STORY WRITTEN BY ROB NAGY
For 21st Century Media
As the 1950s phenomenon of American teen idol music faded away, a California sensation emerged on the pop scene. Inspired by the great vocal groups of the 1950s, the Beach Boys (initially composed of brothers Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson, Mike Love, and friend Al Jardine) introduced the world to surfing, girl and car-themed songs. Their innovative and often complex yet upbeat arrangements became widely labeled as the California surf sound.
The Beach Boys’ 1962 Capitol Records debut album, “Surfin’ Safari,” left an indelible imprint on fans and music critics alike. Yielding the singles “Surfin’ Safari,” “Ten Little Indians” and “409,” the album was the first of dozens of hits records to follow.
Subsequent singles, “Surfin’ U.S.A,” “Surfer Girl,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” “Be True to Your School,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” “Don’t Worry Baby,” “I Get Around,” “California Girls,” “Help Me Rhonda,” “Good Vibrations,” “Barbara Ann” and “Cocomo,” their biggest selling single, earned the band an astonishing 36 Top 40 Hits and numerous Gold and Platinum records.
“We’re really blessed that we made a family tradition and a hobby, which was singing, into a career,” said Mike Love. “Brian Wilson and I came up with some really fun songs that the people really liked by the millions over the years.” The Beach Boys earned a much-deserved induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. Not surprisingly, they were among the earliest of bands to receive that honor.
The band released the historic “Pet Sounds” album in I966. Offering elaborate layers of vocal harmonies, unconventional instrumentation and sound effects, the record was widely recognized as a classic from the beginning. Yielding the singles “Sloop John B,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “God Only Knows,” the album quickly broke into the top ten record charts in the U.S.
“We used the music of artists that influenced us to create a sound that caught on and people liked,” said Mike Love. “Emphasizing a blend of harmonies is what has always distinguished the Beach Boys.”
By the late 60s, as the popularity of the band and creative differences intensified, Brian Wilson’s deteriorating mental and physical health forced him to leave. Carl Wilson ultimately took the reigns of the group.
Wilson returned in 1976 to produce their “15 Big Ones” album, his first album since “Pet Sounds” and “The Beach Boys Love You” the following year. His presence in the band was inconsistent and then tragedy struck in 1983 when brother Dennis Wilson drowned.
The 80s led to a resurgence of the Beach Boys music. Van Halen’s David Lee Roth scored a hit single and MTV video classic with the 1985 remake of “California Girls.” Carl Wilson sang backup on the song. With the decade coming to a close, the Beach Boys earned their first number one single in 22 years and their all-time biggest selling single, “Cocomo.”
“There are so many good songs that you could say define the Beach Boys,” said Love. “Good Vibrations” was probably the most avant-garde for its time and a most unique rock music song. There was nothing like it before or since. It pretty much epitomizes the creative heights of the Beach Boys in terms of uniqueness as well as popularity. It was so popular in England that we were voted the number one group there in 1966 when it came out, with number two being the Beatles and number three being the Stones. So that’s pretty remarkable.”
“Our songs have created a ton of happiness for millions of people all around the planet, which is pretty amazing when you think about it,” added Love. When you put on a Beach Boys album or play Beach Boys music, I think for the most part people are left with a really happy feeling. We see that every night at concerts. I think people find a lot of happiness and something that will take them away for an evening or a song from their life’s concerns.”
The Beach Boys released their last studio album, “Stars and Stripes Vol. 1,” in 1996. Since the passing of co-founding member Carl Wilson in 1998, the group has offered various line-ups fronted by original members. The band currently features Mike Love (vocals), Bruce Johnston (vocals), Jeffrey Foskett (guitar)), Randell Kirsch (Bass), Tim Bonhomme (Keyboard), John Cowsill (drums), Scott Totten (guitar) and occasional guitarist John Stamos.
“When you come to one of our shows, you will hear all of the hits along with a few obscure Beach Boys’ songs,” said Love. “We are doing a new song that we haven’t done until this year. It’s called “Pisces Brothers.” It’s a tribute to George Harrison and reminiscent of the time in Rishikesh, India in 1968 when I was with the Maharishi, the Beatles, Donovan and Mia Farrow. George was a really cool guy, and we had a lot in common because we both liked meditation. In his case, he studied sitar with Ravi Shankar, and he of course wrote some great songs. I incorporate references to those great songs in the tribute. It’s a very sentimental song.”
“Music has been a lifetime reality for me and for the rest of us,” added Love. “It’s so normal for us even though it’s an incredibly unique situation. It’s what we do. I don’t get up in the morning look in the mirror and say, ‘Wow! You’re an icon.’ I’ve never done that. I’m a lucky guy from a working class family that had a penchant for music and an appreciation of what came before us.”
IF YOU GO
The Beach Boys perform at 7:30 p.m. on July 28 at the American Music Theatre in Lancaster. For tickets check www.amtshows.com or call (800) 648-4102 or (717) 397-7700. They also perform at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 13 at the SunCenter in Aston. For tickets check www.suncenterconcerts.com or call (800) 745-3000.