The Beach Boys, a documentary tribute to the legendary band

The Beach Boys, a documentary tribute to the legendary band
The Beach Boys, a documentary tribute to the legendary band

The Beach Boys are a band with legendary status. Behind the friendly lyrics about beach life and hypnotic vocal harmonies was the still underrated genius of Brian Wilson, who faced severe mental health issues throughout his life. And it gave rise to, among many others within his prolific creativity, a fundamental album: “Pet Sounds”, from 1966.

Disney shouldered the complex task of making a documentary about a band with sixty years of history. And a history full of thickness, far from the apparent superficiality of the surfer aesthetic. That’s why, The film directed by Frank Marshall and Thom Zinny, titled with the group’s name and released last Friday, May 24 on the Disney+ platform, makes two fundamental choices: focus on the first fifteen years (approximately) of their career, and focus on the bright side of the journey, addressing some points of conflict with an emphasis on the resilience of its members.

The film was released almost exactly fifty years after (a difference of just one month) the release of “Endless Summer,” the compilation album of songs from their first albums, which meant a kind of revival in the Beach Boys’ career after one of their first major crises. And it is in that part of the story where the film closes its portrait, in that triumphant return of Brian and the band, implying that from then on everything was rosy for the group.

But it wasn’t. One of the most powerful things about the Beach Boys as a band, and also as a myth, is the patina of darkness that always surrounded a group that sang about life under the sun in California. “A sunny place for gloomy people,” as the title of the latest book of (horror) stories by Mariana Enríquez says. The Wilsons’ abusive father (first manager), Brian’s mental health, Dennis’ early death (linked to his substance abuse), moments of deep crisis and a series of controversial characters who surrounded the band at different times (such as psychologist Eugene Landy).

Embed – The Beach Boys, the documentary | Official trailer subtitled in Spanish | Disney+

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The directors make virtuoso use of the sumptuous unpublished footage of the Beach Boys, and complement it with exclusive interviews with some of the members. In this way, they build the story of the origins and consecration of the band, which in the mid-60s had become “the band from the United States”, with very high levels of popularity and commercial success.

In this point, The competition between the Beach Boys and the Beatles deserves a separate paragraph, which was officially inaugurated with the famous landing of the “Fab Four” in the United States in 1964. With respect, Brian Wilson points out with suspicion and a certain disdain the lack of musical refinement of the Liverpool natives at that time, while his Beach Boys put complex vocal harmonizations (one of Wilson’s obsessions) into even the simplest of their songs. According to legend, and also the documentary, it was to a certain extent the desire to “overcome” the Beatles, added to his characteristic perseverance and obstinacy, that led Brian to compose “Pet Sounds.”

The voices of the band

This isn’t the first documentary about the Beach Boys and it probably won’t be the last either. The Disney brand is undoubtedly shown in the approach of Marshall and Zinny, who make their documentary a true tribute and they choose to close it with an image that may seem naive but is moving: the surviving members of the band recreate the cover of their famous album “Surfin’ USA” on the same beach where the original photo was taken. In this reproduction, one of the group’s greatest virtues clearly appears: its ability to endure over time beyond difficulties, and its total validity on a musical level.

The Beach Boys are a band “without time”, and therefore of all time, as Mike Love himself characterized in a press conference to which La Capital had access. “What a phenomenal opportunity, at this stage in our career, to receive wonderful praise from so many people, on top of the difficult and forensic work that this documentary entailed. But I am honored and delighted that it is happening,” said the musician about the film.

Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson in action in the studio in the early years of the Beach Boys, recreated in the documentary

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“For me, this was a dream come true. As a boy, he had such a deep love for this music. Being part of this team and being able to spend time deep in the vault finding these things was an incredible experience in many ways,” said director Thom Zinny, referring to the enormous work with archival material.

Al Jardine, also present at the conference, followed the line of the documentary (and the band’s lyrics) by focusing on the positive aspects of the path shared with the Beach Boys. “We had such an enriching experience singing those harmonies, and going on tour, and having a good time. I think we are lucky because, over the decades, we had a renewal of the public with new fans and a whole new audience. We said that our target group was people from eight to eighty years old. Well, now we are eighty,” the 81-year-old musician noted with humor and joy. “It’s a bit of a miracle that more than sixty years after we started, we’re still singing these songs and getting a good reception,” Love added in this regard.

In turn, the band members referred to what it meant to come together for the documentary, and return to some complex parts of the group’s history. “Times change and individuals come and go. When I watch the movie, I feel a certain sadness that Dennis and Carl are gone. And Brian had a tough time with him. So there’s a melancholy there, but there’s a lot of recognition of the work we did together and the love of music that brought us together, even despite the differences that existed at certain times,” he said.

Embed – The Beach Boys – Wouldn’t It Be Nice

They also remembered what it was like to work, from the first moments, guided by the genius of Brian Wilson. “Whenever we started a song, it was already in Brian’s head. The fix was there, so it was very easy. “Brian would put his right hand on the keys, and each one of us was a note,” Jardine recalled. In the film, the first time that, following the band The Four Freshmen, Wilson proposed to his brothers and his friend to sing with a harmonization arrangement created by himself, giving rise in that same act to what would be the trademark of the Beach Boys for several decades.

Finally, the directors returned to one of the key moments of the film: the feat of “Pet Sounds.” “I think the beauty of ‘Pet Sounds,’ and it’s shown in the film through the boys’ voices, is that it challenged the idea of ​​what a pop song could be. He created a new soundscape. And it’s one of my favorite parts of the documentary when these gentlemen discover the dedication they put into it,” said Thom Zinny, referring to the testimonies of Jardine, Love, and the other Beach Boys in the documentary.

“The music changed at that point. AND “One of the best things the film is capable of is returning again and again to the fact that it was always a collaborative process,” the filmmaker concluded.

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