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Documentary: The Beach Boys


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The Beach Boys
For those growing up in the U.S. in the early 1960s, no other group better expressed the essence of summer than the Beach Boys. Their music and the smell of Coppertone suntan lotion still takes me back. Surf rock pre-dated the group, having been launched in 1960 by the Ventures' Walk—Don't Run. A surge of surf bands followed in 1961 that included the Bel-Airs, Dick Dale and the Del-Tones, the Carnations and Steve Rowe and the Furys.

After the Beach Boys signed with Capitol in late 1962, they recorded Surfin' USA and Shut Down on the flip side in early '63. The A-side reached No. 3 on the Billboard pop chart. What followed by the vocal harmony pop-rock band were singles that paid tribute to the Pacific coast and the California suburbs. Songs centered on fast cars, surf, high school and going steady. But the Beach Boys didn't single-handedly drive the national surf phenomenon. They had help.

In the summer of 1963, the film Beach Party was released in theaters. The movie starred Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello and blended silliness and sexuality, starting the beach-party film craze that would last until 1968. The country went beach and bikini crazy. The Beach Boys and beach-party films fed off each other, transforming Southern California into a region of teenage bliss. Every American pre-teen and teen in the early 1960s thought of the Los Angeles region as a technicolor dreamworld fueled by cheap gas, great looking guys and girls, and eternally sunny weather. TV sitcoms, magazines and album covers quickly picked up on this adolescent hot button.

By the end of ’63, the Beach Boys were the country’s first major surf-rock vocal band, and their possibilities were endless. That is, until the landing of Pan American World Airways' Flight 101 in New York in February 1964. The Beatles had arrived. If the Fab Four rocked your world, imagine how they freaked out American pop-rock musicians, many of whom felt instantly inadequate in the talent and charisma departments, the Beach Boys among them.

Here's a terrific BBC documentary on the Beach Boys...

And here's the entire Little Deuce Coup album in tracks...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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