Grammys 2012: Beach Boys reunite for rehearsal
After hearing "Good Vibrations" for the third time Thursday, Grammy Executive Producer Ken Ehrlich finally let himself smile. "That was pretty great, right? I think that was pretty great." Up on stage, five members of the Beach Boys -- Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, Al Jardine and David Marks -- were stepping away from their instruments and microphones and there were sunny expressions all around, which is a big deal when you're talking about the Beach Boys.
Nothing comes easy with the Beach Boys, a group that only specialized in harmony when they were actually singing. Like so many signature Los Angeles groups -- the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Van Halen, the Red Hot Chili Peppers -- the history of the Beach Boys is defined by dysfunction and discord between the seasons of platinum. But Wilson said Thursday that none of that matters now, especially since the Grammy appearance is the kickoff to larger reunion this year for the group's 50th anniversary.
"I'm very excited," Wilson said. "We just had to make our minds up to do it. It's a thrill, I like being with the guys. I didn't see them for a long, long time and then I've been seeing them recently because we're getting ready for our tour. The music is going very well. We really put a lot into our music."
PHOTOS: Grammy Awards 2012 rehearsals
Johnston, sitting down to lunch before Thursday's rehearsal, said that he's been surfing this late-career surprise but he knows at some point, when audiences are paying for tickets, the group will have to live up to their own legend.
"I never hoped for [a reunion] because I never thought any of us wanted to do it," the 69-year-old said. "So it's kind of cool, I'm looking forward to it. We have probably, you know, the presidential honeymoon of six months but then we have to show something to keep it going. The challenge is going to be the set list [for the tour shows] and choosing the songs that reflect our sort of simplicity and our more complex stuff. We have to make sure we have a great flowing song list but also make sure we don't sound like a greatest hits band. We have a lot to balance."
For the Grammys, Erhlich was trying to find that balance by coming up with a sequence that meshed the past and the present. That's why Maroon 5 will perform "Surfer Girl" and then hand off to newcomers Foster the People for "Wouldn't It Be Nice" before the Beach Boys step to center stage for "Good Vibrations." For the younger artists, there was a giddy excitement to the cross-generational exercise even in the rehearsals.
"It's a total dream come true, it's one of my all-time favorites," Maroon 5 lead signer Adam Levine said after snapping photos with the elder musicians. For Erhlich, the three acts were linked by harmonies, falsettos, layered approaches to music and their Southern California heritage. That made the sequence easy on paper, at least.
"It was hard to get it done," Erhlich said. "We started talking to the Beach Boys months ago. We were hoping to announce it at the nominations show [in November], but there were a couple of hitches and we weren't able to do it. Things were resolved on both sides and we worked it out. We wanted to do this from the beginning. If feels right when you see it and I think it's going to be worth all the work."
Photo: Adam Levine of Maroon 5 performs a sound check before his group's rehearsal with the Beach Boys. Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times.