As an avowed Brian Wilson and Beach Boys fan, I can say that the events of this past year have come as a wonderful surprise. The year 2012 marks the group’s 50th anniversary, and somehow they were able to get together for both an album and tour. The bad blood between Wilson and Mike Love seemed insurmountable. Most of us felt that their feuds, lawsuits, and countersuits over the years had poisoned the well permanently. Since Wilson’s resurgence, he has toured on his own, playing both Beach Boys and solo material to ecstatic reception. Meanwhile, Love has led The Beach Boys, playing the oldies to large crowds as well.
Even with the announcement that The Beach Boys with Wilson were recording together, I sincerely doubted that anything would come of it. Maybe a song or two, but not a full album. When That’s Why God Made the Radio appeared, it kind of knocked me over. First of all, the fact that the group had managed to pull it off at all was mighty impressive. More importantly though was the quality of the music. While That’s Why God Made the Radio is not quite Pet Sounds, it is very, very good. I have no doubt that it will make my Top Ten of 2012.
The new DVD The Beach Boys Doin’ It Again is a documentary of the group, featuring interviews and performances recorded this past year. It also contains some very cool vintage footage. The 54-minute program opens with the band onstage, singing the song “Doin’ It Again.” From there, the history of the group is discussed via new interviews and footage from the early days.
There is a great segment where Brian talks about the genesis of Pet Sounds. Most fans know that he has always admired Phil Spector and The Beatles, and he mentions how he heard Rubber Soul, and how much it inspired him. There is some rare black and white video of the band in the studio recording “Good Vibrations,” and a comment is made that the song would either be their biggest or kill them off. Actually, it kind of did both. Of course “Good Vibrations” was a smash hit, but following it up with the Smile project practically destroyed Brian Wilson. There were a few moments of clarity, but he was pretty much out of the it for the next 20 years or so.
Doin’ It Again skips over this entire chapter of the group’s history, which I think is a mistake. Sure, it was an ugly period, but to just gloss over it is not the way to go. Wilson’s breakdown is as important an element of The Beach Boys story as any. Without it, their getting back together this year would not have the emotional impact it did. Omitting this period from the history of the group would have to be the one complaint I have about this DVD.
The deaths of Dennis and Carl Wilson are discussed however, which are sad truths in themselves. It is during this portion that one of my favorite moments of the DVD comes. It comes in a very funny story about Dennis. It seems that at some point in the late ‘60s, he went out motorcycle riding and discovered some miners digging for gold. He asked them if they had found any, and they told him that they had not. A week later, he went back and asked them again. When they told him they still had not found any gold, he produced a gold record for them to hang in the mine, so now the mine would have some gold in it.
The Beach Boys Doin’ It Again may not be the ultimate historical record of the group, but it is a nice little companion for their 50th anniversary. It is a bit short at 54 minutes, and there are no bonus features. But for those who missed seeing them live, there are some great moments of the 2012 tour captured here. In the end, this is mainly for the die-hard fans.