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Everybody Had an Ocean: Music and Mayhem in 1960s Los Angeles

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Los Angeles in the 1960s gave the world some of the greatest music in rock ’n’ roll history: “California Dreamin’” by the Mamas and the Papas, “Mr. Tambourine Man” by the Byrds, and “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys, a song that magnificently summarized the joy and beauty of the era in three and a half minutes. But there was a dark flip side to the fun fun fun of the musi Los Angeles in the 1960s gave the world some of the greatest music in rock ’n’ roll history: “California Dreamin’” by the Mamas and the Papas, “Mr. Tambourine Man” by the Byrds, and “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys, a song that magnificently summarized the joy and beauty of the era in three and a half minutes. But there was a dark flip side to the fun fun fun of the music, a nexus between naive young musicians and the hangers-on who exploited the decade’s peace, love, and flowers ethos, all fueled by sex, drugs, and overnight success. One surf music superstar unwittingly subsidized the kidnapping of Frank Sinatra Jr. The transplanted Texas singer Bobby Fuller might have been murdered by the Mob in what is still an unsolved case. And after hearing Charlie Manson sing, Neil Young recommended him to the president of Warner Bros. Records. Manson’s ultimate rejection by the music industry likely led to the infamous murders that shocked a nation. Everybody Had an Ocean chronicles the migration of the rock ’n’ roll business to Southern California and how the artists flourished there. The cast of characters is astonishing—Brian and Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, eccentric producer Phil Spector, Cass Elliot, Sam Cooke, Ike and Tina Turner, Joni Mitchell, and scores of others—and their stories form a modern epic of the battles between innocence and cynicism, joy and terror. You’ll never hear that beautiful music in quite the same way.


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Los Angeles in the 1960s gave the world some of the greatest music in rock ’n’ roll history: “California Dreamin’” by the Mamas and the Papas, “Mr. Tambourine Man” by the Byrds, and “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys, a song that magnificently summarized the joy and beauty of the era in three and a half minutes. But there was a dark flip side to the fun fun fun of the musi Los Angeles in the 1960s gave the world some of the greatest music in rock ’n’ roll history: “California Dreamin’” by the Mamas and the Papas, “Mr. Tambourine Man” by the Byrds, and “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys, a song that magnificently summarized the joy and beauty of the era in three and a half minutes. But there was a dark flip side to the fun fun fun of the music, a nexus between naive young musicians and the hangers-on who exploited the decade’s peace, love, and flowers ethos, all fueled by sex, drugs, and overnight success. One surf music superstar unwittingly subsidized the kidnapping of Frank Sinatra Jr. The transplanted Texas singer Bobby Fuller might have been murdered by the Mob in what is still an unsolved case. And after hearing Charlie Manson sing, Neil Young recommended him to the president of Warner Bros. Records. Manson’s ultimate rejection by the music industry likely led to the infamous murders that shocked a nation. Everybody Had an Ocean chronicles the migration of the rock ’n’ roll business to Southern California and how the artists flourished there. The cast of characters is astonishing—Brian and Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, eccentric producer Phil Spector, Cass Elliot, Sam Cooke, Ike and Tina Turner, Joni Mitchell, and scores of others—and their stories form a modern epic of the battles between innocence and cynicism, joy and terror. You’ll never hear that beautiful music in quite the same way.

30 review for Everybody Had an Ocean: Music and Mayhem in 1960s Los Angeles

  1. 5 out of 5

    Anita

    Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) provided by the Author and Publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an fair and honest review. I grew up in Southern California during the Surf Craze of the 50's and 60's. This is my backyard, my music, my childhood. Of course, I knew nothing about the sex and drugs. All I cared about was the rock and roll. William McKeen takes a "Helter-Skelter" look at the music industry in California in the 1960's. He starts with the Beach Boys and Dennis Wilson's relationship with Ch Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) provided by the Author and Publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an fair and honest review. I grew up in Southern California during the Surf Craze of the 50's and 60's. This is my backyard, my music, my childhood. Of course, I knew nothing about the sex and drugs. All I cared about was the rock and roll. William McKeen takes a "Helter-Skelter" look at the music industry in California in the 1960's. He starts with the Beach Boys and Dennis Wilson's relationship with Charlie Manson, then briefly recounts the scandal plagued history of the Hollywood movie industry before he heads into the history of Rock and Roll with the movers and shakers and their sometimes stab you in the back tactics. Recounting stories and scandals along the way, McKeen writes a dry narrative of the era weaving the life and times of Brian Wilson throughout. But very much like a train wreck about to happen, you just can't look away.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mark Mortensen

    This book details the music industry during the decade of the 1960’s in connection to southern California. Jan & Dean, the Beach Boys and other local groups started a movement. Once Capital Records and its recording studio were formed within the L.A. community, top recording artists across America gravitated west to seek fame and connect with Phil Spector. The culture of sun, sand and surf, quickly evolved into sex, drugs and not just rock and roll but a wide assortment of music. The Beach Boys g This book details the music industry during the decade of the 1960’s in connection to southern California. Jan & Dean, the Beach Boys and other local groups started a movement. Once Capital Records and its recording studio were formed within the L.A. community, top recording artists across America gravitated west to seek fame and connect with Phil Spector. The culture of sun, sand and surf, quickly evolved into sex, drugs and not just rock and roll but a wide assortment of music. The Beach Boys gained full recognition in the fall of 1963 the same time I entered middle school. In homeroom we’d often swap Beach Boy and Beatle 45 rpms. A couple years later I purchased my first surfboard that was kept at my grandparents’ home on Cape Cod, which in part was the reason I was drawn to the 60’s southern California music, but with firm east coast roots I had no desire to live the west coast lifestyle. It wasn't all fun, fun, fun. I did not know the full connection of Charles Manson to the music industry, nor did I comprehend the full mayhem and a dark side of Los Angles record industry in the 1960’s. Upon reflection it’s sad that so many talented musicians, who partied and initially took drugs for recreational use, ended up being habitual heavy drug users in the decades following the 1960’s up to their death. Author William McKeen fully knows the subject, is remarkably astute, witty and his unique descriptive phrases are priceless. The book is excellent even though it is void of photos.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

    Sometimes I feel like Agent Irena Spalko, Cate Blanchett’s character in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull when, towards the end of the movie she reveals what has motivated her evil actions throughout the entire film by screaming at the demon heads “I vant to know!” Now I don’t normally scream in libraries, bookstores, or even at my Amazon wish list, but I completely understood Agent Spalko during this scene. Which is why, apart from certain fiction authors, I generally read (and Sometimes I feel like Agent Irena Spalko, Cate Blanchett’s character in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull when, towards the end of the movie she reveals what has motivated her evil actions throughout the entire film by screaming at the demon heads “I vant to know!” Now I don’t normally scream in libraries, bookstores, or even at my Amazon wish list, but I completely understood Agent Spalko during this scene. Which is why, apart from certain fiction authors, I generally read (and write) non-fiction. But like Agent Spalko, this thirst for knowledge sometimes gets me more than I bargained for. Case in point: When I saw that my publishers were putting out a book whose cover featured Joni Mitchell, the Mamas and the Papas, and the Beach Boys, I had to request a review copy. After all, the music of the 1960s was the soundtrack of my childhood and a connection to my slightly older former-garage band husband; I can sing all the songs by heart but he knows exactly who is playing which guitar solo on hundreds of 60s songs. So I dove into William McKeen's excellent Everybody Had an Ocean: Music and Mahem in 1960s Los Angeles, ready to fill in the gaps in my understanding of 1960s pop culture history. First, the good and the great: Like Wilfrid Sheed’s The House That George Built: With a Little Help from Irving, Cole, and a Crew of About Fifty, McKeen's book centers on one small cast of characters—in this case, the Wilson brothers—but expands to reveal how they interacted with their universe. The Beach Boys might remain the trunk of this particular tree, but the branches fascinate. Nearly everyone who was somebody in the world of 1960s rock and roll makes an appearance here and the connections are often startling. For instance, Stephen Stills told his friend Peter Torkelson about auditions for a TV series about a rock and roll band. Peter got the part, shortening his last name to Tork. After Joni Mitchell met fellow-Canadian Neil Young in Winnipeg and played “Sugar Mountain” for her, she responded by writing “The Circle Game.” Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas not only had a beautiful voice but a knack for bringing the right people together, in one famous case, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash. McKeen's writing--which includes a plethora of direct quotes--makes it seem as if he knew these music-makers personally. Although he seems to have been acquainted with Dennis Wilson, one glance at the notes section shows that he relied on an exhaustive bibliography, including many previously conducted interviews. But the inclusion of these direct quotes from the main players brings an exciting immediacy to the narrative. What I didn’t bargain for was the brain-frying “mayhem” in the book’s subtitle. For instance, part of me wishes I return to my former opinion of the Beach Boys: sunny, smiling, eternally upbeat voices. But now I know that while the band members could sing in perfect harmony, their interpersonal relationships rarely reached that state. It's uncomfortable to realize that Brian Wilson was deaf in one ear, most likely the result of a beating from his abusive father (a man who only calmed down under music’s influence and who adored hearing his boys sing in three-part harmony. You can’t make this stuff up). I wish I could still consider the voice singing "Wouldn’t it be Nice" to be an earnest young fiancé rather than what actually inspired the song. I especially wish I didn’t know that Charles Manson was once great pals with Dennis Wilson and that the future mass murderer hoped this friendship would open doors to a rock and roll career. But if I hadn’t read this excellent book, I also wouldn’t know that the first 20 seconds of "California Girls" was Brian Wilson’s attempt to musically portray a sunrise, or that his girlfriend, hearing him angst about the unattainable beauty of "Be My Baby," patted him on the arm and said “Don’t worry baby,” giving him a line he would later make famous in song. One thing that puzzled me about McKeen's writing was what I consider to be his gratuitous use of the F-word and similarly coarse language. It certainly shows up enough in the direct quotes but just as often in the narrative. Perhaps he was trying to add a certain seamlessness to the book by telling the story as one of the characters would have. I'm not sure every reader would react similarly but for me it was jarring and eventually tedious. However, it didn't stop me from reading to the end because all told, this is an entertaining, enlightening read which adds tremendously to the canon of 1960s pop culture.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Online Eccentric Librarian

    More reviews (and no fluff) on the blog http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/ With Everybody Had An Ocean, we get all the good and none of the bad that can plague the nonfiction historical genre: the writing is clean, precise, and friendly, the book stays on topic and rarely veers off on tangents, and the material is highly researched and very well disseminated. Imagine a large venn diagram of the 1960s Southern California music scene and you'll get an idea of how author McKeen has chosen to pr More reviews (and no fluff) on the blog http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/ With Everybody Had An Ocean, we get all the good and none of the bad that can plague the nonfiction historical genre: the writing is clean, precise, and friendly, the book stays on topic and rarely veers off on tangents, and the material is highly researched and very well disseminated. Imagine a large venn diagram of the 1960s Southern California music scene and you'll get an idea of how author McKeen has chosen to present the information. It's a very twisting but fascinating story of a somewhat insular scene that was just starting to grow, mature, and then stagnate in the pivotal 1960s. The book has two anchors: a chronological account of how the music changed in the Los Angeles scene from the early 1960s to the end of the decade and the people involved in that change. At the epicenter of the change is the Beach Boys; from their nexus we get the stories of how they interacted with, helped grow or develop, hindered, or just hung out with so many of the big musicians of the time (or in the near future). From the musicians themselves (Mamas and Papas, Jan and Dean, Buffalo Springfield, Neil Young, Jim Messina, etc.) to the studio bands, record company owners, producers, hanger-ons, wives, and more. More interestingly, much of the beginning of the book is a breakdown of the various musical styles as they developed, from surf music to folk, psychedelic rock to rhythm and blues. If it sounds pedantic, it isn't. McKeen carefully and smartly interweaves all the stories so that the reader is never left wondering how they are all connected. As the title suggests, this isn't about the Beach Boys and isn't their biography even though we are given quite a bit of information about them. Where most biographies focus on the subject, this book focuses on the impact of our subjects on others; e.g., how Brian Wilson's search for self actualization would lead him to try to work on other bands only to be reigned in by Mike Love and how Dennis Wilson would unwittingly begin the series of events leading to the Helter Skelter murders. The first half of the book is very fact heavy to establish the backgrounds and perspective of the music and why it all ended up in Los Angeles. Artists big at the time like the Beatles are briefly mentioned but did not have a great effect on the LA scene. But other artists such as Elvis will have left a bigger legacy and so gets a bit more time in the book. As the book goes on, it becomes solely focused on the people and their interactions. The writing changes from factual to subjective in a way that makes complete sense but does oddly feel like a catharsis for the writer. Although Los Angeles is the heart of the book, it really isn't the reason to read Everybody Had An Ocean. And indeed, not much time is spent on the city at all. It's all about the many different musicians/producers/music industry insiders who moved to LA in the 1960s in order to make their fortune. Some thrived, some died, and some just faded away. But their stories all made for excellent reading. As noted early, the author is friendly, brief, concise, and does a very good job of editing himself to stay on topic and not get too distracted. Because the tone is conversational, the wording is never stiff or 'non-fiction dry' that can plague the genre. Indeed the author intersperses quite a bit of his opinions throughout and this is, as a result, a very subjective book. I may not have always agreed with his opinions of what music was good or who was a genius but I always respected the reasoning he gave for his assertions. In all, I greatly enjoyed Everybody Had An Ocean. Perhaps better than any individual biographies of musicians from the era, this gives a much needed big picture perspective that make so much of the period much more understandable and defined. As such, this is highly recommended. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jay Phillippi

    While many of the stories, and virtually of the music is familiar, "Everybody Had An Ocean" offers new understanding for the music and the musicians who made it. I will never be able to listen to the music of the Beach Boys the same way again. There may be no musical group that seems more clean and pure than the Beach Boys. They are, to many people, the standard of clean cut, All-Americanism at the beginning of the Sixties, and their music provides most of the soundtrack for summer. Close harmoni While many of the stories, and virtually of the music is familiar, "Everybody Had An Ocean" offers new understanding for the music and the musicians who made it. I will never be able to listen to the music of the Beach Boys the same way again. There may be no musical group that seems more clean and pure than the Beach Boys. They are, to many people, the standard of clean cut, All-Americanism at the beginning of the Sixties, and their music provides most of the soundtrack for summer. Close harmonies of bright melodies are their trademark. But the familial hell out of which that grew is a startling contrast. Too often we forget that they were the Kings of Rock and Roll until the Beatles grabbed that crown. It's also easy to brush their music off as auditory fluff. McKeen will make you go back and reassess. That polished sound is the result of intense work by all involved, lead for many years by the genius of Brian Wilson. The pressure of expectation, both from within himself and the world around him, would take their toll on Wilson and all the members of the band. The overall quality of the writing, and the excellence of the storytelling, easily sweeps away any small objections I may have. For fans of the music and students of the era, this has the feel of a "go-to" book. It is the best kind of history. The kind that both teaches and enthralls.

  6. 5 out of 5

    James Hold

    Sigh. Same old same old rehash of Beach Boys myth and legend you've heard a thousand times before. Along with a few sidetrips into other artists. Brian Wilson was a musical genius blah blah blah. I keep hearing it but nobody ever tells me what I'm supposed to look for as evidence of it. 'Just take my word for it' is the motto. Mike Love as usual is woefully shortchanged for his contributions. It centers around Charles Manson and the author goes to some stretchable lengths to tie him into the oth Sigh. Same old same old rehash of Beach Boys myth and legend you've heard a thousand times before. Along with a few sidetrips into other artists. Brian Wilson was a musical genius blah blah blah. I keep hearing it but nobody ever tells me what I'm supposed to look for as evidence of it. 'Just take my word for it' is the motto. Mike Love as usual is woefully shortchanged for his contributions. It centers around Charles Manson and the author goes to some stretchable lengths to tie him into the others mentioned. McKeen has a nice style and turns many a cute phrase, but ultimately I didn't learn much and some of his excursions into history have long been proven incorrect. Still it reads well and if this is your first time hearing about the subject it's all right. A few fotos would have helped. It could also do with a few less f-bombs. All told, I don't think it was worth my money, but others enjoyed it so who am I to say. One thing though: I do wish Al Jardine would write a book telling his side of the story.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Adrian

    A history of 1960s rock and roll. Packed with great stories about all the big names including Phil Spector, The Byrds, Mamas and Papas, Jan and Dean, David Crosby, Jim Morrison, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Sam Cooke, Stephen Stills and many more. The main thread of the book are the Beach Boys and the neurotic genius of Brian Wilson. Of course Charles Manson is in here as well. The author comes to the usual conclusion that the 60s and the first great era of rock and roll ended when Manson and his A history of 1960s rock and roll. Packed with great stories about all the big names including Phil Spector, The Byrds, Mamas and Papas, Jan and Dean, David Crosby, Jim Morrison, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Sam Cooke, Stephen Stills and many more. The main thread of the book are the Beach Boys and the neurotic genius of Brian Wilson. Of course Charles Manson is in here as well. The author comes to the usual conclusion that the 60s and the first great era of rock and roll ended when Manson and his family committed their insane murders. The attitude towards hippies changed overnight. McKeen is an able and willing storyteller if crude.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Laurie

    While this book covers the Los Angeles music scene of the 60s, the backbone of the book is the story of the Beach Boys. Beginning with their early teen days of using music to keep their brutal, abusive, father from beating them, to the days when they worked with Jan and Dean, and then the LA studio musicians that were known as the Wrecking Crew (a crew that included Glen Campbell and Leon Russell), the book takes side roads through music other than surf pop. The Greenwich Village folk scene that While this book covers the Los Angeles music scene of the 60s, the backbone of the book is the story of the Beach Boys. Beginning with their early teen days of using music to keep their brutal, abusive, father from beating them, to the days when they worked with Jan and Dean, and then the LA studio musicians that were known as the Wrecking Crew (a crew that included Glen Campbell and Leon Russell), the book takes side roads through music other than surf pop. The Greenwich Village folk scene that spawned Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, and Cass Elliot. The “race music” that black musicians were putting out, mainly in the south. The various permutations Crosby, Still, Nash and Young, including bands before, during, and after. Frank Sinatra, which rather baffled me, although he was producing music that got played on the rock stations (and a chapter on how his son was kidnapped). Phil Spector and his Wall of Sound. The sex and drugs. How Charles Manson drifted around in the music world, living in Dennis Wilson’s house with his who knows how many girls, and getting a recommendation from Neil Young (the producer passed). Through the various chapters, the story returns again and again to the Beach Boys. The final chapter updates us on what happened to all those people, ending, as it began, with Brian Wilson. I picked this book up as being of just passing interest; I was never into the surf and car music of the early 60s. But I saw that it was about more than that, so I figured I’d give it a try. I ended up not being able to put it down. It seems like the entire rock music industry was interconnected. It’s well written, entertaining (albeit depressing a lot of the time, but that’s what happened), and apparently well researched. This isn’t a memoir from someone who was there; McKeen is a professor of journalism, so I assume he takes a neutral approach to the material. Five stars.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Colleen Pallamary

    When I was a budding teenager my tiny transistor radio became another appendage glued to my ear listening to rock and roll. The 60’s were turbulent, to be sure, and as the times changed so did the music. Little did I know back then that all these years later I’d rediscover my passion for artists and songs others may have relegated to dusty bins of long ago when reading Everybody Had An Ocean. Author William McKeen gives readers a behind the scenes glimpse into the genesis of new musical genres t When I was a budding teenager my tiny transistor radio became another appendage glued to my ear listening to rock and roll. The 60’s were turbulent, to be sure, and as the times changed so did the music. Little did I know back then that all these years later I’d rediscover my passion for artists and songs others may have relegated to dusty bins of long ago when reading Everybody Had An Ocean. Author William McKeen gives readers a behind the scenes glimpse into the genesis of new musical genres that swept across the country in recording studios and the airwaves like birds in flight during the sixties and early 70’s. Mystery and mayhem expose the underbelly of the music industry and readers finally get answers to long forgotten questions. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it to readers like me who continue to smile when the “oldies and goodies” grace the airwaves whenever I listen to Classic Rock.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    Earthy and gossipy look at the Los Angeles music scene in the '60s. Even if you're well-versed in the catechism of surf music, hot rod music, the Wrecking Crew, folk rock, rioting on the Sunset Strip, and weird/hippie music, there will be some new stuff here. There's an interesting episode about the Frank Sinatra, Jr. kidnapping. Charles Manson is presented as a kind of denouement to the Sixties. That's not an original conclusion, but he is placed within the context of American class and privile Earthy and gossipy look at the Los Angeles music scene in the '60s. Even if you're well-versed in the catechism of surf music, hot rod music, the Wrecking Crew, folk rock, rioting on the Sunset Strip, and weird/hippie music, there will be some new stuff here. There's an interesting episode about the Frank Sinatra, Jr. kidnapping. Charles Manson is presented as a kind of denouement to the Sixties. That's not an original conclusion, but he is placed within the context of American class and privilege rather than simplistically portrayed as "the dark underside of the counterculture".

  11. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Fascinating, comprehensive, who's who and what's what of the sixties music scene inLos Angeles, concentrating on The Beach Boys and the intersection of the music world and Charles Manson. So many interesting stories. Highly recommended! Fascinating, comprehensive, who's who and what's what of the sixties music scene inLos Angeles, concentrating on The Beach Boys and the intersection of the music world and Charles Manson. So many interesting stories. Highly recommended!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Edwin Howard

    EVERYBODY HAD AN OCEAN by William McKeen chronicles the popular music progression in Los Angeles in the 1960's from catchy surf music, to easy going folk music, to drug addled rock and roll. Using the Beach Boys as a launching point and paralleling their evolution to the music of the 1960s, McKeen walks the reader through a time in music that was full of not just talent and potential, but also full of alcohol, drugs, adultery, and murder. By finishing the book by telling the story of Charles Man EVERYBODY HAD AN OCEAN by William McKeen chronicles the popular music progression in Los Angeles in the 1960's from catchy surf music, to easy going folk music, to drug addled rock and roll. Using the Beach Boys as a launching point and paralleling their evolution to the music of the 1960s, McKeen walks the reader through a time in music that was full of not just talent and potential, but also full of alcohol, drugs, adultery, and murder. By finishing the book by telling the story of Charles Manson, McKeen alludes to the Manson murders as the culmination of all the sins of excess that the musicians and artists in Los Angeles in 1960s. Tethering the entire book to the Beach Boys, I found McKeen used their devolution to mirror the evolution of pop music. McKeen spends a lot of time in the beginning of the book telling the story of the Beach Boys and I found myself rereading the name and subtitle of the book to make sure it wasn't a biography of the Beach Boys. Eventually, though, the book jumps into the entire rock and roll scene and the stories McKeen tells are fascinating and eye opening. McKeen ties together so many musicians and groups that my head was spinning, but in good way, because I had no idea how much all of these artists worked and partied together. McKeen writes in a concise, informative way, where few words are wasted and yet as the reader, you feel like you've gotten the whole story. I think music lovers will devour this book as I did. EVERYBODY HAS AN OCEAN was a pleasure to read and made me wish I was old enough to have enjoyed that time in Los Angeles myself. Thanks you to Chicago Review Press, William McKeen, and Netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    Book received from Edelweiss I love the music of the 60's and was ecstatic when I had a chance to read and review this book. My older brother and cousins helped me get hooked on the music of this generation, since I was a child of the 70's. This book focuses on California's influence on the small bit of time that made the music of the era what it was. It starts with the surf music of The Beach Boys and Jan and Dean, gives you the background on how Blues and Soul music worked their way into the so Book received from Edelweiss I love the music of the 60's and was ecstatic when I had a chance to read and review this book. My older brother and cousins helped me get hooked on the music of this generation, since I was a child of the 70's. This book focuses on California's influence on the small bit of time that made the music of the era what it was. It starts with the surf music of The Beach Boys and Jan and Dean, gives you the background on how Blues and Soul music worked their way into the sound of the times, followed by the changes brought about by the British Invasion. As a die-hard Monkees fan, I was thrilled with the few paragraphs about the band since they are very overlooked in books on the era. It even brings up the end of the 60's peace and love generation by bringing Charles Manson's musical aspirations into parts of the book. The book uses The Beach Boys as it's central focus and the other groups weave in and out as the author plays a game of "6 degrees of separation" with primarily Brian Wilson at its center. I learned quite a few things about these groups and really loved reading the book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Samuel

    "If everybody had an ocean, across the USA..."--The Beach Boys in "Surfin' USA" William McKeen employs his journalistic voice to contend that the 1960s southern Californian music industry gave America (if not much of the world) a sonic ocean promising hedonistic freedoms associated with the youth culture triad of the era: sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Chief among his aims in this book is chronicling the bizarre connection between the sunny Californian surf band--the Beach Boys--and the most noto "If everybody had an ocean, across the USA..."--The Beach Boys in "Surfin' USA" William McKeen employs his journalistic voice to contend that the 1960s southern Californian music industry gave America (if not much of the world) a sonic ocean promising hedonistic freedoms associated with the youth culture triad of the era: sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Chief among his aims in this book is chronicling the bizarre connection between the sunny Californian surf band--the Beach Boys--and the most notorious megalomaniacal psychopath of the 1960s--Charles Manson. Dennis Wilson, the drummer of the Beach Boys and the wildest of the three Wilson brothers therein, happened upon chance hitchhikers that connected him with Charles Manson, who became a live-in buddy for several months. Networking got Manson very near a record deal (a song of his was altered and included on a Beach Boys album), but his ultimate spurning by the record companies of southern California influenced his murderous actions orchestrated through his "family" of brainwashed disciples in the summer of 1969. Ultimately, McKeen argues that the Manson murders transformed the previously benign image of "hippie" culture into a scary, if not dangerous, cautionary tale for many Americans. The music that pedaled revolutionary approaches to peace and love somehow got tied up in the darkest consequences of fascist leadership and groupthink. Along the way, McKeen not only discusses the Beach Boys and their connection to the Manson family but he also weaves in an impressive number of musicians and players in the music industry who contributed to the California sound: Jan and Dean; Frank Sinatra (and his son's kidnapping); the Mamas and the Papas; Buffalo Springfield; Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young; Joni Mitchell; Phil Spector; the "Wrecking Crew" to name just a few. This book truly does cover a lot of ground jumping around the 1960s primarily, but not exclusively, to show how the Los Angeles music scene dominated the cultural trends, some of them blissful and others quite cynical, of the psychedelic sixties.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Carol Storm

    William McKeen writes with such passion and devotion it's a thrill to relive rock history with him. This is a wonderful book, but the author tries to cover far too much ground, so it often feels spread thing. The other major problem is that he continuously repeats stories and legends that the informed rock fan has heard 100 times before, and that he repeats critical judgments that have been accepted wisdom in rock circles for forty years. (You probably don't need to hear one more time that "Suga William McKeen writes with such passion and devotion it's a thrill to relive rock history with him. This is a wonderful book, but the author tries to cover far too much ground, so it often feels spread thing. The other major problem is that he continuously repeats stories and legends that the informed rock fan has heard 100 times before, and that he repeats critical judgments that have been accepted wisdom in rock circles for forty years. (You probably don't need to hear one more time that "Sugar Shack" by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs was the one song that summed up how bad American rock and roll was before the Beatles arrived.) The main focus of this book is on the Beach Boys, but there's not much here that I didn't know already. And the original stuff is kind of suspect. (Did Dennis Wilson really beat the hell out of Charlie Manson for threatening his children? Don't we all wish!) It's also very annoying the way the book begins with the Beach Boys, and Dennis Wilson meeting Charles Manson, and then detours for about 200 pages to give us the lowdown on every single major (and an awful lot of minor) California rockers of the mid-Sixties. More on Jim McGuinn and less on Barry McGuire! More on Jan and Dean and less on Frank Sinatra Jr. And some more stuff on Phil Spector would have been good too, particularly his feud with Sonny Bono. Some of the gossip about lesser known figures was intriguing, but again, not exactly well substantiated. I always though Bobby Fuller of "I Fought The Law" fame was an early drug casualty, but McKeen insinuates that he may have been whacked by the mob. I would have liked to hear much more about Roulette Records and the shady Morris Levy, particularly his ties to the mob. That would make a great subject for a future book!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Gates

    Outstanding! The story of the Beach Boys is the main backdrop to this fascinating, expertly researched history of 1950s-1960s surf music, and the folk-rock era of the late '60s and early '70s. This is a very fine musical and cultural history. Besides tracing the evolution of the two music genres, McKeen also examines the seedier elements of the LA culture around the music industry during this era, including how a devastated Charles Manson decided to wreak deadly revenge on the music industry fig Outstanding! The story of the Beach Boys is the main backdrop to this fascinating, expertly researched history of 1950s-1960s surf music, and the folk-rock era of the late '60s and early '70s. This is a very fine musical and cultural history. Besides tracing the evolution of the two music genres, McKeen also examines the seedier elements of the LA culture around the music industry during this era, including how a devastated Charles Manson decided to wreak deadly revenge on the music industry figures who failed to give him a recording contract. Also chronicled: the absolutely bonkers kidnapping of Frank Sinatra, Jr. (carried out by hapless villains -- with a tenuous connection to Dean of Jan and Dean -- who rivaled the Tonya Harding gang for stunning ineptitude). If you love surfing music and the Beach Boys and/or the golden age of LA pop and folk-rock (Bob Dylan, the Byrds, Joni Mitchell, Gram Parsons, the Mamas & Papas), I'm confident you'll enjoy this book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Richard Matthews

    After reading Brian Wilson's autobiography " I Am Brian Wilson " and other books about the west coast legacy, I thought that this book recounted a lot of what I knew in a methodical but somewhat haphazard way. Going back and forth between artists and sometimes new chapters sounded like ones I'd already read. Anyway, I did find some new information about some of the groups and their background stories that were eye opening, including the Manson parts where he met many of the artists and befriende After reading Brian Wilson's autobiography " I Am Brian Wilson " and other books about the west coast legacy, I thought that this book recounted a lot of what I knew in a methodical but somewhat haphazard way. Going back and forth between artists and sometimes new chapters sounded like ones I'd already read. Anyway, I did find some new information about some of the groups and their background stories that were eye opening, including the Manson parts where he met many of the artists and befriended (?) Dennis Wilson which was interesting. Many of the other facts in the book were not new to me being an avid reader of books with popular music as their theme. It did keep my interest, but It was maybe a 3.5 for me.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Didn't learn a lot of "new" things reading this, but it's a pretty comprehensive overview of the underbelly of the "peace-love-surf" hippy music culture of the 60s - you know, the ones the media always claims was the greatest music ever. The book reconfirms many of my long held beliefs that half of those folks were not that talented, just a lucky product of the drug-induced culture at the time. And, as if it wasn't obvious to most folks already, it also reconfirmed that Mike Love is a lucky jerk Didn't learn a lot of "new" things reading this, but it's a pretty comprehensive overview of the underbelly of the "peace-love-surf" hippy music culture of the 60s - you know, the ones the media always claims was the greatest music ever. The book reconfirms many of my long held beliefs that half of those folks were not that talented, just a lucky product of the drug-induced culture at the time. And, as if it wasn't obvious to most folks already, it also reconfirmed that Mike Love is a lucky jerk and David Crosby and Jim Morrison were awful human beings. Good thing (for them) most of the awful acts these hippies inflicted upon the world was overshadowed by a legitimate evil - Charlie Manson and his family.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Roger

    Superb summation of an important genre of Rock and Roll I loved this book, because as a young person in the 60’s and 70’s this history brought together many entwining threads of an important musical and cultural moment in America. Music was everywhere in those days and so essential to our dawning understanding about life and values. We revered many of these artists and thought of them as almost Godlike. It all looked so wonderful on the outside. But of course, reality was a different story that c Superb summation of an important genre of Rock and Roll I loved this book, because as a young person in the 60’s and 70’s this history brought together many entwining threads of an important musical and cultural moment in America. Music was everywhere in those days and so essential to our dawning understanding about life and values. We revered many of these artists and thought of them as almost Godlike. It all looked so wonderful on the outside. But of course, reality was a different story that can only be understood in retrospect. This book left me both joyous at their achievements and profoundly sad at the eventual self destructive nature of so many of my early heroes.

  20. 4 out of 5

    K C

    Interesting but jumped around a lot between bands and producers and hangers on so confusing at time for someone who wasn't intimately involved with 60s music. I was in high school in the late 60s and I followed the top 40 but never really understood who was in what band and it never occurred to me that Brian Wilson was a musical genius. My last Beach Boys album was Beach Boys Today and after that it was just whatever hit the radio, like Good Vibrations. Will definitely download Pet Sounds now. A Interesting but jumped around a lot between bands and producers and hangers on so confusing at time for someone who wasn't intimately involved with 60s music. I was in high school in the late 60s and I followed the top 40 but never really understood who was in what band and it never occurred to me that Brian Wilson was a musical genius. My last Beach Boys album was Beach Boys Today and after that it was just whatever hit the radio, like Good Vibrations. Will definitely download Pet Sounds now. Also never connected the Manson murders with the end of the good time hippie era, but the author makes a good point.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lora King

    I found this very interesting. With the core of the book the Beach Boys, McKeen chronicles all the important bands and how the music was produced in the 1960 on the East Coast. It kept my interest and sparked my memories of music from my childhood to youth. The only complaint I had was the repetitive mentioning at times of events, people and bands he had already written about. It should have been edited better but truly a good book about pivotal makers and shakers of the music scene when Rock & I found this very interesting. With the core of the book the Beach Boys, McKeen chronicles all the important bands and how the music was produced in the 1960 on the East Coast. It kept my interest and sparked my memories of music from my childhood to youth. The only complaint I had was the repetitive mentioning at times of events, people and bands he had already written about. It should have been edited better but truly a good book about pivotal makers and shakers of the music scene when Rock & Roll became Rock!

  22. 5 out of 5

    victor harris

    If the craziness of rock n roll with its California drug-fests and sex-fests is in your reading vista, you will find this a treasure. Throw in the craziness of the Manson family mingling with the Beach Boys to add to the zany milieu of the era. Entertaining though a little choppy in a few spots where the author tried to squeeze in a little too much about who was recording what. About a 4.7 rating is about right.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lance Lumley

    This book covers mainly The Beach Boys story, with other acts weaved into the story, such as Tommy James, Frank Sinatra, and Jan and Dean. Most of the Beach Boys tale is known, and there is not much new to be added in this except the other acts that are in the book, sometimes in different chapters and other times in the Beach Boys story. For an in depth review, go to: https://lancewrites.wordpress.com/201... This book covers mainly The Beach Boys story, with other acts weaved into the story, such as Tommy James, Frank Sinatra, and Jan and Dean. Most of the Beach Boys tale is known, and there is not much new to be added in this except the other acts that are in the book, sometimes in different chapters and other times in the Beach Boys story. For an in depth review, go to: https://lancewrites.wordpress.com/201...

  24. 4 out of 5

    S. Clinton

    Fascinating account of behind the scenes 1960's music in L.A. Not a pretty picture - but very interesting, especially the early interactions between musicians who later developed into rock-and-roll icons. Definitely recommended for anyone who wants to know more about the L.A. California music scene in that decade. Fascinating account of behind the scenes 1960's music in L.A. Not a pretty picture - but very interesting, especially the early interactions between musicians who later developed into rock-and-roll icons. Definitely recommended for anyone who wants to know more about the L.A. California music scene in that decade.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lucy

    Wow how could all that happened in the sixties only really have happened in the last few years of the decade! What a crazy amazing time it must have been, producing some of the best music this planet has ever heard! This book covers most of the key players, their ups and downs! Recommended to anyone who has any taste in great music and how and where it was conceived!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Great account of the LA rock scene if mid to late 60's. The center spoke is Dennis Wilson and the Beach Boys, but this scene included the likes of Jan & Dean, Joni Mitchell, Stills, Young, Sonny & Cher and many others. The interconnectedness is remarkable. Manson's presence also there in a really creepy way, but music, drugs, and sex were the tidings of the time. Needs pictures!! Great account of the LA rock scene if mid to late 60's. The center spoke is Dennis Wilson and the Beach Boys, but this scene included the likes of Jan & Dean, Joni Mitchell, Stills, Young, Sonny & Cher and many others. The interconnectedness is remarkable. Manson's presence also there in a really creepy way, but music, drugs, and sex were the tidings of the time. Needs pictures!!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    Excellent view of West Coast music and scenes during the 60's and 70's. Not only hit on most of the important names of the time but also did a follow up on their ending. Brought back lots of memories. Excellent view of West Coast music and scenes during the 60's and 70's. Not only hit on most of the important names of the time but also did a follow up on their ending. Brought back lots of memories.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jay Gabler

    I really enjoyed this book, despite (actually, because of) the fact that it's heavy on the music and light on the mayhem. I reviewed Everybody Had an Ocean for The Current. I really enjoyed this book, despite (actually, because of) the fact that it's heavy on the music and light on the mayhem. I reviewed Everybody Had an Ocean for The Current.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    I love reading about the old bands as I loved the music so much. Grateful as a teen I didn't know half this stuff. Very depressing...just goes to show, you might be a genius musically, but that does not make you a person worth emulating. Very sad. I love reading about the old bands as I loved the music so much. Grateful as a teen I didn't know half this stuff. Very depressing...just goes to show, you might be a genius musically, but that does not make you a person worth emulating. Very sad.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dennis

    I might have given this five stars if it had photos.

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