It’s been quite a few months for Beach Boys fans, with the release of The Smile Sessions now followed by the announcement of not only a reunion tour of the surviving members, but also a first new studio album since the 1990s. But, as with almost anything related to the Beach Boys, it’s more complicated than a simple happy story.
For one thing, no line-up will ever be complete without Dennis and Carl Wilson, two thirds of the heart of the group, but both have passed away of course, with Carl’s death in 1998 having seemingly ended the band as a proper entity (only Mike Love really counted his touring group as the real thing in the years since). However, with Brian Wilson, Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks on board, you can’t deny the authenticity of this new line-up, even if it’s surely the first time they’ve all been in the band at the same time, other than to accept a Platinum Record award a few years back.
This reunion had been mooted all year with hints from some members followed by what seemed like categorical denials from Wilson, who seems to have the least to gain from it, as a successful recording and touring artist on his own. But their 50th anniversary is next year, so maybe that tempted him to get back on board (rubbish pun intended), although his relationship with his cousin Mike and others in the band has not always been a healthy one for him. It’s not the first time he has made a dramatic return to the fold, of course, with the ‘Brian Is Back’ hype of the mid-70s a sign of how you can’t always trust the motives of those around him.
But of course, this time is different. He’s still a damaged person and always will be, but he seems to genuinely be in a much happier place and better able to deal with the pressures and baggage of being in the Beach Boys again. Whether the new album will be up to much is hugely debatable given his own admitted writers’ block and the deficit in other writing talents left in the band, but it would have to be pretty wretched to be as bad as Summer In Paradise, the Love-fuelled abomination that was their last studio album of new material.
And if the tour comes to town and I’ve got the chance to see all of the proper surviving Beach Boys playing Good Vibrations, God Only Knows and California Girls together, will I take it? Of course I will.