You probably already know a Beach Boys song or two, even if you didn’t know it was their song in the first place. Maybe it was one of the classic surfing songs like ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ that you’d hear in a beach movie scene, or an attempt at harmonising to ‘God Only Knows’ with your friends during a long road trip. But there’s a lot more to say about The Beach Boys with their discography aside. A household name that spans generations, The Beach Boys have a new documentary on Disney+ that reintroduces the classic band from the 60s.

I came in watching knowing almost nothing about them. Not their names, their history, their popular decade, or even where they were from. But I can’t go as far as saying I don’t know their songs. In fact, ‘Kokomo’ is a personal favourite and only recently did I realise that this was a song by The Beach Boys!

Through this documentary, you learn more about who they really are, what made them get into music in the first place, the experience of being known as America’s Band, and the struggles and successes they encountered. For those who don’t know much about them, this could be a good start, and you can learn a bit more about them as you read along.






1. Family was the attribute to their success

And this isn’t to say family in a figurative sense. The Beach Boys weren’t a chosen family, but were an actual family pioneered by three brothers (Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson), a cousin (Mike Love), a neighbour (David Marks), and a good friend (Al Jardine). Just a couple of young kids in school with a passion for singing, The Beach Boys didn’t even have the equipment to create music. They only had their voices. Upon realising that they could take this to the next level, they decided to audition in front of Al Jardine’s mother.

Al’s mother was so spellbound by their performance that she decided to give them the money to rent the equipment they needed to create music. And this humble origin was the start of The Beach Boys.

Of course, with family comes all the ups and downs, the love and frustration, and even the trust and betrayal. There was a lot of conflict, changes to their lineup, and even issues with their management and label. Things weren’t always smooth sailing for America’s Band, but in the time that were, they were amazing.



2. The symbol of the Californian Dream

‘Surfin’’, their first song, became an instant hit. Taking advantage of California’s sunny surfing culture and fun lifestyle, The Beach Boys became the poster of the state. You’d listen to their songs and instantly think about riding the waves or picturing long walks on the beach. It’s what put them on the map and eventually, they quit school, signed with Capitol Records, and recorded a full album revolving around the themes of youth, freedom, and having a generally good time.






3. Brian Wilson was a genius composer and music producer

There are a lot of monickers associated with Brian Wilson, but one that stands out and is referenced the most is him being a music genius. At such a young age, he developed The Beach Boys’ signature harmonies, wrote melodies and lyrics for their songs, and simply had an instinct for understanding the musical trends. His passion for producing was further fuelled after listening to the song ‘Be My Baby’ by the Ronettes (which eventually became an inspiration for ‘Don’t Worry Baby’). Phil Spector, the producer of the song, became somewhat an idol for Brian. And like a domino effect, Brian in turn inspired many artists such as Fleetwood Mac, Janelle Monae, Queen, and even the Beatles.

Such a title had its own weight, and over time, this became a heavy cross for Brian to carry. When stories would come out about The Beach Boys, the eyes would always be on him. It came to the point that the pressures of being the man behind the band was becoming too much to handle. He would have nervous breakdowns in between tours, and as a homebody, Brian wasn’t the most comfortable with touring in the first place. He just wanted to do what he does best, and that’s to create music.

While the Beach Boys were peaking in their popularity and having hundreds of opportunities to perform and tour around the world, Brian decided to quit performing. Initially the band was against it, but eventually let him go as they saw what touring was doing to him. This didn’t divide the group, however, as every time The Beach Boys got home from touring, Brian had a ton of new music and albums for them to record. Even if he wasn’t in the band per se, he was still considered the band’s leader and prodigy.






4. They had a rocky relationship with their manager, Murry Wilson

And describing this as rocky would be an understatement. Murry, being the father of the Wilson brothers (basically half of the band), had a lot of experience in the industry being a musician himself. However, over the course of managing The Beach Boys, he was manipulative, a bully, and downright jealous of their success. This is on top of being an abusive father, which is part of why The Beach Boys were afraid to speak up against him in the first place because they were young and dependent. It was difficult for the Wilson brothers to reconcile Murry being their father, and at the same time their manager. As for the rest of the band, they felt that it wasn’t their place to say anything. David Marks even quit the band because of disagreements he had with Murry.

Eventually, they bit the bullet and Murry Wilson was fired for being too meddlesome in their music, production, and performances. But this didn’t stop Murry from being a problem. He would sometimes stumble into their studio sessions drunk and meddle with their recording, and the final straw was when he sold The Beach Boys’ catalogue without their permission, costing them hundreds of millions of future revenue.



5. A rivalry formed between The Beach Boys and The Beatles

The Beach Boys had a stop in Auckland during their prime, and funnily enough, they were introduced as a ban from England that was taking over the U.S. At that point in time, they were already being confused with The Beatles before even knowing what The Beatles were all about. This started a professional rivalry between the two icons, but unlike most competitive rivalries, both were motivated to do even better in their careers. In fact, The Beach Boys eventually got their first number one chart topping hit ‘I Get Around’, in the middle of Beatlemania.




6. Release of the critically-acclaimed Pet Sounds

There was a turning point in The Beach Boys’ artistry as they grew older. One question hung over their heads: when was their own music going to grow? Having been known with the beach music label wasn’t easy to let go of, especially seeing how this was the kind of brand that launched them to success in the first place. It was what they were known for.

There had been several attempts in exploring outside well-treaded territory, but these were not well-received, and even Capitol Records couldn’t show The Beach Boys their full support.

Out came Pet Sounds, which was notably one of their best albums and productions, and essentially raised the bar for rock n’ roll and popular music to a new level. Even John Lennon and Paul McCartney loved the album, especially ‘God Only Knows’. However, the album struggled to get commercial success, and it didn’t help that Capitol Records decided to release an anthology album of their old hits (which topped the charts in sales). But it was Pet Sounds that could stand the test of time, and 34 years after its release, the album became certified gold and platinum.



While the documentary covers a lot, even much more than could be written here, with further research you’ll realise that the Disney+ doc was only scratching the surface with this. There are a lot of other (even much darker) points in their history as they went into the 80s until the current day that wasn’t covered. But this was a great way to introduce the band to the current generation and get into the rabbit hole of The Beach Boys. Because God only knows how many more generations their music will transcend.



The Beach Boys’ official documentary is now available to watch on Disney+ here.