Active on-and-off from 1961 to the present, The Beach Boys’ career packs a lot of history, so it would be naïve to expect a 250-page book dominated by large photos to say everything that needs to be said about all those great songs, strange personalities, terrible tragedies, and tedious lawsuits. Nevertheless, Johnny Morgan does a pretty admirable job in his new coffee-table centerpiece The Beach Boys: America’s Band. The basic narrative runs through the book occasionally supported by half-page profiles of albums and singles. While coffee table books usually don’t present a point of view, Morgan asserts his personality with lively writing and a critical viewpoint of the band’s music and the often questionable ways certain members (Mike Love) have chosen to represent a band that has been profoundly splintered for more than half of its five-decade history. There are no gaping omissions here, though there are no revelations either. Morgan sticks to the essential tale told in many other books, which he often quotes throughout.
Although his book boasts no firsthand interviews, the author has clearly read a lot about his book’s topic, which makes the occasional major error rather jarring. He marks “Kokomo” as the band’s third number one hit (it was their fourth) and confuses the content of Revolver for that of Rubber Soul, which really affects his discussion of Pet Sounds. More forgivable is his assumption that Between the Buttons “must have sounded like a nightmare” to Brian, though if Morgan was aware that Rolling Stones manager Andrew Oldham played the LP for Brian Wilson, he should have also read that Brian really dug the record and ranked its only nightmarish track, “My Obsession”, as one of his favorite Stones songs.
Morgan’s critiques can be odd too, as when he calls the extremely simple and graspable metaphors of “Til I Die” “inane nonsense.” Kudos to the author for taking The Monkees as seriously as he does, but reviewing Smiley Smile as if it’s some sort of direct response to Headquarters is an inadequate and misguided approach. Of course, most serious Beach Boys fans will crack America’s Band not for history and assessments but for its lovely abundance of photos, and on that account, it’s definitely a looker.
Get The Beach Boys: America’s Band on Amazon.com here: