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Love is the secret ingredient

Beach Boys to make stop at Capital Credit Union Park

By Kris Leonhardt


GREEN BAY – For over six decades, the music of the Beach Boys has conjured images of sun and surf to multiple generations of music lovers.

While their music has been associated with California culture, its hooks and lyrics transcend the boundaries of the Golden State, with visions of fun, bliss and love.

The band was formed in Hawthorne, Calif., in 1961, a suburb of Los Angeles, not far from the California coast where their family camped when they arrived in California.

The group’s songs about sun and surf were a natural progression in their youth.

“Well, I grew up in a home with a grand piano, an organ and a harp,” said Mike Love, who formed the band with his cousins — Wilson brothers Brian, Carl and Dennis — and friend, Al Jardine.

“But my mom was obsessed with opera. She loved opera music. She actually woke us up in the morning to go to school with her music, and as high as that would go on the record. If we played a rock and roll even half as loud it was too loud.

“We would get together for birthdays Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, any special occasion, it was always about music. In fact, at Christmas time, we would literally rehearse our Christmas songs in the living room, and then the aunts and uncles and all the kids and friends would literally go around our neighborhood and Christmas Carol.

“So it was always about music with the Wilsons and Loves.”

The Wilson and Love’s grandmother had nine children, which led to a large extended family.

“The one died in infancy and the other eight lived to — let’s be generous and call it maturity,” Love joked. “We have all kinds of uncles, cousins, all that kind of stuff.”

“A radio station in Los Angeles had a feature where they played a lot of new songs on the radio; the one that got the most calls would become the ‘Record of the week’ … with all our nephews aunts and uncles, friends and neighbors, we very handily won that contest in 1961. The song was called ‘Surfin’’ and here we are six decades later.”

The hit was on a small independent label which later declared bankruptcy.

They later signed with Capitol and recorded Surfin’ Safari, the first of many hit albums.

The Surfin’ Safari album cover was created at Paradise Cove — a place near Malibu, Calif. — where they returned to film their recent documentary with Disney Plus.

“And that was really neat because Brian and I sat next to each other and he remembered stuff from our high school days and I’d even forgotten and so there’s long term memories in great shape physically, though he’s challenged because we’ll walk her to go to a wheelchair and all that stuff. He’s not getting around very easily anymore, but his memory is fantastic. And we got a chance to sing some songs together,” Love recalled.

Road to success

But six decades earlier, things looked a little different.

“We were touring in Minnesota and we’re a little we’re in a little place where people go for concerts —Lake Minnetonka, it was called — and there’s this little building there which we had four sets a night,” Love said. “When you start out that’s what you do; you go to these ballrooms, armories and different places.

“My cousin Brian and I went outside and looked down the road and there were cars for about a mile down the road. You can see the lights they’re still trying to come to the concert, but it was sold out and people were actually breaking the windows to get in.

“And I looked down the road and I said to Brian, ‘This is what it must have been like for Elvis Presley when he started,’ because we had no frame of reference.”

And those two cousins were the perfect songwriting team.

“Unlike my cousin Brian who can sit at the piano and run down chord progressions of Four Freshmen songs, which is not easy. I was more into the lyrics and the hook because I was very much into literature and history and culture and languages. So that’s me and that’s when I came in handy when you’re writing lyrics to songs

“Inside outside USA, Let’s go surfing now everybody’s learning how, all those kinds of things, you know, I learned a lot from Chuck Berry. He was one — ‘I got on the city bus and found a vacant seat. I thought I saw my future bride walkin’ up the street. I shouted to the driver ‘hey, conductor, you must slow down. I think I see her please let me off this bus.’

“And I would go — Well she got her daddy’s car and she cruised through the hamburger stand now. Seems she forgot all about the library like she told her old man now.

“So it’s like alliteration. I was in the language of poetry. I was the most well-read kid in grade school, junior high and high school.

“So it came in handy when it came time to partner with Brian creating these songs.”

Across generations

“The most wonderful thing is seeing entire families show up to our concerts, you know, the grandparents, their kids and grandchildren. And sometimes there’s four generations or sometimes the great grandparents are coming out. There’ll be people in their 80s and beyond. And children, babies, five years old,” Love explained.

“I think the secret ingredient is love. We love to get together and harmonize.

“And we’re obsessed with the blend actually. We borrowed the blend from the Everly Brothers, they blended beautifully. And maybe it was a family connection; there certainly was with us. And so when we do our four-part harmonies — a lot of people do two-part harmonies or three harmonies, but not so many do four-part harmonies.”

But, sometimes the words are as important as the harmonies.

Love recalled the making of “Good Vibrations” — one of his favorite groups of lyrics from the Beach Boys.

 “There was psychedelic stuff going on in the West Coast in particular, and some in the East Coast, but California was full bore into all the psychedelic stuff. And so there was a Vietnam War going on and there were student demonstrations, there were integration issues. We all knew that stuff was going on. We all had draft numbers and draft cards and stuff,” Love recalled.

“I just want to accentuate the positive because at the same time all that negativity was going on. There were people that were in the peace and love and flower power, and I just wanted to create a poem about a girl who was all into peace and love and harmony and nature, so that was the inspiration for ‘Good Vibrations.’

“The track was amazing that my cousin Brian finally did after doing several different versions at different studios, but I handed him the lyrics to the song and he liked it.

“That song went to number one. In the fall of 1966, we were voted the No. 1 group in England; No. 2 being the Beatles. That was pretty amazing.”

Today, the group continues to tour and share their songs of fun and sun, as Love said the audience keeps them going.

The Beach Boys will appear at Capital Credit Union Park in Green Bay on July 11 with guests, Dave Mason and John Stamos, for the 79-stop The Beach Boys’ Endless Summer Gold tour, which keeps adding dates.

For more information, visit https://thebeachboys.com/pages/tour.

After the concert, Love and his wife, Jacquelyne, will host an after-party tasting, featuring their rums and canned cocktails from Club Kokomo Spirits, with photo opportunities and autographed memorabilia.

For more information on the after-party event, visit https://mikelove.com/vip.

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