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Videos: Fifty Years of the Beach Boys

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

beach boys sixties

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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‘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.