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Author Topic: Stephen J. McParland  (Read 1585 times)
Juice Brohnston
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« on: August 14, 2017, 09:45:53 AM »

I might be way off on this thread, but I know very little about author Stephen J McParland. I am wondering, although he has written extensively on The Beach Boys (and California 'Beach' related topics) I really don't know much about him. I don't see his work referenced all that extensively in discussions here or elsewhere. Anyhow, just curious about his work and where it stands in the overall Beach Boys universe.
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Mooger Fooger
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« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2017, 03:18:01 PM »

Stephen is extremely knowledgable about California surf music and its extended families of genre styles. He is in personal contact with many key players, and was a good friend of Gary Usher. He was writing about Gary's involvement with Brian Wilson during the Landy era. His research is second to none.
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Dirtyfaz
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« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2017, 06:50:55 PM »

Stephen has lived in Sydney Australia all his life. From a very young age he was a surfer and got  into The Beach Boys, Jan And Dean and the California culture and life style.

In the late 70s and going forward he did magazines, California Music, Beach Boys Australia and Gonna Hustle You (Jan & Dean) over a period 20 years.  Most of this pre Internet  Those were the days.
During this period he interviewed many, many associated with the California Music scene of the 60s. Many of those interviewed are no longer with us. I believe he has more knowledge of the surf music scene and culture than the researchers that actually live in the US and had easier access to interview the people.

He became friends with Gary Usher during this period and became Gary's official biographer writing "The California Sound, An Insiders Story, The Musical Biographer of Gary Lee Usher". He also has written over 30 books on the West Coast scene with books on P F Sloan, The Walker Brothers, Bobby Fuller Four, Beach Party movies, Gidget, Beach Street And Strip (a discography of surf and hot rod music), The Wilson Project (Brian's time with Gary Usher 1986-1987) and his biggest effort Waltzing The Plank (a history of Australian surf music from 1963 to 2013) as well as Heads You Win - Tails I Lose (The joint musical collaborations of Brian Wilson (& the Beach Boys) and Gary Usher 1962-1970) and Inception and Conception The Beach Boys 1961-1963 “from Hite Morgan to Nick  Venet”. This book was first published in 2011 and now is currently available in it's 4th edition. That book's genesis was the earlier Heads You Win book from several years earlier.

Stephen fills his book with more information than maybe is necessary and sometimes it comes off like an encyclopaedia.

I must mention as I feel he doesn't get the credit he deserves. He does actually interview the people and if he uses others people's interviews he fully credits them as his source. Much of his Inception book was used in James Murphy's book with virtually no credit as to how much of Stephen's work was actually in that book. I must stress that both books are must haves as there is plenty of information in James' book as well. There have been more recent books on PF Sloan, Bobby Fuller and Beach Party Movies. Stephen published his books on these subjects years before and again very little credit or none given to the work of Stephen used in those books.

I guess another issue for him is that he no longer publishes hard copy books and makes all of his books available via the internet and PDF files at very reasonable prices. Shipping books from Australia to overseas makes it impossible as that cost added to the cost of the book makes it prohibitive.

To find out more about Stephen just google Stephen J McParland. There is a lot out there.

Chris



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kwan_dk
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« Reply #3 on: August 15, 2017, 04:12:35 AM »

Stephen fills his book with more information than maybe is necessary and sometimes it comes off like an encyclopaedia.

I must mention as I feel he doesn't get the credit he deserves. He does actually interview the people and if he uses others people's interviews he fully credits them as his source. Much of his Inception book was used in James Murphy's book with virtually no credit as to how much of Stephen's work was actually in that book. I must stress that both books are must haves as there is plenty of information in James' book as well. There have been more recent books on PF Sloan, Bobby Fuller and Beach Party Movies. Stephen published his books on these subjects years before and again very little credit or none given to the work of Stephen used in those books.

This! As someone who has corresponded with Stephen through the years about his books and have ordered several of them in print form before he began selling them as PDFs, I have been really impressed by his work. He's always been receptive to input and easy-going to write with and the wealth of information in his books is astounding. All the info can be overwhelming, yes, but a reason for this is also that he takes pride in doublechecking sources and finding additional information that can either confirm or disprove some of the stories told to him.

I've worked professionally with music history myself in a museum context and oral history of the type Stephen has conducted is very, very tricky. More so than many people realise. You're often told a lot of stories that don't add up - not necesarrily out of malice but because the interviewees are so far removed from the events they're telling about or because they subconsciously allow their feelings of what they wish would have happened to skew their telling of what happened. So I really appreciate the fact that Stephen goes out of his way to get the facts straight - his fabolous book on PF Sloan has a lot of examples of that which makes it the much better read over Sloan's own rambling, weird autobiography that came out years later.

AGD, Jon Stebbins, Brad Elliott etc are usually mentioned as Beach Boys experts of note but I agree with others in this thread, - if you look at Stephen's body of work, his expertise and interviews are hard to macth.

I wholeheartedly recommend his books to others here! Dirt cheap when you think about al the info you get at the click of a button.
« Last Edit: August 15, 2017, 04:13:55 AM by kwan_dk » Logged

Ian
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« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2017, 06:25:23 AM »

Stephen is a great guy, who helped me with my book The Beach Boys in concert by supplying me with his personal photos of the 1978 tour as well as rare 1970 footage down under. His books are great. Wilson project is required reading if you want to understand Brian in the 80s. Our favorite recording sessions was super cool at that time because he reprinted many afm documents. The Gary usher bio is also worth a look
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Steve Latshaw
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« Reply #5 on: August 15, 2017, 07:23:12 AM »

Stephen wrote an excellent two volume history of Jan & Dean (covering the years 1958-1968) that is an excellent companion piece to Mark Moore's brilliant new book.
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HeyJude
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« Reply #6 on: August 15, 2017, 09:59:10 AM »

Stephen is a great guy, who helped me with my book The Beach Boys in concert by supplying me with his personal photos of the 1978 tour as well as rare 1970 footage down under. His books are great. Wilson project is required reading if you want to understand Brian in the 80s. Our favorite recording sessions was super cool at that time because he reprinted many afm documents. The Gary usher bio is also worth a look

I hate to keep throwing around the Lewisohn comparison, but the "Wilson Project" book in one form or another (the most recent and probably best version being the 2013 edition found here: https://www.amazon.com/Wilson-Project-2013-%C3%89dition/dp/2954483407 ) is basically a Brian biography with Lewisohn-level of detail, but only covering 1986-1987-ish.

The book is obviously more zoomed in than a general biography would be, as it's based off of Brian's work with Gary Usher. But tremendous detail, and a great insight into Gary Usher as well. The book even has some great insights into the other BBs when they occasionally enter the picture. The bit with Usher and Al and the 20-plus-year-old grudge is hilarious; it's a total "Spinal Tap" sort of moment.

The more I look at projects like the most excellent books we've seen of recent years (Ian and Jon's "In Concert", Murphy's "Becoming the Beach Boys", the McParland reissue), it may well be that rather than ever seeing a Lewisohn-style tome on the group's entire career, we're going to have to see good authors break off and tackle particular short eras or topics. I've had a few ideas brewing for years myself. Whether I ever get around to it is another story!
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Ian
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« Reply #7 on: August 15, 2017, 10:29:15 AM »

Well as has been discussed many times it is awfully difficult to write a lewisohn level. The fact is that the Beatles toured a lot less and had a shorter career. Every aspect of their life was documented and dates of photo sessions, tv appearances, and concerts written down. The reason I started documenting shows on bellagio and then wrote a book was because so much of the bbs story was undocumented and I love a mystery plus I am a historian. If you recall when Keith badman's book came out he was missing ten shows for everyone he listed and got many venues and dates wrong. It wasn't because he set out to write a shoddy book but because uncovering details about the bbs wasn't easy. I should know I've researched their shows for over twelve years and I still haven't uncovered them all. Nobody bothered to save itineraries or kept diaries, etc because unlike the Beatles no one really cared enough about the bbs to think it was important. So I see my research and c-man's work as paving the way for that lewisohn book.  Personally I'd love to write it but I found that at a certain point you hit a brick wall. If you get Bruce's trust then you still got get Brian to help and then there's Carl's family and Mike and al, etc. if everyone doesn't want to make it happen then it won't be easy
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HeyJude
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« Reply #8 on: August 15, 2017, 10:57:07 AM »

Well as has been discussed many times it is awfully difficult to write a lewisohn level. The fact is that the Beatles toured a lot less and had a shorter career. Every aspect of their life was documented and dates of photo sessions, tv appearances, and concerts written down. The reason I started documenting shows on bellagio and then wrote a book was because so much of the bbs story was undocumented and I love a mystery plus I am a historian. If you recall when Keith badman's book came out he was missing ten shows for everyone he listed and got many venues and dates wrong. It wasn't because he set out to write a shoddy book but because uncovering details about the bbs wasn't easy. I should know I've researched their shows for over twelve years and I still haven't uncovered them all. Nobody bothered to save itineraries or kept diaries, etc because unlike the Beatles no one really cared enough about the bbs to think it was important. So I see my research and c-man's work as paving the way for that lewisohn book.  Personally I'd love to write it but I found that at a certain point you hit a brick wall. If you get Bruce's trust then you still got get Brian to help and then there's Carl's family and Mike and al, etc. if everyone doesn't want to make it happen then it won't be easy

For sure; there are a plethora of reasons why a Lewisohn-level book would be more challenging for the BBs. So much more time to cover. Less documentation.

Lewisohn is doing his book without interviewing McCartney or Ringo directly for the book. But there are so many previous interviews, and he is getting a ton of other people on record. He had Neil Aspinall while Aspinall was still alive.

So yeah, I think segmenting the story into a lot of sub-topics and angles is the only way at least some of the story will be told. There is then of course the whole issue of litigation; if some wider-scope BB biography does ever happen, it'll probably have to wait until at least some of the principals are no longer with us.

I do think the BBs and BRI should put in the investment into doing a "Beatles Anthology" type book and documentary, telling it "like it is" as much as they can (essentially a longer version of "Endless Harmony" with a larger budget, wider scope, and perhaps a bit more revealing). Even a Beatles Anthology level of honesty and "warts and all" would be nice. Do a 6 to 10 hour documentary, put out the raw interviews in a book. Get these guys all on record while they're still alive.
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« Reply #9 on: August 15, 2017, 12:30:00 PM »

It isn't really enough to interview just the bbs-Peter guralnick for his Elvis book interviewed thousands of people-some of them several times and they were willing to do it because he is gone and his legacy was greatly tarnished by the shoddy but highly publicized biography by Albert Goldman.  But the bbs are still with us and even those that are gone have families that don't see a need to set the record straight.  I don't think Mike or Brian are going to have much more to say about the past then They did in their books
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Ian
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« Reply #10 on: August 15, 2017, 01:15:09 PM »

By the way if you actually read my book you'll see that I sought out and interviewed, amongst others, Fred Vail, Ron swallow, Steve desper, Daryl dragon, Dennis dragon, bobby Figueroa, Tom Murphy, Dave marks, ed Roach, billy hinsche, jack Lloyd, sterling smith, Phil shanale, Doug dragon, as well as many people that opened for the bbs-such as members of the buckinghams, sweetwater, the electric prunes, Jim photoglo, etc. it was a lot of work but I enjoyed it. Tracking down people can be tough. I had blondie's number and must have called him twenty times but when the book was due I still hadn't managed to get him on the phone
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HeyJude
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« Reply #11 on: August 15, 2017, 01:25:31 PM »

I love the insights from the touring band members in "In Concert", an entire book of interviews with them would be great.

As far as the BBs, I think they could be persuaded for one last major, multi-sessions sit-down interview to get a BRI-sanctioned documentary made. The three surviving Beatles did it, and they've been asked the same questions a million more times any of the BBs ever did, and have given way more interviews than the BBs.

For a book, I think hundreds of interview subjects work. The beauty (in a way) about a film documentary series, though, is that, again like the Beatles Anthology, a BB doc could be kept to just the surviving BBs, archival interviews with Carl and Dennis, and a very small select group of associates.

But I still hope the BBs all sit down for some career-spanning interviews to get as much of their story down as they can before they're gone. I'm not talking about setting the "f**k with the formula" story straight or dredging up the songwriting lawsuit again. Rather, there are years and years of the band's history that they rarely or never talk about, and I hope somebody can do voluminous interviews even if just to archive them for some sort of future use. This would need to be done in multiple sessions over time. No interviewing one of them backstage for ten minutes before a gig. This would be like a few hours at a time, over many months, and so on.

If they think their books are the end-all to the discussion, someone should tell them there's going to be plenty of misinformation out there about them after they're gone, so they would be well served to get as many details down from their own mouth as possible.
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« Reply #12 on: August 21, 2017, 03:13:57 PM »

Stephen is a first rate historian and has documented many sides of Surf and Pop Music with attention to accurate details. I heartily recommend his work.
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« Reply #13 on: August 22, 2017, 04:39:23 AM »

Mr. McParland can do no wrong in my eyes. It was he who pointed out (to me at the time and in general) in "Understanding The Beach Boys For The Best In Surf Music" that the BB "sang ABOUT surfing" and that "surf music" was something entirely different and all instrumental.
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Juice Brohnston
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« Reply #14 on: August 22, 2017, 09:41:14 AM »

Appreciate the responses. Yes to me, it always seemed that his body of work was extensive, and respected. And yet he seems to be mentioned less frequently than other authors/historians of the band and genre in general. Thanks!
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« Reply #15 on: December 04, 2017, 01:19:17 AM »

Most likely because the majority of people interested in BBs/California Music haven't actually read his books. This is mainly because he lives in Australia and shipping cost are prohibitive from there to anywhere in the world.

He now makes them available a very reasonable prices via an Ebook method.

He has in the pipeline a massive 600 page book on Candix records and bringing up to date both the information from his first book on the Beach Boys  at Candix and also James Murphy's book as well. Somewhere around 60 pages just devoted to the BB/Candix era.
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HeyJude
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« Reply #16 on: December 04, 2017, 06:21:11 AM »

Most likely because the majority of people interested in BBs/California Music haven't actually read his books. This is mainly because he lives in Australia and shipping cost are prohibitive from there to anywhere in the world.

He now makes them available a very reasonable prices via an Ebook method.

He has in the pipeline a massive 600 page book on Candix records and bringing up to date both the information from his first book on the Beach Boys  at Candix and also James Murphy's book as well. Somewhere around 60 pages just devoted to the BB/Candix era.

He sold his 2013 update on the The Wilson Project on the US Amazon site, where I recall the shipping being pretty reasonable. It appears it's still being sold on Amazon US through the same French distributor here:

https://www.amazon.com/Wilson-Project-2013-%C3%89dition/dp/2954483407/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1512397163&sr=8-1&keywords=the+wilson+project+2013

$24.00 plus $3.99 shipping. Easily worth it.

I'm not as into the discography sort of stuff with matrix numbers and label variations and stuff, so the Usher book is the one to snag for me more than any others.
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