Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Beatles Vs. The Beach Boys

Alan Wood
Mr. Benton
ENG 102
The Beatles Vs. The Beach Boys
            During the sixties music affected the world probably more than it ever has before and since. The sixties produced some of the greatest and most iconic bands that we still love today, bands such as the Rolling Stones, the Monkees, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. But there were two bands in particular that seemed to have a widespread effect on America and even the world, the Beatles and the Beach Boys. These two groups were arguably the two most popular bands of the sixties; because of their popularity they had a huge impact and influence over millions of people. The question is though, who was the better, more popular and influential band, the Beatles or the Beach Boys.
The Beatles were an English rock band during 1960s and one of the most successful and popular bands in the history of music. The Beatles formed in Liverpool, by 1962 after several lineup changes the group consisted of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. The band was rooted in skiffle and 1950s rock and roll, the group later worked in many genres ranging from pop ballads to psychedelic rock often incorporating classical music. The nature of their enormous popularity, which first emerged as Beatle mania transformed as their songwriting grew in sophistication. They came to be perceived as the embodiment of ideals of the social and cultural revolutions of the 1960’s (Unterberger).
They built their reputation playing clubs in Liverpool and Hamburg over a three-year period from 1960. They achieved mainstream success in the United Kingdom in late 1962, with their first single, “Love Me Do". Gaining international popularity and getting the nickname "Fab Four" the following year, they toured extensively until 1966. During their studio years, they produced what critics consider some of their finest material including the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967 (Unterberger).
The Beatles are the best-selling band in history, and over four decades after their break-up, their recordings are still in demand. They have had more number one albums on the UK charts and have held the top spot longer than any other musical act. According to the RIAA they have sold more albums in the United States than any other artist, and they headed Billboard magazine's list of all-time top Hot 100 artists in 2008. They have received 7 Grammy Awards from the American National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and 15 Ivor Novello Awards from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. They were collectively included in Time magazine's compilation of the 20th century’s 100 most influential people (Unterberger).
The Beach Boys are an American rock band, formed in 1961 in Hawthorne, California. The group was initially composed of brothers Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson their cousin Mike Love and their friend Al Jardine. They were managed by the Wilsons' father Murry Wilson. The Beach Boys signed to Capitol Records in 1962. The band's early music gained popularity across the United States for its close vocal harmonies and lyrics reflecting a Southern Californian youth culture of surfing, cars, and romance. By the mid-1960s, leader Brian Wilson's growing creative ambition and songwriting ability would dominate the group's musical direction (De Forest).
However, Brian Wilson would soon lose control of the band because of mental-health and substance-abuse issues. Although they released a number of highly artistic albums during 1967-1973, the group never managed to reclaim its mid-1960s peak when The Beach Boys briefly challenged The Beatles in terms of commercial and critical appeal (De Forest).
The Beatles released their first album in March 1963, just over four months after The Beach Boys debuted with Surfin' Safari in October 1962. Both bands produced many pop songs with their early releases, mainly singles with the rest of the record filled up with covers. With each album, both bands developed. In 1964, A Hard Day’s Night was released, featuring a track listing entirely written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The next year, Brian Wilson composed a side of complex love songs for The Beach Boys Today! Both their albums and singles were selling in huge numbers, and with Rubber Soul the Beatles upped the ante again (Keely).
The Beatles continued to write their own material and now featuring George Harrison tracks as well, Rubber Soul featured the sitar and more intellectual lyrics. Brian Wilson was inspired by the album, claiming it had no poor tracks, and was inspired to improve on this with his next project, the legendary Pet Sounds. Brian Wilson had bridged the gap between Pet Sounds and the intended follow-up Smile with the single 'Good Vibrations', a million-seller in the United States. The track was intended for Pet Sounds but was not finished in time. But Smile fell apart due to Brian Wilson's health issues. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band arrived in 1967 and spent fifteen weeks on top of the Billboard chart. As expansive and inventive as Pet Sounds, the Beatles took in eastern sounds, LSD-influenced ideas and production-laden narratives to create an advanced record (Keely).
With each Beach Boys record Wilson's influence faded, and so did the band's sales. The Beatles became increasingly embroiled in personal disputes and their albums, such as White Album and Let It Be. By 1970 they were no more, bringing to an end forever the friendly competition between the Beatles and the Beach Boys, which had lifted the pop album to heights it would rarely reach again (De Forest)
During the middle of the 1960s, the competition between the Beatles and the Beach Boys was largely a creation of fan magazines. American publishers knew they could put Paul-vs.-Brian on the cover and watch the copies fly, even if the story inside turned out to be nonsense. But there was a grain of truth to the rivalry, Brian Wilson heard Rubber Soul and was inspired to write Pet Sounds, then tried to outdo Sgt. Pepper with Smile, Paul McCartney was widely quoted as admiring Wilson's song God Only Knows (Preiss).
The Beach Boys have often been called "America's Band", and Allmusic has stated that "the band's unerring ability made them America's first, best rock band. The group has had 36 United States Top 40 hits (the most by an American rock band) and 56 Hot 100 hits, including four number-one singles. Rolling Stone magazine listed The Beach Boys at number 12 on their 2004 list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time," the highest ranking for an American Rock & Roll band. Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Mike Love and Al Jardine were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. The group is also one of America's highest-selling acts, having sold over 100 million albums worldwide since their debut in 1961. Though no official figure exists, it is estimated at present to be between 110 million and 120 million. This makes them one of the best-selling groups in America (Bush).
The Beatles and the Beach Boys frequently faced off on the American singles chart. Between 1963 and the end of 1966, the Beatles had 20 top-10 hits and the Beach Boys had 13. That means that they were frequently in the top 10 at the same time. In the summer of 1976, the Beach Boys released 15 Big Ones, their first studio album in three years, and the first one Brian Wilson had produced since Pet Sounds. The lead single from the album was not a Wilson original, however it was a cover of the Chuck Berry song Rock and Roll Music, featuring Mike Love on lead vocals. It became the first Beach Boys song to reach the Billboard Top 10 in a decade (Bush).
EMI Records had released a two-disc compilation of rockers by the Beatles covering their entire career, from Twist and Shout to Get Back. The label released a single from the album: Got to Get You Into My Life backed with Helter Skelter. Got to Get You Into My Life became the Fab Four's first Top-10 hit since 1970. For four weeks in 1976, the Beatles and the Beach Boys were in the Top 10 together, just as they had been so many times before. This time, however, the Beach Boys got the better of the competition. Rock and Roll Music made it to #5, while Got to Get You Into My Life could only make #7 (Bush).
The Beach Boys wrote incredibly catchy songs, the majority of their career was spent as a real-life version of The Monkees. Their songs were about surfing, hanging out, checking out girls at the beach and sunshine. It wasn’t the most profound subject matter but it was all they really knew and what they knew the best. The music of The Beach Boys definitely had a greater impact on the early punk sound, such as the Ramones. Brian Wilson was a great songwriter and the true genius behind the Beach Boys, but the rest of the band faltered on the verge of releasing what would have been their greatest album, Smile. (Selm)
However the Beatles never seemed to falter as the Beach Boys did. The Beach Boys were constantly having issues within the band and went through several periods of time without even having a hit. The Beatles never did that, the Beatles were constantly touring or recording music and always had a hit song playing.  When you ask people today who they’re favorite band is, they will tell you that the Beatles are their favorite band. A lot of people today haven’t even heard of The Beach Boys and some that have, have never heard they’re music, yet everyone’s heard of the Beatles.
Today the Beatles continue to sell their records and continue to have their songs as popular as ever. And most of the famous bands that we have today, when asked who their influences are, they will tell you the Beatles were. So because of their popularity at the time and today, their ridiculous amount of hits, and their influences on modern music, I’d say that the Beatles are the most popular and influential band compared to The Beach Boys and any other band in history.

Works Cited
Bush, John. "The Beach Boys." AllMusic. n. page. Web. 7 Oct. 2011. <http://www.allmusic.com/artist/p3640>.
De Forest, G.A. BEACH BOYS vs BEATLEMANIA: Rediscovering Sixties Music. 2008. 448. Print.
Keely, Karl. "The Beatles And The Beach Boys." (2011): n. pag. Web. 13 Sep 2011. <http://www.suite101.com/content/the-beatles-and-the-beach-boys-a67634>.
Preiss, Bryan. The Beach Boys: The Authorized Biography of America's Greatest Rock and Roll Band. St. Martins Press, 1979. 96. Print.
Selm, Nick. "Beatles vs Beach Boys ." (2011): n. pag. Web. 13 Sep 2011. <http://www.nuvo.net/MusicBlog/archives/2010/10/27/beatles-vs-beach-boys>.
Unterberger, Richie. "The Beatles." AllMusic. n. page. Web. 7 Oct. 2011. <http://www.allmusic.com/artist/the-beatles-p3644/biography>.


  1. The beach boys were and are the biggest selling american group of all time and had a lot more substance in their music than the beatles. The beatles were george martins puppets, without him they were nothing. If you have any proof of otherwise email me// joshthekook at gmail dot com

  2. And for anyone to say that some people dont know the beach boys is asinine. Their music is the most representive of american rock than anyone, i mean comeon! Joshthekook at gmail dot com id really like to know where you got your resources ha

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  4. The lyrics to Pet Sounds and Smile are at the very least equal to and in many instances light years beyond anything composed by Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison, unless of course you want to argue there's something deeply profound in the culturally appropriated lyrics about Indian mysticism that were scribbled on the back of a napkin, mid acid trip, in a Rishikesh ahsram. (I'd advise against that, though). Their cheesy pop songs were written between 1961 and 1965, a period where the Beatles were writing songs like All My Loving, Can't Buy Me Love, and I Want to Hold Your Hand. So both bands were writing teenage pop music in precisely the same years. By 1965, the Beach Boys started charting new ground with Summer Days (And Summer Nights), which hints at the direction towards Pet Sounds with the intro on California Girls. Also, Brian was working within a convention of pop music that paid homage to his idol, Phil Spector. So to dismiss the music created under this guise is just silly. It was brilliant on multiple levels that run far deeper than simple lyricism.

    By 1966, Brian's songwriting partner was the legendary Van Dyke Parks, a stalwart literary mind whose genius lied in the tradition of American gothic - a vibe that is scattered throughout the Smile project. It's all there, and anyone who says otherwise has either never seriously listened to any Beach Boys recordings post 1965, or they're not qualified, for whatever reason, to analyze the literary merit of song lyrics.

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  6. All lyrics in music are just pretentious anyway . The Beatles music was even more pretentious… All they cared about was making Money . Brian Wilson was one of the most sincerest Guy’s in the Music business next to the The rolling stones And the folk music Acts like Bob dylan . The reason You cant understand Brian wilson’s heartfelt confessions in his music Is because You can never guess nor understand an artist’s feelings And never be able to experience what he went through in his life . You won’t find such sincerity In Any song like ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ Which is just mumbo jumbo . If you find Yourself unable to even enjoy The Beach Boys music let alone the lyrics , You are just plain unlucky .

    I am not denying The Beatles influence on music And i accept that they are talented But They Are Massively over-hyped in the sense That A lot of their Success owes to the Fact that they Had Very good marketing strategies And They Just Had the right conditions to succeed e.g. Having started in England. Compare that to a Band like The Beach Boys – Having started in California Gave them their identity … Yes thats true … But being in america made them Lose their importance later on…. While at the same time , they were still highly regarded in England …….. What i m trying to say Is A Part of the reason Why the Beatles became so popular Is they were stationed in England and promoted from there and thus they Had the right conditions To flourish and not just because they were hard-working.

    I Really love the beatles discography , no band can beat them ….. But What i meant by clever marketing strategies includes Hiding the level of involvement of George Martin , And a lot of other stuff – You know George Martin himself said The Beatles Will record a Bare-Bones Track And leave The production duties or to add new orchestral arrangements to George Martin… Whereas Brian WIlson Was the studio head …… What kind of a band could be called That great If they didnt have the sincerity To work till the end of their songs. And a lot of times iT was George martin who raised the level of the song . ….

  7. you can't compare anyone to the Beatles. Get real people. just one example. 27 # 1 hits in 7 years. 19 # 1 albums. come on. the beach boys dont even have a song as good as Eleanor Rigby.

  8. you can't compare anyone to the Beatles. Get real people. just one example. 27 # 1 hits in 7 years. 19 # 1 albums. come on. the beach boys dont even have a song as good as Eleanor Rigby.

    1. God Only Knows, Good Vibrations, Heroes and Villians, and Surf's Up are all miles better than any song by The Beatles.

  9. Why would anyone compare the Beach Boys to The Beatles is beyond me. The Beatles had conquered the WORLD, they were living gods, they were legends, geniuses with great talents in their MUSIC that spanned GENERATIONS of fans from gen x to millennials. Beach Boys probably had Southern Cali.