If you're a sports fan you've probably thought about, or had conversations about, those poor athletes who were unlucky enough to be playing their sport during the prime of another great athletes career.
Not much press coverage for any other basketball player when Michael Jordan was winning titles. Same goes for any hockey player during the Wayne Gretzky era. Remember all the stories about teams when the Yankees dominated baseball in the 1960's? Me either. I loved all the interesting stories about golfers not named Tiger Woods over the past twenty five years. Oh, wait.
The same thing holds true in the world of music too. Any band, singer, or duo that was making music during the Beatles era was lost in the shuffle of their brilliance and impact on the music scene. The fact that classic rock stations overflow the airwaves to this day tells you that there was some incredible talent back then because they are certainly not running out of songs to play.
Possibly the most overlooked band of all time is The Beach Boys. Between The Beatles and the British Invasion they could not have picked a worse time to hit the music charts. In fact, despite being overlooked, they are one of the few American bands to survive this period.
Formed in 1961 in Hawthorne, California, a town East of the 405 freeway and only a titch over six miles from the beach, these five kids had a love of surfing, cars, and music and wanted to share with the world what they were hearing and writing about it all. Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson asked their cousin Mike Love and best friend and across the street neighbor Al Jardine to join their band.
It took them about two years to get their feet under them but in 1963 they hit the big time. Little Deuce Coupe, Be True To Your School, Surfin' USA, and In My Room, among others were released, and people outside of California started to notice them and their unique sound.
Then in February of 1964 The Beatles took over the world and even though they had a couple of top 40 hits with Fun, Fun, Fun and I Get Around that year, it was the Beatles and then The British Invasion that ruled the music world. To further complicate their lives and make it an even harder pill to swallow was the fact that both The Beach Boys and The Beatles were releasing songs on the Capitol label in the USA. The label started promoting and working with The Beatles more and more and left The Beach Boys as a second thought.
Mike Love and Al Jardine were enthralled by the music The Beatles were putting out and talked about them nonstop, too much for the increasingly fragile mind of Brian Wilson. He was consumed by The Beatles. He didn't want to copy them, he just wanted to be as good as them and have people talk about his band in the same manner. Ultimately this, along with some other issues, led to his mental breakdown.
But before he went into seclusion in the later 1970's, he managed to put out some of the greatest music of his life. In the mid 1960's he abandoned the "beach sound" they were famous for and moved them into more personal songs. Sure they occasionally had a song about surfing or cars but the albums took on a darker and more serious tone.
In 1966 they released "Pet Sounds" to universal yawns at the time. This was Brian's answer to The Beatles "Rubber Soul" album that he thought was the best album he ever heard. They didn't have one filler song on the album, they were all hits and his "Pet Sounds" was the same thing. He followed this up with "Smiley Smile" in 1967, "Sun Flower" in 1970, and "Surfs Up" in 1971. All did OK but none of them were able to overtake The Beatles.
Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys went through some hard times after this. Dennis Wilson drowned in 1983 and Brian was lost in his mind already, seeking help for his mental illness issues for years as he stayed out of the public view. Eventually he recovered and the band reformed with Mike Love taking over as the leader while Brian stayed in the background.
They continued to put out music, most notably the song Kokomo was a big hit for them but Brian didn't like playing it live because it was written by Mike Love for the movie "Cocktail" and he didn't consider it a Beach Boys song.
In 1995 a select panel of musicians, songwriters, and producers met to evaluate albums from the previous forty years of the rock and roll era and they determined that "Pet Sounds" was the greatest album ever made. Vindication at long last for Brian and the band. He finally had beaten The Beatles.
Between 1967 and 2023 The Beach Boys have had 37 songs in the Billboard Top 40 with four of them topping the chart at the year end Top 100 review. Not bad for a band the music world overlooked.
I have listed my favorite fifteen songs of theirs. I tried to limit it to ten but it was impossible. I've included a link for each to YouTube so you can see and hear them. Critics and many of you might not agree with my choices, but that's OK, they're my choices. Pick your own. It's harder than you think.
15. Kokomo. I know Brian hates it but I like it.
14. California Girls. This made me want to move here back then.
13. Don't Worry Baby. I love the harmonies here.
12. Surfs Up. A beautiful song that many critics think may be their best ever.
11 - Little Deuce Coupe. A catchy little ditty.
10. I Get Around. A new sound for them that took them into a new direction.
9. Fun, Fun, Fun. It is and it was.
8. Surfin' USA. Very similar in sound to the above but still excellent on its own.
7. Sloop John B. Not sure what it is about this song but I love it.
6. Wouldn't It Be Nice. Another song that started to move them in a new direction.
5. Barbara Ann. I love the harmonies in this one too.
4. Help Me Rhonda. One of the first songs of theirs I fell in love with at the time.
3. Good Vibrations. Their move into the psychedelic era.
2. In My Room. One of the prettiest songs ever.
1 - God Only Knows. No less than Paul McCartney called it the best song ever written.