At first their career was steered by the Wilsons' father Murry, who engineered their signing with Capitol Records. Their early material focused on the Californian youth lifestyle (e.g. "All Summer Long", "Fun, Fun, Fun"), cars ("Little Deuce Coupe") and, as often as not, Dennis's hobby of surfing (as heard on "Surfin'", "Surfin' Safari," and many others).
As the 1960s progressed the always introspective Brian began to withdraw from touring, concentrating on producing studio recordings of ever-increasing complexity. It was at this time that Bruce Johnston[?] joined the group as a touring replacement for Brian. He later became an integral member. Brian's mastery of the recording studio culminated with Pet Sounds (1966), and a sequence of tracks (including "God Only Knows" and "Good Vibrations") whose meticulously layered and inventive instrumentation set a new standard for popular music, pushing The Beatles towards Sgt. Pepper. On top, the lyrics became intensely personal expressions of Brian's isolation from the world. The album is still widely regarded as a classic.
Seeking to improve upon Pet Sounds proved too much for Brian. A perfectionist in the studio, he suffered a nervous breakdown whilst working on Smile, not helped by his reliance on both prescription and illegal drugs. Some of the tracks were salvaged for Smiley Smile.
Despite Brian's deteriorating health the band continued to work, recording albums including Friends, 20/20, and Sunflower, prior to a return to greatness on 1971's Surf's Up, a collaboration with cult songwriter Van Dyke Parks which touched on politics, ecology, and nostalgia. 1973's Holland received mixed reviews as throughout the 1970s Brian became a recluse. Brian returned to touring in 1976, but the mental illness that haunted him remained a problem until the 1990s.
As of 2003, the group touring under the Beach Boys name consisted of Mike Love and Bruce Johnston and supporting performers. Brian Wilson tours under his own name with the Wondermints[?] as supporting band, and Al Jardine tours with the Alan Jardine Family & Friends Beach Band, featuring his sons Matt and Adam, Brian's daughters Carnie[?] and Wendy[?], and Carl's brother-in-law Billy Hinsche, among others. The original group effectively no longer exists as a recording or touring unit.