Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Beach Boys

by Bill Holmes 

Original Beach Boys - Dennis, David, Carl, Mike & Brian
This is a review of a couple of AXS  telecasts of and about the Beach Boys 50th reunion. Full disclosure, I am a Beach Boys fan and have been since they came on the scene in the early 1960's when I was a youth in Florida.

The first program is The Beach Boys 50 - Doin' It Again. It's part 2012 concert footage, part commentary by surviving members and part old footage and pictures.

The songs in the concert part were a mix of old stuff and a couple from their 50th anniversary album That's Why God Made the Radio.

To me, it looked like Mike Love was the producer of the show. He was almost always the lead singer and he had a lot of face time. He also was constantly reminding us how much he contributed to the song writing. His comments about Brian Wilson were overly syrupy, not a negative word. That's not exactly how real life was between Mike and Brian. For those who don't know the history, Mike Love is a complete jerk and Brian was a mentally ill druggie. All the commentary by the others was positive too. I didn't expect to hear about all the warts but some of it went overboard.

Toward the end of the program they mentioned Dennis and Carl Wilson, both dead. Bruce Johnson did most of the talking about Dennis. When they talked to Brian he said Carl was a good singer, learned songs quickly and he was my little brother. A very strange comment from a member of a very dysfunctional family. Brian didn't say anything about Dennis.
The striped shirt period - Carl, Dennis, Mike, Al & Brian

Despite the dysfunction in the Wilson family and the band, they did appear to have had some fun and good times. They were the top group in the country and the world for couple of years in the 1960's. There are some great recently found home movies of the Good Vibrations recording sessions. That alone makes this worth watching.

There were several old pictures and video clips that I don't remember seeing before. A few even showed David Marks playing with the group. He was an original member until he got sideways with Murry Wilson, the Wilson bothers father and first manager of the group. David was replaced by Al Jardine. Bruce Johnson joined the group when Brian stopped touring.

I recommend this show for both long time Beach Boy fans and those that want to learn a little more about the group. At least the good times. The songs are good and the old footage is fun.

The next show was The Beach Boys 50 - Live in Concert which was just a concert from 2012. No interviews or BS. It was not the same concert as the footage used in the other show. Mike Love was the Executive Producer of this show.

The show was a mix of the old and new songs. Probably a few more new songs than I expected but plenty of old stuff. That's OK, much of the new stuff is pretty good. Of course new songs can rarely touch our emotions like those of our youth. The old songs bring back memories of the first time we got our driver's license and drove around with the radio blaring. Maybe it was "our song", a first date, a first love, a first heartbreak. The good and bad times of our youth are tied to those songs. The Beach Boys provided many of those sounds and songs.

Here is my take on the whole 50th Beach Boys anniversary reunion and tour. I'm glad it happened. The guys still sound good. It got Brian to write some new stuff and go on tour. That's always a good thing. Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and David Marks belong with the Beach Boys.
Surviving Beach Boys - Brian, David, Bruce, Al & Mike

Unfortunately Brian Wilson is a mess and Mike Love is a complete asshole. They have a love/hate relationship so we never know if the surviving Beach Boys will ever perform together again. This may have been the last time.

Mike Love controls the rights to use the Beach Boys name. After the 2012 50th anniversary tour he fired Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and David Marks. How do you do that unless you are a complete asshole? Oh wait, Mike Love is and always has been a world class asshole.

Bottom line, both shows are worth watching. Enjoy them for what they are, a reunion of a band that gave us a ton of good music. Will it ever happen again? I would bet no. Too much old baggage and the guys aren't getting any younger. We can always hope. As the Beach Boys once said in song Wouldn't It Be Nice.


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