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Q&A: The Beach Boys

Summer never ends for The Beach Boys, who continue to keep the spirit of surf music alive for audiences filled with multiple generations of fans.

Donna Leahey
March 28, 2020

Southern California, 1961. Surfing, cars, the sun, and tanned bodies on the beach. The SoCal lifestyle didn’t have its soundtrack yet, but five young men were about to invent the California Sound.

Brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and their friend Al Jardine formed a band with meticulous four-part harmonies and songs that range from be-bop to doo-wop and eventually into unique experimental sounds. They called themselves The Beach Boys. And rock ‘n’ roll was never the same.

The Beach Boys began churning out albums, sometimes as many as three a year. Surfin’ Safari spent 37 weeks on the Billboard chart, which was just the beginning of their record-breaking career. In 1966, they released Pet Sounds, with the single “Good Vibrations,” establishing the band as being capable of far more than popular beach party tunes. Although they returned to the charts with “Kokomo” in 1988, they’ve enjoyed more success as a live act over the last few decades.

The Beach Boys hold the Billboard record as the top-selling American band for albums and singles. No American band has more top 40 hits than The Beach Boys, with 36. Their 2003 offering, Sounds of Summer: The Very Best of the Beach Boys, holds triple-platinum status. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inducted The Beach Boys into its ranks in 1988. They were awarded a rare Lifetime Achievement Grammy award for their contributions to American Music.

Despite their success, the iconic band has endured its share of turmoil with feuds, lawsuits, injunctions, breakups, and drugs. While struggling with addiction, Dennis drowned in 1982, and Carl battled lung cancer for a year before passing away in 1998. Of the original members, Brian and Jardine are still listed as official members of the band, but Love owns the rights to tour under the name The Beach Boys.

Love took time from The Beach Boys’ hectic schedule to chat with Preview 918 about touring for close to six decades.

Q. What can your fans expect from this concert?
A. The Beach Boys are known for a lot of hit records. What we do at a concert is we like to do them all because we don’t want to disappoint anybody. So, we do “Surfin’ Safari,” “Surfin’ USA,” “California Girls,” “I Get Around,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” “Good Vibrations,” “Kokomo,” and “Help Me, Rhonda.” We do all the hits that you’d want to hear from The Beach Boys. Plus, we do a couple of recently recorded things. Off my album, 12 Sides of Summer, we do a version of George Harrison’s beautiful song, “Here Comes the Sun.” We love doing it in our show. We do songs from the Pet Sounds album like “God Only Knows,” “Sloop John B,” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” We’ll do plenty of songs. We don’t like to disappoint anybody.

I do like to start the show with a retro vibe with the surfing songs.

Q. The music industry has changed so much since “Surfin’ Safari.” Have you evolved as well?
A. I think The Beach Boys have become its own entity, irrespective of what trends are going on. We have our listeners and followers. Our fans have grown up with us, and their children and their grandchildren like The Beach Boys as well. We don’t think in terms of staying up with anything.

One thing that has gotten a lot better over the years is the technical part of touring. The touring became such a huge business soon after we started that a lot of money was invested in sound systems and lights. So, the production has gotten a lot better than what we used to have when we did four sets in a ballroom or an armory that wasn’t designed for music. It’s a lot better experience for the audience.

I don’t concern myself with what’s going on with music. I like certain current artists. Bruno Mars is a favorite of mine. He’s an outstanding performer, singer, and songwriter. In every generation, you have some huge artists like Hanson, which we’re doing a show with at some point.

Q. What influenced your style?
A. My cousin Brian and I loved The Everly Brothers. We would go to youth night on Wednesday nights and sing those songs that you sing at church. But walking home, we’d sing Everly Brothers songs, or we’d do doo-wop songs. Chuck Berry was also a big influence, with his style of rock ‘n’ roll, and even his style of songwriting. There was a group called The Four Freshmen that did this sophisticated four-part harmony. So, when we put that four-part harmony over the rock beat, it gave us a sound. So, I would say the harmonies are the biggest influence that got us to where we got to, musically speaking.

The environment where we were growing up in Southern California also played a part, whether it was the cars we loved, the girls we were attracted to, the schools we went to, or the things going on there.

Q. The Beach Boys were known for that California sound, maybe even created it. How do you see that California sound expressed now?
A. I’ve seen where certain people said The Beach Boys were an inspiration. But everybody has their style, and if we inspired somebody, great. But I think The Beach Boys have a sound of their own and a style of their own, and it’s hard to replicate. The harmonies are somewhat complex, and they’re moving. You know the chord progressions are moving along, and the parts are changing. So, it’s a challenge to do the songs accurately. Our intention, our obsession perhaps, is to replicate the songs as perfectly as possible.

Q. The Beach Boys helped influence the development of punk rock.
A. Some people have said that my voice and the energy of songs like “Surfin’ Safari,” “409,” “Shut Down,” and “I Get Around” was kind of punkish. The Ramones, who were a major punk group, recorded “Surfin’ Safari” years ago. Last year we recorded “Rockaway Beach,” which is their song. The whole band loves doing it.

The Beach Boys
Paradise Cove | River Spirit Casino Resort
8330 Riverside Parkway | Tulsa
April 30: 8 p.m.
Must be 21 or older to attend