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Bizarre Beach Boys '76 TV Special Is Must-Have For Fans

The Beach Boys 36 years after the Good Vibrations special, at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion last June
The Beach Boys 36 years after the Good Vibrations special, at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion last June
Photo by Jim Bricker

The Beach Boys Good Vibrations Tour Eagle Rock Entertainment, $14.97, 50 mins.

The title here is a bit of a misnomer. This is not a full concert video, but rather the 1976 NBC-TV special screened on the heels of the "Brian is Back!" PR campaign. It marked the head Beach Boy's return to live performance after a number of years, as well as the release of the 15 Big Ones record.

But whatever it is -- part concert film, part documentary, part reality show, and part comedy sketches -- it's a must-have for fans of the band for the sheer batshit craziness of some portions.

The band plays most of its greatest hits in the concert portions, among them "Fun, Fun, Fun," "Good Vibrations," "California Girls" and "Help Me Rhonda." And it shows the vital five-man lineup of Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, and Al Jardine, with backing musicians whose playing overcomes the garishness of Love's stage outfits and Jagger-lite strutting.

Bizarre Beach Boys '76 TV Special Is Must-Have For Fans

But the real treasures of this DVD are the smaller, often spontaneous moments. The Wilson brothers gleefully harmonizing with Brian playing piano on "I'm Bugged at My Old Man" (taking barbs at the dictatorial Murry Wilson), or the Boys singing with a gospel choir in a black church on "Same Old Song."

There's a brief interview with the Wilson boys' high-school music teacher ("Brian submitted 'Surfin'' as an assignment. It got an F, but it made a million dollars"), and lyric collaborator Van Dyke Parks, doing his hipster/carnie patois. There's even home movies of Brian's 34th birthday party where the guests included a blink-and-you-miss-'em Paul and Linda McCartney.

And the footage of a bemused Dennis Wilson -- notorious ladies' man -- judging a beauty pageant is priceless. Then there's Jardine with his goats...

Of the interviews with the band themselves, none is more bizarre than a bloated 'n bearded Brian lying under the covers, noting nonchalantly that he "stayed in bed for three and a half years."

Something very strange is on the next page.

And indeed, it's from that bed where the special's most famous segment starts. Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, playing California cops, barge into the Wilson home and arrest the in real-life aquaphobic Brian for "failure to surf." They pair then take him, bathrobe and all, down to the beach and push him into the water on a board. He emerges later, looking none too happy.

When I recently asked Brian what he remembered about filming the segment for an upcoming Rocks Off piece about his fall tour with Jeff Beck that stops in Bayou Music Center on October 1, he was blunt.

"I was really fat. My stomach was big," he said. "That's why I'm hiding under the sheets."

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