Year 2000 was a rewarding one for fans of Brian Wilson. Not only were there re-mastered re-issues of the entire 1970s Beach Boys catalogue as well as Brian's own eponymous album, Brian himself released what many would have thought impossible five years ago -- a Brian Wilson 'live' album. 

The concept of Brian as a solo artist is often difficult to reconcile -- in many ways, Brian WAS the Beach Boys but also, it's true to say that Brian is MORE than just the Beach Boys. Thanks to Mike Love's self-aggrandizing delusion and the Beach Boys' own early success (and Capitol's constant capitalizing of), it is almost impossible to convince most folks that the Beach Boys were anything other than nostalgic surf-rock hacks.

This is due in no small part to the fact that whilst the Beatles broke up in their prime (in 1970), the Beach Boys, despite the untimely deaths of Dennis (in 1983) and Carl (in 1998) Wilson and most significantly the absence of their true musical force Brian Wilson, continue to exist, under the leadership of Mike Love, as a hokey nostalgia act.

Not that there’s anything wrong for a band to perform even into their fifties (look at the Stones & Aerosmith - or don't, depending on your POV), it’s just that as a creative entity, the current incarnation of the Beach Boys has nothing to offer.

With the obnoxious and arrogant personality (not to mention whining monotone) of Love up front and in everyone’s faces, isn’t it any wonder that the public image of the Beach Boys is that of an old joke?

After all, despite the fact that the Beach Boys' influence and impact on popular culture is as pervasive as the Beatles, you cannot imagine a Beach Boys 'greatest hits' compilation creating a buzz anywhere near the brouhaha generated by the Beatles 1 collection.

In the mid-sixties, there was a friendly creative rivalry between the Beatles and the Beach Boys, well, primarily between Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson. This resulted in some of the finest pop music of all time. Pet Sounds had been a response to Rubber Soul and the Beatles returned with Sgt. Pepper’s. It’s hard to believe, but in a 1966 NME poll, the Californian band managed to beat out their British rivals in the Best Vocal Group category!

That is now a distant fading memory…

In addition, any true student of pop history would find it ironic to hear the Beatles being referred to as a pioneer 'boy band' when the style of these modern day vocal groups obviously owes a greater debt to the Beach Boys.

Whilst the Beach Boys' place in the chronicles of pop has been somewhat re-written, it is insightful that the true lovers of their legacy continue to be the musicians. Last time out I spoke about the "Beatlesque" tradition. Well, it is fair to say that the work of Brian and the Beach Boys have had a greater impact on many of today's 'cutting-edge' pop artists.

Perhaps that is why the significance of Brian's 'live' album goes further than being a personal triumph in Brian's continuing rehabilitation in knowledgeable pop circles. After the disappointing, shameless, MOR 'new' country wannabe fiasco, that was his last album Imagination, it's re-assuring to see the likes of Jeff Foskett and the Wondermints doing their bit to keep Brian on the 'right' track.

With the reclamation of the genuine spirit of the Beach Boys as evident in Brian and company's re-creation of that wonderful wonderful period (viz. The Little Girl I Once Knew, Please Let Me Wonder, Good Vibrations, Pet Sounds, God Only Knows, Let's Go Away For Awhile, Caroline No), fans of Brian Wilson can only hope that 2001 brings us more of that good good good good vibrations…