The Beach Boys: America’s Most Misunderstood Band.

Posted: February 22, 2015 in Music, Rock Lyrics, Rock Music, Rock Videos, Things I Love
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Part of the problem is the name, I get that. “Beach Boys” can only mean a bunch of surfer dudes singing about cars, girls, and surfing, right?

Wrong.

The Beach Boys are undoubtedly the most misunderstood band in music history. Yes, they first became popular singing songs about cars, girls and surfing, but they grew into much more than that.

In fact, back in ’66 The Beach Boys recorded an album that scared the living hell out of The Beatles. That album was called Pet Sounds. Legend has it that when John Lennon first heard Pet Sounds, he took it over to Paul McCartney’s house and said, “We’re finished. I don’t know how this can ever be topped.” And he may have been right. Pet Sounds is now considered either the greatest or second greatest album in history, depending on what list you’re reading.

Of course, John and Paul proceeded to record Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, regarded by many as the greatest album of all-time. Or second greatest. The point is, though, that they were inspired by the album Pet Sounds, largely written and produced by Brian Wilson, a creative genius if there ever was one.

Pet Sounds featured unheard of production, from the lush sounds to the gorgeous harmonies to the musical “extras” thrown in for good measure, such as sound effects and unconventional instruments such as bicycle bells, buzzing organs, harpsichords, flutes, an electro-theremin, dog whistles, trains, Hawaiian-sounding string instruments, Coke cans and barking dogs.

No wonder John was stunned when he heard it for the first time.

Still, The Beach Boys are known by most today as a band that sang songs revolving around, well, the beach. But that’s just not the case. They were groundbreaking, in particular Brian Wilson, the genius behind the music.

And I always chuckle when I hear someone say Aerosmith or my beloved R.E.M. are the Greatest American Rock Bands. Just not true. It’s The Beach Boys.

Having said all that I’ll now give you my favorite Beach Boys songs of all-time. Some are breezy, California pop songs. others a little more serious and heavy, but all are stellar.

Enjoy . . .

God Only Knows (1966)

 There are a couple interesting bits of trivia regarding this song. First of all, it’s Paul McCartney’s favorite song, ever. Secondly, it’s one of the first songs to ever use the word “God” in the title. Have I mentioned Carl Wilson’s heavenly vocals? And listen for the famous intro . . .
Caroline, No (1966)
Quite simply one of the saddest songs ever recorded.
“Where did your long hair go?
Where is the girl I used to know?”
Sigh.

Breakaway (1969)

Who can’t relate to these lyrics?

Time will not wait for me
Time is my destiny
Why change the part of me that has to be free?

Just a beautiful, uplifting song.

Good Vibrations (1966)

Maybe the most well-known Beach Boys song, this was Brian Wilson’s self-proclaimed “Pocket Symphony.” Absolutely groundbreaking in too many ways to mention, including the use of the an electro-theremin, which Mike Love referred to as the “woo-woo machine.” For a special treat, watch this video made during the recording of this masterpiece. Here’s the song performed live:

Lady Lynda (1979)

Lady Lynda was written and sung by none other than Al Jardine, an original Beach Boy but obviously not a Wilson brother. The song begins with a snippet from Bach’s  composition Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. Ends with it too. Just a beautiful song. Give it a listen.
‘Til I Die (1971)
This song was Brian Wilson’s desperate cry for help. He was mentally ill and I don’t know how much more clearer he could’ve made it. Haunting.
Do It Again (1968)
This song was sort of a throw-back to an earlier time, recorded after Pet Sounds but harking back to their days of surf music. Beautiful vocals by Mike Love and Brian Wilson. Here’s a remake from a few years ago.
Baby Blue (1979)
Just a haunting song by Dennis Wilson, written shortly before he drowned. Dennis didn’t write much, but this song ranks right up there with the Beach Boy’s best. Gorgeous.
California Girls (1965)
Yeah, how can you not have this gem in the mix? The soaring chorus, the beautiful harmonies? The perfect Beach Boys song? Maybe.
Wouldn’t It Be Nice (1966)
This song was actually banned from some radio stations because the Boys sang about living together. Yep. ‘Twas a different time, kids. But once again, the harmonies are unsurpassed. Listen to the harmonies on the words “stay together” from the lyrics below when you play the video. Just gorgeous.
“You know it’s gonna make it that much better,
When we can say goodnight and stay together.”
Everyone’s in Love With You (1976)
An unknown nugget, this Mike Love tune is about . . . the Maharishi. Very pretty, underrated song.
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  1. […] written about the boys in my blog The Beach Boys: America’s Most Misunderstood Band. In my opinion, they’re the best American band, ever. Sorry Aerosmith. There’s a box […]

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