For the first time since 2012, the surviving classic members of the Beach Boys reconvened last night for a Q&A session for SiriusXM. They sat side-by-side in Studio A at the landmark Capitol Records building in Hollywood, the same room where they made some of their earliest songs five decades earlier.
“Brian and I connect on a pretty primordial level,” Mike Love, sporting white handlebar mustache, told Rolling Stone afterwards. “He’s got his own band. We’ve got our own. We’re usually on our own trajectories. It’s very nice to get together.”
Moderating was director Rob Reiner (echoing his fictional role as the interviewer from This Is Spinal Tap), calling on a small crowd of invited fans to offer questions to Brian Wilson, Love, Al Jardine, Mike Love, David Marks and Bruce Johnston, all looking relaxed and upbeat in white high-backed chairs. The hour-long interview will air August 10th on the satellite network’s Beach Boys channel, and promotes a new album, The Beach Boys With the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which combines new orchestral arrangements around the original vocal tracks of Beach Boys hits.
It was the group’s first public appearance since the Beach Boys’ acclaimed 50th anniversary tour, which came to a sour end after a final London date when Love left to lead his latter-day configuration of the band without Wilson, Marks and Jardine. It was the latest episode in the band’s 50-year drama, Love arguing via letter to “Give it a rest for a year,” which only inflamed more the other founding members and fans. The years came and went without another reunion show. “I’m disappointed and can’t understand why he doesn’t want to tour with Al, David and me,” Brian said in a statement after the tour ended. “We are out there having so much fun. After all, we are the real Beach Boys.”
But just when it seems the Beach Boys story is finally over for good, they find a way to reunite once more, even if only for an hour of promotion. At Capitol, there were no signs of tension, even with a visual separation of band members’ ongoing factions, with Love, Marks and Johnston in matching classic striped shirts, while Wilson and Jardine were dressed casually. Most important, there were no announcements for further collaborations Monday, but Love told Rolling Stone after: “I never say never.”
The evening was long on familiar history of the Beach Boys’ first decade of hits and groundbreaking albums, but there were several moments when band members took special joy in sharing that history and a few jokes. Here are the five best moments from the evening:
Marks the Spot
Early on, Reiner asked guitarist Marks, who was originally in the group in 1962-63, how he ended up in the group. “I moved across the street from Dennis, Carl and Brian Wilson when I was about seven years old,” Marks said.
Reiner responded: “So, location, location, location, is what I’m hearing from you.”
“Exactly. I was an only child, and I hung out there all the time,” Marks added. “Then one day Brian decided to have Carl [Wilson] and I … play on ‘Surfer Girl.’”
A Missed Beatles Opportunity
A woman stood up to ask if there had been any collaborators the Beach Boys regret never happening. “I know: the Beatles,” said Jardine. “I thought we were going to. John [Lennon] and George [Harrison] came up to my hotel room in London back in the Sixties. We were on our way to do a show in Paris. I thought they were going to discuss some music with me – I thought we were going to do something. In fact, they taught me transcendental meditation.”
“So you got that going for you,” said Reiner.
When an older male fan stood up to ask a question, Reiner quickly interrupted: “It looks like you’re ready to go surfing right now. Why does everyone have a Hawaiian shirt on? Are we doing ‘Kokomo’ later?”
What followed was the inevitable question about band members and their surfing skills. Late drummer Dennis Wilson was famously the band’s only true surfer.
“I recall Al having a surf board,” offered Love. “But we sing about it a lot better than actually did it.”
Sitting beside Love, Marks added, “Who likes having their face jammed into the bottom of the ocean?”
Reiner asked: “David, are you Jewish?”
“Uh, yeah, I am … adverse to water? The original lyric is ‘Surfin’ Sephardic,’” he said to laughs. “I’m actually mostly Italian. Dennis took me surfing too, but I wasn’t very good at it. There were girls there so I kept going.”
Brian Shares Songwriting Secrets
Asked by Reiner to describe his writing process, Wilson said he sits at the piano for hours. “I’ll play chords, and play, play, play and play forever, and all of sudden the melody comes,” Wilson explained.
Added Love: “One of the things about the Beach Boys’ music – and probably because Brian is a Gemini – is that everything is different from the last one. It’s not just a copy of a former single. That was the beauty of the Beach Boys catalog – the diversity: different lead singers, different tempos, different keys, different arrangements and chord progressions. Nobody was more masterful at chord progressions than Brian — and the harmonies. We were students of the Four Freshman. They’re pretty complex, but we blended it with rock & roll.”
They’re Still in Harmony
Midway into the session, the new orchestral version of “Good Vibrations” was shared with the crowd. As soon as the harmonies kicked in, Jardine flashed a thumbs-up and Love raised a peace sign.
Johnston swung his mic like a baton and led fans to sing along, “When I first heard it,” Johnston said of the original 1966 single, “I knew either this is going be Number One or our career is over.”