A few weeks ago we reviewed Fifty Sides Of The Beach Boys, a brand new, in-depth and entertaining look at the band that celebrated its fiftieth anniversary this year. As a connoisseur of all things Beach Boys, I really enjoyed the book and I wanted to find out what went into creating it. Author Mark Dillon was kind enough to answer some questions via email about Fifty Sides Of The Beach Boys, his method of writing and researching the book and much more. So let’s go surfin’ now!
Andy Burns: Congrats on Fifty Sides Of The Beach Boys – it’s a wonderful addition to the canon of Beach Boys literature. I’d like to start by asking, what was your first introduction to the Beach Boys, if you can recall?
Mark Dillon: Thank you, Andy. I was turned onto The Beach Boys by my cousin, Tracy. I was seven and over at my cousins’ house when she put on an 8-track tape of Best of The Beach Boys Vol. 2 and put these enormous headphones over my ears. The songs that really got me were “I Get Around,” “Don’t Worry Baby,” “California Girls,” and “Help Me, Rhonda.” I became a fan for life.
Andy Burns: Your approach to the band’s story and music in the book is unique (and welcome). Could you explain where the idea sprung from?
Mark Dillon: I’d wanted to do a book about the group for about 20 years, but struggled over an approach that was both unique and timely. And then, about three years ago, I was walking on, appropriately enough, a beach — on Lake Huron, not those warm beaches The Beach Boys would sing about — when it dawned on me that the group’s 50th anniversary was approaching. I figured if there was ever a time for re-evaluation, this was it.
The next thing was coming up with a format that properly would celebrate those 50 years. My original thought was to talk to 50 artists inspired by the group’s music, each one dissecting one song. As I got deeper into the process, I figured if you’re going to talk about the songs and their creation, then who better to talk about them than the people who actually wrote and recorded them – in other words, the band members themselves and their collaborators. So, in the end, it’s a mix of hearing from The Beach Boys, the songwriters, players and engineers who worked with them, fellow artists and those who’ve written books about the group. I was shooting for a balance of oral history and cultural appreciation. In other words, here’s the story of the group and its songs, and this is why we should care 50 years later.
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Fun, fun, fun. That’s what this summer has been about if you’re a Beach Boys fan. Their best album in forty years, That’s Why God Made The Radio, peaked at number three on the Billboard charts. Their 50th Anniversary reunion tour has been a critical and commercial success, while the key players – Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks – all appear to be getting along amazingly well. Adding to all the good vibrations is a new book, Fifty Sides Of The Beach Boys, published by ECW Press and written by Mark Dillon. It’s a unique release that tells the history of the Boys in the words of their friends, colleagues and themselves.
Read on and find out why Fifty Sides Of The Beach Boys is worth reading after the jump!
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Add It To The Collection: When I first heard The Beach Boys were getting back together to celebrate their 50th anniversary with an album and tour I accepted the news with mixed feelings. Having seen them live with and without Brian Wilson going all the way back to the CNE Grandstand in the early 1980’s, I was glad to hear the guys were getting back together to ‘Do It Again’ for the fans. Too many bands forget it’s the fans who want to see these reunions most (I’m looking at you Axl). But I also questioned what this reunion might do for their growing legacy, hot on the heels of the critically acclaimed 2011 Smile Session reissues. I mean, how could you make a 50th anniversary/reunion record without making it ooze of pure nostalgia? Leave it to a couple of 70 year olds who have spent the better part of 25 years embroiled in law suits, battling illness and mental health issues to do it right.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. The Beach Boys weren’t supposed to record their best album in 40 years when four out the five members of the band are averaging seventy years old.
But that’s what they’ve done. That’s Why God Made The Radio, the band’s new album, out today, may not be Pet Sounds, but it’s not that far out of the ballpark.
There are quite a few Beach Boys fans who work on Biff Bam Pop, so you can imagine how exciting it is for us to hear the brand new single from the band, “That’s Why God Made The Radio”. It’s from the groups forthcoming album of the same name, due in stores June 5th. Take a listen and then read some initial thoughts from a few of us:
Andy Burns: On first listen, I had a huge smile on my face. Brian Wilson takes the lead vocal, but their are contributions from all the band members on the track (except Mike Love, surprisingly), most notably to my ears Bruce Johnston. The vocal blend is just fantastic, though. A gorgeous chorus, a nice vocal break towards the end. Hopefully a taste of the entire album.
Perry Schwartz: Summer is definitely on the way. How do we know? Take a listen to the lead single and title track from The Beach Boys’ 50th anniversary reunion album, “That’s Why God Made The Radio”, and you can feel the sun in your face and wind in your hair as their harmonies float through the air. This isn’t a modern-day “Good Vibrations” or even a classic like “California Girls”, but it is the classic Beach Boys sound featuring lead vocals by Brian Wilson and layer upon layer of silky smooth harmonies. There’s no denying The Beach Boys can still craft a song that takes you back to 1960’s sunny Southern California…and there’s nothing wrong with that.