The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys were a California rock group that emerged in the 1960s, formed of the three Wilson brothers (Brian, Carl and Dennis), Mike Love (their cousin) and Al Jardine (a close friend). They had listened to Chuck Berry and the rock and roll of the 1950s, as well as a number of doo-wop and jazz groups. This inspired them to create rock music that made extensive use of vocal harmonies, eventually resulting in the California sound that came to be known as surf rock.
Two of the first major singles released by the Beach Boys were “Surfin’” and “Surfin’ Safari,” the latter of which contained the song “409” on its B-side. Their next couple of albums would continue this theme, with songs such as “Surfin’ USA,” “Surfer Girl,” and “Little Deuce Coupe.” Even when their songs were not explicitly about cars or surfing, they were usually light-hearted and catchy, such as “Be True to Your School,” “Don’t Worry Baby,” “I Get Around,” “Little Honda” and “Fun, Fun, Fun.”
Some of these songs, such as “Little Honda,” maintained the band’s general pop sound while showing Brian Wilson’s growing desire to experiment and move away from the band’s traditional style. His brother Carl has spoken of this song as one of the first songs on which Brian showed a desire to start playing around with techniques such as fuzz and distortion. Brian also started to write ballads such as “Kiss Me, Baby,” “Please Let Me Wonder,” “In the Back of My Mind” and “She Knows Me Too Well,” all of which were contained on the same album along with a spoken word piece entitled “Bull Session with the ‘Big Daddy.’”
The band also experimented a bit with the song “Help Me, Rhonda,” which was longer than many radio edits at the time and had its fair share of false endings. However, as the band released songs such as “Help Me, Rhonda” and “California Girls,” Brian’s father began to lecture them against allowing their music to become too complex.
In 1966, Brian Wilson’s desire to experiment with the band’s sound would pay off with the album Pet Sounds. The album used a number of “instruments” that were original for the time, such as dog whistles, bicycle bells, and even soda cans. The album contained the song “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” as well as a cover of the traditional song “Sloop John B,” one of the first songs the band had ever wanted to record. The album did better in the United Kingdom than in the United Kingdom than in the United States, but is still regarded as a classic. It was soon followed by the single “Good Vibrations,” included on the 1967 album Smiley Smile.
The Beach Boys almost always maintained a relatively light sound, performing numerous songs that were well-suited to the band’s name. As late as 1988, they released “Kokomo,” a song with a tropical island sound and a cover of Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” on the B-side. It is difficult for the casual listener to fathom how hard Brian Wilson had to fight to take the band in the direction he wanted, but he eventually managed to achieve the sounds he wanted. Through his efforts, the band has released a number of memorable singles over the years, many of which are still ingrained in the public consciousness.
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