Dean Clough

May 24, 2024

Portico Darwin: The Definitive Beach Boys Post


<4 Minute Read

Happy Friday and Happy Summer.  Disney was clearly aware that Memorial Day Weekend kicks off summer, and thus are wise to debut their new documentary about The Beach Boys today, on Disney+.

Because what the hell says summer like The Beach Boys?

(Kids, believe me:  Not much.)

But I digress, because thanks to advice from the hip youngster Kevin Monza, we saw a screening in IMAX here in SF on Tuesday evening.  Preview:  Diamond Certified.  Like the band, but we'll get back to that. 

Today, I briefly review the film, and share a few stories and takes on the band.  There's even something special from the KLUF archives.

Review of The Beach Boys:  The Definitive Look at America's Band
Look, I'm an obsessive about The Beach Boys, and I'll explain why in the next section.  For now, know that means I've read both of Brian Wilson's autobiographies and Mike Love's, too.  And I've seen the docudramas and fine films.  So I wasn't expecting to see much new.

Which was correct, but only in terms of their story.  While casual fans will certainly learn something, aficionados will have heard much of it before.  Their rise as the kings of surf music (despite only Dennis Wilson being a surfer); the mid-60s pinnacle of the Pet Sounds era; Brian's mental illness; the requisite Dennis and Charles Manson section; and their descent into cultural irrelevance - it's all here. 

As is the reminder that the band's music is timeless and deceptively powerful.

But what is new is this is the treatment the band has deserved.  Every member makes an appearance in one form or another.  The band and their families contributed to and clearly sanctioned the entire production.  That is obvious the second the archival footage starts to roll, as little of it had been made public previously.  The production values of the movie are stellar, with their lush music the soundtrack to it all.

Perfect?  No, but the omissions are mostly understandable.  The well-reported internecine legal warfare among them is not mentioned, nor are Brian's years in the "care" of Eugene Landy.  And that's all probably for the best at this point.

Because the end of the movie, shot at Paradise Cove as was their first album cover, is a heartbreaking bookend to their start, and a powerful reminder that the bullshit doesn't matter.  Family and friends do.
Hopefully, that is enough to entice you to enjoy this excellent summary of one of America's most important bands.  If not . . .

We Met Mozart Brian Wilson

And Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin.  A part of an eventful 2016 included splurging on the VIP experience for a performance of Pet Sounds, in its entirety, by Brian, Al, Blondie, and their crack band, at SF's wonderful Masonic Auditorium. 

If you think my Mozart comparison is a bit much, perhaps you should watch the documentary.  Or maybe even do some listening?  I'll help with that in a second.

I Used to be Too Cool for The Beach Boys
Saying you were a fan of The Beach Boys in my hometown of Albany in the 1970s and early 1980s meant one thing:  You were going to get your ass kicked.  Because it was a town of AC/DC, Aerosmith, and Rush  - no candy-striped Southern California beach sissies need apply.

But I eventually was educated as to the quality and depth of their music, specifically, Brian's true genius, as evidenced by Pet Sounds.  Indeed, Sir Paul McCartney says as much:

No one is educated musically until they've heard Pet Sounds.  It is a classic record that is unbeatable in many ways.

But Capitol Records Hated Pet Sounds
By 1966, Brian Wilson had had his fill of surf music and on 16 May 1966 released his masterpiece.  But the band's label, the legendary Capitol Records, wanted more of the same.  So while they issued Pet Sounds, they also released a greatest hits album, at the same f'ing time.  Worse, they promoted the greatest hits album, while doing essentially nothing for Pet Sounds.

Here they are in happier times at the iconic building.

Despite this ignorant insult, and as I may have mentioned once or twice, the album has gone on to be among the most respected of any rock album, for both its music, and Brian's other-worldly production.

Father Doesn't Know Best
As the father of 3 of the 5 primary band members, it would be reasonable to assume the abusive wannabe Murry Wilson would have had his sons' interests at heart.  He may have, but in 1969, that didn't stop him from selling the publishing rights to The Beach Boys for $700,000, without co-owner Brian's knowledge.

Or a fraction of what it was worth then, let alone now.  Ask Bruce Springsteen.   

Why They Matter
The movie touched upon this, and I agree:  The Beach Boys defined what California meant to the rest of America and the world in the early 1960s.  And given the influence of the state then and now, one can make the argument they were as important as The Beatles.  At least for a while.

Further, I think many fail to recognize the emotional complexity of their music.  I offer "All Summer Long" as one of many examples.  This happy-go-lucky and sunny song from their early days has a slight melancholy ("every now and then, we hear our song") that is only a hint of what is to come. 

Of course, we're really talking about Brian's emotional complexity, and that's fine.  Because the family aspect of their sound can also never be underestimated - their harmonies sound the way they do for a reason. 

The movie reminded me what an underappreciated band they are, at least in some circles.  I believe that's because most think of "Fun, Fun, Fun" and "Surfin' USA" and that's about it.  Yes, I am a big fan but that's wrong.

So I pared down my personal, 62-track Beach Boys playlist (which I've featured before).  I eliminated the Rhonda's and Barbara's, and most of the other surf-y songs.  Indeed, the only "hits" that remain are "I Get Around," "California Girls," and "Good Vibrations." 

There are 30 songs, in chronological order.  I encourage listening to it that way, and yes, it goes from  "Lonely Sea" to "Summer's Gone," a coincidence, but also perfect.

KLUF:  Beach Boys Select (TIDAL)

KLUF:  Beach Boys Select (Spotify)

Here is a track listing, including the album upon which it appears.

Have a great holiday weekend.  And summer.


Ouch.  First Max "Madras" Ryder, and then André Aurich.  Oh, Sonos, indeed.  I've edited his reply, but this sucks.

A day late and a dollar short. 

I loved the picture of the original Sonos controller - brings back memories from our first system you installed for us (Editor's Note:  it was 2008).  However, your blog was a day late for me, as I had just upgraded my Sonos app, after (getting) a new iPhone. 
Sonos upgrade went well, but I agree the interface sucks.  I was using the Sonos phone app yesterday and the first issue I noticed was they changed the interface to switch to a different zone, and it took me a few attempts to figure out how to switch zones - it should have been more intuitive. 

Today, after reading your blog, I did notice that you can no longer edit the playing queue.  That is really bad - luckily I can still edit the queue from my Mac app.
As for playing local music files - when I tried today I did have access issues (had the same access issues from my Mac, so this was probably not an upgrade issue).  However, with some help from Sonos Tech Support, once I updated an access/security setting on my Mac, deleted and redefined the location of my music folders, I was able to play music from my local library.

Your blog did make me think about my system.  I did reread the " have for years " blog . . . considering the amount of Sonos equipment I do have, I will follow the other advice you gave that "Sonos is the right choice for most people".  

But thanks for the heads up on the sucky upgrade - I will just have to suffer until the next upgrade.     

Keep on blogging and keeping me informed.

I am humbled in a number of ways, but I will tell anyone with Sonos what I told André:  My system of choice, Roon, can be used seamlessly with most Sonos products.  

10 Seconds of Seriousness, to anyone reading this:  Please contact me if you're considering the change - I'll be happy to answer any questions that I can about using Roon with Sonos.

Thank you for reading this newsletter.  


Let's complete the circle.  During the mid-1960s, there was a friendly rivalry and respect between The Beach Boys and The Beatles.  In December of 1965, the latter released Rubber Soul, a revolutionary rock album for the era.  Brian has said many times it was that album that pushed him to the heights of Pet SoundsHere is the incredible Rubber Soul.

But wait, there's more.  Here's a quote from the late Sir George Martin, the producer of every Beatles album.

Without Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper wouldn't have happened . . . Pepper was an attempt to equal Pet Sounds

Here is Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

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