Feature: Beach Boys still get around

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter  |  Oct. 5, 2004 at 5:05 PM
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LOS ANGELES, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- With the release of "Smile," Brian Wilson's tour to support the CD and a Beach Boys-themed Broadway show in the works, the quintessential Southern California surf music band is having something of a renaissance.

"Smile" is the album that Beach Boys fans have been waiting four decades to hear. The band's driving musical force, Brian Wilson, has finally finished work on it with lyricist Van Dyke Parks, and it has been released to generally glowing reviews.

Previews are scheduled for December for the Broadway musical "Good Vibrations" -- in which Beach Boys' music is featured in the story of a small-town band known as The Beach Boys who travel to Southern California. The show is scheduled to open at the Eugene O'Neill Theater in January.

British rock 'n' roll writer-producer Keith Badman was astonished when he learned in 2001 that there was no "day-by-day" book on the Beach Boys -- the kind of volume that catalogues key moments in the history of a band, from formation to breakup and beyond, as the case may be.

Such books have been produced on the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan. Badman -- who has written three books about the Beatles -- set out to write "The Beach Boys: The Definitive Diary of America's Greatest Band on Stage and in the Studio."

It came in at roughly 400 pages, filled with photographs of the band from their striped-shirt-and-chino-pants days through the present and information about their musical and personal ups and downs along the way.

Brian Wilson, for one, liked the way the book came out.

"I'm so proud of the work I did long ago with the Beach Boys," said Wilson in an endorsement of the book, "and it's great to see the details of the best years of our career collected with such love in one place."

Badman told United Press International he was thrilled to get Wilson's blessing.

"I can't emphasize enough just how wonderful it was getting Brian's message," he said.

Books like this one, which provide such a sheer volume of detailed information, almost naturally run the risk of getting some details wrong. Badman said Wilson didn't have any issues with the accuracy of his book.

"I always like to make sure that when I put facts into a book that it's pretty truthful," he said.

In any case, even though the book contains accounts of troubled times in the band's career, it was never likely that the book would feature much in the way of "dirty laundry." Badman said he was not out to write an exposé.

"When I set out to do the book I set out to do mainly like a massive tribute to Brian and the Beach Boys," he said. "At the same time I wanted to do a book that was near to the truth. The Beach Boys are legendary for having good times and bad times."

The current resurgence of market interest in Beach Boys product is not the first for the band that helped define the rest of the world's perception of Southern California culture more than four decades ago. Badman pointed out that the band fell out of public favor as early as the 1970s -- even though oldies radio never stopped playing Beach Boys hits such as "Fun, Fun, Fun," "California Girls" and "Surfin' U.S.A."

In Los Angeles, radio station KSCN devotes a three-hour block of programming each Friday night to surf music. Program host "The Great Kahuna" said the music has lasted because it is part of California's history.

"It's music that was born here in California," he said.

The disc jockey said he plays a mix of classic surf music and newer product -- with more contemporary music taking up the majority of the show's airtime. The music has gone international -- with recording artists from as far away as Australia and Finland now contributing their sounds.

In "The Beach Boys," Badman recounts the first slide in popularity for brothers Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson and their band mates Mike Love and Al Jardine.

"In 1967 the Beatles released 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' and you had the Monterey Pop Festival," said Badman. "The Beach Boys were suddenly no longer popular. They were considered surfing Doris Days. They were old, they were out of date, and you had Jimi Hendrix on the scene."

Badman said the band had been booked to headline the Monterey festival but pulled out. He said a harsh review of their album "Smiley Smile" was like a death knell -- and their 1968 tours were disastrous.

However, by 1974, on the strength of their live shows, the band was named Band of the Year -- by Rolling Stone.

Carl Wilson and Dennis Wilson are dead, and the surviving members of the band have had their share of litigation over commercial rights to the band's name -- but Badman said Beach Boys' music goes on.

"Every oldies station in America will always play 'Good Vibrations' and 'I Get Around' and 'Help Me Rhonda,'" he said.


(Please send comments to nationaldesk@upi.com.)

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