“…The Beach Boys weren’t just a fun 1960s surf band...Once you’ve absorbed [Pet Sounds], you find yourself going back through songs like “Don’t Worry Baby,” “The Warmth of the Sun,” and “I Get Around,” finding a deeper brilliance where you once only heard pop craftsmanship.” – Mark Richardson, Executive Editor, Pitchfork.
The Beach Boys are arguably one of the most significant and influential American bands in music history. With his uncanny harmonic intuition and the composition of early, haunting ballads, such as “Lonely Sea” and “The Warmth of the Sun,” Brian Wilson quickly established himself as one of the most distinguished songwriters of his era. In creating Pet Sounds (1966) at the age of 23, the Wunderkind Wilson crafted a delicate and experimental approach to musical arrangement and production that was entirely his own, shaking the foundations of popular music in the years and decades to follow. When Wilson’s debilitating mental illness led him to abandon his masterwork Smile and retreat to the periphery in 1967, his bandmates—especially his brothers, Carl and Dennis—blossomed into significant musical figures in their own right. The brothers, boosted by the critical contributions of their cousin Mike Love, childhood friend Al Jardine, and the late-arriving Bruce Johnston, saw to the group’s continued evolution throughout the late 1960s and beyond. Despite Brian’s lessened involvement, his later compositions with Love, including the sophisticated musical utterance of desperation, “Let The Wind Blow” (1967) and the lush ballad “All I Wanna Do” (1970), attest to his enduring importance to the band and the continued blossoming of the Wilson/Love songwriting partnership.
This special issue seeks to paint a more holistic portrait of The Beach Boys than has hitherto been seen in the literature. We are particularly interested in studies that embrace a multidisciplinary framework, explore uncharted areas of the group’s music and history, and reject the narrative of “Brian Wilson and his invisible bandmates.” We encourage potential contributors to consider the topic of The Beach Boys broadly in formulating their submission. Possible areas of interest include, but are not limited to:
- The impact of Brian Wilson’s most significant self-described influences as a songwriter/producer (including Phil Spector, The Four Freshman, Chuck Berry, George Gershwin, and J.S. Bach), and his eventual reimagining of the “Wall of Sound”
- The geographical and cultural influence of California on the band’s music, from their earliest albums cementing the “California Sound” to projects of the late 1960s-80s
- New explorations of the wide-reaching cultural and musical significance of Pet Sounds (1966)
- The evolution of Smile and its musical materials, culminating in the completion of the project as Brian Wilson Presents Smile (2004) and the subsequent Beach Boys’ release, The Smile Sessions (2011)
- American cultural appropriation in Smile and the influence of American composers such as George Gershwin, Charles Ives, and Aaron Copland on the work
- Carl Wilson’s largely unexplored role as musical leader of the band from the late 1960s until his death
- The musical contributions of Dennis Wilson as the band’s second most prolific songwriter
- The evolution of the Brian Wilson/Mike Love songwriting partnership through the 1960s-70s
- Al Jardine’s background in folk music and its influence on the group’s musical output
- Musical explorations of significant post-Pet Sounds compositions deriving from albums such as Wild Honey (1967), Friends (1968), 20/20 (1969), Sunflower (1970), Surf’s Up (1971), and Holland (1973)
- The instrumental arrangements of The Beach Boys; Moving beyond the impression of The Beach Boys as “vocal band”
Potential contributors should first submit an abstract of approximately 250 words and a brief CV by February 1, 2019. Authors selected for inclusion will be invited to submit manuscripts of 6,000-8,000 words by November 30, 2019. All essays will be peer-reviewed using a double-blind process. Please send all abstracts and communications regarding this project to: Erica K. Argyropoulos.
- Guest Editor: Erica K. Argyropoulos, Northeastern State University