June 20th is Beach Boy Brian Wilson’s 70th birthday. Last week, the band’s latest album, “That’s Why God Made The Radio,” made its debut on the Billboard Top 200 at #3, the first time the band has hit the top 10 with an album of all new material since 1976. In addition to the hit album, the band is currently marking their 50th anniversary with an incredibly well received world tour. What better time then to take a look back at their two appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show.
The band’s original line-up of Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, and Al Jardine hit the Sullivan stage on September 27, 1964, playing their first #1 single “I Get Around,” surrounded by hot rods. Later in the show, they returned, minus the hot rods, with the softer and more introspective “Wendy.” The challenges of properly miking a live band on television are especially apparent on “Wendy,” where the drums are by far the most audible instrument. The vocals however, including Brian’s falsetto, ring out cleanly and rise above the audiences’ rapturous screaming, which tended to reach a fever pitch whenever the camera focused on drummer Dennis.
The Beach Boys’ next appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show occurred on October 13, 1968, by which time much had changed for the group. The band’s popularity had taken a hit, in part due to changes in public taste, and also due to the cancellation of the highly anticipated “Smile” album, sessions for which wouldn’t be released in full until 2011. Brian had ceased performing live at the end of 1964 and was replaced on stage by Bruce Johnston, who (except for a few years in the mid 1970’s) has remained with the band ever since. Johnston sat behind the organ for this Sullivan appearance, as the group performed their latest top 20 single “Do It Again,” and their #1 smash from the previous year “Good Vibrations.” Performing in front of a blue chroma-screen, a variety of psychedelic imagery was projected behind them, frequently employing multiple images of the band’s faces in a prism-like effect.
“Do It Again” is serving as the opening song on the Beach Boys current concert tour. All of the Beach Boys’ Sullivan appearances are available on our DVD sets of “Ed Sullivan’s Rock & Roll Classics” on EdSullivan.com. Have a look at an excerpt of their performance of “Good Vibrations” here: