Pioneers of pop, The Beach Boys were formed in 1961 by brothers Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson, cousin Mike Love, and friend Al Jardine, in Hawthorne, California. Their unique 'surf sound' and flawless vocal harmonies, were revolutionary in a musical world dominated by rock and roll. The driving force of the group was Brian Wilson, whose songwriting skills drove the band forward, though it was arguably the Wilsons' father, Murry, as their first manager, who set them on the road to success.
Their first single, “Surfin'” (1961), got extensive airplay, and the boys played their first gig, supporting Ike and Tina Turner at a Richie Valens Memorial Dance in Long Beach. In 1962, The Beach Boys signed to Capitol Records and released their first album, Surfin' Safari, which made them stars. After the so-called 'British Invasion' of 1964, which saw The Beatles and The Rolling Stones achieve great American success, The Beach Boys were forced to tour as much as possible, and Brian Wilson's mental condition began to deteriorate. He withdrew from touring (replaced by Glen Campbell and later Bruce Johnston) and dedicated himself to songwriting and studio work.
In 1964, The Beach Boys scored their first No.1 with “I Get Around”, their second being “Help Me Rhonda” a year later. Brian Wilson's intensity in the studio was paying off, with the albums All Summer Long (1964) and Shut Down Vol. II (1964) demonstrating his experiments with instrumentals and time rhythms. The Beach Boys then went the way of The Beatles and experimented with psychedelia, Brian Wilson, in particular, only too willing to try a little LSD to see how 'creative' it would make him. Out of this period came the album Pet Sounds (1966), considered their greatest,and giving the world classics such as “God Only Knows” and “Wouldn't It Be Nice”. But Brian Wilson's subsequent breakdown and continued reluctance to tour, meant the band had to leave him on his own while they promoted Pet Sounds around the country, but when they returned, they found the majority of work on the next album, Smiley Smile, already done. The biggest single from that album was the seminal “Good Vibrations”, but at the end of the 1960s and beginning of the 1970s, Brian Wilson's grip on reality had faded, and it was Carl Wilson who took over main songwriting duties.
During Brian Wilson's absence, albums such as Wild Honey (1967), and Sunflower (1970) sold well, but things just weren't the same. In 1976, Brian Wilson returned for 15 Big Ones, and the group appeared to be returning to form. They were regular TV show guests and the songs kept coming, but then Brian suffered a relapse and withdrew from the band again, appearing with them only sporadically as the 1980s dawned. Meanwhile, Dennis Wilson was having his own problems, and in 1983, he drowned after diving off a friend's boat while intoxicated. The Beach Boys, minus Brian and Dennis, continued to perform, however, appearing at Live Aid in 1985 and enjoying moderate chart success with hits such as “Wipe Out” (1987) and “Kokomo” (1988).
In 1998, Carl Wilson died from lung cancer, but Mike Love and Bruce Johnston continued to tour as "The Beach Boys". In 2006, Brian Wilson, Love, Jardine and Johnston reunited to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of Pet Sounds and a greatest hits compilation and, in 2011, their 50th anniversary, various media reports speculated that Brian Wilson would be rejoining Love and Jardine for a US tour, Wilson alternately confirming, then denying, the rumour.
The Beach Boys will be touring in 2012, although the exact line-up is yet to be confirmed.
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