Written by Evan Frye
The Beach Boys are one of the most influential and innovative bands of all time, whether you realize it or not. Yes, they played “Fun, Fun, Fun” songs about California’s surfing scene, helping cement it into popular culture of the time. But, in the studio, The Beach Boys were production and recording groundbreakers. Likened to Phil Spector’s production genius, their critically acclaimed album Pet Sounds was listed as number 2 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. It went beyond the typical rock band instrumentation of the time, with elaborate orchestration and it’s “thematic coherence”. Although not a commercial success when it was first released, Pet Sounds served as a point of inspiration for the most ambitious album of the another popular ‘60s band Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles.
It’s almost funny that the world associates The Beach Boys with surfing and 1960’s beach culture. Their early work definitely played up the surf scene and all the various parts of it. Songs about fast cars like “Little Deuce Coupe” or “Fun, Fun, Fun,” went with songs about pretty surfer girls “California Girls.” All were part of the larger theme, surfing. “Surfin’ USA,” “Surfin’ Sufari” brought The Beach Boys to national attention. Yet, according to Mike Love’s autobiography Good Vibrations: My Life As A Beach Boy, only Dennis Wilson was really into surfing. Surfing was just a gimmick for the early Beach Boys.
Maybe surfing is what you think of when you hear “The Beach Boys,” but they were (and are) so much more than that. Blending catchy melodies and creative instrumentation to form masterful songs (“Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Good Vibrations”) or lofty almost existential lyrical themes (“God Only Knows) The Beach Boys far surpassed surf boards and T-birds, and are the inspiration and trailblazers for all the rock music that came after them. Do not miss your chance to see them twice this summer!