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The (Beach) Boys are back in town
December 11, 2014
The News-Gazette
Champaign, Illinois

Mike Love is bringing the Beach Boys to Champaign with "the new guy" in tow.

The Beach Boys founding member is referring to Bruce Johnston, who has only been in the band since 1965. Johnston replaced Glen Campbell, who was also a replacement, for Brian Wilson, who had lost the urge to tour.

Johnston immediately came to the forefront with his vocals on his first Beach Boys record, "California Girls," toward the end, Love notes.

Love is in fact the only founding member in this tour. He said he's looking forward to playing at the Virginia.

"I love those old places; it's nice when we can hear our harmonies with great acoustics," he said.

He remembers a tour that included the band Chicago when the Beach Boys played what was then the Assembly Hall.

"Those Beach Boys cheerleaders on stage, right, the bikinis," he said. "The Chicago guys were all lusting after our girls."

In more than a half-century with the band, Love wrote lyrics for the band's masterpiece, "Good Vibrations," and sang lead or background on the band's hits.

Love is a cousin of the Wilsons genius Brian and the late Carl and Dennis and a friend of guitarist Al Jardine, who's not on the tour

"We go back to childhood," Love says. "My first memory of Brian was him singing 'Danny Boy' on Grandma Wilson's lap."

He described how he worked feverishly with Brian Wilson to put together "Good Vibrations," for which Carl Wilson and he did the lead vocals while Brian sang the falsetto parts.

If you're too young to remember the Beach Boys, their hits include "I Get Around," "Fun Fun Fun," "Surfin' USA," "Be True To Your School," "Sloop John B," "Help Me, Rhonda," "Good Vibrations," "Barbara Ann" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice."

Love said that one of their last hits, 1988's "Kokomo," is the singalong favorite of the tour.

The lineup that will appear at the Virginia on Monday also features John Cowsill on drums. The Cowsills had hits like "Hair" and are said to have been the models for "The Partridge Family."

"We played Yankee Stadium with the Cowsills when John was 9 or 10," Love said. "It's weird."

Love said Johnston was instrumental in the California band's outreach to British Invasion rivals the Beatles.

"We made an acetate (copy) of 'Pet Sounds' to see how it sounded in a room or in a car, not in the studio," he says. "Bruce took it over to England to play for John (Lennon) and Paul (McCartney)," he said, who were to create a studio masterpiece in "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

In addition to hanging with the Beatles in India with a guru, the Beach Boys made big waves in England.

The Who's "Keith Moon wanted to be our drummer," Love said. "But we already had Dennis."

Before he died, Moon put out a solo album with "Don't Worry Baby" on it.

The last time all the surviving Beach Boys performed together was "That's Why God Made the Radio" in 2012. The album had the highest debut (No. 3) and was produced by Brian Wilson on the band's 50th anniversary. Love said he could not rule out a full Beach Boys reunion, but said he was disappointed in the 2012 album because he thought he and Wilson would be writing songs together.

"But that turned out to be impossible" because of complicated relationships, he said.

Beach Boys facts

The band was initially made up of the Wilson brothers and their cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine. Carl and Dennis Wilson have since passed away. Brian Wilson is now mainly a solo act.

"Good Vibrations" famously took six weeks, dozens of musicians and hundreds of takes to record, at an unprecedented cost of $50,000. The finished product was spliced together (using razor blades and tape) from separately recorded sections.

The band shared out its vocals generously. Carl Wilson, who later died of cancer, sang lead vocals on the fabulous "God Only Knows."

Murry Gage Wilson gets some song credits on their early hits; he was their father and manager but the songs were written by the brothers. There was some bitterness about his taking credit for song-writing, as well as how he raised his children.

During the "Pet Sounds" session, other Beach Boys were irritated that Brian Wilson wanted to bring a live horse into the studio. He also burned wood in the studio.

Love once said the Stones were cowards because they refused to share a stage with the California band. "I'd like to see Mick Jagger get out on this stage and do 'I Get Around' versus 'Jumpin' Jack Flash,' any day now," he challenged Jagger. Alas, it never happened.

Glen Campbell played tours with the band starting in 1964.

Mike Love was great friends with the Beatles' George Harrison. They were both Pisces, and Love wrote a song called "Pisces Brothers."

The Beach Boys based their harmonies on the Four Freshmen and still sang some of the earlier band's songs.

Love says Brian Wilson is an absolute fanatic about the perfect record. "On take 17, it would sound pretty good to everyone else, but Brian would have us do another one," he says.

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