What is the difficult history of the Beach Boys like?

It was almost a teenage prank.. The first time the Beach Boys rehearsed together as a band, with their delicate and beautiful melodies, occurred when the parents of the brothers Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson, traveled on business to Mexico for a weekend in September 1961. They let them US$200 for food expenses. But they had other plans.

Along with his cousin, Mike Love, and his school friend, Al Jardine, the Wilsons spent the money and decided to rent instruments. And so, in the garage of the family home they recorded a home recording for their first song, Surfin’.My dad got angry when they came back and realized what we had done. He pushed me against the wall. But when he heard what we had achieved with the song, he calmed down,” Brian recalled in his autobiography. I am Brian Wilson and you are not (Malpaso, 2019).

After some efforts by Murry, the Wilsons’ father, the fledgling band was able to record their song in a professional studio. What came, they did not expect, the song quickly became a local hit in sunny California and gave them the decisive boost to start a musical career that spanned decades and resonates to this day.

The Beach Boys

In some way, the history of the Beach Boys is crossed from the beginning by family ties. Brothers Wilson and Mike Love spent hours listening to records to replicate the elaborate vocal harmonies of doo wop groups like The Four Freshman or the Everly Brothers. “Music was a big part of my growing up. The family pastime was getting together and singing harmonies”Mike, the group’s lead singer, recalled in a 2017 interview. ”So what happened is that this family hobby became a long-lasting profession.”

Young and full of enthusiasm, the group quickly organized itself around three axes: Brian Wilson’s talent for composing songs and arrangements; the winning mentality of Mike Love, who, in addition to being a frontman on stage, wrote lyrics about surfing, beaches, cars and girls; the skill of Murry, the Wilsons’ father, who managed the contracts and looked for the best opportunities for his children. Although he led them with an iron fist.

The son of an alcoholic father, Murry was demanding and did not hesitate to hit his children to make his authority felt. and impose their ideas, even if they were wrong. “When I was just a teenager, my dad scared me. He yelled at me all the time and it made me nervous. He was not only a tough guy, but also rough. He was like that with all of us, with me and my brothers: he would take us by the arms and push us and sometimes hit us with an open hand. and sometimes with a closed hand,” Brian recalls in his memoirs. Although over the years, he himself has recognized that his father was the great promoter of his taste in music.

“[Era] very abusive, abrupt, scary, intimidating and negative,” Mike Love wrote. “Things like, ‘You guys don’t know what you’re doing.’ Those types of comments. Very unsupportive. However, he was an aspiring songwriter and knew that songs had value. He didn’t even know what publishing was when we started. He had no experience in show business.”

The Beach Boys

By 1964, the group began a rise to fame, thanks to singles like Fun, Fun, Fun and I get around, which allowed them to make a name for themselves in the United States and thus go on tour outside the country. But something shook them. They were in New Zealand when they heard about the appearance of the English band The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, the most popular of its time. The Beatlemania phenomenon was born and the Beach Boys were shaken up; They couldn’t be left behind.

Comparisons immediately arose.. Those from Liverpool were a group of rock musicians, trained in bars, while the Beach Boys’ strength was their polished vocal harmonies. “It was said that we were the next best group after them. Even though we were better, that our songs were more interesting or sophisticated or that they created more positive energy,” Brian recalls in his memoirs. “It was difficult to go further because of the Beatles. They were on the Ed Sullivan show in February 1964, and by April they were already occupying the top five spots on Billboard.”

Since then a kind of competition floated. Brian, who was always up to date with new recordings, admitted that he listened to the material released by Lennon and McCartney. “We exchanged transatlantic messages. They did something, I listened to it and wanted to do something equally good.” It happened when a copy of the excellent Rubber Soul (1965), “is probably the best album in history. He sent me straight to the piano.”

But the pressure of the industry, the threatening shadow of those from Liverpool and the harassing presence of the fans during the shows, were a torment for Brian. “We were a family band in every way, but that year we became big and things changed. I was scared. We picked up speed very quickly,” he recalls in his book. Everything ended up collapsing during a flight to Houston in 1964. The musician suffered a panic attack that led him to make the decision to abandon tours, stay home and dedicate himself to composing music.

The movement caused the Beach Boys’ material to become more sophisticated, in tune with what was beginning to happen in the industry. Records like the legendary Pet Sounds (1966), gave Wilson a reputation as a producer and arranger, but did not have the same impact commercial of yesteryear. Worse still, Capitol, the label that worked with them, decided that this musical turn was not profitable. Thus they insisted on releasing a compilation of hits and insisting on their image as a happy band with striped shirts, when the world began to rotate faster between Vietnam, the civil rights movements and psychedelia.

The Beach Boys, in the photos of Pet Sounds

The whole demand made Brian collapse. Since his youth he claimed to hear voices in his head and the sum of difficulties brought him to a critical point. “The pressure started to build up again and I felt blackouts again. The voices in my head appeared more frequently. I was trying to compose incredible music and the group rehearsed all the time and I couldn’t stand the pressure,” he writes in his memoir.

However, the music he composed after weeks of work was even more complex and had more abstract lyrics. But the clash with his brothers, who were not satisfied with the result, was decisive in abandoning the recording of an album, smile (1967), which for many years was something like the most famous unreleased album in the history of rock. The musical ambition had proven too radical.

Driven by tension, Brian attempted an escape through drugs. “They weren’t something I liked on their own. They were ways of coping with the fact that my head wasn’t right. But they didn’t solve anything.” wrote. He had been introduced to marijuana in 1964, but towards the end of the sixties his use became critical. To the weed he added cocaine, LSD and tranquilizer pills. Everything to at least function during the day. This made him paranoid and irritable. At least, the rest of the group told themselves, he could still compose.

Brian Wilson

But the sixties had accelerated and were passing them by. Events such as the Monterey Festival, Woodstock, the appearance of new figures such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane and many others, denoted a cultural change. Entangled and confused, they tried meditation and Dennis, the middle brother, even wrote songs with a kind of Californian guru and aspiring songwriter, who would later become infamous, Charles Manson (in fact, the Beach Boys released on 1969 a Manson song as B-side, Never learn not to love).

The seventies were a difficult time for the Beach Boys. The optimism of the American dream had vanished and rock began to move towards other musical corners. Meanwhile, hit by his mental problems, disappointment with his father (who sold the group’s catalog without telling them) and drug use, Brian began to stay in bed for long days. He refused to go to the studio. The music no longer moved him. “The days of having everything under control and feeling safe in the studio were gone and I didn’t know what the future would hold. I didn’t know how to regain control and confidence,” he recalls.

That allowed the other brothers to take more prominence. Carl took over musical production and Dennis surprised everyone by flourishing as a gifted songwriter, but the group’s popularity was no longer the same. When the album Sunflower (1970) hit stores, it barely reached number 151 on the US charts. It only lasted four weeks on sale. It was their biggest commercial failure up to that point and a harsh blow from reality. The new decade was turning its back on them. Meanwhile, Brian was still immersed in a critical condition, he locked himself in his Bel Air mansion and isolated himself from everything. “My body was full of drugs and alcohol, my brain full of bad ideas. The bad ideas came partly from drugs and alcohol and in turn caused me to consume them.”

The Beach Boys

The years to come were ones of instability. The group tried to reinvent itself, added new members and had a burst of popularity with the release of a compilation album. Endless Summer (1974), which in an exercise in retro nostalgia put them in the orbit of a new audience. Brian gradually recovered, they concentrated on live performances and little by little they were encouraged to record again. But nothing was easy.

Since then the story had several twists and turns. Dennis and Carl opted for their solo careers, in addition to living their own personal hells with alcohol and drugs, in fact that cost the former his life in 1983. For his part, Mike Love filed a lawsuit to recover the copyright that Murry, the Wilsons’ father, did not credit to him when selling the band’s catalog. and with that, he had to face Brian. In turn, he was subjected to the control of his psychiatrist, Dr. Eugene Landy, who managed every aspect of his life and did not shy away from charging a fortune for his services. Only over the years, he managed to escape from that situation.

The Beach Boys reunited between the nineties and the 2000s, between reunion tours and sporadic releases. But the distance has been maintained. A few weeks ago, Brian Wilson was placed under the guardianship of his representatives, something like what happened to Britney Spears for years. The musician also had to endure the recent death of his second wife, Melinda, and was diagnosed with dementia, perhaps as a corollary of his most difficult years. His most recent public appearance, and the first after learning of the dementia diagnosis, was in April of this year, when he was seen arriving in a wheelchair at a Los Angeles Lakers game.

But the legend of the group, in line with what has happened with other big names of the past such as Queen and The Beatles, will also come to streaming; the documentary film The Beach Boys It will be available from May 24 on Disney+ and will tell the story of the band with testimonies from its protagonists, Brian, Mike Love, Al Jardine and archival material from Carl and Dennis. An emotional record that covers moments of glory, tensions and reflects their eternal search as a family band united by the passion for music.

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