Beach Boy legend Brian Wilson.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
When the weather heats up, the sea seductively beckons and the bathing suits come out of the closet, it’s time for the music of the Beach Boys. The perennial all-American band – built on Chuck Berry riffs, surfing, hot rods, girls and the allure of eternal youth – has remained in the psyche and on the iPods of music fans around the world, mainly due to the talent and vision of Brian Wilson, the gifted but troubled writer of some of rock’s most enduring songs.
Wilson’s scope expanded significantly in the second half of the 1960s, as along with The Beatles, he began making rock music for adults. And there is no better example of that growth than on the Beach Boys’ pinnacle Pet Sounds, released in 1966. Now, on the album’s 50th anniversary, the 74-year-old Wilson is performing Pet Songs in its entirety on a world tour that stops at the Ra’anana Amphitheater on June 8.
The album, featuring songs like “God Only Knows,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and the self-prophetic “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times,” offers a palette far removed from the happy-go-lucky hits the band made only a year or two earlier. Dominated by slower tempos, complex arrangements with orchestration and introspective lyrics, the material still retains the unmistakable Beach Boys sound, thanks to the intricate soaring harmonies Wilson arranged for brothers Carl and Dennis, cousin Mike Love and members Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston to sing.
“I wanted to do something good like Rubber Soul,” Wilson told The Jerusalem Post recently, referring to The Beatles’ landmark 1965 album, when asked why he abandoned the Beach Boys traditional sound for the ethereal tones of Pet Sounds. “I was young, happy and creative,” Wilson added in a promotional video released last week ahead of his Israel show.
Reams of articles, books and films, including 2015’s much ballyhooed John Cusack biopic Love and Mercy, have focused on Wilson’s roller coaster journey from sandy-haired surf music innovator to revolutionary pop composer to drug-addled recluse to a recovered – but emotionally damaged – gentle childlike giant of mythological proportions.
As one of rock’s revered elder statesmen, Wilson’s stature has only increased in recent years as he’s returned to revisiting his durable oeuvre. In 2004, he unexpectedly staged triumphant presentations of The Beach Boys’ fabled 1960s unreleased opus Smile to thunderous acclaim.
The current Pet Sounds tour features most of the same players from the Smile tour and includes his old Beach Boys mate Jardine and longtime sideman Blondie Chaplin.
Wilson remains an enigma, touring more now than he has since the Beach Boys’ heyday, with both tremendous box office clout and creative credibility that surpasses most of his 1960s contemporaries.
He said he didn’t know if the Beach Boys would be able to break into the music industry today, but he’s proud of the band’s legacy. When asked what he thinks a contemporary producer might be referring to when he tells his musical client to sound like the Beach Boys, he said,” I would say he’s talking about the harmonies. You want to go for those harmonies. That’s what made us stand out.”
Those harmonies, like the sounds of summer, will be in abundance next week when Brian Wilson takes to the stage in Ra’anana.The concert takes place on June 8 at the Ra’anana Amphitheater.