Really, is there any band that defined the sun-dappled joy of sea, girls and cool cars more than the Beach Boys? I didn’t think so.
From the start, brothers Dennis, Carl and Brian Wilson, joined by cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine demonstrated a knack for capturing the wide-eyed wonder of American life in the early ‘60s, before the decade turned psychedelic. With their gorgeous vocal work and undeniably hummable tunes, the Beach Boys became pop-culture icons almost from day one. And seeing as how their first three albums all started with the word “surfin’” or “surfer,” it’s a little tough to see them as anything but the epitome of fun-loving teenage life on the coast. As the years went by, the group moved away from the standard themes of their early songwriting but always maintained the bounce and lushness that many considered the quintessential “California sound.”
It’s funny to think that to some degree the sea again played a role in the creation of the Beach Boys’ seminal recording, Pet Sounds. Seems that bandleader Brian Wilson had just heard an album by a similarly minded group of guys on the other side of the big pond, Rubber Soul by the Beatles. It pointed Wilson in the direction he was struggling to find for his band in 1966, and to a certain degree, the rest is history.
Lauded as a recording masterpiece, Wilson’s compositional chops, vocal talents and production genius came to a head with Pet Sounds, which would in turn inspire the Beatles to go completely over the top with the Sgt. Pepper album.
You can here and feel the influence of Pet Sounds everywhere in music today. Brian Wilson essentially proved that anything was possible musically, even with the limited and (by today’s standards) downright primitive equipment available at the time of this recording.
Drawing on the “wall of sound” production techniques of Phil Spector, the harmonic devices of jazz and classical music along with the stacked vocal pads of doowop, Wilson opened the door for musicians to try whatever idea they might have in the studio and gave the record companies more license to let their artists do just that: experiment and create.
Listen to the judicious use of reverb and timbre of the vocals on any Shins record or the kitchen-sink production style that’s become a staple of modern recording, and thank the Beach Boys for setting that beach ball rolling.
With too many hit singles to begin counting, the current touring version of the Beach Boys (without Brian Wilson) is still out there delivering impeccable harmonies and performing some of the most insidiously catchy music ever crafted by an American band. Even better — they’ll be doing this in just a few days (Aug. 25 to be exact) at the Pisgah Memorial Stadium in Canton, raising money for Enka and Pisgah high schools as well as the Canton Cultural Committee. Show time is 7 p.m. Gates open at 6 p.m. So grab the kids, dig out that hideous Hawaiian shirt you never get an excuse to wear, lather on the sunscreen, and enjoy a little music by that veritable institution of surfing goodness, the Beach Boys.