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The History of The Beach Boys

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Formed in Hawthorne, California in 1961, The Beach Boys were formed after 3 brothers, their cousin and high school friend started making music together. They hit it big with their fun, happy-go-lucky surf rock songs in the 1960s. Despite personal problems, The Beach Boys kept experimenting throughout the years but failed to capture the same level of popularity they had in the past. Despite this, they remain one of the most successful bands in history and are still releasing new music today. In this video, we take a look at the history of The Beach Boys.

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They’re America’s Band. Welcome to and today we’re taking a look at the history of The Beach Boys.


The Beach Boys formed in Hawthorne, California in 1961. Brothers Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love and high school friend Al Jardine began performing in the late-1950s as The Pendletones. Soon, dad Murry Wilson orchestrated a Hollywood audition for the group, which prompted their first recording in 1961.

Debut Single

The Beach Boys released “Surfin’” to moderate U.S. success. Murry Wilson became band manager, and The Beach Boys started cranking out tunes.

First Taste of Success

With Brian Wilson and Love singing, Carl Wilson and Jardine on guitar and Dennis Wilson on drums, they dropped their debut Surfin’ Safari in 1962. Inspired by California sun and surf, the top 40 album was followed by the similarly-themed Surfin’ USA, which went to number two. Its title cut hit the Billboard Hot 100’s top three and made The Beach Boys stars.

Line-up Change and Top Ten on the Charts

The 1960s saw multiple line-up changes, including the brief addition of David Marks, while Bruce Johnston became a lasting member. Meanwhile, Brian became producer in addition to writing and singing, so he was replaced on tour. These changes paid off as the top ten success continued with the albums Surfer Girl and Little Deuce Coupe.

First Number Ones

Unfortunately, 1964’s British Invasion meant The Beach Boys’ next record, Shut Down Volume 2, only just made the top twenty. They recovered with All Summer Long, which charted within the top five and produced their first number one smash. Then came their first number one album, the live Beach Boys Concert LP and a popular holiday effort.


1965’s Today! showcased Brian Wilson’s creativity and studio experimentation. Within months, Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) yielded their second number one, plus one of their best-known songs. The year ended with the cover-heavy Beach Boys’ Party!

“Pet Sounds”

By 1966, the band expanded into psychedelic rock with Pet Sounds. Featuring intricate harmonies, diverse instrumentation and personal themes, the critically praised effort only reached the Billboard top ten, but later surfaced as a masterpiece of pop and rock.

“Good Vibrations”

That same year, “Good Vibrations” was the band’s third chart-topper. That standalone single resulted from the unsuccessful recording sessions between Brian and Van Dyke Parks for Smile. However, that project was cancelled due to Wilson’s drug problems, band tensions and label issues.

More Music and More Problems

Instead, The Beach Boys released the dud Smiley Smile. 1967’s Wild Honey fared slightly better, but the next year’s Friends barely made a dent. Meanwhile, as Brian’s health worsened, other members assumed writing and producing duties to release 20/20 before decade’s end.

More Changes

Changes in the early-‘70s meant a new line-up and label. Despite their experimentation with different sounds and styles, The Beach Boys albums of this period mostly failed to recapture their earlier triumphs.

Back on Top of the Charts

Things improved mid-decade: their concerts sold out and their former label released two successful best-of compilations, including the chart-topping Endless Summer. Brian Wilson featured more prominently on their next two LPs, but substance abuse and personal problems continued affecting him and other members.

Dennis Wilson’s Death

Leading into the 1980s, The Beach Boys released one lackluster effort and two Bruce Johnston-produced albums. However, tragedy struck in 1983 when Dennis Wilson drowned. The group pressed on and modernized their sound with an eponymous CD in 1985.


Three years later, The Boys were back on top with the Grammy-nominated “Kokomo” off the “Cocktail” soundtrack. Brian Wilson released his first solo album while being treated for his drug and mental problems.

Other Projects

After the group dropped their last two albums of completely new material; The Beach Boys contributed to the “Problem Child” soundtrack, made their own movie and TV appearances, collaborated with different artists, and even ventured into country pop.

Carl Wilson’s Death

Sadly, cancer took Carl Wilson in 1998. Mike Love and Bruce Johnston kept The Beach Boys’ name alive, while compilations were released and other members pursued solo projects.

<4>50th Anniversary
In 2012, the surviving Beach Boys celebrated their 50th anniversary with a world tour, and the disc That’s Why God Made the Radio.


The Beach Boys’ songs about girls, surfing and fun made them an American institution. But their talents for elaborate pop harmonies, combined with Brian Wilson’s production skills, produced some of our most enduring songs. The Beach Boys sure left us with some good vibrations, and that’s why their music will survive forever.

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