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Rock & Roll Rewind: The Beach Boys

c d kaplan is a rock & roll lifer. He’s 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

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 her.

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.

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.

Observer of the Passing Scene: Pop Culture and Sports. Writer. Film Critic. Curmudgeon. Rock & Roll and Louisville Cardinal fan.