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Beach Boys are surfin’ again
Iconic ‘60s band reunites for tour marking 50th anniversary
BURBANK, Calif. — A “miracle.”
That’s the word Al Jardine not-so-jokingly uses to describe the latest Beach Boys reunion — this one consisting of himself and fellow founding Beach Boys Brian Wilson and Mike Love, as well as longtime players Bruce Johnston and David Marks.
After decades of prolonged separations, legal spats and near-reunions, the core Beach Boys are back together, both on stage and for an upcoming new album. Their rebirth, which became a reality earlier this year when the group performed “Good Vibrations” with Maroon 5 and Foster the People at the Grammys, has reawakened musical memories for Mr. Jardine, 69.
“When I’m rehearsing over there, I’m hearing stuff I haven’t performed for many years,” he said during a recent break from rehearsals for the iconic band’s 50th anniversary tour, which kicked off last week in Tucson, Ariz.
“It’s wonderful to rediscover the music that way. When you’re recording three albums a year, as we did in the early days, it’s yesterday’s news,” he said. “You’re on to the next thing. Boom. That stuff gets parked somewhere though, and now it’s becoming unveiled again.”
When the Beach Boys formed in 1961, it was mostly a family affair: Mr. Jardine, a school pal, established the group with Mr. Wilson and his late brothers, Carl and Dennis, and their cousin, Mr. Love. Their breezy harmonic tunes and embodiment of freewheeling West Coast sensibilities captured the nation’s attention just before the Beatles invaded the United States, and continued for much of the 1960s with timeless songs such as “I Get Around,” “Surfin’ USA” and many more.
Following the 1998 death of Carl Wilson, the group fractured and began moving in different directions. Over the past 20 years, the Beach Boys’ legacy has been mired in messy conflicts that the group’s members agreed to squash in honor of their fans and the band’s 50th anniversary, a hallmark occasion even in this jaded age of reboots and comebacks.
“They sense that we love each other and that we really want to share that love with [the fans],” said Mr. Wilson, 69, the visionary songwriter of such classics as “Help Me Rhonda,” “Surfin’ USA” and “California Girls.” Mr. Wilson, who has released solo albums in recent years and now speaks with a slight slur, had a turbulent tenure with the Beach Boys, notoriously leaving then returning to the band at one point as he battled mental illness and drug abuse.
“When it comes to the music, all the pretensions are aside,” said Mr. Love, 71, who reached a settlement with Mr. Jardine in 2008 after launching a lawsuit against him in 2003 over his usage of the Beach Boys name. (He also has sued Mr. Wilson on more than one occasion, most recently in 2005.)
“All the egos are aside. It’s just all about those group harmonies,” he added. “The effect that it has on ourselves and other people is just fantastic.”
Mr. Love said that the Beach Boys, who will be supported by a band composed of members from the group’s various touring entities, have rehearsed more than 50 songs spanning all their albums, including “Pet Sounds” and “Smile.” The band noted that the biggest challenge has been figuring out who is singing lead on which songs, not recapturing their chemistry.
“The chemistry is there,” said Mr. Marks, 63, who recorded four Beach Boys albums and has moved between the band’s camps. “We pick up right where we left off, especially the five of us together. The magic bubble comes around us. It’s the chemistry that’s behind all successful bands, like the Beatles and the Stones. It has to be there. It’s special for us.”
The 40-city tour, which includes a June stop at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md., will take the band’s members to bigger venues than in recent years, including headlining performances at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. To honor Carl and Dennis Wilson’s contributions (Dennis died in 1983), the band will play alongside videos of the late founding Beach Boys during a tribute in the show.
“We haven’t gotten the holograms together yet,” joked Mr. Marks, referencing the hologram of late rapper Tupac Shakur that appeared at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival earlier in April.
For performers who could hardly be considered boys anymore, they’re surprisingly unfazed by the prospect of a sweeping tour that will take them across North America, Europe and Japan. Mr. Johnston noted that “hotels are great” nowadays, while Mr. Marks was reminded that they no longer have to unload or haul their own equipment in a “U-Haul trailer and station wagon.”
“The heavy lifting is the writing, arranging and recording,” said Mr. Johnston, 69, who joined the group in 1965. “This is not the heavy lifting. This is the chocolate cake for me because we get to pull all of these magnificently arranged parts out and sing them live. We don’t have to write them now. We just have to pull them out of the trunk.”
The Beach Boys will stuff more tunes into that trunk with the release of an as-yet-untitled album of new material this summer. Mr. Love said the new songs will recall their classic harmony-stacked style. The group plans to perform their new single, “That’s Why God Made the Radio,” while on tour and may add new tracks to the set list when the album is released.
“We’re slaves to the Beach Boys legacy,” Mr. Marks said. “We’re just out there trying to keep that legacy alive. I can’t count how many times people have come up to me after shows and told me that they sing their children to sleep with ‘Surfer Girl.’ I look in the audience and little children know the words to ‘Help Me Rhonda,’ and 80-year-olds are dancing in the aisles.”
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