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Will Beach Boys reunion end on a sour note?

September 19, 2012|By Randy Lewis
  • The Beach Boys perform at the Grammy Museum amid questions about the future of their latter-day reunion.
The Beach Boys perform at the Grammy Museum amid questions about the future… (Becky Sapp / Grammy Museum…)

This post has been updated. See note below for details.

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 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 or 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.

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“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 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 reformed 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,  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 flew in from Florida, New Jersey and Kentucky.

Following a 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 -- were part of the 50th anniversary tour, along with several members of Wilson’s band.

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