A Beach Boys homecoming at the Hollywood Bowl
The group’s trademark SoCal sound will be in full effect Saturday at the Hollywood Bowl. Here are a few points to ponder about Brian Wilson and the crew.
Brian Wilson officially quit as a touring member of the Beach Boys in the mid-1960s and has only been on stage periodically with the band since. As for an album together? It’s been decades. But this week Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks stop at the Hollywood Bowl for a 50th anniversary tour which kicked off last month in Arizona.
The Saturday night show — followed by the release of their new album together, “Why God Made the Radio,” on June 5 — is a homecoming of sorts for this quintessential SoCal band. In celebration of this landmark event, Pop & Hiss compiled a list of facts, stats and random bits of info associated with Beach Boys, Version 2012.
Lies, damned lies and statistics:
For avid Beach Boys fans, no fact is too innocuous to share with the world, and thank God the Internet was invented for exactly this purpose. Helpful tidbits amid all the Beach Boys minutiae include lists of songs the group has performed since launching the anniversary tour.
Songs played at all 19 shows as of Friday include cornerstone hits from the Beach Boys songbook: “Good Vibrations,” “California Girls,” “I Get Around,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” “Help Me, Rhonda”; their last No. 1 hit, 1988’s “Kokomo”; and their newly written and recorded anniversary celebration single, “That’s Why God Made the Radio.” (Marketing lesson 101: Always plug the new stuff.)
Some surprises among the stats:
“All This Is That,” a relatively obscure song from the 1972 album “So Tough,” which was credited as Carl & the Passions, has been included nearly every night — as has “Don’t Back Down,” a song that never charted from 1964’s “All Summer Long” album. “This Whole World,” from 1971’s “Sunflower,” has turned up 10 times, according to the obsessive documentarians at www.setlist.fm.
The group’s Top 10 hit that has surfaced least frequently? “Dance, Dance, Dance,” which has been played, played, played just five times so far.
New thoughts on old songs:
In Mark Dillon’s new book “Fifty Sides of the Beach Boys,” the Canadian author interviewed — yep — 50 different sources about their favorite songs from the group’s career.
What is Alice Cooper’s favorite number, you ask? In the book, they quote him discussing “In My Room”: “I was 15, I was the perfect age for that. Your room is your sanctuary. It’s your Batcave. It’s the only thing you own, so there’s a certain holiness to it. ‘Mom, Dad — don’t come in my room. It’s off limits.’”
As for the ubiquitous Zooey Deschanel? She cites “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” from the watershed 1966 album “Pet Sounds” album. “Talk about blowing my mind. I can listen to the song over and over again.” She’s also a big fan of the separate vocal and instrumental tracks that became available with the 1997 “Pet Sounds” box set: “Listening to just the vocals is really exciting. It still sounds fresh. It always makes me happy.”
What works, what doesn’t
The Beach Boys were never known for their connection to American roots music traditions, but they’ve dipped into the folk songbook with varying results.
On the plus side: “Sloop John B,” a brilliant updating and recasting of the folk tune from the “Pet Sounds” album, anchored by a scintillating bass line and the always vibrant Beach Boys harmonies. It’s been in the set at least 18 times to date, according to www.setlist.fm.
On the minus: “Cotton Fields”:` The Boys take on this Lead Belly number had neither the gritty blues angst of the composer’s original nor the effervescent swing of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 1969 version. Still, it’s shown up 14 times on the current tour.
Songs we could live without:
“Barbara Ann”: The Regents’ 1961 original is better; so is Jan & Dean’s version.
“Kokomo”: In which the Beach Boys, circa 1988, went the route of Jimmy Buffett at a time when it looked as if Brian Wilson had gone surfing and wouldn’t be back. That Wilson sings along to this song during concerts is evidence of his commitment to this tour.
“Do You Wanna Dance”: Who needs a cover when you’ve already got an original like “Dance, Dance, Dance” up your sleeve?
Songs L.A. Beach Boys fans deserve to hear:
“California Saga (On My Way to Sunny Californ-i-a)”: This Al Jardine song from 1973’s “Holland” album pays homage to anyone who ever made the pilgrimage to the Golden State to chase a dream. There’s great musical history here, and it represents a far more rewarding nook in the Beach Boys canon that would nicely replace the current tour’s version of the Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreamin’,” which was just John Phillips’ spin on what the Beach Boys were singing about in the first place.
“I Can Hear Music”: The Beach Boys’ 1969 version tops the Ronettes’ 1966 original, and their dazzling a cappella exhibition in the middle would be vastly preferable to hearing those signature harmonies expended on covers of the Del Vikings’ “Come Go With Me” or Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers’ “Why Do Fools Fall In Love,” both of which they’ve been doing regularly on this tour.
“Surf’s Up”: One of the most heartbreakingly beautiful songs the Beach Boys ever recorded. It’s hard to think of any composition that’s better captured the complexities of the passage from childhood to adulthood.
Image: Original members of The Beach Boys, from left, Brian Wilson, David Marks and Mike Love, perform together during a concert at the Beacon Theater in New York. (AP Photo / Jason DeCrow)