Videos: Fifty Years of the Beach Boys - Rolling Stone
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Videos: Fifty Years of the Beach Boys

From ‘Surfin’ Safari’ in 1962 to their recent reunion

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Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The Beach Boys are going on a 50th anniversary tour this year, so we figured this was a good time to look back at videos from their momentous career. Sadly, there's no footage of them singing their first single "Surfin'" back in 1961 – but there's stellar video beginning in 1962. It's incredible to watch how quickly their sound evolved, and to see just how young they were when they started. Carl Wilson and early guitarist David Marks look like they've barely hit puberty in these first videos. Also, Brian's evolution from confident teenager (he was the quarterback on his high school football team) to emotionally distressed adult is hard to ignore. 

By Andy Greene

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‘Surfin’ Safari’ (1962)

This early TV appearance is remarkable. Check out the stain on Brian's pants. What's up with that wacky set? Carl Wilson is 15 here, and David Marks is just 13. This was shot during the brief time period that Al Jardine wasn't in the band. He would rejoin in 1963, and for a brief time the band toured as a six-piece. 

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‘Surfin’ USA’ (1963)

The Beach Boys appeared on the Red Skelton Show in 1963 to "perform" their hit "Surfin' USA," though they were really just pretending to play over the studio recording – and Dennis isn't even bothering to play the drums. 1963 was a huge year for the Beach Boys. Surf music became a national craze, and movie theaters were full of movies about the beach lifestyle. Also, there were no pesky Beatles on the charts yet to steal their thunder. 

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‘Dance, Dance, Dance’ (1964)

In October 1964 the Beach Boys taped their appearance in the legendary concert film the T.A.M.I Show alongside the Rolling Stones, James Brown, Chuck Berry, Marvin Gaye and the Supremes. Their four-song set wrapped up with "Dance, Dance, Dance." They didn't quite have the same presence live as the Rolling Stones or James Brown, but they certainly held their own. 

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‘California Girls’ (1965)

In 1965 Brian Wilson decided he had had enough of the road, and decided to devote himself full-time to writing and recording. The Beach Boys briefly had Glen Campbell take his place, but for this TV performance of their mega-hit "California Girls," Brian played live. Be sure to watch this until the very end for a great skit with Bob Hope and Jack Benny. 

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‘Good Vibrations’ (1966)

The Beach Boys probably peaked in 1966. Not only did they release their masterpiece Pet Sounds that May, but they also released the "Good Vibrations" single and Brian began work on SMiLE. "Good Vibrations" was a huge hit all over the world, but Wilson was unable to finish SMiLE and the group quickly started to seem passé. 

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‘Heroes And Villains’ (1967)

The Beach Boys had a real rough time in 1967. They were originally slated to appear at the Monterey Pop Festival, but they dropped out and newer acts like the Who and the Jimi Hendrix Experience stole their thunder. It was also the time that Brian Wilson suspended work on SMiLE, forcing the band to salvage some of the work on Smiley Smile. "Heroes and Villains" was originally supposed to be the centerpiece of SMiLE, but the group re-recorded it in a much shorter arrangement and released it as a single. A few months later Brian made a rare onstage appearance at a gig in Hawaii and played the song with them. Here's the audio from that gig. 

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‘Do It Again’ (1968)

After the SMiLE disaster, the Beach Boys returned to surf music with the openly nostalgic "Do It Again" in 1968. It was a huge hit, and all the proof that Mike Love needed that the band was wrong to stray so far from their roots. 

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Hits Medley (1969)

Before the Sixties even ended, the Beach Boys became a throwback to an earlier time and place. Fans came to their concerts to hear songs from what already seemed like the distant past. They'd continue to cash in on that nostalgia for the next 40 years. Here they are doing a medley of their hits on a television show in 1969. 

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‘Add Some Music to Your Day’ (1970)

The Beach Boys were intensely uncool in the early 1970s and Brian Wilson had mostly dropped out of sight, but the band continued to release new music. Check out "Add Some Music to Your Day" from Sunflower. The album tanked, but it's hard to deny that this is an absolutely brilliant song. 

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‘Student Demonstration Time’ (1971)

How out of touch were the Beach Boys in 1971? Check out their bizarre "Riot In Cell Block Nine" remake "Student Demonstration Time." This was Mike Love's attempt to write a politically charged song. Sample lyric about Kent State: "Four martyrs earned a new degree/ the Bachelor of Bullets." 

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‘Endless Summer’ (1974)

In the summer of 1974 America was knee-deep in the Watergate hearings. The 1970s were really starting to suck, and an intense nostalgia for the 1960s took over the concert circuit. The two biggest tours were reunion tours by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Bob Dylan with the Band. Both packed stadiums coast to coast. The Beach Boys also began an incredible run at the box office that summer, helped by the June release of their hits LP Endless Summer. It sold millions of copies and stayed on the charts for years. Here they are singing "Darlin'" on New Years's Rocking Eve. 

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‘Rock & Roll Music’ (1976)

The Beach Boys had a huge hit in 1976 with a cover of Chuck Berry's "Rock & Roll Music," though it further cemented their status as an all-purpose oldies act. Here they are doing the song on the Midnight Special in 1979. 

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‘I Get Around’ (1980)

This live version of "I Get Around" from the Beach Boys' Knebworth concert in 1980 is a good look at the band during the dawn of the Reagan era. They had morphed into a pretty tight live unit, even if the setlist didn't vary much from night to night. Brian may not be in the best shape, but he's definitely contributing on the piano and vocals. 

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‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ (1985)

The Beach Boys lost drummer Dennis Wilson in 1983, but they kept on touring. Here they are at Live Aid in 1985. Notice how Brian has slimmed down. His therapist Dr. Landy had gotten him into shape, but many in the band felt that he was exerting too much control over Brian's life. It drove a real wedge between the group.  

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‘Kokomo’ (1988)

The Beach Boys excluded Brian Wilson from their massive comeback hit "Kokomo" due to issues brought about by the presence of Dr. Landy in his life, but the song did bizarrely feature Brian's former SMiLE collaborator Van Dyke Parks on accordion. The track was written by an all-star roster of 1960s vets, including Mike Love, John Phillips, Scott McKenzie and Terry Melcher. There's no actual place called Kokomo "off the Florida Keys," but nobody seemed to care. The song was on the soundtrack to the Tom Cruise movie Cocktail, and was their first big hit since the 1970s. 

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‘God Only Knows’ (1996)

Carl Wilson developed brain and lung cancer in early 1997. He continued to tour with the Beach Boys during his treatment, belting out his signature song "God Only Knows" every single night. Here's video of Carl singing the classic tune in 1996. 

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‘Caroline No’ (Brian Wilson Solo) (1999)

The death of Carl Wilson in 1998 drove the surviving Beach Boys apart. Al Jardine was pushed out of the band, and Brian left to be a solo artist. That left Mike Love as the sole original member in the band, so he briefly brought early 1960s guitarist David Marks back into the fold. Meanwhile, Brian released his 1998 solo disc Imagination and launched his first ever solo tour. The shows received ecstatic reviews. Here's Wilson performing "Caroline No" at the Beacon Theater in 1999. 

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‘God Only Knows’ (Al Jardine Family and Friends Beach Band) (1998)

After leaving the Beach Boys, Jardine assembled a new touring group that he called the Beach Boys Family and Friends. It featured former members of the Beach Boys touring lineup, and Brian Wilson's daughters Wendy and Carnie Wilson. Mike Love sued him for using the term "Beach Boys," and forced Jardine to rename it the Al Jardine Family and Friends Beach Band. Call it whatever you want, it made for a pretty great concert. Here's their take on "God Only Knows."

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‘You Still Believe In Me’ (Brian Wilson Solo) (2002)

In 2000 Brian Wilson performed Pet Sounds in its entirety on a long tour, often with the help of a local symphony. Brian's backing band the Wondermints did an amazing job with the intricate details of the songs, and it received significant more attention than anything that Jardine and Love were doing on their tours. Here's their take on "You Still Believe In Me" in 2002. 

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‘Surf’s Up’ (Brian Wilson Solo) (2004)

It was hard to imagine anything that Brian could do to top the Pet Sounds tour, but in 2004 he shocked the world when he decided to resurrect SMiLE with a new tour and re-recording. The shows were absolutely magical and the album was one of the most acclaimed discs of the year. Here is a live version of "Surf's Up" from 2004. 

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‘California Girls/Sloop John B/Good Vibrations’ (2010)

The Beach Boys filed all sorts of nasty lawsuits back and forth during the 2000s, so it was difficult to imagine any sort of reunion. But in early 2010 Mike Love's Beach Boys played a show at the Reagan Library for the President's 100th birthday, and they invited Al Jardine onstage. It was an early sign that things were thawing out. 

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‘Do It Again’ (2011)

Rumors were flying all through 2011 that the Beach Boys were going reunite for a tour celebrating their 50th anniversary. They finally announced a reunion tour – featuring Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, David Marks and Bruce Johnston – in December 2011. It kicks off in April 2012. To test the waters for the tour they re-cut "Do It Again" at a Los Angeles studio last year. Here's a clip from that performance. Two of the original five are now dead, and the three that are left may not like each other much these days, but they're coming to a town near you this summer.

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