LOS ANGELES — Even on a day designed to celebrate 50 years of the signature harmonies of the Beach Boys, the notoriously fractious group couldn’t avoid striking yet another discordant note amid all the good vibrations.
A day before band members gathered Tuesday at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles to take in various accolades, singer and lyricist Mike Love caught his fellow band members by surprise in announcing his decision to resume touring with his latter-day incarnation of the Beach Boys — minus creative leader Brian Wilson and fellow original members Al Jardine and David Marks.
The move by Love, who legally controls the Beach Boys name and who has sued Wilson and Jardine over various issues throughout the years, raises major questions about any future for the reunited edition of the quintessential California band. It’s played more than 70 performances this year on four continents and released a warmly received new studio album for the first time in more than two decades.
“The 50th anniversary tour was designed to go for a year and then end,” Love said at the Grammy Museum just after he, Wilson, Jardine, Marks and Bruce Johnston were presented with triple-platinum awards signifying more than 3 million copies sold of their 2003 hits compilation, “Sounds of Summer — The Very Best of the Beach Boys.”
The framed awards were presented by EMI/Capitol Records executives Bill Gagnon and Jane Ventom in front of the Grammy Museum’s new Beach Boys exhibit, “Good Vibrations — 50 Years of the Beach Boys,” which will run for the next year. Record label executives would love to keep the re-formed band going as the reunion album, “That’s Why God Made the Radio,” gave the Beach Boys the highest chart debut in its history when it entered at No. 3 in June with first-week sales of 61,000 copies.
Love indicated that he’s being protective of the Beach Boys’ legacy.
“You’ve got to be careful not to get overexposed,” Love said. “There are promoters who are interested (in more shows by the reunited lineup), but they’ve said, ‘Give it a rest for a year.’ The Eagles found out the hard way when they went out for a second year and wound up selling tickets for $5.”
That left other band members confused and disappointed.
“Brian is very bummed,” Wilson’s manager, Jean Sievers, said Tuesday.
Wilson himself said this year’s tour, which includes two final performances later this week in London, has been “very tiring,” but he added, “I’m really looking forward to doing another album.”
Love said that he sees recording and touring as separate matters, and that his decision to return to touring without Wilson, who is his cousin, or Jardine and Marks, who started the Beach Boys when they were teenagers growing up in Hawthorne, Calif., wouldn’t preclude more recording together. “I’d be interested (in making another album) if I could write some songs with Brian,” Love said.
Love’s announcement generated dozens of mostly critical responses on Rolling Stone’s website when the news appeared Monday.
The shift in the touring lineup also has caused some confusion outside the group itself. Texas club Nutty Jerry’s had booked a Beach Boys show, which has since been canceled. Love’s manager Jay Jones said it was Love’s decision to halt the show because it was being inaccurately promoted as part of the reunion tour with the original members.
Nevertheless, group members smiled for photos during the platinum award presentation and genially answered questions from the museum’s executive director, Robert Santelli, before an enthusiastic crowd of about 200 people, including a few who had flown in from Florida, New Jersey and Kentucky.
Following the Q&A session, a stripped-down version of the touring group using acoustic instruments performed five songs. The set showcased the distinctive, multilayered harmonies that propelled hits such as “California Girls,” “Surfer Girl,” “Help Me, Rhonda” and “I Get Around” up the charts in the 1960s.
Wilson has his own group, the Brian Wilson Band, which has been accompanying him on tour and in the studio since 1999, and with which he has made several new solo albums. Love and Johnston have continued touring as the Beach Boys with their own support musicians, two of whom — guitarist-singer Scott Totten and drummer John Cowsill — have been part of the 50th anniversary tour, along with several members of Wilson’s band.
The Grammy Museum exhibit includes various pieces of musical and personal memorabilia from over half a century of the band’s existence, including the surfboard once owned by drummer Dennis Wilson, who drowned in 1983. (The third Wilson sibling, Carl, died in 1998 of cancer.) The surfboard was pictured on the cover of two Beach Boys albums.
The exhibit also includes a high school theme paper Brian Wilson wrote outlining “My Philosophy,” in which he stated that he hoped to make his mark in the world through music. “The satisfaction of ‘a place in the world’ seems well worth a sincere effort to me,” the 17-year-old future architect of the Beach Boys sound wrote.
Wilson and Jardine are 70, Love is 71 and Johnston is 68. Marks is the youngest original Beach Boy at 64. Their anniversary tour shows have often ran 2 1/2 to three hours and have included as many as 53 songs.
“All the other stuff besides the music gets very exhausting,” Jardine said as he perused the exhibit that also includes guitars, family photos, album covers and colorful Hawaiian shirts worn by band members. “But when we step onstage and hear that first beat of the drum of ‘Do It Again,’ it’s a clarion call, and everything else just goes away. You’re totally energized.”
Wilson’s wife, Melinda, said: “Brian would come home and tell me how much he enjoyed watching Mike work the crowds. It was great for him, because he didn’t have to carry the show himself.”
And as much acclaim as Wilson has enjoyed during his solo ventures, he said he has relished the time he’s spent this year with Love, Jardine, Marks and Johnston. “Good harmonies,” Wilson said in response to a question about the key difference between the Beach Boys and the Brian Wilson Band. “It’s a better overall vocal experience because you’ve got the best voices.”
During the onstage Q&A session, during which none of the background drama surfaced, Jardine deflected a question about his solo pursuits, saying: “This band is the only one that matters. ... Let’s keep it going.”
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong online. Please consider a donation to support our work as an independent publisher devoted to the arts and humanities. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where advertising no longer covers our costs. We need your help to keep PopMatters publishing. Thank you.