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The Beach Boys’ “best promo guys were John Lennon and Paul McCartney”

May 14th, 2024

Mike Love and Bruce Johnston of The Beach Boys have discussed their new Disney+ documentary, the support they had from The Beatles, and the health of songwriter Brian Wilson.

Interviewed by Mariella Frostrup alongside The Beach Boys’ documentary director Frank Marshall at Abbey Road Studios last night (May 13), the pair revealed that the 81-year-old Wilson – who has recently been placed under conservatorship for what his doctors call a “major neurocognitive disorder” – was still able to perform with the band for the film.

“Brian remembered things that I had forgotten from high school at times,” said Love. “His long-term memory is right there. He does need the help medically – but I think as long as he’s alive he’ll play that piano.”

“I’ve always been interested in how they all came together,” said Marshall, producer of the Indiana Jones, Bourne, Jurassic World and Back To The Future franchises and director of the 2020 Bee Gees documentary How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, on his reasons for making the film.

“[I was] always curious about the music and what made it happen. Documentary filmmaking is a journey of discovery – like a little treasure hunter you’re looking for those golden nuggets along the way. And in this case, it was kind of amazing. We uncovered some really great things that hadn’t been seen before.”

Love and Johnston also reminisced freely about the band’s early ’60s origins as a family concern attempting to emulate the vocal blend of the Everly Brothers and The Four Freshmen.

“The first time I ever remembered Brian singing was sitting on grandma Wilson’s left singing ‘Danny Boy’,” Love said. “And I’m telling his voice was angelic at that time, when he was maybe eight or nine-years-old.”

He continued: “We took the influence of Chuck Berry, The Four Freshman and the Everly Brothers with the blend and rhythms and the balance, and we gave words to that music. Words that were inspired by our environment, because the beach was a big deal, cars were a really big deal.

“We realised that not everybody would have an ocean. My grandfather came from Louisiana. My mother and her family came from Kansas in the dustbowl days before the Great Depression. But we love the environment. We would go to barbecues, the beach, fishing at Redondo Pier, attempt surfing.”

The Beach Boys. Credit: Getty Images/Disney+

Johnston also recalled replacing Wilson for live performances in 1965, “just as the band got upgraded to first class”, and having to learn the bass to stay in the group.

“I probably held it backwards, like Hendrix,” he said, “[but] Carl [Wilson] taught me the vocal parts and the bass parts and somehow I survived.”

Love went on to explain the group’s thinking behind Wilson retiring from touring: “We understood that he was not happy on the road. We understood that he needed to be home. We understood he needed to be near a piano. These are the things that gave him satisfaction and solace. He just wasn’t cut out for a life on the road.”

Love, on the other hand, claimed to have revelled in the experience. “Radio stations used to organise parades when we came into town,” he said. “There was all the screaming Beatlemania, well there was Beach Boysmania too. We would drive little Honda motor scooters out onto the stage. It was fun.”

L-R. Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Paul McCartney
Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Paul McCartney posed at press call for Our World broadcast (CREDIT: Cummings Archives/Redferns)

Both Love and Johnston paid tribute to The Beatles, as friendly competition and inspiration. Love recalled attending the Maharishi’s retreat in India with the band and having Paul McCartney play him an early version of the Beach Boys-inspired ‘Back In The USSR’ over breakfast there, while Johnston told of coming to the UK with a tape of ‘Pet Sounds’ and finding McCartney and John Lennon their biggest champions at a time when their US record label didn’t know how to sell it.

“They loved it and later on I found out that Paul was so influenced musically and vibe-wise by ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ that he wrote ‘Here, There And Everywhere’ for the [1966] ‘Revolver’ album. Our best promo guys in the whole world were Lennon and McCartney. Without them, [1966 album] ‘Pet Sounds’ could have failed.”

Love also addressed one of the most emotional moments of the documentary, when the band are informed that their abusive Svengali father figure Murry Wilson had sold the band’s publishing rights without their knowledge.

“There was a terrible betrayal by your father or your uncle, a terrible betrayal, and he did it for the money. When you’re innocent and young and you don’t know what publishing means and you’re cheated by your own, it’s a rough one. It’s tough to get over. But on the positive side, we’re here and we’ll go out and do our songs, and people love them.”

The Beach Boys will stream on Disney+ from May 24. The Beatles’ restored Let It Be is now also on the streaming service.

This content was originally sourced and posted at NME »
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