Beach Boys co-founder not ruling out reunion
By Wayne Bledsoe
The Beach Boys have always been that dysfunctional family that creates something special whenever together. The three surviving members of the original group, Mike Love, Brian Wilson and Al Jardine, haven't worked together in years. However, Love has some hope that they will again.
"I've been speaking with Al about doing some stuff together," says Love, calling on his cell phone while taking a break from shopping at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn.
Love says he has 18 new songs recorded, and he knows that A1 has several new songs.
"Maybe we'll ask Brian to get involved," says Love.
It is Love, along with longtime member Bruce Johnston, who has kept the Beach Boys going as a group. The band formed in 1961 when Love and his cousins Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson, along with friend Jardine, began performing in Hawthorne, Calif. With the Wilsons' father, Murry, as a manager, the group became one of the biggest pop acts in the world.
While the group's image was "Fun, Fun, Fun," "California Girls" and "Good Vibrations," behind the scenes, the group was perpetually in turmoil.
Some issues, including Love getting credit for co-writing many of the group's hits ("Good Vibrations," "Surfin' Safari," "California Girls" and "I Get Around," among them), weren't resolved until the 1990s.
"My uncle and cousin sort of conspired to disenfranchise me," says Love. "It was unfair of them to do that, but Brian was kind of mentally unbalanced, so I don't blame him."
Brian Wilson has been plagued by mental problems since the mid-1960s, suffering from panic attacks, nervous breakdowns and long periods of depression. Love's good words for the late Wilson patriarch Murry, though, are limited.
"He was a salesperson," says Love. "He was great at promoting and marketing the Beach Boys."
Love says that Brian Wilson had wanted to rectify the writing credit, but, because his financial affairs were under the direction of a conservator, the cousins were forced to go to court:
"Brian testified, and he was saying, 'Yeah, Mike wrote that.' I don't have any animosity toward Brian at all. I just have mostly compassion for him."
The Beach Boys reached an artistic peak in 1966 with the album "Pet Sounds" and the single "Good Vibrations." However, a planned follow-up, "Smile," aimed to be the group's most ambitious album, was aborted and the group slipped into an artistic decline for many years thereafter. The band returned to the top of the pop charts in 1988 with the song "Kokomo."
Brian Wilson has dropped in and out of the group several times over the years. Dennis Wilson died in an accident in 1983, and Carl Wilson died of lung cancer in 1998. However, the group has never stopped touring. Jardine stopped touring with the band in the late 1990s and was sued by the group for having the Beach Boys name on his own tour (the original members collectively own the name through their Brother Records).
The current touring group includes Christian Love (Mike's son), John Cowsill (from 1960s family band the Cowsills), Randell Kirsch and Scott Totten. The group members share vocals on the songs on which Brian and Carl originally sang lead and throw in some special treats for longtime fans.
"We like to throw in some more esoteric songs now," says Love.
The group regularly performs non-hits "The Ballad of Old Betsy," "Their Hearts Were Full of Spring" and "Don't Back Down" in addition to group's best-known songs.
"If we're at a state fair, we won't do the more subtle songs, but if we're in a decent theater with good acoustics, we will," says Love. "That's kind of what we have to do to keep it fresh for us."
Brian Wilson records and tours with his own backing group. He completed "Smile" without the Beach Boys in 2004. Love says he wasn't hurt by Wilson completing the project without him, but he wished Wilson had done the project with the Beach Boys. He also says he did not dislike the original "Smile" project, he just disliked that it was influenced by drug use.
He doesn't expect Wilson to rejoin the Beach Boys on a tour, but he never discounts working with his cousin again.
"Brian is on a solo path pretty much masterminded by his wife," says Love. "But if Brian and I are alone together with a piano, nature just takes over."