The Beach Boys: Back catching another wave

The Beach Boys perform on their 2012 reunion tour.

(CBS News) For at least two generations now, the musical sound track to summer fun has been provided by The Beach Boys. Their good vibrations have survived many a pop music trend, and they've even triumphed over some bad vibes among the band members themselves. Here's Anthony Mason now with A Summer Song:

An earlier version of this story was broadcast on April 29, 2012.

A few notes and you know immediately: It's a sound as recognizable as any in rock history, the sound of The Beach Boys.

In the Sixties, their California surf rock was music for an endless summer. Half a century later, it's an indelible part of American culture.

No American band has more Top 40 hits . . . and this summer the reunited group has hit the road to perform them.

How did they decide to get back together? "It's the 50th anniversary of our group, so it makes a lot of sense, don't you think?" said Mike Love. "It's a remarkable milestone."

But the history of this band known for its harmonies has been anything but harmonious. For years, the three surviving original members - Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and Mike Love - have each toured with their own bands.

Love said some did so for creative expression; "Irritated with being together too many years or too many seasons for others," he added.

The band formed in their hometown - Hawthorne, Calif., an L.A. suburb - when Brian Wilson brought together his brothers Carl and Dennis, cousin Mike Love and their friend Al Jardine.

"Brian would sit at the piano and we would gather around the piano, even before we played instruments. And Brian would be picking out these notes from the ether, like from the Four Freshman catalogue," said Jardine. "And he'd have each one of our voices on his right hand. And he say 'Al, this is you. Carl, dadadadada.' He had it all figured out."

They would layer those Four Freshman harmonies over Chuck Berry guitar licks. It was Dennis Wilson, the only surfer in the group, who suggested a theme:

"Mike and I started writing surf songs, you know. But I never surfed, and he never surfed, either," said Wilson.

"Did you feel the need to surf for any reason?" Mason asked.

"No. I never tried it."

The Beach Boys' first album, "Surfin' Safari," was released in 1962. By the following summer, they were the hottest band in America.

And their manager, the Wilsons' father, Murray, drove them hard:

"Oh, he was a huge problem," said Love. "Emotionally, he was abusive - emotionally and physically to his kids, and he was unbearable at times. Brian and I actually fired him."

Brian Wilson was the fragile heart of the Beach Boys. He says he pushed himself pretty hard in the studio: "Yeah, I drove myself. I wanted to be a perfectionist, so I wanted to try to make really good records."

Wilson once said, "I was so afraid of my Dad that something got inside of me," and "In my life, being scared is probably the most driving force that I had."

When asked what he meant by that, Wilson replied, "I don't know. I'd rather not talk about that subject."

In 1964, Wilson suffered a nervous breakdown, quit touring, and retreated to the studio, while the rest of the group stayed on the road.

Love says that wasn't the beginning of the division within the group, though: "No, the division, in my opinion, was drugs. There was myself and Bruce and Alan who didn't partake. And then the Wilsons and other people around them were into anything and everything. And that, I was very upset about, did not like it. So it was a them-and-us situation for a while."

How long? "Long enough,"" said Love. "Long enough to do some damage."

But a friendly rivalry with the Beatles was spurring Brian and the band to new heights. 1n 1965, "Rubber Soul" was released. Wilson said he was so inspired upon hearing the Beatles' album, he went straight to the piano and "started plunking out chords."

Out came "God Only Knows," which Paul McCartney would call the greatest song ever written. It was on the influential album, "Pet Sounds."