April 28, 2012

The culture we live in rarely celebrates endings – we’re all in denial about death and the end of things we have long held dear for so long. I get it, and I understand it. So when you see – say, for example – the goodbyes of icons like Ronald Reagan or Glen Campbell, both faced with the impending mortal dusk of Alzheimer’s, or the final loops of legends like Jack Nicklaus at the British Open, or Arnold Palmer or Gary Player at the Masters, these are moments to cherish as much as to mourn. After all, as the saying goes, time waits for no man.

I write this because it’s interesting to watch all the hype and hoopla surrounding the Beach Boys 50th anniversary celebration with founders Brian Wilson, Mike Love, and Alan Jardine (touring as a unit for the first time in more than two decades) accompanied by “lost Beach Boy” David Marks and long-time band member Bruce Johnston all involved with not just a huge, celebratory tour, but a new CD release (we used to call them albums) as well.

I’ve read a number of reviews about their new single “That’s Why God Made The Radio”, and I can’t help but wonder what planet these people are on. After all, do they not realize we’re watching the greatest American rock band ride off into the sunset with a final parting gift for those who have admired, adored, and loved for the better part of 50 – count ’em, 50! – years to serve as a fitting coda to their celebratory career and impact on American pop culture?

Of course, I understand coming off the heels of their 2011 “SMiLE Sessions” release that everyone would like one last, great Brian Wilson statement that would reinforce the view that Brian Wilson is one of – if not the – greatest pop tunesmiths since George Gershwin, but you have to be realistic: the SMiLE sessions were from 45 years ago, now Brian is just weeks away from turning 70. Is it so bad that his years of great artistic statements are over? Is it too much to ask that one simply enjoy and appreciate their sprightly, sentimental, and catchy new single for what it is – a coda to a long and colorful musical career that changed the way the world saw America, California, and surf culture forever?

I will never be able to fully convey just how much of an impact the music of The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson have had on my life. From the moment my friend Bob Noftle introduced them to my brother Mark and I back in 1974, there has seldom been a day that one of their tunes hasn’t passed through my consciousness at one time or another. I can honestly say that the day Bob brought over The Beach Boys In Concert separated my former musical life and knowledge from the life I have lived since. Their music is forever entwined with the memories of loves long passed and the relationship between me and my brother, the band we started, and the different paths our lives and musical tastes ultimately took. The two dozen plus Beach Boys concerts I’ve attended over the years have served as signposts along the way of growing in adulthood and beyond; losing Dennis Wilson and Carl Wilson were, at least spiritually, as much of a loss as losing Mark, for each in their own way made their indelible mark on my heart and soul.

I don’t expect anything from this Beach Boys reunion except joy, sentimentality, and celebration. Brian, Mike, Alan, Bruce, and David (and, in spirit, Dennis and Carl) have been such a part of my life for so many years that it seems uncharitable to expect some great music statement from them. It’s enough to experience for one final time the joy of expectation – what will their new release sound like, will the songs will be good or not, will I be able to pick out all of their distinct voices in those incredible harmonies one final time. Because after that, it’s all over. Forever. The last wave.

Their music, of course, will live on forever, but it will never match the sheer experience and expectation that comes with a NEW BEACH BOYS RELEASE (I never thought I’d ever type those words). I can still remember Mark, me, Jerry “Keys” Palma, and Ken “The Cat” McDougal back in 1976 at a Top Priority rehearsal hearing the WRKO DJ say he had the new Beach Boys single “Rock And Roll Music”, then making us wait the better part of an hour before it was finally played. Or going to the record store at the Burlington Mall every week and checking out the Beach Boys bin for the new release I heard was coming soon. How times have changed!! For us at that time, so addicted to The Beach Boys were we that we ate and slept their music, the joyful anticipation of expecting new sounds from our musical heroes was something I’ll never forget.

Thirty-five years later, Mark, Dennis, and Carl are all gone but being able to experience a bit of that same joy one last time is something I never thought would be possible, so whatever they choose to release to the world as a final gift is worth the world to me. I just wish I wasn’t alone to experience it.

God bless you, Carl. And you, Dennis. Mark loved both of these songs…

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:06 | Comments (4)
  1. I have been listening to the Beach Boys since 1962…so, I have a head start on you. Cannot remember a year without them and that includes today. Wish I were able to come with you to see them in Las Vegas. Theirs was the very first concert I ever went to and I guess I was 14 at the time. Would go to sleep at night listening to their albums and cruising all over town with the radio up really loud. Fun, fun, fun.

    Comment by Jana — April 28, 2012 @ 5:10 am

  2. The only time I saw the Beach Boys live (or heard them, rather, since I was so far away) was during their 1980 July 4th concert in Washington, D.C.

    I was in the Air Force and stationed at Andrews AFB in Maryland at the time and had gotten a gig working a hot dog stand for some extra cash for the event. All the free hot dogs and tonic you could drink and a few extra bucks in my pocket were pretty good back then, but listening to the Beach Boys live and then watching fireworks over the Potomac WITH the free hot dogs and tonic?


    Comment by Dave Richard — April 28, 2012 @ 6:14 am

  3. Actually, bro, I think you and I saw thenm in 1981, maybe 1982 (?) at the Chateau deVille in Framingham. No Carl Wilson (he was doing his solo tour), no Dennis Wils (he had been kicked out of the band), and Brian was cataonic. It was an awful concert. And I think you were there with me!

    Comment by The Great White Shank — April 28, 2012 @ 9:52 pm

  4. Maybe they were so damned awful I put that one out of my mind!

    Don’t remember that one, but then again, I don’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, either. 🙂

    Comment by Dave Richard — April 29, 2012 @ 5:55 am

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