The Definitive Diary of America’s Greatest Band on Stage and in the Studio

Oct 27, 2004 at 12:00 am

The diary book format is a prestige item among rock stars; it says your fans want to suck up all your day-to-day minutiae so they can argue on your behalf that you did it first. And as any Beach Boy fan knows, you gotta argue hard to make a case that the Boys ever were “America’s Greatest Band.” More like five Dangerfields in candy striped shirts. The Beach Boys got no respect; the media and their record label always found subtle ways to remind the band they were “America’s Answer to the Beatles.”

So it’s nice to be able to dispute the late author and critic Ian MacDonald’s assertion that the Beatles couldn’t have written “Here There and Everywhere” as a response to Pet Sounds. The proof is here that Lennon and McCartney heard an early acetate on May 17, 1966, which gave them plenty of time to cop its feel and record the results three weeks later. Author Keith Badman provides every stop on the group’s grueling touring and recording schedule — you can feel a part of Brian’s breakdown, peer in on studio blowouts between Papa Murray Wilson and the group, and between Brian and his cousin Mike, a guy as misnamed as the Love Canal.

The book’s most compelling reading comes with the immediate fallout of Smile’s non-appearance in 1967. The group compounded this tactical error by no-showing at Monterey Pop and then releasing the disappointingly shitty Smiley Smile album, where the Boys attempt another quickie party-style album to shut Capitol up. But things got even worse in 1968, the year they befriended the Maharishi and Charles Manson, both with equally disastrous results. From there, they maintained the longest losing streak of any major band, only to come back on the strength of an oldies set, which pretty much fossilized them forever.

Not much good came after the bicentennial, and Badman just gives brief overviews after 1976 — no devotee interested in this kind of book gives a shit which sessions drug addiction psychologist Eugene Landy attended or where they recorded “Kokomo.” And who can understand Backbeat Books’ decision to replicate American Federation of Musician contracts without blacking out the home addresses and social security numbers of every musician who ever played, sang or clapped on a Beach Boys record, including the guys themselves? But if you’re really into identity theft, catch a Beach Boys concert at a casino near you and see what’s left of the band since John Stamos resigned.

Serene Dominic writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].