I - II - III - IV

Note:  Books that fit into this area are almost all worthwhile, with fans' thirst for hard information on the Beach Boys giving rise to some indispensible tomes of research, including lavish discographies, thoughtfully-compiled commentaries, and scholarly dissertations.  Who knew that the Beach Boys, once the symbol of girls, fun, cars and surfing, would be the subject of so much sociological and musicological research?  Many of these books are also independently published, making them somewhat harder to find, but I've included links for available titles below.  Dive in - these books are worthwhile studies for serious fans.

The Beach Boys: Southern California Pastoral (The Woodstock Series, Popular Music of Today, Vol. One) 

Bruce Golden,
The Borgo Press, 59 p.

Golden"The early pastoral notions of the Beach Boys have now been drowned out by reality.  The innocent, uncomplicated life of the surfer has been overtaken by the technology of modern civilization.  You can't go on surfing forever.  Henceforth, the group will strike out in new directions, as their pastoral visions turn inward, and are replanted in more fertile pastures.  The complications of the late 1960s remian unravelled, and the Beach Boys, not surprisingly, reflect the social currents prevalent in that complicated and contradictory era.  The middle-class outlook remains, however.  Earlier in the decade, their pastoral music popularized the California dream, associating it with the images of beach, sea, surf, sand, girls, cars, and all the rest.  California was the promised land of America's westward trek.  Now, however, other factors were surfacing which threatened to warp that dream into a caricature of itself.  Occultism, ecology, fads, drugs, hallucinogens, and cults of all kinds swept middle-class youth, creating the hippie and peace movements, and engineering the mass alienation of an entire generation.  The surfer of the early sixties became the flower child of the late sixties.  These new concerns of the adolescent world surface in the group's next record, "Good Vibrations."  [pg 32].

Arguably the first book to take an wholly intellectual approach to the music of the Beach Boys, this reads more like a college dissertation than something aimed at leisure reading.  Published during the Beach Boys' explosive resurgence in America after the releases of "Endless Summer" and "Spirit of America," and written at a period when pop music was beginning to be considered a serious sociological subject, Bruce Golden examines how the Beach Boys' music evolved with the times.  Beginning with the band's "pastoral" (a word which shows up a LOT in the text) period, when their songs mirrored the prevalent attitudes toward youth, culture and nature (surfing and girls); the band's music becomes progressively industrialized, showing the conflict between nature and machines (cars); and then evolves into deeper, more introspective ruminations on relationships and adulthood (Pet Sounds); and finishing with the wildly experimental forays into psychedelia and explorations into personal identity ("Smile" through "Holland).  The bulk of the text actually goes into track-by-track analysis of many of the Beach Boys early albums, while the rest attempts to establish the author's sociological premise.  In that respect, this book is like a super-condensed version of Timothy White's much more expansive "The Nearest Faraway Place," but Bruce Golden got there first, and at fifty-nine pages, (only thirty-nine of which are actual text, the rest being indexes), it can be read in the space of an hour.  Very rare and hard to find.

Surf's Up! The Beach Boys On Record 1961-1981
Brad Elliott,
1984, 1991;
Popular Culture, Inc., 495p.

Surf's Up! The Beach
                                              Boys On Record 1961-1981"Surf's Up The Beach Boys On Record 1961-1981 is an attempt, . . to compile a complete guide to the recorded works of The Beach Boys, considered by many to be the major American rock group of all time. . . . The Beach Boys are the only American group with an impact approaching that of The Beatles.  The Beach Boys were - and are - the foremost exponents of vocal harmony in rock music.  It is impossible to listen to a current Top 40 hit or a radio or television jingle and not hear their influence.  After waiting for several books on the group to appear, and finding none included the detailed guide to recordings I envisioned, I took it upon myself to compile such a guide. Surf's Up! is the result of my endeavors." [from the introduction, xiii] 

An astounding, landmark achievement in research and knowledge, Brad Elliott has created THE reference work on the Beach Boys.  That nothing comparable yet exists makes "Surf's Up!" all the more valuable.   Divided into logical sections, the thoroughness of the information is staggering:  a complete chronological discography, The Beach Boys as writers, producers, and contributions to other artists records; unreleased recordings, unrecorded songs, DJ and promotional records, records that were recorded by friends and acquaintences of the Beach Boys, sections on books and major articles, and major bootlegs all are included.  The fact that nothing of the last 17 years has been included in an updated version is bothersome, but in no way depreciates the milestone value of "Surf's Up!

Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys: The Complete Guide to their Music
Andrew Doe & John Tobler,
1997; 2nd ed. November 1, 2004;
Omnibus Press, 160 p.; 96 p. (reformatted)

    "These days, it's hard to believe that this was the band who not only survived the so-called British Invasion of the USA but fought back to such effect that for a period of some months (late 1966-early 1967), The Beach Boys, and in particular Brian Wilson, were considered at least the musical equals of the Fab Four; . . . To see the surviving members still going through the motions on stage for the umpteenth time is like watching a bad print of a classic silent movie - the original glory dimmed by time, often only hinted at . . . but it's still good to have them around at all." [pg. vii]

    I really enjoyed this book.  Simply put, "The Complete Guide" is a second set of liner notes for all of The Beach Boys albums (and in the case of the 70's Caribou albums, a first set!), with album reviews and song by song analysis, which I can either agree with or not.  Most of the time I find myself in aggreement with Mr. Doe and Tobler, whose writing and opinions are mostly spot on, and often quite funny; but I also pick up some interesting facts in the meantime.  The book is a handy read-along while listening to the music, and it contains numerous black-and-white and color photographs, chart information, catalog numbers and of course loads of commentary. One of those books that I wish I'd thought of first.  After being out of print for several years, it has been newly updated and reissued in 2004 by Omnibus Press, and includes sections covering the Beach Boys solo works up to 2003.

    Or Purchase From Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys: The Complete Guide to their Music

The Beach Boys Pet Sounds: The Greatest Album of the Twentieth Century
Kinglsey Abbott,
Helter Skelter Publishing, 192 p.

Pet Sounds - Kinglsey
                                              Abbott"Pet Sounds was always intended to be a thought provoking experience, from the nature of its lyrics, its ground breaking instrumental blends and its radical place within the Beach Boys canon.  Brian Wilson purposefully set out to achieve such a new experience, and he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.  However, whilst it would remain a body of work which would deeply affect future generations of musicians and fans, its initial receptions would be substantially different to what Brian might have imagined." ~ pg. 88

Kingsley Abbott is the man behind the wunderbar collection Back To The Beach, and so when I heard he had written a book chronicling Pet Sounds, I was fostering high hopes.  My hopes were thankfully realized.  Mr. Abbott has written a clear-eyed, literate love-letter to what is considered by many the greatest album ever, and which particularly received acclaim in Great Britain.  Starting off with an introduction by composer Jimmy Webb, and culling interviews from almost everyone involved, including Brian Wilson, Tony Asher, Carol Kaye, Timothy White, Andy Paley and many others, Abbott traces the evolution of Brian's unique sound from "The Lonely Sea" through the celebrated symphonic Pet Sounds tour of 2000.  The author manages to trace sociological, psychological, and musical influences in Brian's music in clear, concise writing, without sounding preachy or biased (despite the grandiose title) towards any one member or faction.  Equally valuable are the multiple indexes which list recording sessions, cover versions, influences, chart history, and much more.  A fine overview of a great album. 

In The Studio with Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys: our favorite recording sessions: a look at various recording sessions by The Beach Boys, 1961 - 1970 (2001 Updated Edition)
Researched and Compiled by Stephen J. McParland,
CMusic Books, 185 p.

In the
                                            Studio". . . in compiling a book of this nature, many people, knowing and unknowing became contributors, and to them I say thank you . . . to those other Beach Boys authors whose efforts I perhaps have unmercifully denigrated, I can only confess that it was done not out of malice, but out of a resolve to correct the mistakes once and for all.  And, to those who simply did not put in the effort to check facts, and to provide more essential information, thanks at least for contributing something, even if you could have done more.  Also, to those individuals who scoffed at my questions, and derided my efforts to unravel many of the mysteries and enigmas surrounding certain aspects of The Beach Boys' early days, all I can say, is that if you had done your job more thoroughly - and after all, it is YOUR music as Americans - then I would not have had to ask you in the first place." ~ pg. 7

Well allrighty then!  One of the many reasons that this book is such an enjoyable read is that Mr. McParland really wears his heart on his sleeve, and that quality saves this book from being just another "just-the-facts, ma'am" recitation of history.  The author of several authoritative books on The Beach Boys and Gary Usher, this updated reference book serves a couple of different purposes: first, the author devotes several pages to the murky beginnings of the Beach Boys, from their first dealing with Hite Morgan, to who really named the "The Beach Boys," to why Al Jardine left, and later rejoined the group.  It's fascinating reading, and the author manages to make several points clear about these, and many other, subjects. 
But the bulk of the reading is in examining The Beach Boys' recording sessions, and the author's attempt to unscramble various myths and desprepancies that have appeared in various biographies.  He ties together snippets of interviews, previously published writings, new sources, and actual recording contracts in an unparalled examination of what really happened; the author also unearths rare recording contracts for sessions that have never seen the light of day ("Whitch Stand," "Hot Harp"), and delves deeply into the "Smile" sessions.  Also included are several indexes which detail the musicians who contributed to Beach Boys' records, the instruments they used, a complete track rundown of the "Sea Of Tunes Unsurpassed Masters" bootlegs, and a forum where readers have written him with additional corrections/information.  For authoritative wealth of information (and a little chutzpah) this work rivals anything else published on The Beach Boys.  Unfortunately, this book, like most of his others, is only available via mail order from Australia (visit CMusic's website for ordering information), or by accessing the Helter Skelter bookshop online.

Wouldn't It Be Nice: Brian Wilson and the Making of Pet Sounds
by Charles A. Granta, Tony Asher,
September 2003;
Chicago Review Press, 256 p.

"Pet Sounds reflected a major change in American pop music, and brought an unpretentious elegance to rock 'n' roll music... a host of other free-form writers poised on the brink of the folk-rock movement... but, at the time, they were drawing on social and political events for inspiration.  Many of their songs posited dissenting, rebellious views that ultimately fostered change.

...While it was daring to voice one's protest in song, it was riskier still to bare your soul to the world, which is why Brian had little competition.  In Pet Sounds he created and filled his own niche, opening the door for innumerable singer-songwriter-producers working in the exploding pop market." [pg. 14]

An outstanding book.  Charles Granata has graced Beach Boys fans with what is, in my opinion, the finest research on Pet Sounds yet in print.  Surpassing even Kingsley Abbot's highly recommended book above, "Wouldn't It Be Nice" manages to engage and surprise readers with his fluent prose, completeness of research and perfect clarity in his writing.  Drawing on countless personal recollections such as lyricist Tony Asher (who also writes a touching foreword), Chuck Britz, Hal Blaine, Mark Linett, Bob Irwin, David Leaf, Carol Kaye, and many others, Granata stitches together a comprehensive tapestry of how Pet Sounds was written and recorded, and how it was able to transcend its perceived failure in initial release, and become one of the most critically acclaimed and imitated albums in the history of rock 'n' roll.  The author delves into each song, discussing lyrics, composition, production, post-production, subsequent releases up to and including the stereo remix and box set.  Bruce Johnston calls this book "Intelligently researched and beautifully written" and to that I can wholeheartedly attest.  Unreservedly recommended. 

The Beach Boys on CD (illustrated guide)
by Joe Thomas, 2004;
RisingTide, 300 p.

"So why write a book about and catalogue the CD releases of the Beach Boys?  Well, there are many reasons, but the most compelling was that no book of this nature currently exists.  I thought that by writing such a book, Beach Boys fans could navigate and purchase/collect the available CD releases with the assistance of a point of reference. . . . The intention is that the book should serve many purposes: to act as an aid for anyone interested in the Beach Boys, and for veterans who might wish to recall some facts.  It may also help collectors and act as a buyers guide in certain circumstances.  Overall, the book is designed to assist, inform, and to augment the collective history of The Beach Boys."  [from the introduction]

A perfect companion to the book below, The Beach Boys on CD is a marvellous resource and guide for Beach Boys fans who are interested in collecting the Beach Boys on CD.  Beginning with the first Beach Boys CDs to appear in 1985 up to the present day, this book is a thoroughly-researched, impeccably-written tribute to the vast catalog of the Beach Boys worldwide.  Chock-full of full-color digital photographs and salient information about each release, the book begins with brief, informative overviews of the Beach Boys as a group, and as individuals - including the overlooked Ricky Fataar and Blondie Chaplin (nice touch) - and then devoting pages to the Beach Boys recording history, a complete list studio albums, an overview of the Beach Boys output on CD, and a user guide.  Then we come to the meat of the book: thickly-researched information on every single Beach Boys album released on CD.  Although the author admits that it's not comprehensive, it certainly contains the lion's share of titles, labels and variants that most fans will ever need.  The detailed sections include: Studio Albums, Twofers, Pet Sounds, Smile, Compilations & Collections, Japanese releases, Bootlegs, Solo recordings on CD, and multiple appendixes with notes on Beach Boys associates, composers and co-lyricists, RIAA Gold & Platinum certifications, and much more.  Each CD is shown in full-color, both front and back, with full tracklistings, release dates, reference numbers, and even personal notes by the author on availability and occasional trivia.  In content, information, value and completeness, it completely eclipses both this site and any other comparable source that I've seen.  The author, who has spent over four years collecting and compiling this book, should be given a statuette of some kind, since this is an awesome achievement - the sheer wealth of information makes it a one-of-a-kind purchase.

This Whole World: The Complete Beach Boys Single And EP Cover Collection
by Manfred Schmidt & Christian Haschke,
February 2004;
FOSSIL-Verlag, 300 p.

"This book may serve as a guide for collectors of Beach Boys singles and EPs with their partly beautiful, partly odd pictures sleeves, but may also be of interest to record collectors in general.  Collecting 45s has become quite an expensive thing over the years but that should not discourage newcomers.  Attending record fairs seems an easy and cheap way to start off your collection.  Contacts with fellow collectors or fanclubs and trading records has been made easier with the internet, expecially for people abroad.  Keeping in touch with Beach Boys fans around the globe has always been a great pleasure to me, many of these >>contacts<< have turned into close friendships."  [pg. 5]

A truly beautiful book of full color pictures of every known Beach Boys single and EP cover from all over the world, This Whole World is both fun for casual fans' perusal, and invaluable for hard-core collectors who are eager to see what is still needed for their own collections.  Published in Germany, the book's text is bi-ligual, but easy to navigate, with the covers listed in order by country, covering all major marketplaces, from Argentina to Yugoslavia, and each chapter has a written introduction which prefaces the different approach that each country took to "sell" the Beach Boys.  Some countries produced unique and beautiful covers, such as Italy and France, while others printed full lyrics on each release (Japan.)  Besides the singles and EP's, the book provides full-color reproductions of all the different labels which the Beach Boys were featured on in each country, chronologically mapping out the changes in styles through the years.  The notations for each cover include with label is matched with the cover, the price range buyers can expect to pay due to rarity, the catalog number of each release, and various notes for interesting or unusual covers.  Also included are solo releases for the Beach Boys, including releases by The Honeys, American Spring, Celebration, Wilson Philips, and more.  A couple of nits, however: there are several typos throughout, due to either translation errors, or poor editing, as well as chart information for only the U.S., England, and Germany - it would have been nice to have chart information for each country - but those are very minor qualms.  This book is a godsend, a true labor of love - and it's worth seeking out for all Beach Boys fans.  Unfortunately, it's also mightily expensive due to European exchange rates, but if you're interested go to and check it out!

Brian Wilson Solo: The Complete Guide To The Solo Works of Brian Wilson
by Joe Thomas and Kie Miskelly, 2004;
RisingTide Publications, 90 p.

"With the exception of the Sweet Insanity, The Wilson Project and Wilson Paley Session bootlegs, most of Brian's solo bootlegs are of live concerts.  These bootlegs have emerged in abundance since 1998 and the quality ranges from excellent to pretty bad.  The packaging of some of these releases (escapees) is of a very high standard and those emanating out of Japan also provide superior sound quality.  A number of studio rehearsal and concert rehearsal bootlegs have also appeared on the market, most are pretty good offer the avid listener a great insight into the behind the scenes action. . . . It is important that bootleg production is illegal and ultimately hits the pocket of the artist, musicians and the record companies, but they do provide sustenance to hungry fans..."  [pg. 62]

Again, I have to take my hat off to Mssrs. Thomas and Miskelly for a remarkable publication.  This companion book to the above Beach Boys on CD guide continues the impeccable research, wealth of information, and cogent reviews of their previous book, creating an attractive, invaluable guide to collectors of all things Brian.  Miskelly, who is the current editor of the Scotland-published Metro has joined with Joe Thomas for this follow-up, and it is in every way as staggering as its predecessor.  Brianistas should drool over the sheer depth of information gathered in this slim tome: overviews and in-depth information on each studio album (including the most recent Gettin' In Over My Head), each of Brian's live albums, (with an emphasis on European, U.S. and Japanese releases) a blow-by-blow account of the triumphant Smile concerts, with minute discussion of each section, near-comprehensive listings of bootlegs, tour schedules, side projects, interview CDs, production and writing credits (including a vast listing of all known Brian Wilson compositions), all accompanied by full-color photographs of each item discussed, with front and back shots, as well as labels.  It even has capsule articles on Brian's collaborators, noting the importance of Van Dyke Parks, Gary Usher, The Wondermints, and others to Brian's continued presence on the popular music scene.  This is quality material here folks, and I simply can't recommend it highly enough.

The Japanese CD Releases of The Beach Boys & Brian Wilson
by Joe Thomas, July 2004;
Rising Tide Publications, 64 p.

"The Beach Boys CDs have been available in Japan since 1986.  Today Toshiba-EMI continues to release high quality (sound and packaging) CDs of both the Beach Boys' and Brian Wilson's music.  Other Japanese companies have also released interesting compilations of  The Beach Boys music over the past 15 years and a few CDs are simply non-Japanese imports with the addition of an OBI strip and distributed by a  Japanese record company.  In this book I have detailed all of the known Japanese CD releases - official and unofficial."  [pg. 2]

Within the short space of a year, Joe Thomas has emerged to become the reigning king of Beach Boys reference material, with his indispensible cataloging of Beach Boys and Brian Wilson releases on CD.  This latest work, which is a supplemental addition to the two books above, is similarly comprehensive in both information and presentation.  (I'm just going to say YOW! right now and get that out of the way).  Japan has long been a source of quality Beach Boys releases, not only of traditional catalog titles, but for rare solo and bootleg titles, ranking among the world's most prolific publishing countries for Beach Boys collectors.  The book's sixty-four pages are chock-full of information on these generally rare and hard-to-find discs ranging from Japanese series releases (such as "Pastmasters" "Twofers" and "Mini LPs") to promotional releases, compilations, bootlegs, CD singles, and solo releases from Dennis and Carl.  Each CD is represented in full-color spreads, featuring snaps of the covers, OBI strips (the little cardboard addendum that contains the disc's information in Japanese) and discs, with extensive notes covering reference numbers, release dates, liner notes, and personal musings by Mr. Thomas.  Different mixes, variations between similar releases (valuable for collecting the many different releases that albums like Pet Sounds has received), and notes on the rarity of certain CDs all greatly enhance the value of this book.  The sheer depth of information included is breath-taking, and for collectors and hard-core fans of the Beach Boys, this series by Mr. Thomas is the real deal.

The Beach Boys: The Definitive Diary Of America's Greatest Band on Stage And In The Studio
by Keith Badman,
July 30, 2004;
Backbeat Books, 399 p.

"While researching a new article for Record Collector in June 2001 I emailed Joel Melver, a friend and colleague at the magazine, asking if he could check out a Beach Boys concert date.   This long-running monthly music magazine regularly receives all the latest music books for review and has naturally built up an impressive library.  So I was certain that a definitive day-by-day book on America's greatest band would reside on their shelves.
Fifteen minutes after my original request, Joel replied saying he couldn't find the information, nor a book in which my question could be answered. . . . I was aghast.  Tomes dissecting the activities of the other great artists from the 1960s and 1970s . . . have been appearing with varying degrees of success for many years but, strangely, not one exists that definitively documents America's Beach Boys.  So, as the saying goes, if you can't find a book that you're after, then you should do it yourself."
[from the introduction]

To label anything "definitive" is just asking for trouble, and this book has already accumulated its share, which is a shame, since it's otherwise a great read.  A massive undertaking (and an impressively weighty tome), Mr. Badman has taken on the unenviable task of trying to document all known studio and stage appearances of the Beach Boys from their inception right up to the present day.  While the information fizzles out over the last two decades (I guess he didn't want to chart every stop on the Mike & Bruce tour), and is riddled with small errors, this book is nevertheless great fun, and a worthy addition to any fan's library.  Chock-full of information, the author has attempted to lay it all out - from the band's first rehearsals and early recording sessions, to mapping out their early tours, including dates, locations, and even earned revenue!  It's mindboggling the amount of data included here - as month by month, day by day, the Beach Boys activities are chronicled in sometimes minute detail.  Where were the Beach Boys on July 4, 1965?  (at the Cow Palace in San Francisco).  What day did the Beach Boys single "Friends" hit the U.S. charts?  (Saturday, April 20th, 1968).  Who did the Beach Boys appear with on September 2, 1975? (The Doobie Brothers, during which concert a mob of 500 tried to gate crash the event, but were turned back by police).  This book is a trivia wonderland for fans who want to know the where and when of America's Band.  Good black and white photographs are sprinkled liberally throughout the book, interspersed with loads of quotations, reviews, musings and much more.  Audacious in its scope, this book is easily recommended in what is turning into a banner year for Beach Boys reference books.  Unfortunately, rumor has it that legal action may be pending against the author and publisher, due to the fact that all of the Beach Boys, (as well as many studio musicians) Social Security numbers are printed in the book's pages (oops!)  So grab it quick, while it's still available.

Purchase this item from The "Beach Boys"

Smile: The Story Of Brian's Wilson's Lost Masterpiece
By Domenic Priore;
March 7, 2005,
Sanctuary Publishing, 256 p.

Purchase from Smile

"The interesting thing about David Leaf's book was its very unauthorised status.  Because The Beach Boys had, since 1967, taken a dictatorial attitude toward Brian Wilson, Leaf was the first person to come around and say, 'No, The Beach Boys are a problem for Brian Wilson.'  The public knew only that Brian was part of the band, and that he harboured emotional problems that had turned him into a recluse.  What no one was willing to understand, or admit, was that it was The Beach Boys who had created this situation for Brian.  Leaf made it very clear how that had happened, and those who did not choose to ignore the reality of the situation perked up and began to pay attention.  [pg. 149-150]

I can't quite put into words how disappointed I am with this book.  Domenic Priore, who gave us the fascinating Look! Listen! Vibrate! Smile! years ago apparently rushed this book to press, having only minimal interviews and facts at his command to contribute.  The result is a mess of generalizations, stale cliches, and a writing style that would earn him a "C-minus" in any college english class.  With dual forewords by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks, you'd think that this book would be an official examination of SMiLE from its inception to it's lauded completion in 2004; but no, it's a by-the-numbers recounting of well-known events; interviews and articles pulled from numerous other sources, and his own theories about how SMiLE should have sounded, almost all of which have been debunked by other, more knowledgable archivists.  The book is laid out chronologically, and gives brief capsule moments of The Beach Boys early history, quickly moving into the creation of "Good Vibrations."  The author then spends the most time discussing the original SMiLE, cribbing quotes from period magazines NME, MOJO, Cheetah, as well as taking dates from Keith Badman's book above, and even quoting himself  from two of his previously-released books.  Rehashing his assertions of how his sequencing of SMiLE is more correct that what Brian eventually put together in 2004, the book reads like the height of conceit.  The book then takes up several chapters recounting the fall-out of SMiLE for the Beach Boys, and the numerous rumors of it's eventual appearance.  The final part of the book, recounting the resurrection of SMiLE, is given the short shrift with a single chapter discussing the rebirth of Brian Wilson's most famous album.  There is no in-depth reporting, just fragments of interviews which appeared in other fan magazines and online interviews.  What's left appears to be a quickly-written rehash to make a quick buck.  What's most perplexing is Priore's writing - it's terrible - filled with huge swaths of generalizations which aren't documented, tired phrases which reek of overuse, and flat, lifeless prose.  He gushes enthusiatically over Brian's SMiLE concerts like the most rabid fan, ignoring the fact that he has spent the last several chapters tearing down the sequencing and order of the new album.  This book may give beginners a shallow understanding of what led up to the release of SMiLE, but for long-time fans, this is a sad and disappointing book.

Inside the Music of Brian Wilson: The Songs, Sounds, and Influences of the Beach Boys' Founding Genius
Philip Lambert;
Continuum International Publishing Group, 416 p.,
Released April 22, 2007

Product Description

Philip Lambert's astonishingly comprehensive book details over 50 years in the musical life of one of America's foremost pop composers. Lambert acknowledges the familiar biographical contexts behind many of Wilson's songs, but sheds new light on the birth and evolution of his musical ideas. A huge number of songs are discussed, including the famous ("Help Me Rhonda," "Good Vibrations," "God Only Knows") and the less well known ("Farmer's Daughter," "Boys Will Be Boys" and more). The end result is a remarkable story of musical growth and ambition, sure to appeal to devoted Beach Boys fans. The book also includes a unique Brian Wilson song chronology, listing every musical endeavour to which Brian is known to have made a musical contribution.

I always get a little wary when authors decide to create long titles for their books; as if they are trying to encapsulize the essence of a thesis in the space of a single sentence - it usually means that the book you're about to read is a dry as the Sahara desert.  Unfortunately, that's the case here, as well.  Philip Lambert may be a Brian Wilson fan, but you'll find little joy in the flat, dissertation-like text, or psycho-sociological analysis found herein.  The author takes biographical information from several sources, reciting them in an early examination of Brian's main musical influences - noting everyone from his father, Murray Wilson, to the music of Gershwin, The Four Freshman, and Stephen Foster.  While there's little to debate as far as accuracy in these statements, Lambert doesn't have the writing skills to make his prose
"pop" off the page; this is a book that was meant to be used for college research papers, not to be read on the beach - it's main goal is to be quoted in a dissertation's footnote, not read by the layman.  And it's not terribly thorough, either - the author spends most of his time looking at the early years of Brian's muse - from his first primitive songs: "Surfin'" and "The Lonely Sea" up through the burnished pop miniatures of Pet Sounds; after that, the author has little to say - even through Brian's compositions through the late sixties and early-to-mid seventies, though not popular, were incredibly inventive and in some ways reverted back to his earliest work (compare the songs on Love You to the songs on The Beach Boys first album, and you'll see what I mean).  But - to each their own - if you prefer your music hyper-analyzed, you'll enjoy this book, and may even glean some insight into the musical mind of Brian Wilson.

The Beach Boys: The Complete History
By Wiki Editors
CreateSpace Publishers, 822 p.,
Released June 7, 2010

Product Description

The Complete History gives you an in-depth look at all the intimate details about each of their albums, including a complete list of every song ever written or recorded by the Beach Boys and a thorough analysis of the meanings and circumstances surrounding the writing and recording of each song. All of the customary song specifications are included (year, recording/release dates, album names, genre, length, label, writers, producers, personnel, instruments played, etc), but the heart of the book details the band's lyrical inspirations, collaborative efforts, the actual recording session drama and what occurred behind closed doors. It delves into the effect of the politics of the day on the boys' music and lifestyle, the critical reception of the music and, most importantly, the sometimes controversial relationship between the Beach Boys themselves.

REVIEW:  The owners of Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia created and updated by everyday people, have decided to cash-in on their behemoth pop-culture database in a very retro-way: by publishing their "copyright-free" Wikipedia articles on The Beach Boys in a single, difficult-to-carry doorstop of a book!  How's that for chutzpah?  Thousands of fans and experts who contributed to Wikipedia's vast storehouse of Beach Boys factoids can now rest easy in the knowledge that their hard-earned research and efforts are lining the pockets of the creators of Wikipedia.  Of course, knowing that Wikipedia is, in fact, a malleable, changeable database which juggles thousands upon thousands of trivial facts each day makes this book a little bit suspect as a reference tool, doesn't it?  I mean, if paid authors and researchers like Keith Badman can make mistakes (see his book reviewed above), then what are the chances that this monster reference book is useful?  Having said that, this is a pretty nice reference tool for old-school fans who don't appreciate the internet's always-changing jumble of information; with this book, it's easy to browse (well, at 800 pages, maybe NOT so easy - easy to work on your pecs, though) through the tumult of information presented - and thanks to the efforts of thousands of unpaid experts, there's a LOT of trivial, dry information to  be found: biographical information for all the members; track-by-track annotations of each of the Beach Boys' albums including chart information, singles, alternate issues, songwriting credits, et al. ad nauseum.  If you can find it on Wikipedia - it's here.  Oops! I mean, it used to be here - it's just been updated/corrected/added to on the website, but unfortunately, this book will remain as it is - a stepping stone in time for the seemingly endless flow of information and trivia about The Beach Boys.  Oh - and have I mentioned that the typeface is WAY too small to read?

The Beach Boys FAQ: All That's Left To Know About America's Band
By Jon Stebbins
Backbeat, 320
Released September 1, 2011

                                                    Boys FAQ "The Beach Boys were drawing crowds as small as 200 people to their concert appearances.  The curtain would go up and the concert hall would be one-fifth full, or less. Just a couple of years earlier the Beach Boys had played to packed houses of thousands of screaming fans.  It was a testament to their persistence that they were even bothering with such depressingly unattended concerts.  But they hung together and kept moving forward, and slowly they began to turn it around.  ...The Beach Boys were incredibly talented.  It wasn't just Brian who had the gift.  This was a family of brilliant artists, and when they pulled together, and when those harmonies blended, there was nothing else in the world like the Beach Boys." [pgs. 122-123]

REVIEW:  The Beach Boys FAQ: All That's Left To Know About America's Band sounds like it would be a cool-headed, "just-the-facts, m'am" collection of stats and figures concerning The Beach Boys, right?  If this book were written by any other author, that would probably be the case, but Jon Stebbins, the author of Dennis Wilson: The Real Beach Boy, and The Lost Beach Boy: The True Story Of David Marks, has a history of myopically viewing America's Band through his own set of shuttered spectacles, and his many writing faults are on full display in this somewhat schizophrenic, patchwork book.

Although the title would make you believe that this is a "Wikipedia"-style look at The Beach Boys' career, the author immediately branches out into his own personal insights into each band member; devotes an entire chapter to "Why It's Fun To Hate Mike Love"; examines the causes of The Beach Boys various creative and personal flame-outs; looks at their critical and commercial nosedives and comebacks, and analyzes what creative mis-steps the Band has taken - each time giving personal opinions as to what the Beach Boys did right or wrong.

There are some sections which fans might find useful: an index of which band member sang what lead; a list of important concerts, and why they had an impact (either positive or negative) on The Beach Boys' careers; up-to-date reviews of the band's most current albums (both solo and collective), and looks at their most recent gatherings and rumored reunions - but these are far over-weighed by the flushed, overheated writing style of the majority of the book.

The author's personal intrusions are legion: gushy, sycophantic ejaculations pepper every page, sounding more like a sweaty teenage fan-boy instead of an objective author.  He repeatedly boasts of his close connections with band members, inserting himself into the narrative as frequently as possible; he shows a lurid preoccupation with the backstage fights, sexual peccadilloes, and drunken stage antics of the band, which shove this book firmly into the orbit of Steven Gaines' pulpy Heroes and Villains, but without that book's breathless narrative propulsion.  And the author continues to lazily toss in hoary literary clichés at every chance, falling back on stale and familiar phrases, rather than offering anything insightful or original.

In short - I hope that this book's subtitle is literal: and that the author will have nothing further to add to The Beach Boys literary canon.

The Beach Boys On CD: Vol. 1 1961-1969

By Andrew Hickey, 194
Released July 10, 2011

Product description:

Between 1961 and 1969 the Beach Boys made nineteen albums, including some of the best music ever recorded - and some not so good. In this book, Andrew Hickey looks at this music track by track, analysing every song that Brian, Carl, Dennis, Mike, Al, Bruce and David recorded and released during that time period. From early surf and car classics like 409 to sophisticated masterpieces like Time To Get Alone, in this book you'll learn how they were recorded, why they work the way they do, and which albums to buy if you want to hear a great band at their best.

Click here to read excerpts.

REVIEW:  Andrew Hickey has published a book that in format and tone, is very similar to Andrew Doe's Complete Guide (reviewed above); essentially a track-by-track, album-by-album review of every song the Beach Boys recorded, with background information, critical analysis, who-sang-what identification, dishy behind-the-scenes gossip, and other what-not.  In his introduction, the author notes that both Doe's Complete Guide as well as Philip Lambert's Inside the Music of Brian Wilson both plow the same turf as his book, and are valuable in their way, but this is his take, so make of it what you will.  Andrew has been a long-time Beach Boys fan and online contributor to several online forums, and it's those discussions and essays which formed the bedrock of this book.  As such, it runs the gamut in style from chatty and informal to somewhat dry and analytical, but as a whole, it's a very diverting, and at times illuminating read; there's nothing here that's blasphemous (unless you don't share his conviction that the Party! album is an all-filler album), or if you're put off by his charming British-isms which are sprinkled throughout the manuscript, I dare say that most readers will enjoy getting inside Andrew's head and finding out what turns him on (and off) in the Beach Boys canon.  The first of what is planned to be a two-book series (the second tome taking on recent decades output as well as solo projects), so we've more to look forward to from Mr. Hickey.  The book is available in several formats: paperback, e-book as well as hardcover (through's website)

Icons of Pop Music: Brian Wilson
By Kirk Curnutt
Equinox Publishing, Ltd, 176 p.
Published May 22, 2012

“The Beach Boys, in case one hadn’t noticed, are white.  Even worse, they sound white.  So white, in fact, that their whiteness is often perceived as a detriment.  Perhaps not as egregious as the Pat Boone pallor of Caucasoid uncool, but a shade pale enough to complicate their legitimacy.  This complication is captured in New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere-Jones’s controversial 2007 critique of “indie rock,” that grab-bag term for pop or rock that self-consciously flouts mainstream sounds and structures.  Complaining that the genre is rhythmically uninteresting, Jones argues that its practitioners, afraid of perpetuating the white appropriation of black traditions, erroneously substitute listless avant-gardism for syncopation.  And whose example sanctions this decision?  “[G]radually, Brian Wilson, of the Beach Boys, a tremendously gifted musician who had at best a tenuous link to American black music, became indie rock’s muse.” [pg. 83]

REVIEW:  ANOTHER Brian Wilson title?  And this one by an English professor who previous works include fiction and scholarly works on Hemingway and Fitzgerald?  Mmmmm.... actually, I was very pleasantly surprised by Kirk Curnutt's Icons of Pop Music: Brian Wilson, which uses a rather broad brush to paint his subject, eschewing biographical discursions and pointing his lens at three main topics: “Lyrical themes and gestures”, “Musical and sonic motifs”, and finally, “The peculiar appeal of Brian Wilson”.  If none of these topics strike you as vital reading, then feel free to skip this review and move on, but - if you’ve exhausted all the biographical and fan-centric musical books and are looking for something a bit meatier, then this just might find a place on your menu.  Aimed at collegiate audiences (hence the hefty price tag for the hardcover edition), the author occasionally pulls out a ten-dollar word which made me run for my thesaurus, but on the whole, I didn’t have any difficulty in following the authors meanings as he delves into his theories on why Brian and his collaborator’s music has touched, confused, intrigued, and occasionally infuriated large segments of society.  He touches on Brian’s sexist/misogynistic tendencies; his ability to effortlessly juggle melancholy/joyful sentiments within the same song; and the self-deprecating humor that Brian often slips into his music.  He examines the motifs of Brian’s music, including his influences and specific musical “signatures” which Brian incorporates.  He examines the effect that Brian’s falsetto has on listeners, and when and how Brian uses it in songs.  He also touches upon “the cult of Brian” which elevates him above his bandmates and collaborators, but the author does so without passing judgment, simply examining the phenomenon.  Curnutt doesn’t minutely examine every song in the Beach Boys canon; rather, he picks touchstones to highlight the point he’s making, and he makes his assertions cleanly and eruditely, befitting his status as a college professor.  But despite the highbrow approach and scholarly target which this book is aimed at, it’s not a chilly read - the author has a passion for what he’s writing about, and this book is obviously a well-thought-out, eloquent examination of what makes Brian’s music so potent.

The Beach Boys In Concert: The Ultimate History Of America's Band On Tour And Onstage
By Ian Rusten and Jon Stebbins
Backbeat Books, 407 p.
Released June 18, 2013

More than ten years of exhaustive research has produced an unprecedented window into the Beach Boys' thrilling successes, personal tragedies, inter-band dramas, and globe-trotting, rock-and-roll adventures from 1961 to 2012.

The Beach Boys in Concert is the ultimate document for fans when it comes to the group's career as concert performers; no other publication comes close to this tome in scope, detail, and definitive quality. Adding to the feast is an extensive collection of unpublished photos and rare memorabilia images that bring fans deeper into the context of any given era covered in the book. This detailed, illustrated 50-year Surfin' Safari will blow your mind!

REVIEW: The Beach Boys In Concert is pretty much everything it claims to be. A deeply-researched, achingly complete (well, as complete as is humanly possible), and attractively illustrated book that tries its darndest to chronicle every single show and venue the Beach Boys played at, from their humble beginnings to their 2012 50th reunion concert tour!  Astounding?  Yes.  Impossible?  Well... yes, but, as I said - from all that has been humanly possible to verify and document, author Ian Rusten, with help from Jon Stebbins, get it all in there, often with detailed accounts of highlights, low-lights, and outright disasters that followed the Beach Boys fortunes over the course of half a century of live performing.  Fortunately for the authors, David Marks' mother kept a fairly detailed journal of the band's earliest dates, which is a blessing, since no other comprehensive record was kept by the band themselves.  After that, there are newspaper accounts, eye-witness accounts, and other various tools that were used to reconstruct the decades worth of concerts, in-person appearances, and other "live" events.  The authors realize that not everything is accounted for, but they manage to do a "catch all" section at the end of each year, documenting those "undocumented" shows which are rumored, but can't be verified independently.  The authors also seem to take a rather wicked glee in tearing down some of the previously-reported concert dates Keith Badman book (reviewed above) which are wrong, or completely fictional.  Let's hope their book can withstand the same level of scrutiny.  The main concert dates and venues, along with gathered information about certain concerts are all organized in the center column of each page, while on the edges, biographical information about what was going on behind the scenes fills out the narrative picture.  And the book is generously filled with pictures of concert posters, ticket stubs, and photographs (both on-stage and behind-the-scenes) which make for a very attractive presentation.  Whether you've seen the Beach Boys on stage or not, this is an essential book for those who want to know more about the business behind America's Band.

The Beach Boys On CD: Vol. 2 1970-1984

By Andrew Hickey, 212
Released September 2, 2013

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION: Between 1970 and 1984 the Beach Boys, both solo and together, made some of the best albums ever recorded - and some not so good. In this book, Andrew Hickey takes a personal look at this music track by track, analysing every song that Brian, Carl, Dennis, Mike, Al, Bruce, Blondie and Ricky recorded and released during that time period. From psychedelic masterpieces like Surf's Up to the raw rock of Pacific Ocean Blues, in this book you'll learn how they were recorded, why they work the way they do, and which albums to buy if you want to hear a great band at their best.

Andrew Hickey's second volume of song-by-song commentary on the Beach Boys catalog takes us from 1970-1984, or from Sunflower through Keepin' The Summer Alive, along with Live at Knebworth, along with Carl Wilson's two solo albums and Mike's "Looking Back With Love".  As with his first entry into what's now looking like a trilogy, this second volume is chock-full of information, from background info on each song, to chord progressions, chart placement and other ephemera - and, of course, Andrew's clear-eyed critiques of each song's merits (or lack thereof).  While most songs get a couple of paragraphs, and some, like "Sail On Sailor" get a full two pages of dissection, others, like The Beach Boys Love You's "Ding Dang" barely merit a short paragraph (but hey, what can you expect from a song that's only one minute long and basically the same words repeated over and over?)  Andrew's been researching and writing about the Beach Boys for decades, and his prose is easy on the eyes, his observations are level-headed and often funny, and my only critique would be that some illustrations would have helped in the overall dry presentation of the material.  Still, unreservedly recommended for those who are just discovering the Beach Boys, or for long-time fans who want to refresh their appreciation for the band's catalog.

Good Vibrations: Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys in Critical Perspective
Edited by Philip Lambert
University Of Michigan Press, 291 p.,
Released October 7, 2016

Good Vibrations brings together scholars with a variety of expertise, from music to cultural studies to literature, to assess the full extent of the contributions to popular culture and popular music of one the most successful and influential pop bands of the twentieth century. The book covers the full fifty-year history of the Beach Boys’ music, from essays on some of the group’s best-known music—such as their hit single “Good Vibrations” —to their mythical unfinished masterpiece, Smile. Throughout, the book places special focus on the individual whose creative vision brought the whole enterprise to life, Brian Wilson, advancing our understanding of his gifts as a songwriter, arranger, and producer.

REVIEW:  Philip Lambert, who previously published the 2007 book Inside the Music of Brian Wilson: The Songs, Sounds, and Influences of the Beach Boys' Founding Genius (reviewed above) has now released this scholarly collection of essays aimed squarely (and priced prohibitively) at the college library crowd, this 2016 publication brings together nine essays by editor Philip Lambert (two of which, "Brian Wilsons' Harmonic Language" and "Good Reverberations" are penned by him, natch') as well as Kirk Curnutt ("Brian Comes Alive" : Celebrity, Performance, and the Limitations of Biography in Lyric Reading), Daniel Harrison (Pet Sound Effects), Keir Keightley (Summer of '64), Jadey O'Regan When I Grow Up: The Beach Boys' Early Music), Dale Carter(Into the Mystic?  The Undergrounding of Brian Wilson 1964-1967), Andrew Flory (Fandom and Ontology in Smile), and Larry Starr (A Listener's Smile).  This is pretty dry stuff - not aimed at fans, but at music majors and other Humanities chasers who want to have something to quote to their professors when they write papers late at night.  Full of chord patterns, sociological and psychological buzz-words, and the usual intellectual clap-trap that the University cognoscenti drool over, here's a typical paragraph:
"Pop music's capacity to overwhelm us with nostalgic feelings grows, in part, out of its ability to momentarily saturate the lived environment, whether at a dance, on a car radio, or in a cinema, and thereby to mark a moment in time.  Seasonal songs frequently juxtapose summer against autumn or winter in order to highlight ephemerality of nice weather and young love (likewise, teem pop has historically been dismissed as impermanent and disposable.)" ~ Keir Keightley - "Summer of '64"
If that kind of prose rings your bell - then you might consider shelling out the $80 the author is asking.  Otherwise, keep on walking, folks.

The Words and Music of Brian Wilson
By Christian Matijas-Mecca
Praeger, 205 p.
Released March 27, 2017

A study of Brian Wilson's creative career as a composer, producer, performer, and collaborator that addresses all aspects of Brian's five-decade-long music career through his creative methods and processes.
• Presents the first complete and career-spanning biography of Brian Wilson and detailed examination of his musical career
• Considers Wilson's work with The Beach Boys and the many performers and bands with whom he collaborated as producer, songwriter, and performer in a chronological narrative instead of categorizing his work as "Beach Boys" and "Other"
• Discusses Wilson's diverse musical activities as comprising equal parts devoted to composition, production, performance, and collaboration
• Sorts through various conflicting narratives about Brian Wilson's career in order to provide an accurate account of his creative chronology

A book aimed at the collegiate market, this entry in The Praeger Singer-Songwriter Collection (which also includes titles on the works of Elvis Costello and Billy Joel) is a fairly dry, dissertation-like examination of Brian's oeuvre, from his Beach Boys beginnings to his solo outings, as well as looking at works he created for others, and with various collaborators.  At the time of its writing, the author, Christian Matijas-Mecca was an associate professor of music and dance and the University of Michigan, and he writes with all the panache of a professor who needs to meet his publishing quota.  It's thorough, wordy, and filled with notes on sources - but his opinions and observations never rise above the commonplace - and readers may be left to wonder (while nodding off) what all the fuss is about.  In short - there's little passion or insight on display - which may be well and good for the literary cognoscenti (or tenured faculty), but for the fan, the author's generalizations and trite observances fail to shed any light on why Brian Wilson's music speaks to so many, and is valued by musicians of high repute.  A typical paragraph:
"Though Smiley Smile was released as Brother Records T-9001, the 10-track SMiLE album, referenced in the Capitol Records memo, was scrapped, and the next Beach Boys album, Wild Honey was released in  December 1967 as Capitol ST 2859.  Wild Honey is considered by m any fans as the Beach Boys R&B album, and while the album's sparse production aesthetics and stripped-down sonic palette are deceiving, the album is arranged with an attention to detail and tonal clarity." ~ [pg. 81]
It's not a bad read, and the author touches a lot of bases in this relatively brief, but densely-written book, but a lack of fresh ideas, and a soporific writing style make it less-than-essential reading.

The Beach Boys On CD: Vol. Three
By Andrew Hickey
Independently Published, 286 p.,
Released July 17, 2017

Product Description:  Between 1983 and 2017 the Beach Boys released dozens of albums, together and apart, including some of the best music ever recorded - and some not so good. In this book, Andrew Hickey looks at this music track by track, analyzing every song that Brian, Carl, Dennis, Mike, Al, Bruce and David recorded and released during that time period. From 1980s hits like Kokomo to Brian Wilson's solo rerecording of Smile, in this book you'll learn how they were recorded, why they work the way they do, and which albums to buy if you want to hear a great band at their best.

  The third volume in Andrew Hickey's exhaustive study of The Beach Boys music covers everything from 1983 through 2017 - and I mean EVERYTHING.  From solo to group material, miscellaneous tracks to archival releases, Andrew plows through each song with his candid, informative, and occasionally acidic takes on what the band members have been doing for the past three decades.  What makes this reading so fun is that, despite having extensive musical knowledge, he doesn't hold back on alternately lacing his reviews with glowing praise or peppery buckshot if he feels it's deserved.  As he notes in his Introduction, this is a highly subjective read; but that's not to say it's one-sided - his reviews take in both musical appreciation and gut-feeling instinct, which makes this volume as essential and enjoyable as the other books in the series.  And, it's important to note, this isn't simply a track-by-track rundown of the past thirty years - Andrew prefaces each album with historic peeks at what was going on behind the scenes between releases; the internal combustion that fuels the Beach Boys interpersonal dynamics has always plays a huge role in their music, and Andrew's inside connections give him rare insight into the extended Beach Boys family.  It doesn't really matter if you agree with him - he gives each track a fair shake, laying out clear, cogent reasoning behind what works, and, in his opinion, what doesn't.  My only criticisms are that, being self-published, the book could've stood another editorial pass for small textual glitches, and would have benefited from some illustrations accompanying the reviews.  But those are negligible nits - this is essential reading for Beach Boys fans.

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