Archive Panic - Twenty-seven studio albums (nineteen if you don't count 15 Big Ones-onward), a massive supply of unreleased songs and outtakes, hours of studio sessions, a frankly absurd amount of Smile material (absurd given that the album was never finished), and an endless deluge of illuminating footage of concerts, interviews, promos, and other assorted segments. And people keep discovering new stuff all the time.
"Good Vibrations", at the time it was produced, was already being hailed as one of the greatest pop singles ever recorded. More than 40 years later, its reputation hasn't faded one little bit.
For each individual member:
Brian Wilson: "Good Vibrations"
Carl Wilson: "Trader"
Dennis Wilson: "River Song"
Mike Love: "Big Sur"
Al Jardine: "California"
Bruce Johnston: "Disney Girls"
The 1997 remaster of Pet Sounds improves its mix like you wouldn't believe. There's just so much more you can hear in the music compared to the comparably crap mix that came before. In particular, the descending trombone on the chorus of Here Today is much, much more prominent. And is just one of the greatest things ever.
Broken Base - The albums the band recorded prior to 1967 are pretty much universally agreed to be great, and the ones after 1977 are agreed to pretty much suck. The quality of the ones in between, however, is widely and fiercely debated. Some fans regard them as feeble and tired attempts to stay relevant while other fans consider them to contain some of the best work the Beach Boys have ever done.
The pre-'67 era of the band can itself be divided between the earlier surfing/cars/girls hits and the more sonically and thematically ambitious (if still pop-oriented) Today/Pet Sounds/Smile stuff. The former accounts for most of the group's airplay on oldies radio and attracts audiences to the Mike Love-led touring band, while the latter is the basis for most of the group's critical acclaim and the inspiration for indie-rock revivalists like the Elephant Collective bands.
Covered Up - The Beach Boys did not write "Barbara Ann"- it was a cover of a song by a band called The Regents. Nor did they write "Sloop John B", which was actually a reworked version of a West Indies folk song.
Nor did they write "I Can Hear Music". The song was originally performed by the Ronettes, and although the Phil Spector influences are unmistakable in the Beach Boys' cover, the song is still mainly associated with the Beach Boys.
In the other direction, the Beach Boys wrote and performed the original version of "Little Honda". However, it was the Hondells who had a Top Ten hit with the song.
Critical Dissonance: Pet Sounds was one of the first albums to have this happen, drawing critical raves but slow sales.
Dork Age - The band's recorded output from the ill-conceived Mike Love-led M.I.U. Album onward.
Among the people who have written lyrics for the band, Roger Christian is gaining a following for writing the lyrics for "Little Deuce Coupe" and "Don't Worry, Baby".
Face of the Band - Mostly averted. Brian and Mike were the most visible members, and the two most likely to be mentioned whenever the Beach Boys are discussed, but Carl and Dennis both had a lot of fans.
Fanon Discontinuity - Most fans would like to forget that the Boys kept making albums after Endless Summer.
1977's Love You is the last Beach Boys album which is generally respected amongst the fanbase. It's also the last album before Mike Love took over. Coincidence?
Funny Aneurysm Moment - The 1964 Album Filler track "Cassius Love vs. Sonny Wilson" features Mike and Brian playfully insulting each other and mocking each other's singing styles. Not so funny in light of the real life hostilities that would eventually develop between the two.
There's also Brian's "I'm Bugged at My Old Man". Given what we now know of Brian and Murry's relationship, the track is more than a little uncomfortable to listen to.
1988's "Kokomo" contains a reference to "that Montserrat mystique" among its litany of tropical vacation-paradise islands. Most of the island of Montserrat was rendered uninhabitable by volcanism in the 90s, and its devastated economy is still struggling to recover.
Early pressings of the All Summer Long album mistitled the song "Don't Back Down" as "Don't Break Down".
Germans Love David Hasselhoff - During the mid-to-late 60's when the band was tanking in America, they found much greater success in England. For example, "Do It Again" peaked at #20 in the states, and #1 in the UK.
Growing the Beard - The Beach Boys Today! marked the point when they moved from simple surf songs to something more sophisticated, a transition that would reach its fullest flower with Pet Sounds.
Stig O'Hara joined the band for a few years in the Seventies.
High Octane Nightmare Fuel - "Fire", aka "Mrs. O'leary's Cow", from the Smile sessions. At the time it was made, Brian Wilson was convinced that the song was somehow causing fires that had been happening around the studio it was recorded at.
Misattributed Song - You have to feel sorry for Jan and Dean. Even though they preceded the Beach Boys, they were ultimately overshadowed by them, and even worse, many of their hits are often erroneously assumed to be Beach Boys songs.
This isn't helped by the fact that Brian Wilson co-wrote several of their songs, and even provided backing vocals for "Surf City". And the fact that the Beach Boys covered one Jan and Dean hit, "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena", on their first live album does nothing to clear up the confusion with regards to that song.
Mis Blamed - People blame Mike Love exclusively for the collapse of Smile, when in reality the cause was much more complicated, with factors including not just Mike Love, but also Van Dyke Parks, Capitol Records, the other Beach Boys, a royalties lawsuit, and Brian Wilson's own ailing psyche.
Moment of Awesome - A good 38 years after Smile was aborted, Brian Wilson finished it.
Most Wonderful Sound - You'll never hear anything more angelic than Brian Wilson's voice in your life.
Carl's voice isn't far behind.
ALL of their voices, actually. All 5 (or 6) of them were very good lead singers, but it's the combination of their voices, blending perfectly in some of the best vocal harmonies in the history of music that makes the Beach Boys' music.
Reality Is Unrealistic - A lot of the facts about the Beach Boys's history are so out-there that one might not believe them if they were told. For example:
The fact that Dennis Wilson was once friends with Charles Manson, and in fact stole a song from him.
The fact that Brian Wilson once owned a health food store called The Radiant Radish.
The fact that country music star Glen Campbell started off playing session guitar for their records, as well as briefly taking Brian's place on tour.
The fact that Paul McCartney himself walked in on a Smile session and contributed the sound of him chomping on celery.
The fact that Dennis Wilson co-wrote the song "You Are So Beautiful" at a party with Billy Preston, but never took credit for it.
Rescued From the Scrappy Heap - Mike Love and Al Jardine came so close to this on Holland; Mike penned "Big Sur", and Al penned "The Beaks of Eagles" and "California". All three of these songs are sublimely beautiful, melancholy, and poetic, but the two never wrote anything like them since.
Let's be fair: "The Beaks of Eagles" is an adaptation of a Robinson Jeffers poem.
The Scrappy - Mike Love is mostly remembered for either being the primary factor in the collapse of Smile, perpetuating The Beach Boys as a corny nostalgia act even to this day, or both.
If Love had his way, the Beach Boys wouldn't even have done Pet Sounds. Thankfully, Brian was still enough in control of his faculties at that point to ensure the project was completed.
Seinfeld Is Unfunny - In spades. When most people think of The Beach Boys, they do not think "one of the greatest and most influential bands of the last 50 years" as much as they think "oldies group".