The Beach Boys: The Definitive Diary of America’s Greatest Band On Stage and In the Studio
Ken Kase
10/10/2004 7:44:47 PM

The Beach Boys: The Definitive Diary of America’s Greatest Band On Stage and In the Studio
by Keith Badman
(Backbeat Books)

Years ago, The Guinness Book of World Records was created to settle arguments in pubs. There was certainly no reason to let the insanity of petty bar brawls continue over pole vaulting records when such a handy reference guide could be constructed, saving pub owners untold sums in broken fixtures. Fans of popular music, as we all know, are a contentious lot, constantly arguing over concert and studio dates and obsessing over inaccurate chronologies to the point of madness. Keith Badman’s new book, The Beach Boys: The Definitive Diary of America’s Greatest Band On Stage and In the Studio (Backbeat Books) is an invaluable history which should successfully stop the senseless violence that springs from such disagreements and bring the pop music world back to its senses.

In all seriousness, Badman’s book is a fine piece of work, painstakingly researched and compiled and containing every minute detail of recordings, concerts, radio and televisions performances as well as personnel changes, business deals and, to an extent, personal lives of the group. Such diary-form books on popular music figures have flourished in the past fifteen years, giving rock fans day-by-day accounts of the lives and events of their favorite artists and Badman’s book ranks among the very best.

On the front cover is a quote from Brian Wilson, who proclaims: “I’m so proud of the work I did long ago with The Beach Boys and it’s great to see the details of the best years of our career collected with such love in one place." The statement seems slightly incongruous, given the tumultuous and tortured nature of certain aspects of that time period between 1961 and 1976 when the story of the band really takes place. Badman remains mostly objective, laying out details that tell the story with little narrative bias or prodding, making this book perhaps the most objective version of The Beach Boys legacy yet to emerge.

It is also refreshingly practical, providing just the type of seemingly mundane data for which obsessive fans of Les Garçons de la Plaige clamor; the names of session musicians, recording locations and methods, take numbers, chart action of releases and clippings from countless reviews of concerts and recordings abound. Even reproductions of AFM Union sheets are here, just in case you ever wanted to know what Hal Blaine’s or Carol Kaye’s home addresses were in 1965. The book is also lavishly illustrated with many rare photos with a sensible, unencumbered layout.

All of the celebrated historical periods are represented, from their dizzying pre-British Invasion success, their split from their father, Murray’s managerial duties, the legendary “Brian freaks out and refuses to tour to produce records” period, the serene beauty and commercial disappointment of Pet Sounds, the emotional and artistic disaster of Smile, the “Let’s tour with the Maharishi—that’ll be a great idea!” period, the “Dennis hangs out with Charles Manson” debacle—well, you get the idea. Badman also manages to debunk some popular myths along the way until the band crashes headfirst into a period where lawsuits drastically outnumber great records. Even a novelist couldn’t have dreamed up such a convoluted tale of joy, passion and tragedy that so characterizes one of the most compelling stories in rock and roll history. This is surely to become the preeminent reference guide to one of music’s most influential bands.

Check out NT's review of Brian Wilson Presents Smile--Ed.

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