Review by Sean Meehan — August 14, 2015 at 5:15 pm
A Capitol Hill veterinarian is now the published author of a book about the formation and early years of the Beach Boys.
James Murphy, an associate veterinarian at Capitol Hill Animal Clinic at 1240 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, said he wrote his first book, “Becoming the Beach Boys,” to give a deeper look at the rock band’s origins.
“Origin stories have always kind of fascinated me,” he said. “I wasn’t interested in the career-spanning books, those things have been done. I wanted to zero in on what had been lacking. Nobody had written a cohesive, common-sense account of how they started out.”
The book grew out of a lifelong passion for the Beach Boys that started when he first heard the band’s hit, “Good Vibrations,” as a 10-year-old boy in 1966. For the past 50 years, Murphy’s interest in the Beach Boys never waned, leading him to start collecting their records and memorabilia and reading everything that he could find about them.
“I read every book about the Beach Boys, every magazine article on both sides of the Atlantic,” he said. “We’re talking hundreds of articles. I saw every film, every documentary.”
The more he read, the more Murphy said he felt there was a missing piece to the Beach Boys story. Initially, he said he thought about writing a short article about the origins of the band and submitting it to a magazine. But as he did more research, he realized that he had way more to say than could fit in an article.
By 2007, Murphy realized he might have enough material for a book, and began delving even deeper into Beach Boys history, conducting over 70 original interviews with acquaintances and classmates of the original band members, as well as tracking down ticket stubs, advertisements and other evidence of some of their earliest shows.
All the while, Murphy was still treating pets at the Capitol Hill Animal Clinic, researching and writing on his off hours.
“I would write at nights, on weekends and days off,” he said. “I’d stay up until two or three in the morning writing sometimes.”
After sending his manuscript to several publishers, his book eventually was accepted by publisher McFarland & Co., which released the book in June. Murphy set up a companion website for people to share their memories of the Beach Boys and to house the material that was cut from his original manuscript in the publishing process.
The paperback book, which is available for $35.96 on Amazon.com, takes a narrative approach to the band’s early years, using newspaper articles and interviews to piece together descriptions of the band’s first shows and recordings. The book also features rare early photographs, ticket stubs and ads from those early days, many of which came from Murphy’s own private memorabilia collection.
Murphy, however, was unable to interview the four living members of the Beach Boys. But he hopes that the band members will see his book and that he might be able to get in touch with them in the future.
“I’m kind of hopeful that maybe the Beach Boys themselves will read the book, and I have some indication that some of them might,” he said. “That would be cool if that happened, and I could talk to them and maybe fine-tune the story.”