The worst idea of the year was surely the release of a ‘new’ Beach Boys album which includes the original vocals accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Having heard most of it, everyone involved, but especially whichever Beach Boys agreed to it, should hang their heads in shame.
My loyal reader will know that I am a great Beach Boys fan. Not of the Help Me Rhonda, Barbara Ann type stuff, but Pet Sounds and many of their post Pet Sounds albums. They made some great music but we have to acknowledge that the band that tours under the Beach Boys name is little more than a mobile jukebox, propped up, would you believe, by Autotune. The group’s genius Brian Wilson still tours with his own band of stellar musicians. In his mid seventies, he sits behind a piano that he doesn’t play, sings the words with the aid of a prompter, sings on relatively few of the songs, looks like he would rather be anywhere else, always assuming he knows where he is in the first place. Sometimes, it’s better to bow out with good grace.
No one seriously doubts that many of the Beach Boys songs are classics. God Only Knows is Paul McCartney’s favourite song for goodness sake. But it was not written by Wilson, along with Tony Asher, to be played with a full orchestra. It just doesn’t work, no matter how much Beach Boys fanatics pretend that it does.
Quite frankly, I wish all versions of the touring Beach Boys would wrap it in. Yes, I know there is money to be made and lots of it from the endless nostalgia tours and festivals. That’s why these heritage acts carry on. There is no creativity, no new ideas and definitely no new music. And how could there be? Wilson himself has written, perhaps, a handful of decent songs since the early 1970s and his latest records have been abysmal. This is no way for one of the greatest talents in the history of popular music to bow out.
I honestly think that a musician who ceases to make music has nothing new to tell the discerning music fan. Perhaps, I am unusual but I like to hear new music alongside the hits. I like it when a band delves down deep into its back catalogue and visits upon us some much loved deep cuts that the aficionados never dreamed they would hear live. This is what Toto did at their recent Albert Hall show.
I saw a podgy looking Mike Love, the leader of the touring Beach Boys, along with fellow member Bruce Johnston on BBC’s breakfast show a few weeks ago and it was just embarrassing. A few tired stories, a little self-praise and of course free plugs for their new album.
The point is that the Beach Boys are a legendary band. That’s how they should stay, rather than turn themselves into an endless parody, rather than an endless summer. Surf’s up boys. Forever.