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Why the Beach Boys Matter

Why the Beach Boys Matter

Series: Music Matters

October 2018
Active (available)
192 pages | 5 x 7 |

Of all the white American pop music groups that hit the charts before the Beatles, only the Beach Boys continued to thrive throughout the British Invasion to survive into the 1970s and beyond. The Beach Boys helped define both sides of the era we broadly call the sixties, split between their early surf, car, and summer pop and their later hippie, counterculture, and ambitious rock. No other group can claim the Ronettes and the Four Seasons as early 1960s rivals; the Mamas and the Papas and Crosby, Stills and Nash as later 1960s rivals; and the Beatles and the Temptations as decade-spanning counterparts.

This is the first book to take an honest look at the themes running through the Beach Boys’ art and career as a whole and to examine where they sit inside our culture and politics—and why they still grab our attention.

  • Introduction
  • 1. Harmony and Discord
  • 2. Cars and Guitars
  • 3. Suburbs and Surf
  • 4. Studio and Stage
  • 5. Fathers, Shrinks, and Gurus
  • 6. Girlfriends, Wives, and Mothers
  • 7. When Did the Early Sixties End?
  • 8. Jan and Dean
  • 9. Innocence and the Second-Best Pop Album Ever
  • 10. Hip and White
  • 11. The Best Unreleased Pop Album Ever
  • 12. The Beatles
  • 13. Into the Genres
  • 14. Dennis
  • 15. Carl
  • 16. Al, Bruce, and David
  • 17. Mike
  • 18. Brian Solo
  • 19. Storytellers, Historians, and Fans
  • 20. Summer’s Gone, the Endless Summer
  • Epilogue: Suggestions
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Discography
  • A Chronological Listing of DVDs
  • Mentioned in the Book
  • Bibliography

Tom Smucker has written rock criticism for Creem, Fusion, Rolling Stone, and the Village Voice.


Why the Beach Boys Matter provides an excellent introduction to the band that might have evolved, Smucker suggests, into the Beatles…We were ready to abandon the Beach Boys. Now, with Smucker's book, we can reconnect to them.”
New York Journal of Books

“Smucker’s mix of unabashed fanboy enthusiasm with razor-sharp analysis makes him the perfect teller of this story.”
Marc Ribot, guitarist

“Having spent a lifetime digging into everything the Beach Boys have recorded, Smucker knows it to be fun fun fun, great art, and a barometer of our class, race, and gender politics since World War II.”
Robert Christgau, author of Is It Still Good to Ya? Fifty Years of Rock Criticism, 1967-2017

“Smucker perfectly captures the world the Beach Boys made. This is the band in full career ricochet, summing up and summoning a whole way of life.”
Eric Lott, author of Black Mirror: The Cultural Contradictions of American Racism

“Tom Smucker pointed me in the right direction for what became my life’s journey.”
David Leaf, writer, director, and producer of Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the Story of "Smile"