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.
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>.