Rock & Roll RePast: Beach Boys

Posted: March 22nd, 2024 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Rock & Roll Rewind | No Comments »

I’m a rock & roll lifer. I got stories. Lots of stories. Here’s another.

Noticing that the Beach Boys — or so as now constituted they would call themselves — are playing a number of festivals this summer, including Bourbon & Beyond, I couldn’t help but be wryly bemused.

Their Endless Summer Gold Tour, I believe that’s what the fifty or so dates starting in April are dubbed, is also noted on the group’s website as “The Beach Boys/ Mike Love.”

Of course it is. Because the insufferable octogenarian Love is a fellow who once had the audacity (and apparent legal clout) to kick Brian Wilson out of the band after a short reunion earlier this century. Tsk tsk.

OK, there’s also Bruce Johnston, not an original member, but he did start subbing on tours for Brian Wilson in ’65, after the genius who was the creative centerpiece for the iconic American outfit suffered a “nervous breakdown.” Other than Love and him there’s just a bunch of fill ins this time around.

Dennis and Carl Wilson are both departed. Al Jardine has retired. Brian Wilson’s life long demons finally won him over, and it was announced earlier this year he has dementia.

All that travesty and sadness notwithstanding, under the mentorship and creative craftsmanship of Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys were the one and true seminal Great American Rock & Roll Band.

They both set and reflected teen zeitgeist in the mid 60s.

“If everybody had an ocean/ Across the USA/ Then everybody’d be surfing’/ Like Californi-a”

Millions of us in the Heartland might not know what huarache sandals were, but we wanted a pair, because, as Brian wrote . . .

“The girls on the beach/ Are always in reach/ If you know what to do.”

In the early to mid 60s, the group came through Louisville at least once but usually twice a year. Brian appeared at one of them as I recall, maybe another.

I was at a half a dozen of those shows. Jokingly I referred to myself as “the only surfer boy in town.” Though I hadn’t a clue how to hang on, let alone hang ten.

While the rest were out and about playing to audiences around the globe, Brian was in the studio, working with The Wrecking Crew, fashioning iconic rock & roll. Those premier LA studio musicians did the instrumentation on most all the Beach Boys songs we love. While the original gang came in and recorded their amazing Four Freshman-ish harmonies.

Then Brian Wilson melted down, faded away for decades, a sad tale too long and sordid to detail here.

Decades later, when his head was right, he toured with an ensemble of crack musicians, rendering those favorites with resonant precision.

Around the turn of the century, I heard him with that gang at the shed up in Noblesville. He was opening for Paul Simon.

It was sublime.

Wilson’s halting demeanor was endearing. Just hearing him live after all those decades and all that trauma was a blessing from the rock gods.

The outfit was on it, rendering his classics with style as we remembered.


We stood and sang along.

For one sacred night, I was fifteen again, in my mind at Bonzai Beach, my woody parked nearby, while I was surfing the tube at the Pipeline while the bleached blondes watched from the sand.

OK, one more. His sublime “Caroline No.”

— c d kaplan

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