Becoming the Beach Boys, Published, Reviews
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Becoming the Beach Boys, 1961-1963
By James B. Murphy
McFarland Publishing, 436p.
Published June 8, 2015

REVIEW:  Author James B. Murphy has done a brave, and difficult thing in writing what, is essentially a densely-packed microcosmic look at the formative forces that created “The Beach Boys”.  Echoing Timothy White’s similarly dense, but wider-ranging The Nearest Faraway Place, which traced The Beach Boys within the scope of California history and mythos, Becoming The Beach Boys 1961-1963 takes a much narrower view, examining social, economic, cultural and familial tidal forces which helped shape the band’s work ethic, musical approach, and ambition.  What’s truly impressive about this book is how much detail Dr. Murphy has included – everything from interviews and newly-discovered documents trace how an essentially untrained group of musicians, raw and undeveloped, wrote, played and sang their way from a local hit single on an independent label, into a nationally-recognized phenomenon, all within the space of just a few months.  He delves into recording label practices of the time, which allowed for young artists to be discovered, developed, and nurtured past what might only have been a flash-in-the-pan “one-hit wonder”.  But for all the swirling detail that’s packed into this four-hundred-plus book, the author impressively never loses sight of the human struggle at its core; all of the fears, hopes, and insecurities of the band are laid bare – along with their amazement of how everything broke their way.  This is an important book for Beach Boys fans; it chronicles the band’s quintessential reality of the American Dream, which in turn became part of the American story.  Personally, I would be very interested in seeing a sequel or two which looks at later milestones in the band’s career.  Absolutely essential.

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