Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Beach Boys

We found this article last weekend in The New York Observer but forgot to run the link ... 

Seems quite a few folks have been talking about it ever since.
Pet Sounds On Drugs 

I've mentioned several times now about this new series of Uncut Magazines coming out in the UK running vintage articles from back in the day that first appeared in Melody Maker and New Musical Express.  They've done tributes to each year in rock and roll history (I believe the series currently runs from 1965 to 1974 or 1975 ... but the older issues are getting harder and harder to find) as well as special spotlight issues devoted to a particular artist.

"Pray For Surf" Phil told us about a Beach Boys edition so we had to go and pick that one up right away.  (Barnes and Noble seems to be a safe bet to find these ... but truthfully I've probably ordered most of my copies online because they're just so hard to find.)  In addition to in-depth reviews of every Beach Boys album there are a series of articles from way back when profiling the group during their mid-to-late '60's hey-day.

One that really caught my eye was a piece on Beach Boys Dad Murry Wilson, who was over in the UK promoting his new album "The Many Moods Of Murry Wilson."  What's interesting is the fact that this article first ran in November of 1967, three full years after Murry had already been fired as manager of the band ... so to say that this comes across as slightly delusional is probably the understatement of the week.  He certainly seems to credit the greatest part of the group's success to himself, however, even at this stage of the game.
Here it is as it appeared then ... and now in this classic reissue magazine (with a few comments from me thrown in, as is always my nature!)  Remember, these are Murry's words and observations AT THAT MOMENT IN TIME regarding the evolution of the group.

When The Beach Boys first started, they made a record called "Surfin'", written by Brian and Mike Love.  It was a smash all over the States, but three and a half months later, The Beach Boys, as far as the music business was concerned, were through.  The boys were crestfallen.  They did not want to be a one-record group but the Hollywood record companies didn't want them.  They asked me to manage them and I went off to see the companies.  I went into Capitol's offices and fortunately a man there remembered my name from a song I had written eight years before.

Capitol took the boys on.  With Capitol, the group had a string of worldwide hits and were unique in that one side of their records had started a surfing music trend while the other had sparked off a hot rod music trend.  Two trends on one record. 

First of all, "Surfin'" was NOT a "smash all over the States" ... nationally it peaked at #75 in Billboard and was a regional hit at best in the Hawthorne and surrounding areas of California, where surfing actually meant something to people.
I don't know that it's fair to say that three and a half months later The Beach Boys were through ... because FIVE months later (almost to the day!) their very first Top Ten Record entered the charts.  ("Surfin' Safari" charted for 21 weeks and hit #10 in Cash Box Magazine.  It also earned them bigger tours and several television appearances.)  By March of the following year, The Beach Boys had the #2 Record in the Country with "Surfin' USA" ... and they've been musical icons ever since.  (Most folks may not realize it, but Murry is right about one thing ... their earliest hits for Capitol had a surfing song on one side and a hot rod song on the other:  "Surfin' Safari" was backed with "409", "Surfin' USA" was backed with "Shut Down" and their next Top Five Hit, "Surfer Girl" had "Little Deuce Coupe" on its flipside.)

Murry continues ...

After the group's second hit, I told them I would have to go back to my business, but they begged me not to.  I said I would stay if they would obey me and they agreed.  Really all I was doing was harnessing Brian's talent and the talent of the group ... and coaching them in humility.  So many groups come on strong after success.  I didn't want my boys to be like that.
Murry stayed with the group ... and watched his own machinery business fail.  "I didn't take anything from the boys in the first year.  It seemed immoral to take from your own sons.  In 1963, I got ten per cent in royalties from their concerts."  Today Murry has more money than he has ever dreamed of.

Thank God for Murry Wilson (I guess!)

Murry also addresses the fact that Brian was deaf in one ear, the circumstances of which have often (if not always) been attributed to beatings he received (literally) at the hands of his father.  (I guess that's what he meant by "coaching and obeying", right???)

Brian is deaf in one ear.  When he was doing concerts, the amplifiers had to be turned up high to make the group heard over the screams.  Brian was suffering from the noise.  His ears used to click for three or four hours after every concert.  It was his own decision to quite appearing with the group and put a substitute in his place.  (Note that there is also absolutely no mention of Brian's emotional breakdown as a factor in this decision.) 

What's odd about all of this to me as that we've seen history rewritten hundreds if not thousands of times 20, 30, 40 and 50 years later ... but this was a blatant case of Murry Wilson "massaging the facts" as they were happening.

Murry was fired as The Beach Boys' manager during the "I Get Around" recording sessions in 1964.  Five years later he sold the publishing rights to all of their music for $700,000.  (He apparently had so much faith in his boys that he felt the songs would be worthless so he may as well cash in while he could.  Untold millions of dollars were lost as direct result of this "crafty and savvy" business decision.)

Based on all of the above information, I guess one of "The Many Moods Of Murry Wilson" would have to be "delusional"!!!  (kk)