March 10th, 2012, 4:33 pm · · posted by GUEST
It’s been 20 years or so since the Beach Boys toured with a lineup that included all of the surviving founders, and while Brian Wilson, Mike Love and Al Jardine all still performed Beach Boys music on their own, it seemed increasingly unlikely that they’d ever work together again.
But anniversaries have a way of persuading people to set aside past differences, bruised egos and legal battles in order to celebrate their shared good times and successes. And so last month saw the Beach Boys reunited, performing at the Grammys and announcing plans for a tour to mark their 50th anniversary and heading into the studio to record a new album, too.
A show at the Hollywood Bowl on June 2 sold out quickly, prompting the band to add a date at Verizon Amphitheater in Irvine on June 3. With tickets for that Orange County show going on sale at 10 a.m. Monday, we arranged a quick phone call with Wilson and Love to talk about the reunion, plans for the tour and the album, and their sense of their own legacy in the pantheon of rock ‘n’ roll legends.
“I think it made a lot of sense because it is the 50th anniversary and it is a remarkable milestone for any group,” Love says of the decision to get the Beach Boys together again with Wilson, Jardine, David Marks, who joined in early 1962 before the band had signed with Capitol Records, and Bruce Johnston, who signed on in the mid-’60s.
“And of course Capitol Records was interested in a new studio album, and a new compilation,” Love says. “One thing led to another and then there were some pretty neat offers to go out and tour.
“Brian’s been doing his own albums and tours, and we’ve been doing our own thing, and Al’s been doing his thing. But we decided to put our individual projects aside and do it all together.”
One of the first things they did was record a new version of “Do It Again,” a Beach Boys hit from 1968, coming together at Capitol Records like they had so many times years ago.
“I felt the love from the guys, that’s all I can tell you,” Wilson says when asked what it was like to make music again with his band mates.
“I sang the lead and Brian came up to me and said, ‘How does a 70-year-old man sound that good?’” Love says. “I said, ‘Well, I’ve been practicing it for 40 years!’”
With 36 Top 40 singles, the Beach Boys could easily play nothing but their best-known songs on tour this year, but while the set list is still in development, Love says the band intends to include some tunes that aren’t quite the obvious choices.
“I like to start out kind of retro in a show,” he says. “Not that that will be what we’re going to do. But ordinarily I like to do some surfing songs, some car songs and things like that. Get some energy and then we can get into some of the more artistic stuff, ‘Pet Sounds’ album, ‘Smile’ album.
“But I also like to end up with some powerful songs like ‘Good Vibrations,’ and ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ is a great closing song,” Love says.
“The thing is, every now and then there’s a ballad which we drop in there, and that’s really cool,” Wilson says.
“‘Surfer Girl,’ ‘Warmth Of The Sun’ – ”
“Are we doing ‘Warmth Of The Sun’, Mike?”
“I’d love to do ‘Warmth Of The Sun,’” Love says. “And you were talking about ‘The Little Girl I Once Knew.’”
They’ll also have some new songs, the first in many years, from which to draw on, too. The last Beach Boys project they worked on together was “Stars And Stripes, Vol. 1,” a 1996 collection that featured the Beach Boys singing backup as country stars such as Willie Nelson, Lorrie Morgan and Toby Keith covered a variety of Beach Boys’ classics.
“Twenty years ago, Mike and the guys did ‘Kokomo’ and that was the last really good Beach Boys song,” Wilson says, referring to the 1988 single from the soundtrack to “Cocktail” on which Wilson did not appear.
“Hopefully (the new album) will have an array of different songs that go together well,” he says.
“Brian’s come up with a lot of great tracks and tunes,” Love says. “And the rest of us come in and do our vocal parts. He’s asked me to do a couple of lyrics on a couple of songs.
“There’s ‘That’s Why God Made The Radio,’” Love continued, mentioning one of the songs slated for the new album. “And that really sounds like a single from the ’60s from the Beach Boys.”
Wilson starts to sing the title lyrics. “That one?” he asks Love.
“Yeah, that one,” Love replies.
“That’s going to be really good.”
“It’s a beautiful song,” Love says.
We ask about their early memories of touring and Wilson mentions their first professional appearance, a short set at a Richie Valens tribute concert in Long Beach on Dec. 31, 1961, booked on the strength of their first independent release, “Surfin’” which had become a Southern California hit after its release a month or so earlier.
Love mentions an early Hollywood Bowl show, which included acts such as Sonny & Cher, Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, the Sir Douglas Quintet and Neil Diamond on the bill.
They also came down the coast from their hometown of Hawthorne to play club dates at the Rendezvous Ballroom on Balboa Island, Wilson and Love both say when asked about their past in Orange County.
“I remember going on a little surfing trip with my high school buddies (in Orange County) and I came back to Brian’s place and we wrote ‘Do It Again’ on that basis,” Love says. “It was kind of describing that day and going to the beach and remembering how it was.
“And I remember when I was a child, my grandparents used to rent a house on Lido Isle, a house next door to Bob Hope’s house, so my earliest memories are of looking for his daughter Linda,” he says.
An invisible presence on the upcoming tour will be Carl and Dennis Wilson, Brian Wilson’s brothers and co-founders of the Beach Boys, both of whom died years ago now.
“Two really good singers that we lost,” Wilson says, a hint of sadness in his voice.
“I think in concert, when we do ‘God Only Knows,’ Carl comes to mind because he’s there,” Love says. “Nobody sang it better than Carl. And also ‘Kokomo’ and ‘Good Vibrations.’
“And obviously it’s emotional – as brothers to Brian and cousins of myself – and you’re going to feel a voice there,” he says. “You’re going to miss them.”
The three Wilson brothers, their cousin Love and boyhood friend Jardine were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 and honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001. They’ve sold millions of records and helped popularize the Southern California beach culture worldwide.
So we asked Wilson and Love to what they attributed all that impressive success on the charts, and all that enduring love from several generations of fans.
“It’s like the Bee Gees,” Wilson says, somewhat surprising us before going on to explain. “With the Bee Gees, they have their kind of harmony and we have our kind of harmony. And there’s no way to describe it. You just have to listen to it.”
Love mostly agreed.
“Harmony and music, singing together has been part of the entirety of our lives,” he says. “We just love singing those harmonies together, whether it would be doo-wop harmonies or the Four Freshman harmonies. The love of singing those harmonies just shines through.
“And I think the warmth of that harmony and that basic intention of love behind it is what is the secret sauce of our success.”
Article by Peter Larsen, the Orange County Register.
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