‘It was the happiest of times’: The Beach Boys on their bizarre second coming | Beach Boys

IIn the 1960s, the Beach Boys bet they were the most popular band in the United States, with their upbeat, harmonious songs about surfing, cars, and the California Girls embodying the American dream. Therefore, at the end of the decade, when he was the leader and main songwriter Brian Wilson – who had recently spent several months in a psychiatric hospital – suggested that the band was on the verge of bankruptcy, and everyone thought it was a joke.

“We arrived in London for a tour on the day that made the headlines,” co-founder Al Jardine says by phone from California. “tax authority [US tax collection agency] Our studio and offices in Hollywood are closed. Hotels will not accept our company credit cards. In the end, I had to use my American Express ID to pay for our rooms.”

By 1969, the Beach Boys were still huge in Europe but without a label after a costly royalty dispute with the Capitol. Their two previous albums have plummeted in the US as well: 1968’s Lame Friends hit number 126. Charles Manson, who befriended drummer Dennis Wilson in the months leading up to the 1969 murder of Tate LaBianca in the Manson family.

“I met him once and didn’t want to meet him anymore,” Jardine, now 78, said, shivering. “He was very hypnotized. He came to use our studio. He played me a song he wrote and I started getting dizzy. I couldn’t wait to get out of there, but for some reason he cast a spell on other people.” There is a moment of silence as he ponders how close they are. “He smashed one of Dennis’s cars. To be honest, I don’t know how Dennis got out alive.”

Incredibly, this turmoil has produced some of the most beautiful music of the band’s career. Sunflowers (1970) and Surf’s Up (1971)—released this week in Feel Flows, a 135-track treasure trove that includes many alternatives, curiosities, and long-lost gems—have re-established their reputation critically, and then commercially.

“Clean Image Removed” … The Beach Boys in 1962, from left: Dennis Wilson, David Marks, Mike Love, Karl Wilson, and Brian Wilson. Photo: Michael Oaks Archive/Getty Images

“Before Sunflower and Surf’s Up, the other characters in the band started to appear,” says Supergrass Frontman Gaz Coombes, one of the musicians influenced by this amazing pair of albums. “They are no longer teenagers – they are men in their late twenties who have been through a lot: family things, bankruptcy brush and Charles Manson. Somehow you get out of this music that sounds like a warm hug.”

“Music was our way of therapy,” says Bruce Johnston (keyboards/vocals), 79, who joined in 1965 and speaks from Missouri. Jardine has similarly happy memories: “We were all friends. Brian was dating.”

Wilson, who first had a nervous breakdown in 1964, was crushed by pressure on hit songs. When I joined the band [over the next 11] Months, I toured and made three albums,” Johnston notes. “That’s unbelievable, isn’t it? It was just: What next? We were too young to pretend.”

Johnston attended the Beatles’ rubber band listening party – along with various other members of Beach Boysand Mamas and the Papas and Doris Day – which inspired the pet sounds. “Obviously the spirit of Rubber was a leap forward, so Brian started thinking, ‘Maybe I should make an album of songs that are completely connected, it’s frighteningly unbelievable,'” he says.

Capitol Records didn’t understand Wilson’s sad chant of youthful innocence over pet sounds. “He makes this great album and they go ‘Do you have any hits?'” Johnston sighs from an album containing God Only Knows and Wouldn’t It Be Nice, often called the greatest LP ever. The time his creative use of LSD was hurting his sanity.” And people would try to rob Brian. They’ll go, ‘I don’t need the Beach Boys, man. Take this pill. I just remember when I started working with him he was really dressed up—stylish, cool, happening, you know? Then he went back to put on his pajamas.”

When the Sunflower sessions began, Wilson stopped attending studios, so the band moved to a 16-track facility in his Bel Air living room, and the idea (in addition to saving money) was that the studio might be more enticing if it were two floors below his bedroom.

Carl Wilson and Mike Love in the studio.
Carl Wilson and Mike Love in the studio. Image: public relations

“The studio was our cave,” Johnston recalls cheerfully. “It was the happiest time. I was 29. I had a Porsche, a great girlfriend, no responsibilities. I would go surfing in the evening and check in during the day.”

Jardine describes the daily ritual: “Go home, break into the fridge, and then go to work.” Due to Wilson’s fragility, Sunflower became their first group effort, with the members displaying their burgeoning talents as singers or songwriters, like Dennis with the extraordinary Forever.

“Brian was stepping back from the trading world and we started making more personal music,” Jardine says. “We’ve all supported each other, so you’re going to work on something of your own or someone else’s. We all listened to each other, and it was such a great feeling. Every so often, Brian would hear something come off the ground and take off quickly.” Usually in his bathrobe. In Feel Flows box notes, engineer Stephen Desper recalls how spontaneous Wilson’s creativity was that he had to “chasing him around the studio with microphones” to catch what he was doing.

Johnston tweets like a sparrow on Jardine At My Window. Wilson and Singer/Cousin Mike Love Misty Almost Everything I Want to Do Invent Shogazi, 20 years ahead of time. “We’ve been a little ahead of the curve that we’re experimenting with the technology,” Jardine recalls. “We borrowed these big jigsaws from Robert Moog and stuffed them in the control room. I remember playing Cool, Cool Water for [new label] Repeat on huge speakers in the dark. This note came out of the synthesizer and shook the room. Everyone was amazed.”

The Beach Boys 1968, Al Jardines far left.
The Beach Boys 1968, Al Jardines far left. Photo: AF Archive / Al-Alamy

Although Reprise later rejected an initial release, Sunflower is now generally regarded as one of their greatest albums. “There’s a real warmth to these recordings, compared to the thicker sounds they recorded earlier,” Combs says. “California’s sun-kissed atmosphere oozes music, but then there are sudden chord changes, weird tweaks or left-hand turns. As the kind of young songwriter who would join the bands, discovering the dynamics in the Beach Boys was amazing and had a huge impact” .

At the time, despite rave reviews, it reached disastrous number 151 in the US, moving fewer copies than Friends of 1968. “We weren’t great,” says Johnston. “The radio will not play us.” What he calls their “clean clean image” of matching suits and surfboards doesn’t match the mainstream counterculture or newer, heavier artists like Jimi Hendrix or The Doors, which isn’t entirely fair. “Half of the squad’s behavior was barely clean. Don’t forget the Vietnam War is going on, but people probably didn’t realize Carl was a conscientious opponent.” [who refused the draft]. I felt the music world was going in the opposite direction.”

A tour of the old hits abroad helped financially and the boys got on the program: their new manager, Jack Riley, insisted those suits had to go. Surf’s Up Next album wasn’t her first “environmental album” (this might be Pete Seeger’s 1966 God Bless the Grass album) but it certainly looks visual today.

“It was a different kind of pollution back then,” Jardine reflects. The topic “Don’t go near the water” was about how the phosphates in soap get into the water. Now the lead is in the pipe. If we could help spread awareness of any of these things, I would be very happy.” Love and Johnston are still involved with beach activists, the Surfrider Foundation, the latter having become environmentally conscious as a schoolboy, when smog in the home incinerator meant “we have to go indoors.” During physical education because we were all coughing.”

While Carl’s delicately fuzzy Feel Flows could match Primal Scream’s Screamadelica, Surf’s Up captures the zeitgeist of its era. “We grew up with Disney, but all of a sudden all this horrible stuff came out,” Johnston says. Love’s Student Demonstration Time referenced the 1970 Kent State shootings, while Disney’s Johnston girls were late for more innocent times. “The high school girls showed us they could sniff fate,” says Johnston, who remains a clean beach-living archetype. “I thought, this is not where I was at your age.”

So far, Carl has taken charge while his brother has remained restless. Brian wrote the environmental anthem A Day in the Life of a Tree, then insisted that Riley sing it. “That was very creative,” Johnston says with a laugh. “It looked like an old knotted tree.” The stellar title track was saved from the smile strips that were “lying around” the house. Jardine recalls, “I said to Carl, ‘We need to finish this, so Carl, Bruce and I took over the production. Karl finished a few songs and we worked from sunset to sunrise only on the final mix.”

Meanwhile, reports about the composer’s restless behavior have ranged from digging his grave in his backyard to trying to drive off a cliff. “I don’t remember anything like that,” Jardine says, but he does remember Brian’s exhilarating excitement when he announced a new single, “Til I Die.” “I would have liked something a little more…optimistic,” he laughs. “You know, another hit! Instead it was all these pesky thoughts, but it turned out to be one of the most beautiful picks on the album.” “I’m Cork by the Ocean…” Wow: That’s deep.

From left: Carl Wilson, Bruce Johnston, Mike Love, Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, and Dennis Wilson.
From left: Carl Wilson, Bruce Johnston, Mike Love, Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, and Dennis Wilson. Photo: Iconic Artists Group LLC Brother Records Inc.

Released – once again – to raucous reviews, with a fun ad (“It’s now safe to listen to The Beach Boys”), Surf’s Up became their highest-grossing chart-topping album since 1967. Engineer Alan Boyd, who put together the box set, New with Mark Linett, he remembers his mother taking him to see the Beach Boys cruising on the album San Francisco Winterland when he was nine years old. “They made new songs and old songs like Surfin’ USA, and I’m Roaming,” he smiles on Zoom. “The balcony was shaking.” “They had to find their audience again, but once they did, everyone realized that old songs are still great,” Lynette says.

The home studio was disbanded in 1972, Dennis drowned in 1983 and Karl died of cancer in 1998. Since then, Love has successfully fought Jardine in court for using the band’s name. The 50th Anniversary reunion tour ended badly, while Jardine is now on tour with Brian. in 2020The couple urged fans to boycott the Love-Johnston Touring Beach Boys after they were booked to play a group fishing event in which Donald Trump Jr. was a speaker. Johnston insists that love never took the stage. When I asked Jardine what he thought of Love Tours, he suddenly lost the phone signal, and finally offered, “Hmm, I don’t have much to say about that.”

Lately, though, the connection to the set of chests seems to have revived some healing. Jardine, Johnston and Love . appear A new version of adding some music to your day (Wilson’s Song/Love on Sunflowers) For charity and there were hints at the 60th anniversary of the reunion. Johnston is more excited about it His work with Skrillex From the idea of ​​recording any new music from the Beach Boys, but says, “I’m expecting a televised event.”

Jardines more optimistic. “We wish we could have 10 or so concerts, all over the world, and maybe a charity event,” he says, while still having our voices. This would be the time to get back together and do some great things.”

If that seems unlikely, Boyd explains, “They started out as kids, rehearsing in living rooms and garages. To this day, if you put them together in a room without anyone else, that’s what they come back to. They really are the ultimate garage squad.”

Feel Flows: Sunflower and Surf’s Up Sessions 1969-1971 box set is now available via Capitol/UMe.

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