The Beach Boys

I'm a huge fan of classic rock, and music in general, listening to almost all genres from classical to jazz to rock to contemporary pop (very selectively). Don't care much for country and reggae. I've been reading in the latest issue of Stereophile about Acoustic Sounds reissuing The Beach Boys catalog, and the article compelled me to express my opinion on this forum. I'm simply completely, utterly, and overwhelmingly at a loss to understand the acclaim for this band. The fact that "Pet Sounds" is considered one of the greatest albums of all time leaves me speechless. I always considered their music a bit of a joke, good for background when you're in a beach bar in Southern California, in the same vein reggae or mariachi music are tolerable in Jamaica or Mexico, respectively, when one's on vacation. I then heard about them being compared to The Beatles and have been confused ever since. Perhaps a comparison to The Beatles early songs as they were evolving as musicians and songwriters would make sense, but comparing the genius of The Beatles to the "genius" of Brian Wilson is just preposterous, in my opinion.

I would like to hear from those who like or love The Beach Boys what it is about their music that they think warrants the acclaim and their presence in the upper echelon of music. I realize my post may generate quite a bit of controversy and angry responses, but I don't mean to offend or put down anyone's musical tastes. I'm posting as a music lover who is truly perplexed. 

Two sayings come to mind ... the first is 'I guess you had to be there' and the second would be 'either you get it or you don't.'  Leaving it at that though, would be dismissive and that would not be my intention.

The comments that you have made about the Beach Boys, others have made on this site about the Beatles and Elvis Presley.  Though whether it is the Beach Boys or any other musical act that is the subject of the acclaim, I believe that is essential to place the musical act in its historic context.  

When the Beach Boys first charted a Cash Box Top Single (1963) with 'Surfin' U.S.A.' (#16), we should look at the state of pop music as represented by the Top 5 singles for that year:  1) Limbo Rock (Chubby Checker), 2) Go Away Little Girl (Steve Lawrence), 3) End of the World (Skeeter Davis), 4) Blue Velvet (Bobby Vinton) and 5) Telstar (Tornadoes).  The Beach Boys were making different music ... music 'realized in energetic melodies, cheerful repetitions, and magical harmonies' which captured early sixties California life.  And that was the formula for the group's first dozen or so albums.   

With Pet Sounds, the move was away from fast cars and California girls to an exploration of the mind.  Drugs and psychedelia were just down the highway in San Francisco.  It may help to view Pet Sounds as a symphony with complex orchestrations.  Songs like 'Wouldn't It be Nice' and 'God Only Knows' and 'Caroline, No' and 'Don't Cry, Put Your Head on My Shoulder' ... are not only a break from the commercial formula that the Beach Boys had been following, but arguably stand heads and shoulders above what any other group was doing at the same time both musically and lyrically.  This music was possibly the equal to what the Beatles were creating with 'Yesterday' and 'Eleanor Rigby'.  It certainly holds together 50 years later.    

I was 9 years old and a Brooklyn-ite at the time when all this was going down in 1966 and I can tell you that the Beach Boys were as important to the musical culture as the Beatles, Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, and the Rolling Stones were.  Hendrix and Cream and Woodstock and Altamont and the loss of innocence were yet to happen.  

I am a major fan of 'Pet Sounds' and it is not because of nostalgia.  I invite you to listen to the album and listen closely and listen several times and listen to the album as a single piece of music and then judge.  Use real headphones, not $5 buds.  Get the SACD version. If you don't get the beauty and magnificence of both the structure and execution of the songs ... you don't get it.  Certainly no crime.  It doesn't mean that it is not there though.  

Credit to Lillian Roxon's 'Rock Encyclopedia' (1969) for the Cash Box statistics, as well as help in organizing my thoughts.  


Well said, Rich!
I agree with Rich, listen several times closely to Pet Sounds. There is really so much to hear in those very original arrangements that still hold well today. If you still don't get it, that's ok too. There are many BB fans that certainly don't hold this album in as high regard as some of us always have and will.

Rich said a lot, the most important being that if one doesn’t hear "it", then one doesn’t hear it. Two who DID hear it in the music of Brian Wilson were Paul McCartney and Leonard Bernstein. Paul proclaimed Pet Sounds the best album ever made at the time of it’s 1966 release, and was his inspiration for Rubber Soul---an album with no filler songs. If a listener doesn’t hear something very, very special in "God Only Knows"  (which I consider the "best" song I have ever heard), I am at a complete loss as to what to say to that listener. Bernstein made "Surfs Up" (a song to be included in the then-upcoming Beach Boys album Smile; the album was ultimately shelved, and remained unreleased for four and a half decades! Smile acquired legendary status over the years, and was eventually released as a 6-CD boxset. The complete album was also performed live in a single performance at London’s Royal Albert Hall, people coming from all over the world to hear it. Paul was there.) the centerpiece of his 1967 television special on the then emerging newly sophisticated music from the Pop/Rock field. The special included a film of Wilson playing the song unaccompanied on the grand piano in his living room. You may want to see it, and in fact the whole special.

There is video on YouTube of a music professor sitting at a piano, breaking down "God Only Knows", explaining and demonstrating the extremely sophisticated compositional skill it’s writing required and reveals. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean the song will therefore be liked by all who hear it, but the video may help those who don’t particularly like the song (how that can possibly be the case is a complete mystery to me, but...) to understand and appreciate why others do. I truly feel sorry for anyone not utterly devastated by "God Only Knows". It’s an absolute masterpiece.

From a pop songwriting standpoint, I'd argue that one great challenge of the '60s was merging traditional western song craft with "pure" rock n roll (read Chuck Berry, for short).  Early Rock n Roll almost entirely eliminated the single most essential element of Western music (harmony) and featured only rhythmic drive and melodic energy.  The result was a very idiosynchratic art form with limited commercial potential for mass audiences.

You can make a fair case that Brian Wilson - more than anyone else - pioneered the fusion of then new rock n roll with the more traditional (and captivating) harmonies that most people want in their music.  Chuck Berry famously sued them for appropriating his songs and won.  Yet, a lot of folks who hear Chuck Berry as pure Rock n Roll would describe The Beach Boys as pure pop.  Therein, IMO, lies the great genius of Brian Wilson.

This (per their own telling) hybridization spurred Lennon/Macca and either created the greatest band in Rock n Roll or hopelessly diluted Rock n Roll, depending on your personal point of view. Either way, without The Beach Boys, there are no Beatles.

As a purely separate matter, Brian Wilson has IMO produced some of the simplest, most beautiful pop music (see God Only Knows, etc) and some of the most intricately arranged, bizarrely instrumented pop/rock hybrids (see Good Vibrations) of the last fifty years.  None of this means that you need to like The Beach Boys, but I hope it goes some way towards explaining why some folks (like me) both love their music and hold them in such high esteem.

It's funny how when I was in grade school and listening to the Beatles and all of he great groups coming out of the sixties, I thought the Beach Boys made simple sing-songy music for unsophisticated tastes. They were beneath my 6th and 7th grade mentality. I just didn't get it. I neither hated them nor liked them. I just did not understand why one of my friends (and it was only one out of many) liked them so much. I thought that perhaps it was because he had bad taste in virtually everything including music.
 Finally, when I was a senior in high school in 1974, I purchased Endless Summer (because I did like "Don't Worry Baby") and listened. All of a sudden, even in the midst of my time listening to the Who, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Van Morrison, Crosby, Stills, etc--- I got it. Two albums worth of songs were virtually all unforgettable. Beautiful harmonies. Great music. Suddenly, the lack of sophistication turned into a childlike directness and innocence. If you surrendered, it also transported you right to a sunny carefree California.  I soon went about backing some of their live albums into my collection and some studio albums including Pet Sounds.
It didn't hurt that McCartney was a huge fan as I was a devoted Beatles fan.
Today, I am happy to call myself a fan. I have been purchasing some of the vinyl reissues by Analogue Productions (often in mono and stereo) including, of course, Pet Sounds. They are very nice reproductions.
I believe Uncut recently found Pet Sounds to be the greatest pop/rock album ever made. To my recollection Rolling Stone had it in the top 4 or 5. While I'm not sure it ranks that high on my personal list--it is certainly in my top 20.
I was with Actusreus until Endless Summer in 1974. It is possible to listen to the Beach Boys under the right circumstances and, all of a sudden, get it.
As someone who has never particularly been a Beach Boys fan (although I’ve certainly never disliked them), I nevertheless want to extend kudos for the excellent responses above. I would have to say that I’m now more of a fan than I was a few hours ago :-)

A tangential point that I found striking in reading Rich’s outstanding post was the discrepancy between Cashbox’s listing of 1963’s top recordings and the corresponding Billboard list, as well as with respect to how I recall the hits of 1963. The Billboard list, btw, had "Surfin’ U.S.A." as no. 2 for the year. A couple of possible explanations for that discrepancy can be inferred from the Wikipedia writeup on Cashbox. But none of that affects Rich’s underlying points, of course.

One unrelated bit of trivia I recently became aware of, that was of interest to me as a basketball fan, is that Mike Love of the Beach Boys is the uncle of Kevin Love, the star power forward who currently plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers, alongside LeBron James. Kevin’s father/Mike’s brother, Stan Love, was also an NBA player.

Thanks again. Regards,
-- Al

The Beach Boys had a vision -- "if everybody had an ocean/everybody'd be surfin'/surfin' USA".  When that song came out Kennedy was still president, riots in the cities hadn't started and although Vietnam was unfolding, it wasn't in the news.  In a few short years everything would change, but the image of young people having fun in the sun will never change.  And that's true even though Dylan wrote "The Times They are A Changin'" less than a year later.
"The fact that "Pet Sounds" is considered one of the greatest albums of all time leaves me speechless. I always considered their music a bit of a joke, good for background when you're in a beach bar in Southern California..."

The above quote would indicate to me that the OP has never heard Pet Sounds. It certainly is NOT gimmicky "beach music". The album was lushly instrumented by the famous "Wrecking Crew", who were astonished at Brian Wilson's abilities as an arranger and producer, and considered it a monumental achievement.

The rolling stone magazine 60s crowd thinks Pet Sounds is one of the greatest.  

Its a a nicely crafted milestone work.  I'd leave it at that. 
This guy Brian Wilson went from scoring a local hit with Surfin' in 1962 to cranking out Pet Sounds four years later.  How?

Pet Sounds had four hit singles on it--Wouldn't it be Nice, Sloop John B., God Only Knows and Caroline, No. Another tune, an instrumental, was written (but not used) for a James Bond film.  In between those you get amazing musical explorations of the weirdness of growing up and having relationships in the U.S. in the 50's and 60's.  You can sort of hear it coming with tunes on the previous few albums but it's still an amazing achievement for someone who did it all seat-of-the-pants in just a few years.  Whereas Burt Bacharach had deep classical training and sort of an internship (not to slight him--he made amazing music).  What Brian achieved is matched only by the Beatles' work from the same period.  And no, there's no beach music or car songs on Pet Sounds.  It's a whole other thing as opposed to the early records.  50 years later it holds its ground against all comers.  But nothing's for everybody--some folks don't like Beethoven and some don't like the Beatles.  YMMV.
FWIW, the group Papa Doo Run Run recorded the California Project which is a very "polished" collection of BB songs and IMHO is very well done.  
Thank you all for absolutely fabulous responses rather than dismissing my post outright; I enjoyed reading all of them and came out much more educated. This is truly a terrific community. 

I represent somewhat of a younger crowd on Audiogon, from my understanding, as I'm in my early 40s so perhaps my musical tastes are to a degree a function of my age. I was exposed to The Beatles as a child and have loved them ever since only expanding and deepening my musical knowledge and exposure as I grew older. From what was once an unpalatable pile of noise to me, classic jazz has become my favorite genre of music and I'm in awe every time I listen, humbled by the talent and genius of the jazz greats. Based on that experience, I now always approach music with an open mind. The Beach Boys fail to evoke the same feelings other great music does in me, but I certainly understand much more why they are held in such high esteem after reading your responses. 


I do agree "God Only Knows" is one of the most beautiful songs ever written. I just wish the rest of The BB catalog connected the same way with me. 
Another recommendation to you Actusreus, if you're into  jazz, is Antonio Carlos Jobim (Tom) the driving force of Bossa Nova from the early 60's and IMHO one of the most original pop/jazz composers of the 20th Century who collaborated with many of the jazz greats. Truly timeless music and well worth exploring if you haven't already. The catalog of his music is rich and deep. 

First, a correction: Pet Sounds was McCartney’s inspiration for not Rubber Soul, but Sgt. Pepper. I get them confused because Rubber Soul was Brian’s inspiration for Pet Sounds, Brian feeling RS was the first album ever with no filler.

To put things in context, when Pet Sounds was released, the Beach Boys had already had three low-selling albums in a row---Today, Summer Days (and Summer Nights), and Party. After their last hit album, 1964’s All Summer Long, Rock n’ Roll had begun turning into Rock, and had moved in a decidedly tougher, harder direction. Even more than the Popish Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Animals, The Yardbirds (featuring first Eric Clapton and then Jeff beck on guitar), and The Who were playing more "adult" music based on American Blues and R & B. Dylan's lyrics had completely transformed the nature of the music's lyrics, no longer being about romantic relationships, but about society, morality, hypocrisy, and values. The All-American, squeaky-clean, surf, cars, & girls teenage adolescent sound and image of the Beach Boys had become quite passe’, completely irrelevant to the about-to-emerge counter-culture. Pot had made it into the suburbs, and High School kids were adopting a cynical semi-adult attitude and posture. The Beach Boys were largely forgotten at the time Pet Sounds came out in ’66, already viewed as an Oldies act, as much so as 1950’s entertainers such as The Platters.

I didn’t know anyone who bought Pet Sounds when it was released. A new Beach Boys album? Who cares! A lot was happening at that time---a lot of new Groups, Bands, and records to keep up with. But then 1967 came around, and "Good Vibrations" was blasting out of every teenagers’ car radio. Considering how interesting that hit single was, the album it was on, Smiley Smile, needed to be heard. I was astonished when, on my Koss Pro 4AA headphones plugged into my Fisher X-100A integrated tube amp, I heard what was in the grooves of the LP being played by my Shure M44 cartridge mounted on my Garrard SL55 turntable. "Good Vibrations" was just the tip of a very weird iceberg!

Gone were the sun and fun of The Beach Boys I had seen live just three years earlier in 1964 (my first concert, one year before seeing The Beatles), replaced by a very dark, very odd, introverted creepiness. Hearing it in the dark made me feel like I had descended below ground (perhaps through a tree trunk, as did Peter Pan and the lost children), now being in a small earthen cave, dimly illuminated by candles, where none of the assembled persons spoke. The "songs" featured highly unusual chords and chord progressions (one subject discussed by Bernstein during the special, as well as Brian’s melodic and harmonic sophistication) played mostly by muted piano, harpsichord, bass, and snare drum. On top of that was surreal lyrics being almost whispered by strange hushed voices, very, very odd harmonies and lots of counter-point, primal chanting, and sound effects. It actually scared me, and still does. Very spooky, like walking into a Victorian mansion with a very musty smell at twilight, eerily quiet except for an old clock softly ticking off in the distance. It made the "experimental" Bands popular at the time seem very normal, very ordinary. I played the album for all my close friends (musicians, artists, intellectuals, weirdos), and Smiley Smile became the favorite album of the smartest people I knew---an elite club sharing a secret known only by it’s members. The album became a test for new friends; "get" the album and you were in.

Having heard Smiley Smile (though without yet knowing the whole Smile saga), it was only natural to go back and listen to Pet Sounds. Though not nearly as strange and interesting as SS, it too was a very welcome discovery. It’s songs are more formal, classically-structured Pop songs, and some real, real good ones. As much as I like them (especially "God Only Knows" of course!), I find Smile/Smiley Smile a more important/amazing album. Smile was never completed or released (Brian, as Icarus, flew too close to the Sun---via LSD etc. He had a complete mental/emotional/physical breakdown without completing the album, intended to be a musical representation of the American Manifest Destiny. Rather ambitious! His bother Carl patched together Smiley Smile for release in it’s place), but it’s bits and pieces were recently assembled into what it was to have been, and is available in a number of configurations. I find the 6-CD boxset a bit much for most people, and recommend the 2-CD version.

By the way, Brian in no way considers himself the equal of major Classical composers, though he has been called by some a genius. During the recording of Smile, he would float in his pool in the night, to relax between takes (he had a pro-quality studio installed upstairs in his Bel-Air mansion). One night he was in the pool with Carl, a Beethoven Symphony playing on his outdoor system, and as it ended turned to his brother and said "It's nice to know you're a musical midget". Compare that to the egos of most stars! I hear a fair amount of J.S. Bach in Brian's chords and progressions, but what writer DOESN'T owe a debt to him? Good ol' circle of fifths!
actusreus, if you like God Only Knows then you might check out an earlier track, The Warmth of the Sun.  Written on 11/22/63, it's a beautiful and moving song.  It might even serve as an entry way to some of the pre-Pet Sounds material.  Regardess, it's gorgeous and worth a listen.
Nice post bdp,

I discovered all of that Smile sessions material only with/after the relatively recent Smile album release and I agree with your take.  It feels like a view into a warped mind, sometimes dark, sometimes child-like, always much more interesting than most pop music.  I wouldn't have made it into your club back in the day, but I'm with you now.
Just read the discussion , Trying to listen to the digital copy i have and am reminded why i skip through the album when a song pops up while i shuffle through my library . The recording of Pet Sounds i have is painful to listen . Flat , screechy sounding . Is it just me ? Is this a sonic masterpiece on a different format or a different digital release ?
Just googled Smiley Smile . It states - Genre - Psychedelic pop , Lo-fi , Avantgarde 

Does this answer my question above about sonics ? Are there recordings Lo-FI ?
Try the (1996?) stereo re-mix.  It's more spacious, smooth, and musical to my ear.  Beyond a certain point the BB stuff was not mixed to stereo.  Brian was deaf in one ear.
What happened to Wilson is quite sad.  He started hearing voices in his head after starting in with LSD.  The voices never went away according to the movie Love and Mercy, until decades later.  

By the time the Pet Sounds project was underway, he was a drug addict, and was on his way to his first mental break down.  Offering drugs to his young children, getting totally paranoid, I aways wonder what he might have achieved without drugs and without the deaf ear as a a result of his dad's repeated ear slaps over the years.

My fave is Sloop John B.

Brian is one of the Rock n' Roll acid casualties of the 60's, some others having died fairly recently---Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd and Skip Spence of Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape. The effect LSD had on Brian can not be overstated; I would in fact say Smile was a result of it. Smile is more than a little strange, it is at times quite seriously frightening. I can completely understand why Mike Love couldn't understand it---it is like nothing the world had ever heard. I consider it a serious musical composition, more musically "valid" than many 20th Century Classical compositions. The audience at the premiere of The Rite of Spring was shocked and outraged? Smile is imo equally revolutionary and artistically ambitious.

Listen to "Heroes and Villains". The oddest (and thrilling) chords, harmonies, counter-point, and arrangement you have ever heard. Lyrics by Van Dyke Parks, fully Brian's equal and first true collaborator (listen to Van's album Song Cycle for another great discovery). "Fall Breaks and Back to Winter (W. Woodpecker Symphony)". The title alone gives you a hint. An instrumental, it will make the hairs on the back of your hands stand up. The music sounds to me written to give the listener a primal experience, to heighten one's awareness of the physical universe in which he finds himself; it does that all right. Remind you of LSD, hmm?

Smile was to have contained the "Elements Suite", the "Fire" portion of which was Brian's music, as performed by a studio filled to the brim with instruments including many strings, simulating a, yes, fire. To aid in it's recording, Brian outfitted all the studio musician's with children's plastic fireman's hats, and started a little fire in a trash container on the studio floor, just to add atmosphere. One night after a day in which a "Fire" session had taken place, a fire broke out in Los Angeles; Brian thought his music had started it, and cancelled the songs completion. The paranoia had started.

The album after Smiley Smile, Wild Honey, contains "Here Comes The Night". I don't know if the lyrics reflect the dark clouds closing in on Brian, but the music is very disturbing.

Yes, the recorded quality of both Smile/Smiley Smile and Wild Honey are very lo-fi, seriously lacking bass and treble, as well as overall clarity, inner detail, transparency, etc. Audiophile they are not! By the way, all the Beach Boys albums through Wild Honey were mixed to mono by Brian (almost deaf in one ear), the only early Beach Boys album offered in true stereo being Surfer Girl, for some reason. Capitol released the albums in both mono and Duophonic, their electronically reprocessed stereo. Avoid Capitol Duophonic LP's!     

Peter Green was another sad LSD casualty and Jeremy Spencer may have been, as well.  
That's one great post bdp24. I don't know where you have accumulated all this info but from one BB fan to another I must say I'm impressed! I am going to SERIOUSLY revisit Smiley Smile, never one of my favorites, but with new ears.  

Agree with Tostadosunitos on the Capitol 1999 stereo remix version on cd, is that the one? I have NO issues with this recording and listened last night to confirm. There is no screech or etch at least to these ears, dimensional, smooth but least of all screechy. You can compare with the original mono which is on the same disc which sounds excellent as well. If you still have a problem and you have THAT recording then I think you might want to reevaluate your system Maplegrove ;^)
Pet sounds is the album i was referring to , not Smiley Smile . 
Right, the Pet Sounds recordings aren't as lo-fi as Smile/Smiley Smile and Wild Honey. They are really bad, Pet Sounds is just mediocre!
I was also referring to the 1999 "Pet Sounds" release on Capitol, not Smiley Smile. 

Great stuff as usual bdp24. QRP will soon to be releasing Smiley Smile. My guess is they decided it sounded good enough to release. They did a fantastic job with Pet Sounds Stereo. It beats the Ron Macmaster hands down. The Macmaster was serviceable, but the QRP is pretty special. I have Surfs Up coming from the next batch.

The attitude of almost reverence regarding Brian Wilson's LSD fueled recordings I'll never agree with.  LSD shattered his career, his family, his band, hell, his mind.  He went completely looney.  Anybody want to lose everything in your life and end up drooling?  Spend years in bed?  What, nobody?  Sorry, the hair on the back of my neck doesn't stand up.

The Beach Boys were never the same after they had captivated the US music scene and rivalled the Beatles.  They became a nostalgia act trying to relive the glory days.  What a tragedy.

A significant percentage of history’s greatest composers, musicians, writers, and painters had severe mental and/or emotional problems, as well as drink and drug problems. Some of them created in spite of it, some because of it. That’s not my opinion, that’s history’s. Smile is in no way worth the suffering Brian has endured (not to mention his family, friends, and The Beach Boys themselves) because of the LSD and other drugs he took to excess. But he had already had a nervous breakdown before his drug use started, on an airplane flight in late 1964. That was one reason he came off the road, and stayed home writing and recording while the others toured.

But there is nothing we can do to turn back time, to change the circumstances of Brian Wilsons decisions. Should we deprive ourselves of great art because of the price it cost it’s creator? You do what you want---I’m going to continue to listen to Smile and Brian Wilson’s other masterpieces, and to tell others who are interested all about it.

In case you want to investigate, The Beach Boys also created some great music in the 1970’s, starting with the Sunflower album. Brian wrote some of his best songs in the 70’s---"This Whole World", "Til I Die", "Marcella", and "Sail On, Sailor" being just a few. Yeah, The Beach Boys (as led by Mike Love) are a nostalgia act now, but they weren’t then. Dylan saw them and said "Hey, these guys are really good". The Grateful Dead toured with them.

You're right, Sail on Sailor is a great track.  I liked Surf's Up, Friends, Darlin' and a few other later tracks.  But it's hard to forgive them for Kokomo and Do It Again (especially the former).
The Beach Boys were great competition for the wave of the British Invasion. Most notably, The Beatles. Happy Listening!
IMO, the greatest (and certainly one of the most celebrated) novel(s) of the last century (Thomas Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow") was written by an author who (by his own admission) used LSD extensively during its creation.  Beyond that, the book is specifically revered for Pynchon's prose: It is both stunning in its ingenuity and also widely celebrated largely for its acid inspired, fever dream imagery.  

LSD took a terrible toll on a lot of people, but (like a lot of other drugs) it's also been a part of the creative process for many artists.  Look, It's fine to reject drug use as dangerous.  It is dangerous.  I also understand the desire to avoid glamorizing drug use.  However, I'm just not going to throw the baby out with the bath water.  Great art produced while under the influence of drugs is still great art.  However, unpleasant or disturbing the implications of that truth may be.
While Brian Wilson was unquestionably the most creative force in the Beach Boys, he was not the sole talent.  It's a disservice to the other band mates to marginalize their contributions to the unique Beach Boys sound.  Simply compare Wilson's solo works to his work within the Beach Boys to see the difference.  It's as if the band placed much needed boundaries on Brian's creativity.  The internal band dynamics most have been interesting.

Well said, everyone!

Tostadosunidos: "Kokomo"---What a piece of junk! Mike claims he was as responsible for the Beach Boys 60’s hits as was Brian. "Kokomo" is what Mike sounds like without Brian. When hearing Mike’s voice in a Beach Boys song, I often imagine what the song would sound like without it. His voice is really annoying to me. "Darlin’" is a cool little song, I played it in a Group in the early 70’s. "Surf’s Up" was to have been on Smile, but came out on the Surf’s Up album, in a new recording. Lovely song.

Jafant: McCartney always considered Brian his songwriting competition, and Brian felt the same about Paul. I had a ticket to see The Beatles at The Cow Palace in ’64, but wasn’t quite sold on them yet, still preferring my beloved Beach Boys, and my Mom went in my place. I had changed my mind by the time they returned in ’65!

Marty: Great stuff. I’m gonna have to get a copy of "Gravity’s Rainbow". I’ve read far more non-fiction than fiction, but this book sounds intriguing. Another book famously written under the influence is, of course, "Alice in Wonderland". Then there is Edgar Allen Poe, quite the cocaine (amongst other substances) lover. A lot of writers were notorious drunkards, producing a fair amount of the world’s greatest literature. If we discard works produced by drinkers and druggers, there will be a lot less to read and listen to!

Onhwy61: Not only were the other guys an essential part of The Beach Bots sound, some of them evolved into fine writers themselves, particularly Dennis. He wrote some very fine songs, and Carl, who was a fantastic singer (far better than Brian himself), did as well. Bruce Johnson wrote a couple of good ones, though perhaps a little sappy (like the Barry Manilow hit "I Write The Songs"!). I kinda like his "Disney Girls". Mike and Al, not so much, but that’s just me. And you’re right---Brian on his own is not a pretty sight. Of course, by that time he was severely damaged goods.

+1 bdp24. I spun Sunflower last night. I love this LP.  I could see a casual Beach Boys fan listening to this, and not immediately recognizing who it was. I find it quite different than their early material.  
fjn04---Sunflower is my favorite Beach Boys album these days. I can’t tell you how eagerly anticipated it was at the time of it’s release (1970), their first after moving from Capitol Records (who were STILL promoting them as "The No. 1 Surf Group in the World" as late as 1968. Duh.) to Reprise/Warner Brothers, THE "artist" label at the time.

"Gravity's Rainbow" is a great, great novel IMO, but be advised...

It's +/- 1200 pages long and can be a tough slog if you aren't familiar with Pynchon's MO.  It might be a bit akin to reading "Finnegan's Wake" as your first shot at James Joyce. 

I read the Pynchon novels more or less in chronological order, which is a good way to ease into his universe.  However, the two preceding novels. "V" and "Crying of Lot 49" are quite not in the same league.  "Lot 49" is short and great fun, tho, so I might start there, anyway.

Critics differ greatly on ranking the Pynchon novels (other than "Rainbow", which AFAIK is pretty much universally admired).  I really love "Against The Day" but it's another very long, very complex way to start that Pynchon journey.  You could also start with "Inherent Vice" (which was recently made into a movie by PT Anderson, where one of my favorite filmmakers meets my favorite novelist).  It's an easier read and, even if it never reaches the heights of Pynchon's best stuff, it wouldn't be a bad place to start.

Even if it is sometimes a bit drug addled, the Pynchon novels are definitely my absolute favorite fiction in the world, so - Enjoy the trip! (pardon the pun).
bdp24, you say that a significant percentage of history’s greatest composers, musicians, writers, and painters had severe mental and/or emotional problems, as well as drink and drug problems.

Well, yeah, that's because a significant percentage of the population has always had those issues.  Taking drugs to alter your mind and reality is a stupid dangerous thing to do, before you even add up all of the overdose deaths.  

Some here want to embrace the abuse of one's own body as long as they like the resulting "art".  What a sad statement of your own mindset.  I wouldn't be surprised if it was music industry executives that wanted their stars on drugs so the music might sell better.  Anything for a buck.
No one is embracing abuse.  
That is different entirely from embracing the art produced by a drug abuser.
This discussion has next to nothing to do with money.
Some folks here are more empathetic than scornful.

Yes, you embrace abuse when you accept the fruit of the abuse.  Look, I understand that this makes you uncomfortable, and you disagree with me.  That is fine, but I'd bet you a million bucks that Brian Wilson, if asked, would quickly admit that if he had the chance to do it all over again, he'd stay the hell away from drugs.  
I too am sure Brian would. Should we not listen to Smile because of that?! Do you fault McCartney for going to the Smile premiere in London a few years back? Was McCartney embracing abuse by doing so? Should no one ever again read, say, Alice in Wonderland?

It seems that you have drawn an arbitrary line in the sand. Do you personally refuse to listen to music produced by anyone who used drugs, or only those who have a public reputation as a drug abuser? When it comes to the Beach Boys' music, you seem to be saying that one shouldn't listen to Pet Sounds or anything recorded subsequent to that album. How about the songs on which Brian had no input? 

You have indicated that your favorite Beach Boys tune is Sloop John B, which was released in 1966, yet Brian's LSD use began in 1965. Are you willing to accept that song because his drug problems hadn't, in your opinion, progressed to the point of "abuse"?

Do you reject the music of Louis Armstrong, Berlioz, Miles Davis, Chopin, or Judy Garland? If you include alcohol abuse in your "no-listen" list, you are rejecting an even greater number of very good musicians.

Personally, I listen to music I enjoy. I don't research the personal shortcomings of the musicians before I listen.   
Personally, I listen to music I enjoy, and don’t research artists for drug use. Nor do I avoid music of known drug addicts, although I think that those who used it as a crutch had or have issues.  I do find that my tastes are such that I never cared for the styles of Jimmi Hendrix or Janis Joplin, and plenty of artists with acid rock, hard rock, death metal and probably most of the other metal varieties.  

The line that I draw is to not revere the resulting chaos that LSD caused Brian Wilson and his music, as some of you seem to do. Smile is quite weird, at least the little of it that I’ve heard, so I never bought it. I actually never knew why it was so strange until after watching the latest Brian Wilson movie, and realizing that some drug dealer ruined the life of one of the greatest American artists of his time. Sorry, I just can’t revere that.

Unless you are arguing that we must bear the responsibility for the moral consequences for all of our consumption decisions and their ethical implicarions, you are mistaken.   Accepting the fruit of the abuse isn't endorsing the abuse.

BTW, It IS possible to endorse the abuse - see Timothy Leary and "Turn on, Tune in, and Drop out".  I am NOT suggesting that.

 As Minkwelder notes, the history of musicians and drug abuse is long and varied.  A ton of highly regarded jazz musicians of the '50s used booze, pot and/or heroin.  Add LSD and try to find a significant rock musician who didn't abuse one or more of those drugs during the '60s.  Toss in cocaine and quaaludes and you've covered most of the seventies.  Mix in some ecstasy and.... our get the picture.

So, if you ARE insisting that we must examine those ethical implications, then I trust that you consume none of that music.  And none of the following:

I trust that you buy no Chinese made goods, lest you implicitly endorse the Chinese government's abuse of intellectual property rights, etc.  I assume that you don't enjoy any running water in your home, because that was developed by the Romans, and I'm sure that you do not champion feeding Christians to Lions.  You surely don't listen to the blues, so that there's no possible implicit endorsement of slavery.  I'm certain that you've never owned a Volkswagen product, purchased  Bayer aspirin, etc.  This list gets long in a hurry.

If you do none of the above, you're an admirable man indeed.  More principled than I am.  However, if you have done any of the above......
You've used some interesting strawman arguments, but they do not apply to what I've clearly said.  
Your most recent post just popped up.  It's different in tone than some of previous posts.  Please ignore my previous post as you've already addressed it.  I think I get your point, now, but maybe we just hear this particular music differently.  

"Good Vibrations" came out of the Pet Sound sessions and it's a pretty bizarre piece of music - the expected guitar solo is played on electro-theremin.  I've always seen the subsequent direction of Brian Wilson's music as a continuation of that artistic arc.  "Vibrations" was a hit, but it was also a move towards a much less commercially reliable way of producing music.  If you hear Smile as a symptom of drug abuse and believe that it's celebrated for that reason, than I understand your reaction.  I just don't hear the music that way.


"Yes, you embrace abuse when you accept the fruit of the abuse".

How do you explain this, then?:

"Personally, I listen to music I enjoy, and don’t research artists for drug use".

How is it that you're not accepting the "fruit of the abuse", but "some" of us are?

"The line that I draw is to not revere the resulting chaos that LSD caused Brian Wilson and his music, as some of you seem to do".
I would like to request that you share with us how you concluded that some of us are merely listening to music we enjoy, but some of us "revere the resulting chaos" to musicians that drugs have caused.