“God only knows what I’d be without you” - God Only Knows, The Beach Boys
As every Gen X hipster with a turntable and vinyl collection knows, Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys is one of Rock and Roll’s seminal recordings. And it’s equally gospel that the genius behind Pet Sounds and the entire Beach Boys oeuvre was, and remains, Brian Wilson. Brian, along with brothers Dennis and Carl, their cousin Mike Love, and pal Al Jardeen, were the surfer dudes in the red and white striped shirts that wowed us on Ed Sullivan and on A.M. radio with hits such as “Fun, Fun, Fun,” “I Get Around,” Help Me Rhonda,” “Good Vibrations,” and other legendary tunes celebrating sports cars, racing, surfing, and adolescence.
But after sailing through the ’60s on their golden harmonies, the “Boys” hit some shoals. Brian Wilson battled demons and retreated to his room, eventually inspiring the Barenaked Ladies song “Lying in Bed Just Like Brian Wilson Did.” Brian’s breakdown was followed by the tragic and untimely deaths of brothers Dennis and Carl. With Brian on “injured reserve” and two other Wilson Boys gone to Rock and Roll Heaven, Mike Love was left to carry the Beach Boys mantle. That he did for several decades, leading makeshift or ramshackle assortments of journeymen in incarnations that were mere shadows of Beach Boy glory. (I once saw the Love-led Beach Boys performing as the opening act for a pro soccer game in D.C. back in 1982—it wasn’t a pretty sight.) Also not pretty were the legal wranglings and machinations that accompanied the Brian Wilson/Mike Love schism. After years of internecine infighting, Love apparently wrested control of the “Beach Boys” trademark. The question then loomed: Would Mike share the love and be a benign and beneficent steward of the Beach Boys legacy?
This summer, five decades after the Beach Boys caught their first wave of hits, the answer seemed to be yes. Since last spring, Love, Brian Wilson, and Al Jardeen launched the Beach Boys 50th Anniversary tour. With all the surviving members on hand and in fine form, and backed by a tour de force collection of singers and players (even including one of the Cowsills), the Beach Boys anniversary show transcended nostalgia and kitsch. It featured robust, muscular, and pitch-perfect versions of virtually every Beach Boy classic, as well as a number of credible songs from their new album, “That’s Why God Made the Radio.”
All was well in Beach Boy land, or so it seemed until last month. In a press release either intentionally or unwittingly timed to coincide with Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, Mike Love revealed that his reign as keeper of the Beach Boy name would be benign no longer. He announced the firing of Brian Wilson and Al Jardeen from the band. See the full report at:
What this move portends for the Beach Boys remains to be seen. Will the newly reduced ensemble return to playing Vegas lounges and state fairs? Will the shadows return over the Beach Boys legacy?
One thing is certain. After such a glorious restoration of the Beach Boys to their much-deserved glory this past summer, and after rekindling so much of the goodwill attached to the Beach Boys name, this jaw-dropping and demoralizing move by Love will give him and his management team enough to atone for on subsequent Yom Kippurs for years to come.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Love is whatever you can still betray. Betrayal can only happen if you love.” John le Carré