The Beach Boys – Surfin’ USA
by Erika Cox
The Beach Boys were not only the most successful and popular surf music group in the early 1960’s, but also one of the most popular groups of all time. The group was formed in Hawthorne, California in 1961 and consisted of brothers, Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson, their cousin, Mike Love, and friend, Al Jardine. Brian Wilson was the songwriter and composer of the group.
The Wilson Brothers came from a musical family and would often sing together as children. Their father, Murray Wilson, was a musician and the force behind the group getting into the music business. The group’s sound developed because Brian was a fan of the Four Seasons and suggested the group incorporate the close harmony sound like the Four Seasons. Also Dennis, being the only surfer in the group, suggested the group sing songs about his main interest and hobby.
Murray introduced the group to his publisher who in turn sent the group to Keen Recording Studio to do a couple of demos. In 1961, Brian and Mike worked on two songs called “Surfin” and “Surfin Safari”, when they finished writing the songs Murray took the demos to Era Records and the group was signed right away.
In the beginning, the group had a number of names but their record label’s promotion man thought the group should change their name to coincide with the surfing songs they recorded.
In 1962 the Beach Boys released “Surfin Safari”, the song made it to the Top Twenty on the pop charts. The group went on to release a number of hit songs including, “Surfin USA” reaching to number two and “I Get Around” reaching number one in 1964.
In 1964, during their first major tour Brian began to suffer from anxiety attacks and had a nervous breakdown. He would leave the group temporarily to recover. Brian returned to the group and despite the fact that he was slowly losing his hearing in his right ear, he took on the role as songwriter, arranger and composer of the group.
He worked with the duo, Jan and Dean, producing “Barbara Ann”, a hit that went to number two on the charts. Brian continued to work meticulously in the recording studio and produced a masterful album called Pet Sounds.
The album is full of exceptional harmonies and instrumental sounds and has often been regarded as one of the most influential albums of all time and often compared to the Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. After the release of Pet Sounds, the group recorded and released one of their biggest hits “Good Vibrations”.
The group would continue to produce an array of songs with Brian as songwriter, producer and composer. However in the late 1960’s, the group saw a temporarily decline in their popularity but came back strong in the early 1970’s touring with groups like the Grateful Dead. During the 1970’s, despite the personal problems of Brian and Dennis and member and label changes, the group continued to record and tour successfully. Unfortunately, there were some more tragedies ahead.
In 1983, Dennis Wilson drowned and Brian admitted himself into a rehab program. In 1985, with Mike Love as the front man and Brian out of rehab, the Beach Boys started recording and performing again and had a number one hit in 1988. In 1998, Carl Wilson died of lung cancer.
The Beach Boys are considered to be one of the most influential bands in rock and roll music, not only because of their long lasting and successful career but also because of Brian’s talented composition. Their early hits made them major pop stars in America and other countries and although their status as the top group in the music industry was challenged in 1964 by The Beatles, the group remained popular and successful.
Although to some people they are seen as the Beatles creative rival, the Beach Boys accomplished some great feats of their own. They have recorded dozens of Top 40 hits, including four number one singles and have had many best-selling albums. Despite personal problems the group’s resilience is part of their success. The Beach Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
Go to Rewind the Fifties Home
Rewind the Fifties and all related pages copyright 1997 - 2006