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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Surf is still up for the Beach Boys during their sixth decade

 (Courtesy of Festival at Sandpoint)

The Beach Boys are arguably the greatest American rock band. The iconic group, which started as an innocuous surf act, became the only recording artist that challenged the Beatles in terms of critical acclaim and popularity.

The three Wilson brothers, Brian, Dennis and Carl, plus cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine created some of the most complex and beautiful harmonies from a pop-rock band. And then there is Brian Wilson’s songwriting genius and studio wizardry.

Famous fans from Paul McCartney to Joey Ramone to Bruno Mars have sung the praises of the California band, who have a staggering 36 Top 40 hits, the most by an American band.

Brian Wilson parted ways with the Beach Boys once again after performing during its 50th anniversary tour a decade ago. Wilson often slips in deep cuts during his shows but it’s all about the hits when the Beach Boys, who will perform Thursday at the Festival at Sandpoint, hit the road.

“Give the people what they want,” vocalist Mike Love said while calling from Los Angeles. “That’s how we do it.”

Love’s Beach Boys include vocalist-keyboardist Bruce Johnston, who jokes that he’s the new guy in the band even though he’s been with the group since 1965. Beach Boys shows move quickly. There isn’t much time between songs.

“We have a lot to get in,” Love said.

Iconic, beloved songs such as “Good Vibrations,” “God Only Knows” and “I Get Around” are always part of the Beach Boys’ sets.

“We don’t forget about our history,” Love said. “That’s so important to us. We love playing the songs fans are familiar with. I never get it when bands don’t play those big songs … I just love those songs. They take me back to when we recorded them. The great thing is that they still stand up today. It takes me back to 1966 when we were the number one group in England, ahead of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Take that, you mop tops!”

The competition between the Beach Boys and the Beatles was real. The bands tried to outdo each other.

“We definitely paid attention to what they did,” Love said. “It was a healthy thing.”

Love, 81, is fit, trim and obviously takes care of himself. “I’ve always been this way,” Love said. “My life changed in 1967. That’s when I learned transcendental meditation and that was the end of marijuana for me. I didn’t need drugs or alcohol to relax. I learned how to relax through meditation. There’s no negative side-effects. Transcendental meditation helps you have a clearer perspective on life. As the Maharishi used to say, ‘take it as it comes.’ Meditating gives me the strength to perform at all of these shows every year.”

It’s hard to believe but it’s been 60 years since the Beach Boys formed in Hawthorne, California. “We had some of the greatest highs and some of the worst lows,” Love said. “The success we had was extraordinary but we wrote and performed so well together. And then there is all that went wrong. Dennis (Wilson) and Carl (Wilson) are no longer around. I’m thankful for every day that I can get up there onstage and sing our songs.”