Brain Wilson is one of rock's most deeply revered figures, a legendary writer, producer, arranger and performer of some of the most cherished music in rock history. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to call Brian Wilson one of the most influential pop composers of the last 50 years.
Labor Day weekend, 1961, in Hawthorne, California It was then and there that nineteen-year-old Brian Douglas Wilson and his younger brothers Dennis and Carl assembled in their family's living room with cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine to rehearse a little tune that Brian and Mike had written for a try-out recording session.
As luck would have it, the Wilsons' parents were vacationing and had left the boys $250 for food money. Home alone, and promptly using that cash to rent the best musical equipment they could find, the budding Beach Boys got busy.
Written at Dennis' suggestion, "Surfin'" sang the praises of the newest southern California teen craze. Though primitive-sounding by today's standards, the song contained the raw matter that would define the Beach Boys' sound: the propulsive rhythms of Chuck Berry-style rock & roll combined with the sophisticated pop vocals of the Four Freshman.
It was a unique fusion that Wilson had been tinkering with in the family garage where, inspired by The Four Freshman and their complex vocal blends, and armed with a multi-track tape recorder, he'd spent hours exploring the intricacies of harmony and melody. By overlapping his own dynamic voice (which peaked in a soaring falsetto) and various instruments, he could create the effect of a full group.
Completely on his own, and despite near-deafness in one ear, modern audio technology gave Brian Wilson the power to create something beautiful, even magical. When "Surfin"' hit big locally and made ripples on the national charts, the Beach Boys were signed to Capitol Records. The label wanted more of the same, and Brian and the band gave it to them, tapping a potent source of surfing, hot-rod cars and hi-octane hormones at a time when an exploding population of post-World War II teenagers was craving something new.
Releasing hit after hit, the Beach Boys were like an irresistibly refreshing wave that flooded America. And Brian Wilson himself rode that sparkling swell as, beginning with 1962's Surfin' Safari, the early Beach Boys released seven albums (usually titled after their hit singles) in their first two years of existence, including Surfin' U.S.A., Surfer Girl, Little Deuce Coupe, Shut Down, Vol. 2, All Summer Long and Concert.