The Beach Boys were an enormously successful pop group of the 1960s, whose popularity lasted into the twentieth-first century. Originally formed in 1961 by brothers Carl, Dennis and Brian Wilson with cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine as Carl and the Passions, the group's signature was a close harmony vocal sound, strongly influenced by The Four Freshmen.
At first their career was steered by father Murray Wilson who engineered their signing with Capitol Records. The early material epitomised the Californian youth lifestyle (e.g. California Girls, Fun Fun Fun) cars (Little Deuce Coupe) and, as often as not, on Carl's hobby of surfing (as heard on Surfin, Surfing Safari and many others).
As the 1960s progressed the always introspective Brian began to withdraw from touring, concentrating on producing studio recordings of ever increasing complexity. This mastery of the recording studio culminated with Pet Sounds (1966), and a sequence of tracks (including God Only Knows, Good Vibrations) whose meticulously layered and inventive instrumentation set a new standard for popular music, pushing The Beatles towards Sgt. Pepper. On top, Brian's lyrics were now intensely personal expressions of his isolation from the world. The album still widely regarded as a classic.
Seeking to improve upon Pet Sounds proved too much for Brian. A perfectionist in the studio, he suffered a nervous breakdown whilst working on Smile, not helped by his reliance on both prescription and illegal drugs. Some of the tracks were salvaged for Smiley Smile.
Despite Brian's deteriorating health the band continued to work, recording the albums, including Friends, 20/20 and Sunflower, prior to a return to greatness on 1971's Surf's Up, a collaboration with cult songwriter Van Dyke Parks which touched on politics, ecology and nostalgia. 1973's Holland received mixed reviews as throughout the 1970s Brian retreated into reclusion. Without him, the band continued to tour, and occasionally record, into the 21st century, essentially performing a greatest hits package from their earlier success.