The year 2011 will mark a milestone in the career of America’s band, the legendary Beach Boys. The year will mark the 50th anniversary of the group’s debut release, the song “Surfin,'” originally released in 1961.
Formed by the Wilson brothers (Brian, Dennis and Carl) along with cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine, it would mark the beginning of the Beach Boys meteoric rise to fame through the remainder of the 1960s.
Eventually, it would put the group in the position of being one of the only acts that could have reasonably challenged The Beatles in terms of popularity in that decade.
Truth be told, few bands can attest to being together after 50 years. The Rolling Stones are close, having formed in 1962 but frankly, some groups are lucky to still be functional after touring the life cycle of one record (roughly a two-year period), let alone lasting five decades.
What undoubtedly helped set The Beach Boys apart from their peers at the time were the vocal harmonies the group prominently featured in their songs. Unrivalled by practically all other pop bands from that era in this respect, the band’s magnificent vocal capabilities continues to have its influence felt to this very day.
In the early days of the band’s career, The Beach Boys and the sport of surfing had become synonymous with one another, however only the ignorant could be led to believe the group had nothing else of substance to offer. From their 1966 masterpiece Pet Sounds onward, the group continued making vital music even though the bulk of it had failed to commercially connect the way their earlier material had.
The Beach Boys of today play upwards of 150 shows per year with Mike Love and long-time member Bruce Johnston being the only “original” members of the band still playing under The Beach Boys name. Primary songwriter Brian Wilson’s erratic behaviour saw him bow out of full-time involvement with the band more than two decades ago while Wilson brothers Dennis and Carl sadly passed away in 1983 and 1998 respectively.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the summer season is among the busiest time for the modern day Beach Boys band. From a cell phone en route to a show in their native California, 69-year-old Mike Love is back on North American shores after having spent time playing shows throughout Europe. Not the typical life for someone approaching 70 years old, but the vibrant, enthusiastic Love sounds as though he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“The audience response that the band receives is just amazing, no matter where we play in the world,” Love says.
Contrary to what might be an inclination to peg the modern day Beach Boys as an oldies act only, Love is quick to dispel the notion, stating the band has been fortunate to cross multiple generational lines for decades now.
At their live shows, he says that it is not uncommon to see older folks standing shoulder-to-shoulder with families, young adults and teens alike.
Part of the band’s enduring appeal could be attributed to the constant exposure that their catalogue receives via film placements and other outlets. The exposure serves to introduce the band to some while reiterating the timeless appeal of their music to those already in the know. According to Love, the band’s upcoming shows at Casino New Brunswick will not only cover the hits but will also delve into the group’s catalogue for songs that are not typical radio fare. Under the watchful eye of musical director Scott Totten, Love says the group’s live show is sounding as good these days as they have any time in the past.
“We have a truly fantastic band. Scott works really hard to ensure that everything and everyone is balanced in the bigger picture. We get a lot of compliments on our live sound. In fact, I feel you could close your eyes and be transported back to the 60’s while at our show,” he says.
When asked about the status of his relationship with cousin and former Beach Boy Brian Wilson, Love states that the two are in regular contact with each other.
“We are talking about doing a musical project together,” he says without elaborating. “Although I don’t believe that touring with Brian will be in the cards.”
There is no denying that touring tends to be a young man’s game, however Love doesn’t intend on permanently unpacking his suitcase anytime soon.
“I think that if you are a performer, you are touring and you are on the road because it is something that you enjoy doing. It’s not as though people have a gun to our heads to be out on the road,” he laughs.
“We are fortunate in that we are blessed and that there is still a demand for the band. People want to see us live and hear us, so why not give them that?” he asks rhetorically.
“And at the end of the day, it is not so much pride that continues driving us as much as it is gratitude. We are out there playing music and to have it still be appreciated in today’s day and age really means something to all of us.”
Article published in August 9, 2010 edition of the Times & Transcript