Brian Wilson is the reason to go see the Beach Boys’ 50th anniversary tour, but he also happens to be the cause of it. One might assume it’s another one of those tours engineered to reunite feuding band members in the pursuit of a paycheck, but from where Wilson stands, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
He can feel the difference between a Brian Wilson song and Beach Boys song when they pour out of him. As he tells us, even during the moments when he was out of the Beach Boys, he’d write songs for the band – like current single “That’s Why God Made The Radio” – and stash them away for a summer day. That’s the real impetus for the Beach Boys reunion. The 50th anniversary of their existence – well, that’s just perfect timing.
We caught up with Wilson on the road about halfway through the Beach Boys’ tour, which started in April and ends overseas in September. He tips us off about what’s to come, if he has his way: Another new Beach Boys album that “gets the rock’n’roll going,” more tour dates, no more Grammy hullabaloo, and possibly even a Frank Sinatra tribute album a la 2010’s Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin album.
How has the tour been going so far?
The shows have been going over very well – they’ve all sold out. The crowd is absolutely wild for our music – they love the Beach Boys!
It’s quite a long tour – how do you stay focused?
I just try to talk to people when I feel lonesome. I just talk to someone and I don’t feel lonesome anymore.
How is your backing band getting along with Mike [Love]’s backing players?
Oh, they’re getting along great! Mike loves the back-up band, he’s thrilled with it – thrilled.
I saw the tour in New York, and you struck a nice balance of deeper cuts and hits. Is it difficult to decide on setlists? Any arguments about it?
We’re on the same page. We all do it together, run it all by each other. We’ve come up with a really good list of songs to use for the concerts, including “California Girls” and “Good Vibrations.”
Any lesser-known songs in the setlist that you’re particularly proud made the cut?
Yeah, a song called “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” [by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers].
What was your reaction when the new album [That’s Why God Made The Radio] debuted at No. 3, your highest debut ever?
Are you kidding?! When we heard that, we flipped! We flipped! We flipped out of our godd*** heads! I couldn’t believe it – No. 3 out of nowhere, out of 200 albums [on the Billboard 200 chart]. I said guys, ‘We lucked out with a No. 3 album.’ They all flipped!
Do you have a favorite song on the album?
I’m partial to “That’s Why God Made The Radio.”
What do you love so much about the radio? Is it a nostalgia thing?
It is a nostalgia thing for me. I first heard “Be My Baby” [by the Ronettes] on the radio back in the ‘60s, and I’ve never, ever gotten over it yet.
The Beach Boys have made some of the most iconic summer songs ever, but are there any songs that remind you of summer that aren’t by the Beach Boys?
“California Girls” and “Surfin’ USA”!
So there are no good summer songs that you didn’t write?
You had your 70th birthday last week, and you were born two days after Paul McCartney. Did you two know about that when you were coming up together in the 1960s?
We did know about it, about our birthdays. And he called me on my birthday. It was a great birthday, a wonderful birthday. They surprised me with a cake and about 30 people yelling (screams) “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”
There’s talk of extending the Beach Boys tour. Would you be up for that?
Yeah, I would.
And there’s also talk of making another Beach Boys album. What’s your view of that project?
We’d like to capture the Phil Spector rock’n’roll beat. Get that rock’n’roll going, you know?
Would you ever do anything like your Gershwin album [Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin] again?
Well, I might do Wilson sings Sinatra. I might.
What would you cover on it?
“All The Way,” “Strangers in the Night” – I love all his songs.
Mike said in an interview recently that the Grammys wanted the Beach Boys to perform again this year. Are you interested in that?
No, not really.
When the Beach Boys played the Grammys this year, Maroon 5 and Foster the People covered you. How do you think they did?
It was great. They did “Surfer Girl” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” very, very well. I was very proud that they could do that.
– Jillian Mapes, CBS Local