Danny's Blog
A chat with Bruce Johnston: The Beach Boys find their Kokomojo

Perhaps it’s a massive amalgam of misgiving. It might be a grand gathering of gloom. Or maybe, just maybe it’s the recent dearth of meaningful melody. But whatever the reason, wayward music enthusiasts are tiring of their musical mistresses and reconciling once again with their tried and true tunes. The prodigal fans are returning in droves to their lyrical first loves.

And so it is that America’s favorite pop band is reveling in a resurgence of relevance as they continue to sell out dates on their worldwide 50th Anniversary Tour. For five decades now, The Beach Boys have recorded and performed the music that has become the world’s favorite soundtrack to summer. And for the first time in more than two decades Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks are touring together.

The Beach Boys drop by Grand Canyon University Arena July 7 for the Phoenix stop of the once-in-a-lifetime tour. In advance of the show, long-time member Johnston chatted with me about the historic tour and their recently released album, That’s Why God Made The Radio.

Fans of the pop icons are accustomed to outstanding music. The legendary group continues to hold Billboard / Nielsen SoundScan’s record as the top-selling American band for albums and singles, as well as the most Billboard Top 40 chart hits with 36.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees’ classic album Sounds Of Summer: The Very Best Of The Beach Boys is fast approaching triple-platinum sales. The SMiLE Sessions, released to worldwide critical acclaim in November, was heralded as 2011’s #1 Reissue of the Year by Rolling Stone magazine.

But let’s face it, a 50th anniversary Tour is pretty extraordinary. To Johnston, it was more a matter of picking up where they left off. “It’s like riding a bicycle that you’ve had in the garage, leaning against the wall. Just kind of make sure there’s air pressure in the tires and you oil the chain and off you go.”

“We used some of the guys in Brian Wilson’s band and some of the guys from ours. And I think they’re surprised at the pace that we run at, you know? They’re great players, those guys, but they’re used to days off. I get nervous when there’s a day off.”

It’s been quite a while since all of the surviving original band members toured together – much less recorded together. But Johnston didn’t consider the reunion to be daunting.

“No challenge at all. Why would there be? I mean, you have the comfort connection of course. It’s like being on a really famous sports team. You know that everybody has a position that they excel in.”

“Brian’s the melody man, so to speak, and a great arranger. And Al Jardine has this voice – there’s about five or six notes – it’s just perfect. Then the rest is really great. Mike Love has this great commercial tone and on the tour, he just naturally is the front man. It’s business as usual.”

The 50th Anniversary campaign spotlights the band’s entire catalog – and we do mean their entire catalog – including their stellar 2012 release That’s Why God Made The Radio. The recent effort is the first to feature all of the band’s surviving original members in decades.

“The new album isn’t an album of a classic band trying to sound contemporary. It’s kind of like Tony Bennett getting in front of the microphone and sounding the way he sounds, you know? It’s hard work without trying.”

“I think it’s more in the song selection. Because once you have songs you want to sing and then you record them, when you physically sing them, you just kind of go to the ranges of your voices and do it.”

Timing is everything. And given the aforementioned musical wasteland that we seem to be in, the timing was perfect for the reunion. I asked Johnston whether or not there was anything magical or mystical behind planning the tour?

“Magical, yes. Mystical, no. It just makes sense to see there’s a demand and a desire – with so many years being musically on the planet – to get in front of everybody, get in front of the microphone and get in front of people. And it just is working out beautifully for us.”

Johnston was thrilled with much more than the show’s exceptional almost 50-song setlist.

“It’s really cool, I’m not kidding. Because things have changed, so we now are more visually oriented in the music business. There’s so much technologically, you can do so much, you can YouTube yourself, your videos have been seen – there’s a lot more when you go to a concert. You expect to take your eyes and your ears, not just your ears. So, that’s changed but we’re stepping up to that plate.”

“Let’s just agree on one thing. Brian has an incredible music legacy and Mike’s lyrics are great, we all know that. But now we have to entertain you beyond the ears, so we kind of have a big video wall. There’s no smoke and things blowing up, ‘cause that’s not the kind of band we are.”

“But we have scrap book on stage. It’s really cool. You’ll see some pictures from high school and sports and all kinds of things and group pictures. And then the fun part of the night for me – sad and happy – is to be able to sing with Al and Dennis (Wilson, late brother) and Mike, myself and we’re backing up Carl (Wilson, late brother). We stripped that all back except for his live voice, and so we’re able to sing live with those guys.”

“Seriously the show is really stunning, but it’s stunning on our terms. It’s not us trying to be anything other than what we are. You’re gonna love the video wall because as we’re singing some of the songs, just all these really great pictures of us, movies of us, black and white of course, recording ‘Good Vibrations’ – all kinds of cool things. You’ll really like that. It’ll surprise ya.”

We can always use a surprise…

Tickets for The Beach Boys 50th Anniversary Tour are on sale via Ticketmaster and other ticket outlets. Up to the minute tour date and ticketing information can be found at www.thebeachboys.com.

Exclusive VIP ticket packages are available through VIP Nation, including premium seats, meet & greets, soundcheck access, exclusive merchandise and more. For more information please visit www.vipnation.com.

Article By: , Tucson Concerts Examiner