, reaffirming the relevance of the Beach Boys in the popular imagination. However, recording sessions for a new album under the supervision of Wilson and James William Guercio at Caribou Ranch and the band’s studio in Santa Monica that autumn yielded only a smattering of basic tracks, including a banjo-driven arrangement of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic“; “It’s O.K.“, an uptempo collaboration with Mike Love; the ballad “Good Timin’“; and Dennis Wilson’s “River Song“. Eventually, Wilson diverted his attentions to “Child of Winter (Christmas Song)“, a Christmas single co-written with Stephen Kalinich; released belatedly for the holiday market on December 23, it failed to chart. Though still under contract to Warner Brothers, Wilson signed a sideline production deal with Bruce Johnston and Terry Melcher‘s Equinox Records in early 1975. Together, they founded the loose-knit supergroup known as California Music, which involved them along with LA musicians Gary Usher, Curt Boettcher, and a few others. This contract was nullified by the Beach Boys’ management, who perceived it as an attempt by Wilson to relieve the burden of his growing drug expenses, and it was demanded that Wilson focus his efforts on the Beach Boys, even though he strongly desired to escape from the group. The idea of California Music immediately disintegrated.
First Eugene Landy intervention
Dismayed by his continued deterioration and reluctant to payroll Wilson as an active partner in the touring Beach Boys (an arrangement that had persisted for a decade), Marilyn and the Wilson family enlisted the services of radical therapist Eugene Landy in October 1975. Wilson was initially under Landy’s care for fourteen months until December 1976, when the therapist was dismissed for a dispute on his monthly fee. Though Landy diagnosed Wilson as paranoid schizophrenic (a diagnosis later retracted) and prescribed medication in accordance, the treatment prompted a more stable, socially engaged Wilson whose productivity increased again. The tagline “Brian’s Back!” became a major promotional tool for the new Beach Boys album, 15 Big Ones, released to coincide with their fifteenth anniversary as a band. As a mixture of traditional pop covers with newly-written original material, the record was released in the summer of 1976 to commercial acclaim and, despite lukewarm reviews, peaked at number 8 on the Billboard album chart, the band’s highest entry (apart from Endless Summer and the follow-up 1975 compilation Spirit of America) since 1965. Wilson returned to regular stage appearances with the band, alternating between piano and bass and, under Landy’s advice, made a solo appearance on Saturday Night Live in November 1976; producer Lorne Michaels stipulated Wilson’s exclusive performance, much to the chagrin of the other Beach Boys.
[Landy] was such a performer…You couldn’t stop him. To him, he was the star of the story…He was full of himself.…He did so many other things that you thought the whole thing might have been a scam. However, one way to keep a person from taking drugs is having a guard there to keep him from taking drugs. It’s called prison, but it was in his home.
Wilson’s behavior during this time was reported by many to be strange and off-putting, and Landy’s role as “unethical” and ostentatious. Oftentimes, Wilson would ask for drugs in mid-interview. During this period, Wilson was under constant surveillance by bodyguards, which he resented. Writer David Felton published an editorial piece for Rolling Stone entitledThe Healing of Brother Brian, which included eccentric accounts between Wilson and Landy to Felton. This included a report of Landy’s medical staff promising Wilson a cheeseburger in exchange for writing a new song. Felton would later talk about the absurdity of his interactions, and noted that he wasn’t sure if Wilson really behaved that way or if he was under extreme pressure to appease Landy and his staff. Felton recounts numerous times where Landy scolded Wilson in public for not adhering to his strict behavioral guidelines, and that he believed Wilson felt he had a big pressure to cooperate because of it. He later explained, “[Eugene Landy] said ‘Brian doesn’t have that much sense of humor,’ and I never knew the answer to that. Does he or doesn’t he? Sometimes I thought he would have a very wry sense of humor, and others I felt he talked almost like a robot…Just stiff and without emotion or affectation…He does what he’s told but he doesn’t do much else…And that way he kept out of trouble.” Stanley Shapiro, a frequent collaborator of Wilson during the 1970s, would later say “The one-dimensional side of Brian looks like a zombie. But out of the blue, he’d astonish you with the things he’d say.”
Wilson expressed a fervent desire to leave the group and record a solo album in this period, but could not due to conflicts it would create between him and the group, leading Wilson to remark, “Sometimes I feel like a commodity in a stock market.” He was also firm in that he wanted to record another work on par with the achievement of Pet Sounds. In April 1977, the all-original Wilson album Love You was released bearing the Beach Boys moniker, although the group’s contributions were minimal. Described by Wilson as an attempt to relieve himself from mental instability brought on by a period of inactivity, Love You has since been cited as an early work of synthpop. The album’s playful lyrics (alternately invoking Johnny Carson, Phil Spector and adolescent interests) and stark instrumentation (featuring Moog bass lines and gated reverb-drenched drum patterns reflective of contemporaneous work by David Bowie and Tony Visconti) failed to impact an audience sated on the ubiquitous Endless Summer sound. Nonetheless, Love You reached number 53 on the Billboard chart and was lauded as an artistic watershed by many critics, including Robert Christgau of The Village Voice. Musicians Patti Smith, Lester Bangs, and Peter Buck have since written heartfelt praise for the album.
Landy was fired during the Love You sessions. Throughout the next five years, Wilson vacillated between periods of relative stability and resurgences of his food and drug addictions. The Wilsons’ divorce in January 1979 cited allegations of infidelity on Marilyn’s part and inappropriate behavior on Brian’s (allegedly offering drugs to his children) but was considered more a mutual surrender to the pressures of Wilson’s continued emotional health problems. Brian’s role in the band—as well as the Beach Boys’ commercial prospects—began to diminish once more. During this difficult period, the single “Good Timin'” (a collaboration between Brian and Carl Wilson dating from the 1974 Caribou sessions) peaked at number 40 in June 1979.
By 1982, Wilson weighed over 325 pounds (147 kg) and was again immersed in his addictions.Live Aid in 1985 and participated in the recording of the Steve Levine-produced album,The Beach Boys. Largely due to the control that Landy exercised, Wilson stopped working with the Beach Boys on a regular basis after the release of the album. Eventually, Landy’s therapy technique created aSvengali-like environment for Wilson, controlling every movement in his life, including his musical direction.
Landy was once more employed, and a more radical program was undertaken to try to restore Wilson to health. This involved “firing” him from the Beach Boys in November 1982 at the behest of Carl Wilson, isolating him from his family and friends (most notably longtime girlfriend/nurse Carolyn Williams) in Hawaii, and putting him on a rigorous diet and health regimen. Coupled with long, extreme counseling sessions, this therapy was successful in bringing Wilson back to physical health. He lost more than 100 pounds (45 kg) and temporarily became a gym fanatic. As Wilson’s recovery consolidated, he rejoined the Beach Boys for
Wilson thereafter signed to a solo record deal with Sire Records label boss Seymour Stein and variously worked with Andy Paley, Russ Titelman and Landy’s girlfriend as co-authors on the new material. Old friend and collaborator Gary Usher was a key participant in the early demo work for the album, though Landy later removed him from the project. After several years of genesis, Wilson released his debut solo album Brian Wilson. It is arguable that this “breakout” work was hampered by Landy’s influence, since Landy insisted on controlling involvement in every aspect of Wilson’s writing and recording and his lyrical influence is significant.
Despite the critical success of his debut solo album, rumors abounded that Wilson had either suffered a stroke or had been permanently disabled due to excessive drug use. One biographer reported that the actual problem was that Wilson, who had been prescribed massive amounts of psychotropic drugs by Landy’s staff since 1983, had developed tardive dyskinesia, a neurological condition marked by involuntary, repetitive movements, that develops in about 20% of patients treated with anti-psychotic drugs for a long period of time. During recording of the Brian Wilson album, engineering staff had observed what seemed to be “every pharmaceutical on the face of the earth,” referring to the medicine bag Landy was using to store Wilson’s prescription drugs. In order to dispel these claims, Landy separated from Wilson in 1989 to prove that Wilson could function independently. However, they remained “business partners”. Wilson’s proposed second solo album under the direction of Landy, entitled Sweet Insanity, was rejected by Sire in 1990. It is believed that the disturbingly self-revelatory lyrics of “therapy songs” like “Brian” and ersatz rap like the seemingly sexist “Smart Girls”, hurt the album. Sweet Insanity also contained delicate and impressive compositions that reemerged on later solo albums (viz., “Let’s Stick Together”, which became “The Waltz” on Wilson’s 2004 solo album Gettin’ In Over My Head).
In 1990 came a faux memoir, Wouldn’t It Be Nice – My Own Story, published in 1990. In the book, whose authorship is still debated, Wilson spoke about his troubled relationship with his abusive father Murry, his private disputes with the Beach Boys and his “lost years” of mental illness. Though the book drew on interviews with Wilson and others (by Todd Gold) it is widely believed to be Landy’s account of Brian’s life (in an unrelated court case Wilson testified that he had never even read the final draft of the manuscript, much less written any of it.) Landy’s illegal use of psychotropic drugs on Wilson, and his influence over Wilson’s financial affairs was legally ended by Carl Wilson and other members of the Wilson family after a two-year-long conservatorship battle in Los Angeles. Landy’s misconduct led to the loss of his California psychology license, as well as a court-ordered removal and restraining order from Wilson.
Wilson released two albums simultaneously in 1995. The first was the soundtrack to Don Was‘s documentary I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times, which consisted of new versions of several Beach Boys and solo songs. The second, Orange Crate Art, saw Wilson as lead vocalist on an album produced, arranged and written by Van Dyke Parks. I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times includes Wilson performing for the first time with his now-adult daughters, Wendy and Carnie of the group Wilson Phillips and Van Dyke Parks. The documentary also included glowing tributes from many of his peers, and renewed interest in Wilson as a pop genius and producer extraordinaire. During the early 1990s, he also worked on some tracks with power pop band Jellyfish, which remain unreleased. Roger Manning has recounted an anecdote during these sessions involving Wilson falling asleep at the piano yet continuing to play. Later in the decade, Wilson and his daughters Carnie and Wendy would release an album together entitled The Wilsons(1997). Also, around this time, Wilson sang backup on Belinda Carlisle‘s “California“.
Having missed out on the Beach Boys’ 27th studio album Summer in Paradise, Wilson returned to the Beach Boys for sporadic recording sessions and live performances during the early to mid-1990s. Working with collaborators Andy Paley and Don Was, the sessions were reported to have been tenuous. It had also been discussed that Wilson and the Beach Boys would work with Sean O’Hagan of The High Llamas on a comeback album for Wilson and the Beach Boys. All projects collapsed, and instead, Wilson was involved with the 1996 Beach Boys album Stars and Stripes Vol. 1: a group collaboration, backing country music artists singing lead vocals of Beach Boys’ standards.
The Brian Wilson Band performing in 2005.
In 1998, he teamed with Chicago-based producer Joe Thomas for the album Imagination. Following this, he received extensive vocal coaching to improve his voice, learned to cope with his stage fright, and started to consistently perform live for the first time in decades. This resulted in Wilson successfully performing the entire Pet Sounds album live throughout the United States, United Kingdom and Europe. Wilson’s third solo album Gettin’ In Over My Head (2004) featured collaborations with Elton John, Paul McCartney,Eric Clapton and brother Carl, who died in February 1998. Clapton played on the track “City Blues,” and McCartney’s collaboration on “A Friend Like You” fulfilled for many a fantasy union of the legendary Beatles with the legendary Beach Boys. The return to prolific writing and touring gave birth to a new artistic emergence by Wilson.
Brian Wilson Presents Smile
With his mental health finally on the mend, Wilson decided to revisit the aborted Smile project from 1967. Aided by musician and longtime fan Darian Sahanaja of Wondermints, and lyricist Van Dyke Parks, Wilson reimagined the session material into something that would work in a live context. His work was finally revealed in concert on February 20, 2004, 37 years after it was conceived, though he later stated that the finished product was substantially different from what was originally envisioned. Wilson debuted his 2004 interpretation of Smile at the Royal Festival Hall in London and subsequently toured the UK. Following the tour, Brian Wilson Presents Smile was recorded, and released in September 2004.
The debut performance at the Royal Festival Hall was a defining moment for Wilson. The documentary DVD of the event shows Wilson preparing for the performance and expressing doubts over the concept of putting this work before the public, moments before taking the stage. After an opening set of Beach Boys classics, Wilson returned to the stage to perform Smile in its entirety. A 10-minute standing ovation followed the concert; the DVD shows several rock luminaries in the crowd, such as Roger Daltrey, Paul Weller, Sir George Martin and Sir Paul McCartney (although neither Martin nor McCartney attended the opening night, contrary to what the DVD implies). Brian Wilson Presents Smile was then recorded from April through June, and released in September, to wide critical acclaim. The release hit number 13 on the Billboard chart. The 2004 recording featured his backup/touring band, including Beach Boys guitarist Jeff Foskett, members of Wondermints and backup singer Taylor Mills. At the 47th Grammy Awards in 2005, Wilson won his first Grammy for the track “Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow” as Best Rock Instrumental. In 2004, Wilson promoted Brian Wilson Presents Smile with a tour of Australia, New Zealand and Europe. In December 2005, he also releasedWhat I Really Want for Christmas for Arista Records. The release hit number 200 on the Billboard chart, though sales were modest. Wilson’s remake of the classic “Deck the Halls” became a surprise Top 10 Adult Contemporary hit.
Post-Smile to That Lucky Old Sun
In February 2005, Wilson had a cameo in the TV series Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century as Daffy Duck‘s spiritual surfing adviser. He also appeared in the 2005 holiday episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, performing “Deck the Halls” for children with xeroderma pigmentosum (hypersensitivity to sunlight) at Walt Disney World Resort. On July 2, 2005, Wilson performed for the Live 8 concert in Berlin, Germany.
In September 2005, Wilson arranged a charity drive to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina, wherein people who donated $100 or more would receive a personal phone call from Wilson. According to the website, over $250K was raised. In November 2005, former bandmate Mike Love sued Wilson over “shamelessly misappropriating… Love’s songs, likeness, and the Beach Boys trademark, as well as the ‘Smile’ album itself” in the promotion of Smile. The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed on grounds that it was meritless.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Pet Sounds, Wilson embarked on a brief tour in November 2006. Beach Boy Al Jardine accompanied Wilson for the tour.
Wilson released That Lucky Old Sun in September 2008. The piece originally debuted in a series of September 2007 concerts at London’s Royal Festival Hall, and in January 2008 at Sydney’s State Theatre while headlining the Sydney Festival. Wilson described the piece as “…consisting of five ’rounds’, with interspersed spoken word.” A series of US and UK concerts preceded its release. On September 30, 2008, Seattle’s Light in the Attic Records released A World of Peace Must Come, a collaboration between Wilson and Stephen Kalinich, originally recorded in 1969, but later lost in Kalinich’s closet.
Around this time, Wilson announced that he was developing another concept album entitled Pleasure Island: A Rock Fantasy. Accordingly: “It’s about some guys who took a hike, and they found a place called Pleasure Island. And they met all kinds of chicks, and they went on rides and — it’s just a concept. I haven’t developed it yet. I think people are going to love it — it could be the best thing I’ve ever done.” The album has yet to surface, and for several years, Wilson has consistently maintained in interviews that he wishes his “next album” to be more rock-oriented.
In 2009, Wilson’s workload increased when he signed a two-record deal with Disney. In Summer 2009, Wilson was approached to record an album of his interpretations of classic Gershwin songs, and to assess unfinished piano pieces by Gershwin for possible expansion into finished songs. After extensive evaluation of a vast body of Gershwin fragments, Wilson chose two to complete. The resulting album, Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin, was released in August 2010 on Disney’s Pearl label. Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin achieved Number 1 position on the Billboard Jazz Chart, and had sold 53,000 copies by August 2011. Wilson’s second album for Disney was In The Key Of Disney, a collection of classic Disney movie songs, which was released on October 25, 2011. This album was especially memorable for its inclusion of Wilson’s take on When You Wish Upon a Star, the song that had inspired his own first composition, “Surfer Girl“.
Wilson contributed his revival of Buddy Holly‘s “Listen To Me” to the tribute album, Listen to Me: Buddy Holly, released on September 6, 2011, on Verve Forecast. Rolling Stone praised Wilson’s version as “gorgeous,” featuring “…angelic harmonies and delicate instrumentation.”
Reuniting with the Beach Boys
Wilson oversaw the official Beach Boys release of the original, partially completed Smile recordings as a compilation titled The Smile Sessions. Released on October 31, 2011, the album was made available as single CD, a 2-CD boxed set, a vinyl double album, and a deluxe 5 CD/2 LP box set.
On July 27, 2011, Love announced that, “Where we’re at right now is Brian’s written some songs, I’ve written some songs. We’re talking very seriously about getting together and co-writing and doing some new music together [as a band]. . . He’s been doing his own touring, we’ve been doing ours and so we haven’t really been able to lock into that, but it looks like this fall we will.” That day, Brian Wilson said the band is going to get back together to celebrate their 50th anniversary. Although a few months later, he claimed he did not really like working with his former band mates, and that a reunion would depend on how they feel and how much money is involved. He concluded by saying that money is not the only reason he made records, but it does hold a place in their lives.
In October 2011, Jardine reported that the Beach Boys would reunite in 2012 for 50 U.S. dates and 50–60 overseas dates. Love stated that during the middle of 2011, the band reunited to re-record their song “Do it Again” and make it into a music video to promote the world tour. Love had nothing but praise for Wilson saying “he sounds great, always coming up with chords, and his singing ability is still there. He hasn’t lost the ability to do what he does best.” The Beach Boys released their new album, That’s Why God Made the Radio, on June 5, 2012. The album’s title track was released as its first single in April 2012. The new album debuted at Number 3 on the Billboard charts which was their highest album debut to date. Following the reunion a year later, it was announced that Wilson would no longer tour with the band as Mike Love returned the lineup to its pre-Anniversary Tour configuration with him and Bruce Johnston as its only members.
Return to solo career
On June 6, 2013, Wilson’s website announced that he is recording and self-producing new material with guitarist Jeff Beck, session musician/producer Don Was, as well as fellow Beach Boys Al Jardine, David Marks, and Blondie Chaplin. On June 20, the website announced that the material might be split into three albums: one of new pop songs, another of mostly instrumental tracks with Beck, and another of interwoven tracks dubbed “the suite” which initially began form as the closing four tracks of That’s Why God Made The Radio. Confirmed song titles include “Right Time” and “Run James Run”, which both feature lead vocals by Al Jardine. A version of the traditional “Danny Boy” has also been recorded. Wilson’s That’s Why God Made The Radio and Imagination collaborator Joe Thomas will also be involved to some extent. Accordingly, “When we started working on this thing, he was calling it his life’s suite. He looked at life as three different movements. One was Pet Sounds, the other was Smile and then, he wanted to go out with a bang and have a look back at life from an adult. Pet Sounds was when he was just a kid. Smile was when he was a little more savvy and in the business awhile. And now, this is a guy looking back at life and where he is now, which is in a much happier and less chaotic state.” He’s also described the recording sessions between Wilson and Beck as “fusion jazz rock with Brian singing, ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs.'” Beck described his contributions: “They let me take the melody wherever I wanted the flavor of them to go, but the fact is when you’ve got the backing of Brian’s chords you automatically play West Coast-style guitar. It’s just inbuilt into the essence of what he writes. You can’t do anything far from it, so it’s hard to wedge my style in there, but I’ve tried to do it as best I can.”
Wilson embarked on a short summer tour which included Jardine and Marks. It was then announced on August 5, 2013 that Wilson would embark on a fall 2013 tour with Beck. According to Beck, “Brian will kick things off, but I’ll also be given enough time to establish what I’m about. In the end, we’ll mix and match. It’s a complete honor to be on stage with him.” Jardine and Marks also joined Wilson on the eighteen dates which began on September 27 and ended on October 30 in Milwaukee at the Riverside Theater. Chaplin guested on some dates and performed “Sail On, Sailor” and “Wild Honey” with the group. That October, Wilson informed: “[We’re] about two-thirds of the way through. We have eight or nine songs done, and we need three or four more songs. Most of it is very mellow kind of stuff, mellow harmony, not very much rock ‘n’ roll yet. It’s a pretty unique album. It’s very different than anything I’ve ever done.”” On Beck, Wilson said: “He really blew my mind, so we thought we’d have him join us on our album. He plays the most goddamn greatest guitar you’ve ever heard. He really brings quality notes, more notes per bar than you can imagine.” Jardine intimated: “The combination of the two forces of music give it a certain breadth and depth that I think neither of us have experienced before. Jeff has a very melodic sense and is keenly aware of where the chord progressions are going, and it helps us to marry our voices to his progressions. We’re doing some really innovative things.” He also spoke of a track entitled “Run, James, Run”, which is a “suped-up ‘Little Deuce Coupe‘ kind of thing. It’s just cute as hell.” Thomas, comparing the record to That’s Why God Made the Radio, stated: “Musically, it has a rougher edge to it. The harmonies are cool, but it’s more akin to the music on Wild Honey and the Carl & The Passions records. . .This new material is not a reprise to that album at all; it’s taking it further.”
In January 2014, Wilson clarified that he did not write any material with Beck, and that Beck would only be a guest performer. He also confirmed the titles of two tracks: “Sail Away” and “Last Song”. The next month, Beck intimated on the project’s status: “I’m not sure. As far as I know, they made a mistake by grabbing me for a tour and opening up the floodgates for a tour prematurely instead of finishing the tracks. And so we left the studio with half-finished tracks–three, four tracks I was supposed to be on and they’re still unfinished. And to me it was a bit stupid because they should have done the album, had a killer album, and then gone out on the road. But I think they wanted to grab me while I was still available. That’s about it.” Later in June, Wilson announced potential guest appearances by Lana Del Rey (“Last Song”), Zooey Deschanel(“On the Island”), Frank Ocean (“Special Love”), and Kacey Musgraves (“Sharing a New Day”, “Guess You Had to Be There”). The news brought mixed feedback from fans; Wilson is purported to have expressed through his Facebook page: “It kind of bums me out to see some of the negativity here about the album I’ve been working so hard on. In my life in music, I’ve been told too many times not to fuck with the formula, but as an artist it’s my job to do that – and I think I’ve earned that right … So let’s just wait until the album comes out because I think you just might dig it as much as I do.” Thomas has asserted: “Brian isn’t trying to write to a younger or older audience, he’s telling the story from his perspective.”
The next month, a guest appearance by Nate Ruess of Fun was confirmed, and that Ocean’s collaboration would be excluded. A remake of the Beach Boys’ 1965 instrumental “Summer Means New Love” will be included instead, along with Beck and Wilson’s cover version of the traditional “Danny Boy”, now evidently part of what is now called “aborted Wilson–Beck sessions”. The album’s centerpiece, “Last Song”, is described: “A heartbreaking ballad that was recorded in two versions — one with a haunting vocal by Del Rey and one with Wilson’s lead vocals. The song recounts his sadness about the Beach Boys’ dissolution.” Don Was commented, “Brian’s really on it. I was knocked out by a couple of songs on that last Beach Boys record – ‘Summer’s Gone’ ranks with his greatest work. I didn’t expect that he’s got a whole other album of stuff on that level … I got really choked up playing bass on that track. There’s something about Brian signing off with it, saying, ‘This is it, this is my last song.’ It’s really intense. If ‘Last Song’ turned out to be his last song, can you imagine? Wow. That’d be some coda.”
Wilson is set to release an autobiography to be published in fall 2015. It will be written with help from journalist Jason Fine. The project was met with skepticism by Van Dyke Parks, who was approached for questioning by Fine’s assistant via Twitter, responding, “Doesn’t sound ‘auto’ to me!”
From late 1964 to 1979, Wilson was married to Marilyn Rovell, although they later divorced. Wilson has two daughters from this marriage: Carnie Wilson and Wendy Wilson, who would go on to musical success of their own in the early 1990s as two-thirds of Wilson Phillips. In 1995, Wilson married Melinda Ledbetter, a car saleswoman and former model he met in the 1980s. The couple adopted five children: two girls, Daria Rose and Delanie Rae, in 1998; a boy, Dylan, in 2004; a boy, Dash Tristan in 2009; and a girl, Dakota Rose, in 2010.
Wilson suffers from auditory hallucinations, and has been formally diagnosed as mildly manic-depressive with schizoaffective disorder that presents itself in the form of disembodied voices. According to him, he only began having hallucinations in 1965 shortly after experimenting with psychedelic drugs. During the 1980s, Wilson came under the care of Eugene Landy, a corrupt psychologist who administered excessive dosages of psychotropics which further damaged Wilson’s mental state. Landy eventually manipulated Wilson into handing over control of his business affairs, and exerted nearly absolute power in all realms of Wilson’s life, even preventing him from seeing his then-future wife Melinda Ledbetter. Carl Wilson eventually stepped in to remove his brother from Landy’s influence. Later, as a result of his mistreatment of Wilson, Landy was stripped of his license.
In recent years, Wilson’s mental condition has improved. Although he still experiences auditory hallucinations from time to time, his relationship with his wife and his new regimen of psychiatric care have allowed him to resume his career as a musician. 
Love and Mercy
A biopic on Wilson’s life titled, Love and Mercy will be released in 2014. It will be directed by Bill Pohlad and will star Paul Dano as a younger Brian, John Cusack as an older Brian along with Paul Giamatti as Dr.Eugene Landy and actress Elizabeth Banks as Wilson’s wife Melinda. Shooting wrapped on the film on August 27, 2013 although a release date for the film has yet to be announced.The film will be included in the2014 Toronto International Film Festival. Brian posted a photo of himself along with Cusack and Melinda on his Twitter page.
Awards and accolades
- Wilson and The Beach Boys were inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame in January 1988.
- In 2000, Wilson was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Paul McCartney introduced Brian, referring to him as “one of the great American geniuses.”
- On March 29, 2001, TNT and Radio City Music Hall hosted “A Tribute to Brian Wilson.” This event featured performances and appearances by Elton John, Billy Joel, Chazz Palminteri host, David Crosby, Dennis Hopper, Paul Simon, Carly Simon, The Go-Go’s, Cameron Crowe, Sir George Martin, Vince Gill, Brian’s daughters Carnie & Wendy Wilson along with Chynna Phillips (Wilson Phillips), Jimmy Webb, Darius Rucker,Matthew Sweet, Ann and Nancy Wilson of (Heart), The Boys Choir of Harlem, and others.
- Pet Sounds has been ranked as one of the most influential records in popular music, and has been ranked number one on several music magazines’ lists of the greatest albums of all time. It is ranked number two on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
- In May 2003, Wilson was presented with an honorary Doctor of Music from Northeastern University, Boston, Ma.
- On May 10, 2004, Wilson was honored as a BMI Icon at the 52nd annual BMI Pop Awards. He was saluted for his “unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers.”
- A 2005 concert, “Musicares: A Tribute to Brian Wilson,” was held in Wilson’s honor, during which he was named MusiCares Person of the Year. Performers included Jeff Beck, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Earth Wind & Fire, Barenaked Ladies, and Backstreet Boys, among others.
- On May 20, 2005, Wilson and two of the other original-era Beach Boys (Al Jardine and David Marks) were honored with the unveiling of the Beach Boys Historic Landmark on the former site of the Wilson family home in Hawthorne, California.
- In 2005, Wilson won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow.
- In November 2006, Wilson was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame by Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour. Wilson performed “God Only Knows” and “Good Vibrations” at the ceremony.
- On December 2, 2007, the Kennedy Center Honors committee recognized Wilson for a lifetime of contributions to American culture through the performing arts in music.
- May 20, 2011, Wilson received the UCLA George and Ira Gershwin Award at UCLA Spring Sing.
- On February 10, 2013, Wilson won the Best Historical Album Grammy Award for The Smile Sessions.
Songs written about Wilson
- Brian Wilson (July 12, 1988)
- I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times (August 15, 1995)
- Orange Crate Art (with Van Dyke Parks) (October 24, 1995)
- Imagination (June 16, 1998)
- Gettin’ in Over My Head (June 22, 2004)
- Brian Wilson Presents Smile (September 28, 2004)
- What I Really Want for Christmas (October 18, 2005)
- That Lucky Old Sun (September 2, 2008)
- Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin (August 17, 2010)
- In the Key of Disney (October 25, 2011)
Ida “B” Blackburn Beach Boys Interview 1964
Dick Clark Interviews The Beach Boys – American Bandstand 1964
Brian Wilson on Larry King Live (8-20-2004)
Brian Wilson interview on Mike Douglas 1976
Brian Wilson on Mike Douglas 1976 part 2 – Back Home
Brian Wilson relations with Landy Part 1
Brian Wilson relations with Landy Part 2
itw w/ Carl & Brian Wilson @ Live Aid 85
mike love beach boys interview transcendental meditation
Brian Wilson on “Charlie Rose” (6-24-2005)
Brian Wilson – A Classic Interview Part 1
Brian Wilson – A Classic Interview Part 2
Brian Wilson – A Classic Interview Part 3
Brian Wilson – A Classic Interview Part 4
Brian Wilson – A Classic Interview Part 5
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President Obama Takes The Oath Of Office
~President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan–to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.
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President Ronald Reagan: First Inaugural Address (2 of 3)
President Ronald Reagan: First Inaugural Address (3 of 3)
There is nothing wrong with America that the faith, love of freedom, intelligence and energy of her citizens cannot cure.
~ President Dwight D. Eisenhower
It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.
President Theodore Roosevelt
“Citizenship in a Republic,”
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910
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“…11:56am Eastern. Ok, Aretha Franklin just melted my heart. Truly transcendent rendition of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” …”
Poll: Obama Should Model Himself After Reagan
“President Barack Obama should model himself after Ronald Reagan, according to Americans of both parties polled about which former president’s example to follow.
Reagan was the top choice among all voters, with 26 percent, followed by Franklin Roosevelt with 18 percent, John F. Kennedy with 17 percent, and Lincoln with 13 percent, according to a survey that Clarus Research Group compiled this past week.
“Reagan was the overwhelming favorite among Republican voters,” said Ron Faucheux, president of the nonpartisan, Washington, D.C.-based research group. “He received 59 percent as the president GOP voters want Obama to emulate. Nobody else came close.”
On the other hand, Faucheux said, “Democrats scattered their choices more.FDR was their top pick at 27 percent and was closely followed by Kennedy, with 26 percent. Lincoln, a Republican, ranked third among Democrats.” …”
Presidential Inauguration Speeches: Look at Past Speeches and Expectations of Barack Obama’s Speech.
44th U.S. Presidential Inauguration – Barack Obama speech 1/3
44th U.S. Presidential Inauguration – Barack Obama speech 2/3
44th U.S. Presidential Inauguration – Barack Obama speech 3/3
President Kennedy’s Inaugural Address 1 of 2
President Kennedy’s Inaugural Address 2 of 2
Full text of President Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural address
“Senator Hatfield, Mr. Chief Justice, Mr. President, Vice President Bush, Vice President Mondale, Senator Baker, Speaker O’Neill, Reverend Moomaw, and my fellow citizens.
To a few of us here today this is a solemn and most momentous occasion, and yet in the history of our nation it is a commonplace occurrence. The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place, as it has for almost two centuries, and few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every-four-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.
Mr. President, I want our fellow citizens to know how much you did to carry on this tradition. By your gracious cooperation in the transition process, you have shown a watching world that we are a united people pledged to maintaining a political system which guarantees individual liberty to a greater degree than any other, and I thank you and your people for all your help in maintaining the continuity which is the bulwark of our republic. The business of our nation goes forward. These United States are confronted with an economic affliction of great proportions. We suffer from the longest and one of the worst sustained inflations in our national history. It distorts our economic decisions, penalizes thrift, and crushes the struggling young and the fixed-income elderly alike. It threatens to shatter the lives of millions of our people.
Idle industries have cast workers into unemployment, human misery, and personal indignity. Those who do work are denied a fair return for their labor by a tax system which penalizes successful achievement and keeps us from maintaining full productivity.
But great as our tax burden is, it has not kept pace with public spending. For decades we have piled deficit upon deficit, mortgaging our future and our children’s future for the temporary convenience of the present. To continue this long trend is to guarantee tremendous social, cultural, political, and economic upheavals.
You and I, as individuals, can, by borrowing, live beyond our means, but for only a limited period of time. Why, then, should we think that collectively, as a nation, we’re not bound by that same limitation? We must act today in order to preserve tomorrow. And let there be no misunderstanding: We are going to begin to act, beginning today.
The economic ills we suffer have come upon us over several decades. They will not go away in days, weeks, or months, but they will go away. They will go away because we as Americans have the capacity now, as we’ve had in the past, to do whatever needs to be done to preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom.
In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we’ve been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price.
We hear much of special interest groups. Well, our concern must be for a special interest group that has been too long neglected. It knows no sectional boundaries or ethnic and racial divisions, and it crosses political party lines. It is made up of men and women who raise our food, patrol our streets, man our mines and factories, teach our children, keep our homes, and heal us when we’re sick–professionals, industrialists, shopkeepers, clerks, cabbies, and truck drivers. They are, in short, “we the people,” this breed called Americans.
Well, this administration’s objective will be a healthy, vigorous, growing economy that provides equal opportunities for all Americans, with no barriers born of bigotry or discrimination. Putting America back to work means putting all Americans back to work. Ending inflation means freeing all Americans from the terror of runaway living costs. All must share in the productive work of this “new beginning,” and all must share in the bounty of a revived economy. With the idealism and fair play which are the core of our system and our strength, we can have a strong and prosperous America, at peace with itself and the world.
So, as we begin, let us take inventory. We are a nation that has a government–not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth. Our government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government, which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed.
It is my intention to curb the size and influence of the federal establishment and to demand recognition of the distinction between the powers granted to the federal government and those reserved to the states or to the people. All of us need to be reminded that the federal government did not create the states; the states created the federal government.
Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it’s not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work–work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it.
If we look to the answer as to why for so many years we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on earth, it was because here in this land we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent than has ever been done before. Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on earth. The price for this freedom at times has been high, but we have never been unwilling to pay the price.
It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government. It is time for us to realize that we’re too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams. We’re not, as some would have us believe, doomed to an inevitable decline. I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing. So, with all the creative energy at our command, let us begin an era of national renewal. Let us renew our determination, our courage, and our strength. And let us renew our faith and our hope.
We have every right to dream heroic dreams. Those who say that we’re in a time when there are no heroes, they just don’t know where to look. You can see heroes every day going in and out of factory gates. Others, a handful in number, produce enough food to feed all of us and then the world beyond. You meet heroes across a counter, and they’re on both sides of that counter. There are entrepreneurs with faith in themselves and faith in an idea who create new jobs, new wealth and opportunity. They’re individuals and families whose taxes support the government and whose voluntary gifts support church, charity, culture, art, and education. Their patriotism is quiet, but deep. Their values sustain our national life.
Now, I have used the words “they” and “their” in speaking of these heroes. I could say “you” and “your,” because I’m addressing the heroes of whom I speak–you, the citizens of this blessed land. Your dreams, your hopes, your goals are going to be the dreams, the hopes, and the goals of this administration, so help me God.
We shall reflect the compassion that is so much a part of your makeup. How can we love our country and not love our countrymen; and loving them, reach out a hand when they fall, heal them when they’re sick, and provide opportunity to make them self-sufficient so they will be equal in fact and not just in theory?
Can we solve the problems confronting us? Well, the answer is an unequivocal and emphatic “yes.” To paraphrase Winston Churchill, I did not take the oath I’ve just taken with the intention of presiding over the dissolution of the world’s strongest economy.
In the days ahead I will propose removing the roadblocks that have slowed our economy and reduced productivity. Steps will be taken aimed at restoring the balance between the various levels of government. Progress may be slow, measured in inches and feet, not miles, but we will progress. It is time to reawaken this industrial giant, to get government back within its means, and to lighten our punitive tax burden. And these will be our first priorities, and on these principles there will be no compromise.
On the eve of our struggle for independence a man who might have been one of the greatest among the Founding Fathers, Dr. Joseph Warren, president of the Massachusetts Congress, said to his fellow Americans, “Our country is in danger, but not to be despaired of . . . On you depend the fortunes of America. You are to decide the important questions upon which rests the happiness and the liberty of millions yet unborn. Act worthy of yourselves.” Well, I believe we, the Americans of today, are ready to act worthy of ourselves, ready to do what must be done to ensure happiness and liberty for ourselves, our children, and our children’s children. And as we renew ourselves here in our own land, we will be seen as having greater strength throughout the world. We will again be the exemplar of freedom and a beacon of hope for those who do not now have freedom.
To those neighbors and allies who share our freedom, we will strengthen our historic ties and assure them of our support and firm commitment. We will match loyalty with loyalty. We will strive for mutually beneficial relations. We will not use our friendship to impose on their sovereignty, for our own sovereignty is not for sale. As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people. We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it; we will not surrender for it, now or ever.
Our forbearance should never be misunderstood. Our reluctance for conflict should not be misjudged as a failure of will. When action is required to preserve our national security, we will act. We will maintain sufficient strength to prevail if need be, knowing that if we do so we have the best chance of never having to use that strength. Above all, we must realize that no arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today’s world do not have. It is a weapon that we as Americans do have. Let that be understood by those who practice terrorism and prey upon their neighbors. I’m told that tens of thousands of prayer meetings are being held on this day, and for that I’m deeply grateful. We are a nation under God, and I believe God intended for us to be free. It would be fitting and good, I think, if on each Inaugural Day in future years it should be declared a day of prayer.
This is the first time in our history that this ceremony has been held, as you’ve been told, on the West Front of the Capitol. Standing here, one faces a magnificent vista, opening up on the city’s special beauty and history. At the end of this open mall are those shrines to the giants on whose shoulders we stand.
Directly in front of me, the monument to a monumental man, George Washington, father of our country. A man of humility who came to greatness reluctantly. He led Americans out of revolutionary victory into infant nationhood. Off to one side, the stately memorial to Thomas Jefferson. The Declaration of Independence flames with his eloquence. And then, beyond the Reflecting Pool, the dignified columns of the Lincoln Memorial. Whoever would understand in his heart the meaning of America will find it in the life of Abraham Lincoln.
Beyond those monuments to heroism is the Potomac River, and on the far shore the sloping hills of Arlington National Cemetery, with its row upon row of simple white markers bearing crosses of Stars of David. They add up to only a tiny fraction of the price that has been paid for our freedom. Each one of those markers is a monument to the kind of hero I spoke of earlier. Their lives ended in places called Belleau Wood, the Argonne, Omaha Beach, Salerno, and halfway around the world on Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Pork Chop Hill, the Chosin Reservoir, and in a hundred rice paddies and jungles of a place called Vietnam.
Under one such marker lies a young man, Martin Treptow, who left his job in a small town barbershop in 1917 to go to France with the famed Rainbow Division. There, on the western front, he was killed trying to carry a message between battalions under heavy artillery fire.
We’re told that on his body was found a diary. On the flyleaf under the heading “My Pledge,” he had written these words: “America must win this war. Therefore I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone.”
The crisis we are facing today does not require of us the kind of sacrifice that Martin Treptow and so many thousands of others were called upon to make. It does require, however, our best effort and our willingness to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds, to believe that together with God’s help we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us.
And after all, why shouldn’t we believe that? We are Americans.
God bless you, and thank you.”
Full text of President Barach Obama’s inaugural address
OBAMA: My fellow citizens:
I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.
Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.
So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.
That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.
These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.
Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.
We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.
For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.
For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.
For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.
Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.
This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.
Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.
What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.
Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.
As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.
Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.
We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.
As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.
For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.
Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
This is the price and the promise of citizenship.
This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.
This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.
So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:
“Let it be told to the future world … that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive…that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it).”
America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.
Lincoln At Gettysburg
Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
Text of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Full text of President Lincoln’s second inaugural address
At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention, and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.
On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil-war. All dreaded it — all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war — seeking to dissolve the Union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.
One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other.
It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!”
If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.”
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.
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