The Beach Boys had a successful 50th-anniversary album and tour in 2012. It all ended rather spectacularly when Mike Love dismissed founding members Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and David Marks and went on with a crew of replacements. He could do that because he owned the name, Beach Boys. Wilson went on to make a new album in 2015 (reviewed below) with Jardine and a crew of young stars, No Pier Pressure.
The Beach “Boys” are still around and performing separately. They have agreed to “reunite” for a Q&A session conducted by Rob Reiner to be played on August 10 on Sirius radio. Undoubtedly the release of a new album with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra played into this. It is the old vocal recordings of hit tunes with the Orchestra arrangements added. The CD is out now, the vinyl on August 15.
Brian Wilson’s No Pier Pressure, Rich Paschall
When the Beach Boys finally got back together in 2012 for a 50th Anniversary Tour, Brian Wilson, the musical genius behind the sound, agreed to sign on. Wilson had been a nervous performer over the years, and there were many years he could not perform. His mental health history not only is well-documented, but it was played out on-screen in the 2014 biopic, Love and Mercy. After decades away from the often-feuding Beach Boys, Wilson was ready to go.
To start the anniversary year, Brian Wilson produced and arranged a brand new Beach Boys album, as well as having written most of the songs. In true Beach Boys’ form, it was steeped in harmonies of the voices that had blended so well over the decades. Fans still revere their work for the unique sound. The genius behind the Beach Boys had done it again.
L to R: Bruce Johnston and founding members Al Jardine, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, David Marks
Although Wilson did not originally want to perform many shows for an anniversary tour, he finally agreed to 50 shows for the 50th year. The tour went so well, shows continued to be added. There was some talk of yet another Beach Boys album in the future. By the time the “boys” got to their 75th show in London, Wilson, who was usually cloistered in a studio, was willing to continue. True to the Beach Boys history, the tour ended on a sour note.
Mike Love, frontman, lead singer on most of the hits, and owner of the name Beach Boys fired Wilson, Al Jardine and most of his crew. The mastermind of the tour was stunned.
For his part, Love claimed he did not fire Wilson but had other commitments.
The other commitment turned out to be a tour with a stripped-down show and a crew of replacement Beach Boys. Yes, he booked his own tour — even as the highly-acclaimed Wilson-engineered production was on the road. Love, by the way, is Wilson’s cousin and a founding member of the Beach Boys along with Al Jardine.
The backlash was immediate. Fans were outraged. Love took to the LA Times to pen a letter claiming he would never fire Wilson. He pleaded innocent.
Wilson fired back with his own letter: “What’s confusing is that by Mike not wanting or letting Al, David [Marks] and me tour with the band, it sort of feels like we’re being fired.” David Marks is an original member of the Beach Boys and a neighbor to the Wilson Brothers and Love as they grew up.
The new album, That’s Why God Made The Radio, grew in popularity as the 50th Anniversary tour rolled on. “What’s a bummer to Al and me is that we have numerous offers to continue, so why wouldn’t we want to? We all poured our hearts and souls into that album and the fans rewarded us by giving us a Number Three debut on the Billboard charts and selling out our shows. We were all blown away by the response,” Wilson was reported in Rolling Stone as having written.
Wilson continued to perform over the next two years in a limited amount of shows. Al Jardine and sometimes David Marks came along for the ride. It is hard to say whether Love and his version of the Beach Boys or Wilson and Friends were more popular.
So was the idea of a new album dead? Was Wilson near the end of a long and successful ride? Was he ready to fade away while Love kept singing songs from the 1960s.
The answer was delivered loud and clear. Wilson made 2015 one of the biggest years of his career.
Wilson went back to the studio and created a new album. Perhaps it would have been one for the Beach Boys, but there are former Beach Boys and longtime Wilson musicians on hand to give it that Wilson-arranged, Beach Boys sound. The album debuted to strong reviews. It is filled with songs you would expect from Wilson, along with a few surprises.
Wilson clearly could not take the lead on all of these songs, so there are plenty of artists on hand to share the parts. Lead vocal credits are given to Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, one-time Beach Boy Blondie Chaplin, country singer Kacey Musgraves, YouTube star Peter Hollens, Zooey Deschanel (She & Him), Sebu Simonian (Capital Cities) and Nate Ruess (Fun.) Some of them also get a songwriting credit and/or contribute background vocals. David Marks contributed guitar work to two of the songs that featured Al Jardine.
A blast from the past comes from a new song, Sail Away, featuring the lead of Chaplin and Jardine. It is reminiscent of Sloop John B and Sail On, Sailor and will evoke past Beach Boys hits.
Much of the new album was featured on a PBS Soundstage special, Brian Wilson & Friends. There are also some other Wilson hits to thrill the live audience. For some insights to other songs here’s the official Soundstage trailer:
Tuesday: New Voices energize No Pier Pressure
Read more on the Mike Love, Brian Wilson letters:
“Brian Wilson to Mike Love,” Rolling Stone, October 9, 2012.
Sources also include: “Beach Boys, Royal Philharmonic Preview,” Rolling Stone, May 10, 2018.
“Surviving Beach Boys To Reunite For Radio Q&A,” liveforlivemusic.com, July 26, 2018