It’s hard to believe, but it’s the 50th anniversary of the formation of The Beach Boys. There are rumors that the surviving longtime members — group genius Brian Wilson, lead singer Mike Love, rhythm guitarist Al Jardine and keyboard player Bruce Johnston, all of whom also sing, of course — will reunite sometime this year to celebrate.
However, this hasn’t happened yet, and it won’t be a huge surprise if it doesn’t. For a band known for their harmonies, their interactions with one another haven’t always been harmonious. Indeed, there have been various lawsuits between the group members, including Love claiming songwriting credit on many hit songs, and disputes over the rights to the band name.
For now, it’s the Beach Boys with Love and Johnston that’s on tour, and this incarnation of the band made a stop at the Ventura County Fair on Tuesday night, playing selections from their amazing catalog of songs, which paint California as a sunny paradise of surf, hot rods, beautiful girls and fun.
The band was rounded out by Scott Totten on lead guitar and acting as the musical director, Randell Kirsch on bass guitar, John Cowsill on drums, Tim Bonhomme on keyboards and Christian Love on rhythm guitar. Pretty much everyone contributes to the trademark Beach Boys harmonies.
The band sounded marvelous, with spot-on harmonies and energetic playing throughout the generous set, which included sizzling songs of summer such as “Surfin’ Safari,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” “409,” “Shut Down,” “I Get Around,” “California Girls,” “Surfin’ USA,” “Fun, Fun, Fun” and “Help Me Rhonda,” which included guest drummer Clem Burke from Blondie.
The more introspective side of The Beach Boys was also represented by tracks from their acclaimed 1966 album Pet Sounds, namely “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “God Only Knows” and “Sloop John B.”
Then there was arguably the best of the Beach Boys songs, “Good Vibrations,” originally the result of hours of studio experimentation and sophisticated production techniques boiled down to an impossibly catchy 3½-minute pop song. Way back when, this single whetted the appetite for the next Beach Boys album after Pet Sounds, to be called Smile. Alas, that “lost album,” which Wilson once called “a teenage symphony to God” but was unable to finish because of mental problems and intra-group conflict, is only now getting its first official release as a studio album this year. At the concert, the band nailed this song, a bittersweet reminder of the heights to which The Beach Boys could reach and of potential lost.
The concert also had some choice covers, such as Jan and Dean’s “Surf City” (co-written by Wilson) and “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena,” The Regents’ “Barbara Ann,” which is really better known from The Beach Boys’ version, and Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues.”
All told, it was a fun, fun, fun time on a chilly night at the fair. And Daddy didn’t even take the T-Bird away!
Catch a Wave
Do It Again
Surf City (Jan and Dean cover)
I’m So Young
Why Do Fools Fall in Love (Frankie Lymon cover)
Be True to Your School
In My Room
Don’t Worry Baby
Little Deuce Coupe
The Little Old Lady From Pasadena (Jan and Dean cover)
I Get Around
Ballad of Ole’ Betsy
God Only Knows
Sloop John B
Wouldn’t It Be Nice
Then I Kissed Her
Dance, Dance, Dance
Do You You Wanna Dance? (Bobby Freeman cover)
Barbara Ann (The Regents cover)
Help Me Rhonda
Rock and Roll Music (Chuck Berry cover)
Summertime Blues (Eddie Cochran cover)
Fun, Fun, Fun
— Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.