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New album, tour keep Beach Boys young after 50 years

by: COURTESY OF BEACH BOYS - The latest incarnation of the Beach Boys, led by founding original Mike Love (right front) and longtime member Bruce Johnson (front left), will play their popular surf and car songs at Chinook Winds Casino and Resort in Lincoln City, March 1 and 2.The Beach Boys are an institution not only in Southern California, where their roots were established in 1961, but also worldwide, where their music continues to resonate more than a half-century later.

Last year, originals Mike Love, Brian Wilson and Al Jardine and longtime members Bruce Johnston and David Marks, joined for a 50th anniversary reunion tour that produced an acclaimed album, “That’s Why God Made the Radio,” and drew strong crowds across the globe.

Two of the original Beach Boys are long gone. Dennis Wilson drowned in 1983 and Carl Wilson — brother of Dennis and Brian — died of lung cancer in 1998.

In 1988, the surviving founding members of the Beach Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The group has put together 36 U.S. top-40 hits, most ever for an American band. Surf and hot rod standards such as “Good Vibrations,” “Help Me Rhonda,” “I Can Hear Music,” “Barbara Ann,” “I Get Around,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Surfer Girl,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” “Fun Fun Fun” and “California Girls” have been pleasing audiences for generations.

Love — cousin to the Wilsons, brother of Lake Oswego’s Stan Love (former NBA player) and uncle of Stan’s son, Kevin (NBA All-Star) — was co-lead singer with Brian Wilson in the early years of the Beach Boys. Wilson left in 1965 and has been back only sporadically since; Mike Love has been the band’s primary lyricist since then.

Love and Johnston headline the current incarnation of the Beach Boys, who will perform at Chinook Winds Casino and Resort in Lincoln City on March 1 and 2. Love, who turns 72 on March 15, has lived in Incline Village, Nev., since 1981. But he hooked up via phone for a Q&A with the Portland Tribune from his native Southern California, where he was tending to his ailing father, Milton, 94:

Tribune: How many dates will the Beach Boys do in 2013?

Love: Probably more than 100. The past 15 years or so until last year, we’ve been touring with the configuration the people will see at Chinook Winds. There’ll be myself and Bruce, of course. Bruce has been with us since taking Brian’s place in 1965. John Cowsill of The Cowsills is our drummer and a really good singer. My son, Christian Love, plays the guitar and sings the parts Carl sang — he’s an excellent singer. It’s a nice band and we’ve been received quite nicely.

Tribune: How many dates did you do on the 50th anniversary reunion tour last year, and how did it go?

Love: We started off with 50, but there was a lot of demand. Including Asia and Europe, we had 74 dates. It was pretty successful in a lot of ways. We sold out the 17,000-seat Hollywood Bowl in our hometown. We sold out in London at Royal Albert Hall — an iconic building — and at Wembley Arena. We did really well in most places — not so great in Asia and Australia. But it was great for the fans to see us back together.

Tribune: Now you have split off again, with Wilson, Jardine and Marks not with you this year. In recent interviews, Brian in particular seems put out that they aren’t being allowed to continue with the band.

Love: We’re doing what we had always agreed upon — a specific number of shows tied into the reunion tour. It was always agreed upon to do that number. Now we’re going back to the way we’ve been doing things the last 15 years.

Tribune: The reunion group — guys who began playing music together 50 years ago — released an album, “That’s Why God Made the Radio,” last June that rose to No. 3 on Billboard. What did you think about that?

Love: It debuted at No. 3. From there, it fell off. There are really nice songs on it. We had a good time recording it, I must say. It was great to hear all the voices together again. It was a really nice experience to get back together in studio and record after so many years.

Tribune: You’re soon to be 72. Why do you continue to play music after all these years?

Love: There are three aspects to music-making. There is the recording, the songwriting and the live performance. I’ve always preferred (the latter), with the crowd participation and the flow of energy. It’s wonderful to hear the appreciation coming back to you from the crowd for all these songs for so many years. Beach Boys music covers multiple generations. People today sing along to songs their parents and grandparents liked. It’s a wonderful thing to perform and see your music mean so much to so many millions all over the world.

When we’re playing Japan, they can’t understand the lyrics, but they love the beat and the whole concept of rock and roll. We play in places like South Africa, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Denmark — all over the world, and we’ve had a tremendous reception. It’s very inspiring. I’ve had a hand in writing most of the songs we’ve done. To have your creative efforts being so well-received and appreciated for so many years, it’s a pretty uplifting thing for me as a person and as an artist.

Tribune: How much longer will you continue to perform?

Love: Look at Tony Bennett. He’s 86, looks great and does well. It’s the kind of thing where if you love music and are fortunate enough to be able to make it your livelihood instead of just a hobby, why stop? We’re blessed people, very fortunate to do all we can do for so long.

Tribune: How has your voice held up through the years?

Love: If you use the vocal chords, they stay strong. If you abuse them through smoking and drinking, the results aren’t fantastic. I do transcendental meditation every day. It gives me rest and relaxation in pursuing activities and combats fatigue. It gives you a sort of high without having to resort to alcohol and drugs. That’s been a big benefit to my life. It’s just like if you don’t exercise, your muscles will atrophy. If you exercise the voice, you’re most likely to keep it in great shape and be able to do what you’ve always done.

Tribune: How important has “TM” been to your career?

Love: It has been a lifesaver for me. I’ve seen my cousins and family members and friends in the industry go in other directions through drugs and alcohol. That may help you cope with stress, but there are some negative side effects. The “TM” program has no negative effects. It’s all beneficial. You get a deeper level of rest to the body than you can in deep sleep. It’s profound. It’s relaxing because of the deep breaths. You have the clarity and energy to entertain the types of activities we do with traveling and rehearsing and performing.

Tribune: You’ve been using “TM” for more than 45 years.

Love: We met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Paris in 1967 and he taught us the technique. It’s meant to be practiced twice a day, morning and evening. It’s such a great thing. You sleep the night and get up the next morning and you feel completely rested. When you meditate, all those feelings of grogginess and irritation and fatigue are eliminated. Your biochemistry changes. It’s very simple but amazing stuff.

Tribune: You have been a longtime supporter of environmental causes. Tell us about the Love Foundation, which supports national environmental and educational initiatives.

Love: We went to the Earth Summit 20 years ago and sponsored a presidential debate on the environment. Bruce and I are advisory board members of the Surfrider Foundation. Its purpose is to protect our beaches. We’ve done benefits for several schools over the years. My thing is, if you have some notoriety and popularity and you can use that to serve good causes, and you’re trying to make contributions to society with your creativity and persona, that’s a worthwhile thing to do with your life.

Tribune: Do you have a favorite Beach Boys tune?

Love: I have several. “California Girls” is amazing. “Good Vibrations” went to No. 1 in 1966. We were voted No. 2 group in Great Britain on the strength of that song. I co-wrote “Kokomo” — which was No. 1 in 1988 — with John Phillips and Terry Melcher. I like songs where you can be interesting and have it an artistic exercise. But it’s hard to have a favorite when you have so many to choose from.

Tribune: How do you decide which songs to play at a given concert?

Love: It depends on the venue. At a nice theater like Chinook Winds, we can do some pretty harmonies. Before, when we played there, it was September, when they have a car show, but that won’t be the case this time. But we always do our car songs. We do our surfing songs. We do all of our hit songs.

We try to keep it moving. We understand that in a casino, not everybody is a hard-core fan. If you’re a hard-core fan, you might want us to get a little bit esoteric, play songs that maybe were not mainstream.

Tribune: How do you look at your legacy? What kind of an imprint have the Beach Boys left on the music industry?

Love: The Beach Boys are their own sonic oasis. We’re not competing with anybody. We’ve been around a long time. We still have a pretty great amount of popularity worldwide. This year, we have four sold-out shows in Japan. We’re heading to Hong Kong after Lincoln City.

The legacy is positivity and harmony and really great music. It captures the mood and the feeling of a lot of common experiences we’ve all had growing up. What young kid doesn’t ask his parents for the car to go to the library but ends up hanging out with his friends? Who doesn’t like good-looking girls all over the world, like California girls? Close your eyes and we’ll take you back to a moment in time. We wrote a lot of songs about experiences as young guys growing up in Southern California. They’ve resonated with millions around the world. They still do.

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