Becoming the Beach Boys 1961-1963 by James B. Murphy

This is an interesting book but it is really geared toward the serious music aficionado and record collectors out there. It covers the Beach Boys from their likely inception in 1961 through 1963 when they started to garner their first real success on Capitol Records.

I read a particularly harsh criticism from someone who did not read the whole book but had a background of living in Redondo Beach and was quibbling with some of the facts as presented in the book. To this I would say that the author mentions straight up from the very beginning of the book that he did his best to get the details correct however there was a lot of confusion and quarrels even among the people involved about what happened on what date and where.

Look, we are talking about events that are now over 50 years ago. Two of the three Wilson brothers as well as their parents are deceased and due to Brian Wilson’s mental health issues, it’s possible that the details will be forever lost. I was not particularly cut up at the name of a wrong high school or auditorium name being used incorrectly but if that is the kind of detail that drives you mad, then simply don’t read the book.

However, if you are a serious audiophile, this author has gone to a great deal of time and trouble to locate acetates, original recordings and pressings from obscure labels in order to identify some of the earliest recordings and songs written by Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys in its earliest formation. There is a level of detail that true record collectors will appreciate if they want to find these obscure 45’s for their collections.

There is biographical information about the parents of the Wilson’s, The Love’s and The Jardine’s that give a little insight into how the members of the group came to have a love and appreciation for music. The biographical detail is not in depth reporting on family dynamics, psychological or social settings. It is focused solely on music and its place in the life of each member and how that evolved into the formation of the group.

I was expecting more of a biography but I stuck with the book to see where it was headed and found myself drawn into some of the details that are meaningful to the collector. But make no mistake, this book is very long on detail and presents conflicting accounts as they were given to the author by the players involved. With that in mind, there are times when the reader simply has to “pick a side” and decide to go with that version of events or reject an alternate version in favor of information they may have read from another source.

The indexing and end notes are expansive for those wanting to dig further or cross reference for their own work. For the average reader, three stars but for the serious record collector and audiophile, this is probably a five star effort.


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