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Behind the Scenes at the Beach Boys’ Retrospective

Brian Wilson walks us through the group’s new Grammy Museum exhibit

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In a 1959 philosophy paper, Wilson outlines his goals. "I don’t want to settle with a mediocre life, but make a name for myself in my life’s work, which I hope will be music.” He says, "I never, ever thought I would be able to do that."

Erik Voake

On September 18th, the Beach Boys gathered at the Grammy Museum in downtown Los Angeles for the launch of "Good Vibrations: 50 Years of the Beach Boys," an exhibit that celebrates their landmark anniversary this year. Before the quintet took to the museum stage for a Q&A and six-song acoustic performance, Rolling Stone took a private tour of the retrospective display with Brian Wilson. "It's just a whole, beautiful presentation," he raved.

By Steve Baltin

Beach Boys, grammy, museum, exhibit, new, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, David Marks, Bruce Johnston

Erik Voake

Wall of Sound

A fan listens to Beach Boys sound clips in the interactive exhibit. Wilson concurred with the songs included, from "California Girls" to "Kokomo."

Beach Boys, grammy, museum, exhibit, new, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, David Marks, Bruce Johnston

Erik Voake

Brotherly Love

A look at Brian Wilson's childhood photos, including some of his dad and Wilson playing with brothers Carl and Dennis outside their home in Hawthorne, California. "It's a very sentimental experience for me to see my dad, of course," Wilson told Rolling Stone.

Beach Boys, grammy, museum, exhibit, new, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, David Marks, Bruce Johnston

Erik Voake

Dream Realized

In a 1959 high school philosophy paper, Wilson outlined his goals: "I don’t want to settle with a mediocre life, but make a name for myself in my life's work, which I hope will be music." Looking back, he said, "I never, ever thought I would be able to do that."

Beach Boys, grammy, museum, exhibit, new, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, David Marks, Bruce Johnston

Erik Voake

Surf’s Up

What would a Beach Boys exhibit be without surfboards and California clothes, including this Kingston Trio shirt from 1960? Even Wilson was surprised by its presence. "Oh really?" he exclaimed when he saw this blast from the past.

Beach Boys, grammy, museum, exhibit, new, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, David Marks, Bruce Johnston

Erik Voake

Murry Wilson

Wilson was visibly moved to see this 1953 portrait of his father, Murry Wilson. "Is that my dad?" he blurted out. "That's my dad."

Wilson said the only thing he would change in the whole show was the picture of his dad. "I would do this exactly, only a better picture of my dad, a more distinct picture of his face."

Beach Boys, grammy, museum, exhibit, new, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, David Marks, Bruce Johnston

Erik Voake

‘Bomp Bomp’

A look at the Surfin' Safari shoot at the beach. "When I heard my cousin Mike singing, 'Bomp bomp,' I knew we were into something pretty good," Wilson said of the early records.

Beach Boys, grammy, museum, exhibit, new, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, David Marks, Bruce Johnston

Erik Voake

Remembering Carl

Wilson provided some of these group shots from the early Sixties. Part of Wilson's nostalgia came from looking at these photos of his brother Carl, who passed away in 1998 at age 51. "My brother Carl, I loved him," Wilson said.

Beach Boys, grammy, museum, exhibit, new, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, David Marks, Bruce Johnston

Erik Voake

Landmark Albums

One of the highlights of the exhibition is this side-by-side display of the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds and the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which both feature signatures from Wilson and Paul McCartney. "Paul and I did [it] in 2004," he says of the shared autographs.

Beach Boys, grammy, museum, exhibit, new, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, David Marks, Bruce Johnston

Erik Voake

High Praise

Production notes from Pet Sounds capture the recording of one of the most acclaimed albums of all time. In Paul McCartney's signature on the album, he writes, "This record is my favourite!!"

Beach Boys, grammy, museum, exhibit, new, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, David Marks, Bruce Johnston

Erik Voake

Old Axes

Reflecting on the group's shows during the Sixties, there was one gig that stood out to Wilson. "We played the Ritchie Valens memorial somewhere in L.A.," he said.

Beach Boys, grammy, museum, exhibit, new, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, David Marks, Bruce Johnston

Erik Voake

Grammy Gold

A look at Wilson's 2004 Grammy for Best Instrumental Performance for "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow." The Grammy Museum brought the band full-circle, as they kicked off their reunion at this year's Grammy Awards. "Yeah, it really does," Wilson said of the exhibit bringing the journey to a proper close.

Beach Boys, grammy, museum, exhibit, new, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, David Marks, Bruce Johnston

Erik Voake

Original Vinyl

The original Capitol Records single for "Good Vibrations." When he saw it and other records, Wilson said, "They all just bring back a lot of memories."