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The Beach Boys were an enormously successful pop group of the 1960s, whose popularity has lasted into the twenty-first century. Originally formed in 1961 by brothers Carl, Dennis and Brian Wilson with cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine, the group's signature sound was close vocal harmony, strongly influenced by The Four Freshmen. David Marks appeared on their first five albums and was a member from 1962 to 1963.
At first their career was steered by the Wilsons' father Murry, who engineered their signing with Capitol Records. Their early material focused on the Californian youth lifestyle (e.g. "All Summer Long", "Fun, Fun, Fun"), cars ("Little Deuce Coupe") and, as often as not, Dennis's hobby of surfing (as heard on "Surfin'", "Surfin' Safari," and many others).
As the 1960s progressed the always introspective Brian began to withdraw from touring, concentrating on producing studio recordings of ever-increasing complexity. It was at this time that Bruce Johnston joined the group as a touring replacement for Brian. He later became an integral member. Brian's mastery of the recording studio culminated with Pet Sounds (1966), and a sequence of tracks (including "God Only Knows" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice" on Pet Sounds, and "Good Vibrations", completed after Pet Sounds) whose meticulously layered and inventive instrumentation set a new standard for popular music, pushing The Beatles towards Sgt. Pepper. On top, the lyrics became intensely personal expressions of Brian's isolation from the world. The album is still widely regarded as a classic.
Seeking to improve upon Pet Sounds proved too much for Brian. A perfectionist in the studio, he suffered a nervous breakdown whilst working on Smile, not helped by his reliance on both prescription and illegal drugs. Some of the tracks were salvaged for Smiley Smile.
Despite Brian's deteriorating health the band continued to work, recording albums including Wild Honey, Friends, 20/20, and Sunflower, prior to a return to greatness on 1971's Surf's Up, the title track of which was a collaboration with cult songwriter Van Dyke Parks, who had started working with the band in 1966 during the Smile sessions. Surf's Up touched on politics, ecology, and nostalgia, among other themes. 1973's Holland received mixed reviews as throughout the 1970s Brian became a recluse. Brian returned to touring in 1976, but the mental illness that haunted him remained a problem until the 1990s.
As of 2003, the group touring under the Beach Boys name consisted of Mike Love and Bruce Johnston and supporting performers. Brian Wilson tours under his own name with the Wondermints as supporting band, and Al Jardine tours with the Alan Jardine Family & Friends Beach Band, featuring his sons Matt and Adam, Brian's daughters Carnie and Wendy, and Carl's brother-in-law Billy Hinsche, among others. The original group effectively no longer exists as a recording or touring unit.
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