By KEITH LORIA
It's hard to think about summer music without conjuring up images of America's top pop band of all time, The Beach Boys. Songs such as "Surfin' USA," "Kokomo," "California Girls" and "Good Vibrations" have been part of the pop culture landscape for decades and it doesn't matter if you're 8 or 80, the songs seem to resonate with everyone.
Mike Love, along with his cousins Dennis, Carl and Brian Wilson and good friend Al Jardine comprised the original lineup from 1961 and Love continues the band today.
"I think the subject matter has a lot to do with the longevity of the songs," Love says. "We were writing about surfing, cars and great girls we lusted after. We really defined a Southern Californian lifestyle that could be vicariously enjoyed by people all around the world. There were great harmonies and fun lyrics and they became very successful."
With 36 top-40 hits, the Beach Boys have been on the American charts more than any other rock band and, although the band has gone through fights, hardships and adversity through the years, they continue to tour and put out best selling albums.
"Our last album -- 'Sounds of Summer' sold 3 million copies, which in the age of downloading, I think is really great," Love says. "It's incredible to us that we are still able to do what we love every day."
Touring hundreds of dates each year, Love and the band have probably sang each tune tens of thousands of times. Still, he says, the audience keeps the songs challenging and fun.
"It's a combination of the energy of the audience with the intricacies of the songs that keeps us on our toes as musicians," Love says. "Ninety-nine percent of the time we have a structured list, but we will drop in requests or different songs. The spontaneity of the audience and their singing along gets us all excited."
With two upcoming shows in Connecticut -- one at the Foxwoods casino on Aug. 6 and one a day earlier at the Live@Five outdoor event at Columbus Park in Stamford, the Beach Boys will be bringing their legendary harmonies to the state next week.
"The Stamford show is more of a party atmosphere with people eating and drinking and so it's slightly different," Love says. "Both shows will offer something great and people of all ages come to the show and have fun."
Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the band that started as five California young lads harmonizing as good as anyone had ever heard.
It's just a special milestone. Not that many people have endured that long in the music field," Love says. "We started out in 61 and the Beatles and Rolling Stones came along later, and it really says a lot about the band as far as how much of an effect the band and the songs have had on people for so long."
Dennis and Carl Wilson have passed away and both Jardine and Brian Wilson continue to tour in their own bands, but as the 50th anniversary approaches, there is talk that all surviving members will reunite for a Beach Boys reunion in 2011, including early members Bruce Johnston and David Marks.
"I've had a few conversations recently with my cousin Brian about doing some musical projects together next year," Love says. "He's been busy but I think that we will get together and put a Beach Boys project together."
Love understands that the reunion would be big news. Looking ahead, Love says the group is also making plans to record some Beach Boys classics with some of the top contemporary artists.
"There are a lot of people I would like to work with and we are thinking about starting a new project next year to coincide with our 50th, and talking with Justin Timberlake for 'Good Vibrations" and Kenny Chesney for 'Kokomo,' and we are just starting to get in touch with people now," Love says. "We want to match up the artist with the proper Beach Boys song."
Another thing Love would enjoy is to continue bringing music to audiences both old and new.
"I'd like to play with some more symphony orchestras and I would like to do some new music," he says. "We were very fortunate early on that people liked our music and we had success and I'm looking forward to continuing doing what we love."