Keith Badman Interview (1-5-05)
Author of
The Beach Boys:The Definitive Diary of America's Greatest Band on Stage and in the Studio
By Ronnie

When it comes to books about the Beach Boys, the band is sorely lacking in substantial tomes of quality books, like the myriad of Beatles books available. Enter Keith Badman. While he is an established writer about The Beatles, he recently tackled the somewhat daunting task of documenting ‘America’s Band' in "The Beach Boys: The Definitive Diary of America's Greatest Band on Stage and in the Studio" (December 2004 EAR CANDY review). While the "definitive" tag gave rise to some nitpicking by some about 'omissions' or 'errors', Badman's book is as close to the 'definitive diary' that we have up to this point.

Keith granted EAR CANDY and interview and I used the opportunity to ask some of the regulars at the Smile Shop Message Board for a list of questions that they had regarding the book. So, kudos to them for adding to my list!

E.C.: I know you've written several books on the Beatles, but how did your Beach Boys book come about?

Keith Badman: Because years ago, when I started out researching rock / pop music, I set out to do a series of books about the groups & artists that were most dear to me and, of course, The Beach Boys were among them.

E.C.: Mark Lewisohn's Beatles "Recording Sessions" is still considered a landmark for Beatles books. Did you want to model your Beach Boys book on Mr. Lewisohn's layout and format?

Keith Badman: No. The layout and format of my Beach Boys book came much later. My first concern was to find out just how much information on The Beach Boys I could find. Could I really make it a near definitive kind of book? But, of course, when I had finished it to the best of my ability, and was very pleased with what I had turned up, Mark Lewisohn's Beatles recordings sessions book did come into my mind. That is one hell of a book!

E.C.: Also, Mark Lewisohn got to actually listen to the Beatles tapes when researching his book - were you allowed any personal listens to the Beach Boys' reels? Or were your listens restricted to such sources as the SOT set?

Keith Badman: Of course, the wonderful SOT releases were most invaluable when I was writing about the group's studio sessions. But I was also lucky to hear a few other, non-bootlegged pieces of Beach Boys music, which was most helpful.

E.C.: Were there any problems that surfaced, i.e. missing information that you had to address in your book?

Keith Badman: Anyone who has studied The Beach Boys' history will find huge gaps of information, be it concert and TV appearances or dates of recording sessions. For instance, a look at the many excellent Pet Sounds Capitol releases will reveal that the exact dates of several vocal / tracking sessions for the album are unknown. But, as you will see in my book, I have managed to track down the date of practically every session for Pet Sounds. Same goes for many 15 Big Ones recordings, for instance.

The marvellous, official 1984 documentary, An American Band revealed how many dates had gone astray. Some film clips in the show had incorrect credit dates.

E.C.: Why was 1976 the last year covered?

Keith Badman: Because, after a pretty detailed 15-year diary, it was a neat way to end. Not only that, if I had have gone on beyond 1976, the book would have been too big and shops wouldn't be able to put it onto their shelves. I visualised from the start, the years up to 1976 would be Volume One and 1977 onwards would be Volume Two. When I first conceived the idea for the book, the late, great Scott Keller, an un-championed Beach Boys expert, was going to help me cover the years 1977 onwards. We did start it though and small portions are in the book.

E.C.: Most importantly, will there be further updated editions of the book?

Keith Badman: Yes, as I said in question 5, I have in mind to complete the second volume. Not sure when that will be but I will try and finish this sometime in the future.

E.C.: What were your sources for the post-Capitol sessions?

Keith Badman: As you can guess, this was a pretty sketchy area to cover. Once again, check the info found in the Sunflower, Surf's Up etc. etc. two-fer CDs and you'll see there is very little precise information relating to dates of the recordings. But, due to extensive research undertaken by myself and some invaluable contacts, I was able to give fairly accurate recording dates. As you can guess, I had access to some original, previously thought lost paperwork.

E.C.: There are some stunning gap-fillers in our knowledge from this book. For example, Bruce and Glen Campbell toured together for awhile, because Bruce had to pick up the tunes and learn bass. How did you reconstruct the transition from Brian on tour to Glen Campbell to Bruce? That is the most detailed account I have seen and I have no idea where you could have found that information.

Keith Badman: Thank you for your kind words. How did I do this? Purely by extensive research. I ploughed my way through practically every local newspaper from the time, which I hoped would contain reports on every gig of that tour. But of course, many did not. It was a kind of trial and error. It was a long, long painstaking task but certainly well worth it.

E.C.: Also, there are a great many details provided in the post-Smile era -- excellent documentation of the Maharishi tour, of Brian's public profession of financial issues, and of the 70's touring (including an exact accounting of when Blondie and Ricky joined, when Bruce left, and when Blondie and Ricky left -- there was at least four months where the BB were an eight piece, counting Brian, and clearly the intent was for Bruce to stay on as a member. Was there any interesting information that you had to leave out for space that might be included in any updated editions?

Keith Badman: Thank you again. Every major piece of information I found went in the book. Nothing was left out. I found the early 1970s period most fascinating and thoroughly enjoyed researching it. (By the way, I just love 'You Need A Mess Of Help...' from this period. What a great track!)

E.C.: How much of your source material is from publicly available sources, and how much from interviews that only you have access to? Were you given access to any paperwork (session logs, etc.) that hadn't been made available before?

Keith Badman: Information found in my book came from all manner of sources, all of which are hopefully listed in the acknowledgements. I carried out interviews myself and, thankfully, a number of most interesting interviews came from Scott Keller. He first wrote about the band some three decades ago and supplied me with transcripts of his marvellous interviews. As you'll gather, I was also allowed access to some recently discovered studio logs, session sheets and paperwork relating to the group's various TV appearances.

During research I also had the honour of going through The Beach Boys' original BBC contract files.

E.C.: What were your sources for the book? I was just curious as to the independent research you conducted for the book - i.e., did he do any of your own interviews?

Keith Badman: Amongst the interviews I carried out, I had the honour of spending an evening with the great Fred Vail. The man is a true star and a gent. His interviews are reproduced in my book and great they are too! Happy New Year, Fred!

E.C.: How did the listing of social security numbers get through the editing views of the first edition?

Keith Badman: Oh dear! What can I say? I don't want to start pointing fingers of blame. But let's say it's all been sorted and the current editions of the book are free of SS numbers. We were so proud of the book when it came back from the printers but our excitement soon ended when we realised we had accidentally listed the numbers. My publishers (Backbeat) really moved quickly to correct this fault when we realised what had happened. How many others publishers would have done this so speedily? Their endeavours to keep our mistake a secret was not helped when an Beach Boys fan (who shall remain nameless) kept banging on about our unfortunate mix-up on several Beach Boys messages boards for months. This really infuriated us! It really did! Anyway, on a good note, the first edition (now deleted) has now turned into a collector’s item.

E.C.: Have you received any negative/positive feedback from the official Brian Wilson and/or Beach Boy camps?

Keith Badman: The wonderful Brian Wilson supplied a message for the front of the book. What more can I say? That's good enough for me. Also, when my book first went on sale in the UK in July, Brian and his management also gave us the blessing to allow my book to go on sale and a photo exhibition to promote my book to run alongside Brian's Smile shows at the RFH. On this matter, I must publicly thank David Leaf and Brian for helping make these events happen. Thank you again.

E.C.: So many people (such as myself) were initially attracted to the book because of its Smile coverage. Did you bring any new info to light concerning SMILE? If so, what?

Keith Badman: I guess by filling in some of the missing recording dates.

E.C.: How much conjecture was involved? Did you accept any Smile conjecture as gospel?

Keith Badman: With Smile, due to so many missing tapes and incorrectly filled AFM sheets, there will always be a sense of guess work somewhere down the line. But, where possible, I have always tried to be certain of facts before I put something in.

E.C.: There has been some charges of "plagiarism" from such Beach Boys experts at Lou Shenk (his smile primer on the SMiLE Shop board) and Andrew G. Doe (Andrew G. Doe's Beach Boys reference site) I understand that no one writer can "own" bare facts as facts can't be copyrighted and that one can use short excerpts from other sources, i.e. quotes from interviews, and reprint them if you are doing so for scholarly or research purposes. What are your feelings about these charges? Was it just a case of not acknowledging all your sources? However, you do print your email address in the book and ask for any corrections or updates. Have you received many?

Keith Badman: You are quite right; no one writer can "own" bare facts. Facts are "public domain" and therefore cannot be copyrighted. We all accept that one can use short excerpts from other sources, i.e. quotes from interviews, and reprint them if you are doing so for scholarly or research purposes. But saying that, I ALWAYS insist on acknowledging ALL of my sources and I have done so in my book. Both The Smile Shop and Andrew are credited in my book. Credit where it is due! I have failed to receive recognition for my work many, many times in the past and know how disgraceful this is.

Once, a "well-known" pop star once took action against me because he claimed (incorrectly) that I had ripped off his book. He lost the case because my book was proved to be a more accurate account of this star's life than his. I was happy then... but not now. This "star" has recently up-dated his book and cheekily lifted all of my new, "proven correct" information and put it into his book. Guess what? I didn't even get a credit. Now that is wrong!

I generally like my information to be used and swapped between friends. I am not possessive. I noticed on a Beach Boys website recently fans waxing lyrical about when the group appeared on BBC TV's Top Of The Pops. Before my book, many fans didn't know these dates, but now they do and I'm proud of this. Ask any Beatles fan for a date and, because of books by Mark Lewisohn and myself, amongst many, many others, they have the information to hand. I really wanted Beach Boys fans to have this kind of information readily available as well. After all, they are America's greatest band! Anyway, a credit is nice, but, as I said, I don't always get it.

Whether it was just a few lines of text or research into various concert dates, or whatever, I had many, many people assisting me on my Beach Boys project and, at every opportunity, I asked my fellow researchers to tell me from where they got this info. I used this list in my book. But unfortunately, things do accidentally slip through the net and this may have happened with the once obtained from Lou and Andrew. But, no worries, should this be the case, they will be duly credited in the next print run. Please feel free to tell them this when you have a chance and inform them I apologise for any inconvenience I may have caused, thanks!

And yes, I have had many emails since the book first appeared. Many just to say how much they enjoyed my book. Thank you all. A chap emailed to say I had missed a gig from 1974. That will go in the next update. While another chap noticed I had missed another date from 1974. But instead of informing me, or my publishers, he decided to tell another message board and insist that my book was far from definitive and therefore a load of crap! There's gratitude for you. Because I had nothing to work from, I had to piece much of The Beach Boys' touring schedules from scratch. If you go through the early 1974 US music papers, such as Rolling Stone for instance, concert appearances made by the group at the time, were just not considered important enough to be published. Obviously, some dates may have eluded me. There are over 1,000 in the books and I'm pleased by how many I did find.

E.C.: I appreciate the fact that someone finally undertook a project like this (A Beach Boys book). What is your next project? Any more Beach Boys books? Perhaps a SMiLE-only book? Or will your next project be Beatles-related?

Keith Badman: As I said before, I'd like to finish the second volume of my Beach Boys series and personally, I don't think there is anything worthwhile left to write about The Beatles. But in the meantime I have already started on my next project. It's going to be a very big one. I haven't signed a contract yet so I can't say too much about it. But when I'm ready to tell, you'll be the first to know, Ronnie.

E.C.: One last question, it is well-known of Paul's love of the Beach Boys and especially Pet Sounds (he mentions this in one of the 1966 press conferences). However, I haven't been able to find a single reference that John shared Paul's enthusiasm. In fact I vaguely remember (but haven't been able to recall the source) that John called them something like "bleeding choir boys". In Pete Shotton's book, there is mention of what John listened to at home in 1966, but there is no mention of the Beach Boys. Do you have any insight into John's feelings on the Beach Boys at this time?

Keith Badman: Another person I interviewed for the book was Tony Rivers (of The Castaways fame). He confirmed that, during a NEMS Christmas Party in 1966, I believe, John was talking about The Beach Boys non stop to him. Paul McCartney often remarked that John shared his love for the group. Same for George and Ringo.

E.C.: A few authors have thrown around such theories (with no backing of course) that the Beatles got to hear advance tapes of SMiLE and it was these tapes that inspired Sgt. Pepper. (But then again, this same author insists that "Mr. Kite" was inspired by "Fire" when it has been well documented that John was totally inspired by the circus poster that he obtained during the "Strawberry Fields" promo shoot). But looking at the timeline of the Beatles in the fall of '66, simply don't see how this could have happened. Any input?

Keith Badman: I agree with you. I don't think this happened. Recently, George Martin admitted that, during the sessions for Sgt. Pepper, The Beatles and him were always hearing through the grapevine about this great new album, Smile and were always waiting for it to appear. I think the first person in The Beatles' camp to hear anything from Smile was Paul when he dropped into a Beach Boys session in April 1967.

Thank you, Ronnie for the questions and thanks to everyone who has enjoyed my Beach Boys book. I really appreciate your appreciative comments and feedback. And if you didn't enjoy it, "Hello."