The Beach Boys
The classic line-up of The Beach Boys. From left to right: Dennis Wilson
, Carl Wilson, Mike Love (top), Bruce Johnston (bottom), Al Jardine, and Brian Wilson
were America's pre-eminent rock band in the Sixties
. They are often regarded as America's main rival to The Beatles
. Contrary to what one might expect, The Beach Boys have one of the longest and most fascinating stories of any band in recent history. Before the band even got started professionally, they had been singing together for years, occasionally playing at school functions under various names such as Carl And The Passions (later the title of one of their albums). They got their actual start basically out of Brian Wilson's home; one labour day week-end in 1961; the Wilson brothers' parents went on a business trip to Mexico, and while they were gone, they recorded their first song, "Surfin'" (Turns up on the album Surfin' Safari
in 1962), in the music room (converted from the garage). After that hit the local radio and was a small national hit, they signed to Capitol Records in 1962 and quickly climbed the charts as the premier Surf Rock
band of the nation. They are often credited for popularizing the California culture throughout the country.
However, the stress of touring and the competition from The Beatles
led to Brian Wilson suffering a nervous breakdown and retiring from touring. While the rest of the band toured (with first Glen Campbell and then Bruce Johnston taking Brian's place), Brian stayed home writing and making use of the studio talents of The Wrecking Crew, leading to such classics as "Please Let Me Wonder" (from The Beach Boys Today!
), "Help Me, Rhonda" and "California Girls" (Both from Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!)
). This eventually lead to what some critics call the greatest rock/pop album of all time: Pet Sounds
, which brought a whole new depth to the music, with advanced production techniques and powerful lyrics on such subjects as loneliness, youthful longing, self-isolation, and the power of wordless communication. Paul McCartney
has said that Pet Sounds
was a major influence on The Beatles
' own landmark album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
. (Not coincidentally, if a critic doesn't
call Sgt. Pepper
the greatest rock/pop album in history, he or she probably thinks it's Pet Sounds
From there, however, the story becomes a long, tragic string of misfortunes. After Pet Sounds
was released, Brian Wilson intended to top it with a revolutionary new album called SMiLE
. However, pressure from Capitol to actually deliver the album, his ailing psyche and his escalating drug abuse combined with a royalty lawsuit and
Brian's confidence being destroyed by the relative commercial failure of "Heroes And Villains" led to the album's cancellation in 1967. The band instead released Smiley Smile
, which combined what the rest of the band felt were the stronger SMiLE
tracks with some new, supposedly more commercial material (as opposed to the "weird" SMiLE
songs). That album was, as Carl Wilson later described it, "a bunt instead of a grand slam", and the band's popularity plummeted in the U.S. (although they remained huge elsewhere, especially Europe).
During this time, Brian receded into the background, pushing the rest of the band to begin writing songs in his absence. In 1969, the Wilson brothers' domineering father Murry Wilson sold their entire song catalogue for a paltry sum of $750,000 (a catalogue which is estimated to be worth at least $75 million today). Despite a run of artistically brilliant albums right up to their 1973 album Holland
, and line-up changes (Bruce Johnston leaving in 1972, with Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar of the Flames joining for a few years), they were considered passť in their home country.
Things started to look up in 1974 when Capitol Records released a Greatest Hits Album
, Endless Summer
, which not only eventually went triple platinum and restored the band's commercial fares in the US, but also propelled them back into cultural relevance. They decided to start recording again and attempted to lure Brian Wilson back into the studio with them. During this time, Brian was being subjected to therapy under the control of Dr. Eugene Landy. Through his unconventional therapy, he was able to make Brian slightly healthier and willing to work with the group again. He produced two albums, 15 Big Ones
and Love You
under this deal, and also re-appeared on stage with the band. But looking back, it's clear that Brian wasn't really well enough to do that sort of thing again, and he started slipping back into his former habits. Mike Love took over leadership of the band at this point, which many regard as the point at which the band jumped the shark
, though he wasn't really in charge in the studio until the late-80's. By the end of 1978, Bruce Johnston was back permanently.
During the times Brian Wilson was for the most part out of the picture, the rest of the band generally wrote songs in his place. They each created very memorable, beautiful music, with Dennis Wilson releasing his solo album, Pacific Ocean Blue
in 1977, which is now generally regarded as the best solo album to be released by a member of The Beach Boys. However, Dennis was also prone to alcoholism and self-destructive behaviour, and he died in 1983, diving into the water at the Marina del Rey to search for personal effects he had thrown off of his beloved yacht, the Harmony
, drowning. At President Ronald Reagan
's request, he became one of few civilians to be given a burial at sea.
The Beach Boys basically coasted along for the rest of the 80's and 90's, their only major blip on the radar being the 1988 hit "Kokomo". As Brian Wilson was at his worst (weighing over 325 pounds), he was subjected to Landy again in 1982, and for the next 10 years, Landy would not only treat Brian's illness in extreme and questionable ways, but also fully integrate himself into his business and musical affairs, isolate Brian from his friends and family, and leech thousands of dollars off of him year after year. A court case in 1991 was successful in separating Landy from Brian. He recovered substantially, and in 1996, he was persuaded to briefly rejoin The Beach Boys as a producer. Though things started off well with brilliant songs like "Soul Searchin'" and "You're Still A Mystery", at the end they decided to create the ill-conceived Stars and Stripes Vol. 1
, a patchy album album of Beach Boys covers sung by country artists. Any chance of a reunion that actually counted for something was cut short by Carl Wilson's death from lung and brain cancer in 1998.
For much of the rest of the time, the surviving Beach Boys splintered into three units: The Beach Boys, which is essentially Mike Love & Bruce Johnston, who tour with the official sanction of Brother Records Inc.; Brian Wilson, who tours with a based round LA powerpop combo Wondermints and continues to record excellent music with them, including, at long last, his dream project Smile
in 2004; and Al Jardine, who left the splintered remains of the original group after Carl's death and now tours with his son and an assortment of former Beach Boys sidemen known as Al Jardine's Endless Summer Band.
In 2012, on the 50th anniversary of the band's first album, Surfin' Safari
, the unexpected happened: a full reunion of the surviving Beach Boys
, featuring Mike Love, Brian Wilson, Bruce Johnston, Al Jardine and David Marks, took place for a 50th Anniversary world tour and the recording of a new studio album, co-produced by Love and a rejuvenated Brian Wilson. At the end of the tour, Brian, Al and David went their separate ways again, with Al and David (as well as Blondie Chaplin) contributing to Brian's upcoming album and his recent solo tours.
Numerous artists have cited them as a major influence, including Animal Collective
, The Ramones
, Alice Cooper
, Elton John
, The Flaming Lips
, basically the entire indie rock genre, and The Beatles
Principal Members (Founding members in bold, current members in italic):
- Benjamin Baldwin (Bruce Johnston) - lead vocals, bass, piano, organ, celeste, moog bass, mandolin, keyboard (1965-1972, 1978-Present)
- Terence "Blondie" Chaplin - lead vocals, guitar, bass (1972-1973)
- Ricky Fataar - lead vocals, drums, guitar, flute (1972-1974)
- Al Jardine - lead vocals, guitar, bass, tambourine, sound effects, synthesizer, percussion, banjo, whistle (1961-1962, 1963-1998, 2011-2012, 2014)
- Mike Love - lead vocals, saxophone, percussion, tambourine, electro-theremin (1961-Present)
- David Marks - guitar, backing and lead vocals (1962-1963, 1997-1999, 2011-2012, 2014)
- Brian Wilson - lead vocals, piano, keyboard, organ, bass, celeste, glockenspiel, harpsichord, marimba, timpani, dog whistle, train whistle, sound effects, chamberlin, rocksichord, harmonium, snare drum, percussion, harmonica, drums, moog bass, arpeggiator, chimes, bells (1961-1996, 2011-2012)
- Carl Wilson - lead vocals, guitar, bass, percussion, synthesizer, harpsichord, organ, drums, tambourine, percussion, harp (1961-1981, 1982-1998, died 1998)
- Dennis Wilson - lead vocals, drums, percussion, guitar, tambourine, organ, piano, synthesizer, vibraphone (1961-1983, died 1983)
- 1964 - Beach Boys Concert
- 1970 - Live In London note
- 1973 - The Beach Boys In Concert
- 1976 - Beach Boys '69 note
- 2002 - Good Timin': Live At Knebworth, England 1980
- 2006 - Songs From Here & Back note
- 2013 - Live - The 50th Anniversary Tour
- 2014 - Live In Sacramento 1964
- 1961 - "Surfin" note / "Luau"
- 1963 - "Little Saint Nick" note / "The Lord's Prayer"
- 1965 - "The Little Girl I Once Knew" / "There's No Other (Like My Baby)" note
- 1967 - "Heroes And Villains" note / "You're Welcome"
- 1969 - "Break Away" / "Celebrate The News"
- 1974 - "Child Of Winter" / "Susie Cincinnati" note
- 1979 - "It's A Beautiful Day" / "Sumahama" note
- 1981 - "The Beach Boys Medley" note / "God Only Knows" note
- 1984 - "East Meets West" note / "Rhapsody" note
- 1985 - "Getcha Back" note / "Male Ego" note
- 1986 - "Rock And Roll To The Rescue" / "Good Vibrations" note
- 1986 - "California Dreamin'" / "Lady Liberty" note
- 1987 - "Happy Endings" note / "California Girls" note
- 1990 - "Problem Child" / "Problem Child" note
- Abusive Parents: Murry Wilson.
- The Ace: In particular, Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks.
- Age Progression Song: "When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)".
- Album Filler:
- The band's early albums suffered from an over-abundance of this; American LPs in those days generally consisted of two or three popular singles surrounded by whatever other songs the band had lying around. It wasn't until The Beatles released Rubber Soul that Brian realized that albums should be cohesive units with well-crafted music from start to finish.
- He was amazed and excited at an album that was "all good stuff!" To be fair, very few pop artists had even attempted such a thing at the time (1965), although the Beatles had arguably already managed one with A Hard Days Night.
- All Drummers Are Animals: Dennis Wilson was known affectionately as a "clubber". During a performance of "I Get Around" at the T.A.M.I. Show, Dennis even shattered a drumstick mid-song. However, beyond this reputation, his skills never really advanced beyond the level of playing basic beats, which meant that on their most famous albums, Brian had Dennis sidelined and hired veteran session drummers Hal Blaine and/or Jim Gordon to play the drums on the majority of the songs instead.
- Anti-Love Song: Several, with "Here Today" being an especially poignant example.
- Artifact Title: Shut Down Volume 2. The first Shut Down was not a Beach Boys album, but a multi-artist compilation of car-themed songs that Capitol had released the year before (although it did include the group's "409" and "Shut Down").
- Ascended Extra: Bruce Johnston quickly went from being a fill-in on tours to full-fledged band member. While he joined the group in 1965, pre-existing record-label contracts delayed his Promotion to Album Sleeves until 1967's Wild Honey.
- Badass Beard: Pretty much the whole band of the 1975-1978 line-up.Dennis◊ and Carl◊ in particular had stand-out beards.
- Mike Love (on the cover of Pet Sounds) was arguably the first major rock figure to publicly sport a beard.
- Band of Relatives: The band featured the three Wilson brothers and cousin Mike Love.
- Baroque Pop: Particularly during the Pet Sounds and SMiLE era
- Big Eater: Brian Wilson ballooned to over 300 pounds during the nadir of his mental illness. Staying in bed all day didn't help either.
- Biopic: Two of 'em: Summer Dreams, a cheap, exploitative nightmare of a poorly-cast inaccuracyfest, and An American Family, a high-budget two-parter that starts out promising but goes downhill the moment they make Van Dyke Parks◊'s hair strawberry blond.
- Now they're making a third one entitled Love And Mercy, with Paul Dano and John Cusack as the younger and older forms of Brian.
- Breakup Song: Among others, "The Warmth Of The Sun", "Wendy", "Caroline No".
- Car Song: A staple of their early work, including an entire Filler album of car songs in 1963, Little Deuce Coupe.
- Christmas Songs:
- The Beach Boys' Christmas Album, released at the height of the group's popularity in 1964, was a huge success, featuring one side of original compositions (including the classic hit "Little Saint Nick") and a side of Christmas standards performed In the Style of... Brian's idols The Four Freshmen (complete with orchestral backing by that group's arranger, Dick Reynolds). Probably the most popular "rock and roll" Christmas album after Elvis Presley's and Phil Spector's.
- Conversely, the 1977 Christmas LP was so incredibly bad that their label refused to release it. (Seriously... nothing says Christmas like a cover of "Seasons In The Sun", the classic one-hit-wonder about death by cancer.) Several of its songs were eventually issued on the Ultimate Christmas compilation, however.
- Not to mention the one-off 1974 single "Child Of Winter (Christmas Song)", which was also included on the Ultimate Christmas compilation.
- There was one solo Christmas albums as well, by Brian Wilson (What I Really Want for Christmas).
"I thought Brian was a perfect gentleman, apart from buttering his head and trying to put it between two slices of bread."
- He also wrote some of his greatest songs in an indoor sandbox with a grand piano in the middle. The 'sandbox' quickly became a litter pan for his dogs, Banana and Louie.
- He let his studio band wear fire helmets and nearly lit up a studio for inspiration. When a nearby house burned down, he was convinced he channelled some "bad vibrations".
- Concept Album:
- While most of the band's early work concerns the great themes of Surfing, Cars and Girls, Surfer Girl in particular could be considered a concept album, as seven of its 12 songs are about surfing. Five of them even have "Surfer" in the title.
- Little Deuce Coupe was definitely a concept album, even if by today's standards it would be considered a compilation. Almost all the tracks are about cars, specifically hot rods. Some of the songs on the album were recorded especially for it, and to get it out faster they included some older ones about cars on it as well. The essay on the back basically admits that the band were cashing in on a trend.
- SMiLE was meant to be a concept album based around a number of ideas, including Americana, progression of maturity, and the Earthly elements. Brian's 2004 remake and the band's 2011 release of it both neatly divide these ideas into three clear 'movements.'
- Pet Sounds is often considered a concept album as well, although it's not clear whether Brian intended it as one.
- Cover Album: Beach Boys' Party!, recorded and released very quickly in order to buy Brian Wilson more time to create Pet Sounds. Stars And Stripes is technically one also.
- The Cover Changes The Gender: "Then I Kissed Her", a Perspective Flip cover of The Crystals' "Then He Kissed Me".
- Darker and Edgier: Their Cover Version of "California Dreamin'". The original by The Mamas And The Papas is a a wistful, melancholy ballad. The cover is a jangly, driving, apocalyptic rocker that sounds not unlike "Gimme Shelter".
- Demoted to Extra: After the SMiLE sessions ground to a halt, Brian Wilson's role in the band diminished significantly, though he did manage to pitch in a few great songs on each album (many of them leftover SMiLE songs, in fact). His mental illness certainly didn't help.
- Determinator: To some extent, Mike Love, for his abject refusal to stop touring or let the Beach Boys name die (for better or worse).
- The band itself, for sticking together during ordeals that most lesser bands would've broken up like angry lovers over.
- Drive-In Theater: "Drive-In".
- Earn Your Happy Ending: SMiLE finally becoming a reality as a Brian Wilson solo album in 2004, and then being released as a Beach Boys album in 2011.
- Evil Sounds Deep: Mike Love has one of the most vibrant bass voices you'll ever hear in your life.
- Fake-Out Fade-Out: The Beach Boys Today! version of "Help Me Rhonda" did this at least three times. Little wonder it was the reworked Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) version which hit #1 rather than this one.
- Also "Heroes And Villains", which had so many false endings that one British DJ called it "the disc-jockeys' nightmare".
- Additionally, "The Little Girl I Once Knew" has sudden stops and patches of silence between its verses, limiting its radio play, and robbing the song of hit-status.
- Football Fight Song: "Be True To Your School".
- Forgotten Theme Tune Lyrics: They performed the title song of the obscure 1964-65 sitcom Karen, and backed up Annette Funicello for the theme to the 1965 Disney live-action comedy The Monkey's Uncle.
- Garfunkel: Surprisingly averted; every band member bar David Marks had something to contribute in terms of writing. Even the widely reviled Mike Love wrote a good majority of the band's lyrics, and Al Jardine, widely regarded as a hanger on, was instrumental in the creation of "Sloop John B". Not to mention both of them wrote some of the best material on the band's 1973 opus Holland.
- Gentle Giant: Brian Wilson's friggin' tall, somewhere between 6'2 and 6'3.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: The fade-out to "All I Want To Do" from 20/20 contains the sounds of a woman in the throes of passion buried deep in the mix.
- Greatest Hits Album: The band's music has been packaged and repackaged many times over the years. Endless Summer (1974), coming at the tail end of the band's glory days, was the first compilation of note. Of collections currently available, the most comprehensive single disc set is probably Sounds Of Summer: The Very Best Of The Beach Boys. However, if you've got a little more money to spend, the four-disc box set Good Vibrations: Thirty Years Of The Beach Boys (1993) or the six-disc Made In California (2013) are treasure troves of wonderful music.
- Green Aesop: "Don't Go Near The Water" and "A Day In The Life Of A Tree" from Surf's Up.
- Handicapped Badass / Deaf Composer: Brian, aside from his mental illness, was deaf in one ear, due to the ear fluid running out (sources differ as to how; one nefarious rumour involves Murry hitting Brian as a baby). He went on to produce and arrange the band's music with only one functional ear. For this reason, and Brian's admiration of Phil Spector, Brian released many of the band's albums in mono.
- Having a Gay Old Time: The thongs in "All Summer Long" refer to sandals.
- References to a "woody" (as in the bridge to "Surfer Girl") referred to a souped up station wagon with wood panelling, as seen on the Surfin' Safari album cover, where surfers drove to the beach carrying their surfboards.
- "When she makes love to me" in "Don't Worry Baby".
- "Remember when you spilled Coke all over your blouse" from "All Summer Long" takes on a different dimension if you're familiar with the drug problems all three Wilson brothers had over the years.
- I Am the Band: Brian was this until the SMiLE era, while Mike Love has had this role since roughly 1978.
- In the Style of...: "Girl Don't Tell Me" sounds very much like The Beatles' song "Ticket To Ride." It's likely that the former, which was recorded on April 30, 1965, was influenced by the latter, which had been released on April 9 of that year.
- "You're So Good To Me" sounds a lot like a Frankie Valli And The Four Seasons song.
- "Surfin' U.S.A." came so close to a Chuck Berry tune (specifically, "Sweet Little Sixteen") that Chuck sued the Boys.
- As mentioned above, the second half of their 1964 Christmas album is done in the style of The Four Freshmen.
- In Name Only: The unit calling itself the Beach Boys through most of The Noughties until 2011. Despite being advertised with an out-of-date band photo (including Brian and the deceased Carl), only Mike Love and Bruce Johnston appeared from the original band.
- According to The Other Wiki, Summer In Paradise had minimum contributions (mostly or entirely vocal) from Carl Wilson or Al Jardine (and, of course, none at all by Brian Wilson, who was in litigation to remove himself from Dr. Eugene Landy's services). The album was entirely driven by Mike Love, Bruce Johnston and Terry Melcher on an early version of Pro Tools digital recording software, and the bass and drums were entirely synthesized.
- Incredibly Long Note: Mike Love has taken to introducing "Be True To Your School" with one of these at concerts in recent years. Examples here.
- Instrumentals: "Summer Means New Love", "Let's Go Away for Awhile", "Pet Sounds", "Fall Breaks and Back to Winter", "Diamond Head", "The Nearest Faraway Place", etc.
- Not to mention the cover versions of various surf-rock instrumentals on their first couple albums.
- Intercourse with You: "All I Want To Do". Granted, it is a Dennis Wilson song:
Well, I don't care where you wanna go
Just so you go with me
And I don't care what you wanna do
But make sure you do it with me
All I wanna do with you
Well, I just wanna make-a some love to you
- Sad irony, but still... The only founding member of the band who could actually surf was the one who drowned.
- For a band called The Beach Boys, whose public image is largely based around surfing, the band really didn't sing about surfing that much. Out of the 60 or so songs they released in the '60s as singles, only five of them mentioned surfing at all. This means that only about 8% of their most well-known singles had anything to do with surfing.
- Jerkass: Murry Wilson, the alcoholic contract swindling child abuser. Once Joe Jackson dies, they'll probably make good drinking buddies in Hell.
- Large Ham: Ever seen Mike Love at one of their live shows?
- Last Chorus Slow Down: "Wouldn't It Be Nice?".
- Long Runner: One of the longest-running bands, having been formed in 1961 and still going into the present day.
- Lyrical Dissonance: Most of the songs on Pet Sounds are euphoric, beautiful songs about loneliness, self-isolation, paranoia, and heartbreak.
- "Heroes And Villains" is a catchy and tuneful song... about gang warfare, particularly the protagonist's wife's accidental death in same.
- Mad Artist: Charles Manson: cult leader, serial murder, political insurgent, and writer of the Beach Boys' song "Never Learn Not To Love." The band was rattled when Manson threatened to murder Dennis Wilson for changing a line in the song's lyrics, and even more so when evidence of Manson's gruesome crimes later came to light.
- Man of a Thousand Voices: In his prime, Brian Wilson could basically make his voice do whatever he wanted. His vocal range was so huge that he could've very well ditched his band mates and recorded all the vocal parts himself if he wanted. Here's some proof.
- Carl Wilson wasn't limited either. He could go freely from an airy tenor/falsetto to a resonant baritone, even in his later years.
- May-December Romance: To put it delicately. Brian Wilson met and married his first wife Marilyn when he was 20 and she was 14, and Dennis Wilson married a girl roughly the same age when he was close to his 40's. The fact that said girl, Shawn Love Wilson, was his cousin Mike Love's illegitimate daughter doesn't help.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Generally 1-3, with some songs like "It's About Time", "Student Demonstration Time" and "All I Want To Do" hitting 5.
- Mythology Gag: Used a few times with the names of the band's albums:
- 20/20 partially gets its name due to being the 20th overall album the band had released for Capitol at that point, as well as being the final album the band would release for them before their departure for Reprise Records.
- Carl And The Passions - "So Tough" partially gets its name from one of the bands Carl Wilson had formed in school prior to The Beach Boys
- 15 Big Ones, while partially a reference to the number of songs on the album, was also a reference to how many years the band had been together by that point.
- The very first incarnation of what became the Sunflower album allegedly bore the tongue-in-cheek title of The Fading Rock Group Revival.
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: SMiLE defies pigeon-holing. Not only does the whole thing sound nothing like any music that came before or after, each individual song sounds wildly different from the one that came before it.
- Just to give an idea of this variety, the first three subsections (talking about songs in SMiLE doesn't really demonstrate its cyclical and interconnected nature) of its first movement (and that comprise only the first seven minutes of the album) are:
- "Our Prayer", a hymn / prayer sung in the style of classical music choirs;
- "Gee", a cover of a doo-wop song by The Crows;
- "Heroes And Villains", a nearly indescribable mix of faux-opera, symphonic arrangements, Gershwin, Spector, Americana folk , comedy songs, doo-wop, scatting and many others contextualized in an old-timey cowboys and indians setting.
- New Sound Album: Carl And The Passions - "So Tough". Does not sound like The Beach Boys at all.
- Nonindicative Name: "Surf's Up" - Whatever the song's about, it sure as hell ain't surfin'. note
- Why does their discography contain an album called Shut Down Volume 2, but no Shut Down Volume 1? Because the original Shut Down wasn't a Beach Boys album at all, but a various artists compilation... Albeit one that included some Beach Boys songs.
- Not Christian Rock: "God Only Knows" certainly isn't Christian music, but it was the first popular song to have the word "God" in the title.
- Power Trio: Brian Wilson being the id, Mike Love being the superego, and Carl Wilson (more often than not) being the ego.
- Pun-Based Title: "Roll Plymouth Rock", from the SMiLE project. Its original working title ("Do You Dig Worms?") may be an even better example.
- Race Fetish: Or Region Fetish, anyway; "California Girls" is all about "the girls from state X are attractive in this way, while the girls from state Y are attractive in that way instead".
- Reality Is Unrealistic: A lot of the facts about the Beach Boys's history are so out-there that one might not believe them if they were told. For example:
- The fact that Dennis Wilson was once friends with Charles Manson, and in fact stole a song from him (Justified, if you know the full circumstances of the story).
- The fact that Brian Wilson once owned a health food store called The Radiant Radish.
- The fact that country music star Glen Campbell started off playing session guitar for their records, as well as briefly taking Brian's place on tour.
- The fact that Paul McCartney himself walked in on a SMiLE session and contributed the sound of him chomping on celery.
- The fact that Dennis Wilson co-wrote the song "You Are So Beautiful" at a party with Billy Preston, but never took credit for it.
- Record Producer: By the time of the group's third album, 1963's Surfer Girl, Brian was in command of the studio sessions, and by '65, he had mastered the lavish, Phil Spector-type production technique that defined their classic sound.
- Bruce Johnston once described him producing as a cross between Sergei Rachmaninoff and George S. Patton.
- Even on their first two albums, the nominal producer, Nick Venet, has been open about the fact that his role was pretty much just to tell the engineer to do what Brian Wilson wanted.
- Revolving Door Band: The only consistent member of The Beach Boys has been Mike Love, having been a member throughout their entire history. Bruce Johnston would come second, being a member from 1965 to 1972, and again from 1978 onwards. The longest running core line-ups would be Mike and Bruce from 1999 to 2011 and 2012 onwards, and the classic Brian/Dennis/Carl/Mike/Al/Bruce line-up of 1965-1972 and 1978-1983.
- Sarcastic Title: "Surf's Up" was given its name to jokingly contrast it with the Surf Rock material the band had long moved past by that point.
- Self-Backing Vocalist: Brian Wilson did this on a couple of Pet Sounds songs ("I'm Waiting For The Day" and "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times"), when the rest of the band wasn't up to par.
- Self-Titled Album: Their 1985 album.
- Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: Dennis Wilson, full tilt.
- She Is All Grown Up: "The Little Girl I Once Know".
- Single Stanza Song: "Whistle In". Supposedly based on an idea that occurred to Brian that kept on repeating in his head:
Remember the day, day / remember the night, night / all day long / Whistle in
- Sixth Ranger: Bruce Johnston, officially. Though David Marks also qualifies.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Really, the entire story of Brian Wilson vs. Mike Love can be boiled down to this, as Brian's desire to create moving, spiritual music clashed with Mike's attitude of "don't fuck with the formula". note
- Solo Side Project: Dennis Wilson was the first of the classic 6-man line-up to release a solo album, with the lost classic Pacific Ocean Blue in 1977, which is still held in high regard. He attempted to create a second solo album, called Bambu, but as Dennis's personal life was going downhill, the album was never completed by the time he drowned in 1983.
- Brian, Carl and Mike have each also released solo albums while still being in the band. Brian with his self-titled debut album, Carl with his self-titled debut and Youngblood and Mike with Looking Back With Love.
- Soprano and Gravel: Variation: Mike Love's nasal growl alternating with Brian Wilson's soaring falsetto.
- Special Guest: Dean Torrance (of Jan And Dean fame) contributed lead vocals for "Barbara Ann" on the Beach Boys' Party!! album.
- Before that, Brian Wilson contributed harmony vocals to the Jan and Dean record "Surf City" (which he wrote).
- Step Up to the Microphone: David Marks never sang lead on a Beach Boys song (aside from a duet on "Summertime Blues" with Carl), but he sang lead live on "Getcha Back" and songs such as "Hawaii" and "Don't Back Down" (All originally sung by Mike).
- The band's then-manager Jack Rieley recounted that he was "tricked" by Brian into singing "A Day In The Life Of A Tree" (Brian demanded Jack help him convey the appropriate feeling, and spontaneously informed him after a take that he had done the final lead vocal), with Van Dyke Parks providing backing vocals and accordion. In fact, Al Jardine is the only actual Beach Boy providing backing vocals on the song.
- Blondie Chaplin sings lead on "Sail On, Sailor".
- Stop and Go: "The Little Girl I Once Knew" did this not once but twice, which almost certainly hurt the song's performance on the singles chart. Radio programmers were loath to play it due to its moments of dead air.
- Surfer Dude: Practically invented this trope, but ironically, nobody in the band except Dennis and Bruce actually surfed.
- Surf Rock: Probably the artist most associated with the sub-genre — even though their sound is more Chuck Berry/Phil Spector meets the Four Freshmen than Dick Dale. Not to mention less than 10 percent of their entire discography being surf music.
- The Svengali: As detailed above, Eugene Landy, Brian Wilson's therapist from the 70's to the late 90's.
- Theremin: "Good Vibrations" very famously uses one.
- Three Chords and the Truth: Wild Honey reflected a back-to-basics approach after the downfall of SMiLE. It's been said that Wild Honey was one of the first deliberate invocations of this trope by a major band, before Let It Be or Beggars Banquet.
- Vapor Ware: SMiLE, one of the earliest examples. Which became a Crowning Moment of Awesome when Brian Wilson re-recorded and released it in 2004, becoming one of the most critically-acclaimed albums of that decade.
- Vocal Tag Team
- Welcome to the Caribbean, Mon!: "Kokomo".
- Word Salad Lyrics:
- Van Dyke Parks, on the SMiLE album. At one point, Mike Love asked him what the line "columnated ruins domino" meant, and Parks admitted he had no idea.
- Also Jack Rieley, the band's manager who co-wrote several tracks on Surf's Up. Here's a sample from "Feel Flows":
Encasing all embracing wreath of repose
Engulfs all the senses
Imposing, unclosing thoughts that compose
Retire the fences
Whether wholly heartened life fades away
Whether harps heal the memory
Whether wholly heartened life fades away Whether wondrous will
stands tall at my side Whether whiteness whisks
soft shadows away