When we first discussed the issue of the best American band, Russell’s immediate thought was that The Beach Boys must be considered. Good point! In terms of measurable data, The Beach Boys present a very strong case. The Beach Boys has had 36 Top 40 hits, more than any other American group, and according to Wikipedia Billboard has identified The Beach Boys as the best-selling American band of all time.
The Beach Boys is one of handful of groups with an immediately identifiable sound — one that has spawned countless imitators and an entire sub-genre. Although their music is on the lighter side and I like a harder edge, it is impossible not to like the characteristic harmonies, the catchy tunes, and the simple lyrics about girls, and cars, and summer days. The Beach Boys also can make a claim that few American bands can make: like Elvis and Dylan, they influenced the Beatles. Indeed, Paul McCartney has stated that he was so impressed by The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds that he set out to make an even better album, and Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was the result. In retrospect, it’s not hard to see the influential nature of The Beach Boys’ music. Having been immensely successful with songs like Surfin’ USA and Fun, Fun, Fun, The Beach Boys easily could have continued to record and sell similar songs. Instead, they broke new ground and released unexpected, inventive songs like Wouldn’t It Be Nice and, of course, Good Vibrations.
So, I agree with Russell that The Beach Boys must be viewed as a contender. The Ipod includes songs like All Summer Long, Fun, Fun, Fun, California Girls, Good Vibrations, I Get Around, Help Me Rhonda, Surfer Girl, Surfin’ USA, Barbara Ann, and Sloop John B. Can any American band boast of ten better songs to enjoy on a bright summer day?
Edited to add: Time to Vote for your choice for Best American Band!
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