The tag of "genius" is much overused and misused, and I am as culpable as most other bloggers, DJs and critics, but modern popular music has unearthed a few for whom the label genuinely applies.
The eldest of three brothers, Brian Wilson not only founded and wrote the songs for North America’s Beatles, he changed the way in which music could be heard. No one else could have produced these songs, this marriage of music and the human voice – check out "Good Vibrations", "God Only Knows" or "Till I Die". Brian Wilson found ways of conveying the sounds that he heard in his head to the Wrecking Crew session musicians (the very best in the business), because we couldn’t wait for infinite monkeys sitting at pianos to do the job.
And if you hang around a genius long enough some of the gold dust will eventually rub off; I’ve included the exquisite "Little Bird" and "Sound of Free", written by middle brother and drummer, Dennis.
The aural equivalent of sun, sea, sand, surf, girls, hot rods and more sun could be a cliché, but it’s entirely apt in relation to the early material. Brian quickly moved away from Chuck Berry riffs ("Surfin USA") to discover his own voice and "All Summer Long", "California Girls", and "The Warmth of the Sun" will remind you of the best days of your life, of carefree fun with your teenage friends. As they matured into adulthood, so did their material (see again "God Only Knows", "Darlin", "Sail On Sailor", "Friends" or "Break Away").
I have jumbled the chronology of songs in this playlist, mixing the early and the mature material. I think The Beach Boys sound is so consistent throughout that you can jump in at any point and it doesn’t matter. This isn’t the case for The Beatles, ELVIS or almost everyone else of magnitude.
The Beach Boys’ story is a long, complex, tragic and poignant one too long to be told here. Brian’s output was prolific, Mozartian, and it eventually took its toll on his health. The least we can do is say thanks for blessing us with these beautiful timeless songs.