The Beach Boys, known for their youthful paeans to surfing, fast cars and California girls, offstage have long grappled with adult concerns - death, serious illness and finances.
For the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers' 50th anniversary, surviving members Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, David Marks and Brian Wilson have decided to put aside whatever differences that remain for a reunion tour and new album, "That's Why God Made The Radio" (Capitol/EMI).
The group makes a tour stop 8 p.m. Saturday, May 19, at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City.
The Beach Boys helped invent the surf music genre with harmony-driven ditties such as "Fun, Fun, Fun," "Surfin' Safari," "I Get Around" and "Help Me Rhonda," before delving into the more sophisticated arrangements of the classic "Pet Sounds" and "Smile."
Things weren't so carefree for Brian Wilson, the group's main songwriter and chief creative force, who battled mental problems and drug abuse, before exiting and rejoining the group, and later re-emerging as a solo artist.
The Beach Boys soldiered on, surviving the 1983 death of Dennis Wilson, and scoring a major hit with "Kokomo" in 1988, but splintered in 1998 when Carl Wilson passed away. Mike Love and Johnston led The Beach Boys, while Jardine formed his own band.
A 2008 lawsuit filed by Mike Love and the estate of Carl Wilson against Jardine over rights to the group's name didn't help relations, although the matter has since been settled.
Ahead of the group's A.C. appearance, vocalist and guitarist Jardine talks about the "miracle" reunion, its musical legacy and what the future may hold.
Q: What's it like to share the stage again as The Beach Boys?
A: The whole reason we're here in the first place is to recreate what we started together, to go back to an earlier time when we were extremely successful and productive.
Q: Are you surprised to get another chance to make things right?
A: There are not many second or third chances in this life. We've been very fortunate - there have been so many reinventions of our music. Now there is a new album.
Q: How does the material from "That's Why God Made The Radio" fit into the show?
A: We'll do one new song from the new album and more than likely add a second one by the time we get to Atlantic City. We don't want to overdo it - the reunion tour is really for the fans. Right now, we want to take them some place else for a couple of hours and let them bathe in the harmonies. The (title track of the new album) has plenty of harmonies - they're going to like that.
Q: Did you spend a lot of time in the rehearsal room to get ready for the tour?
A: We rehearsed for the Grammys (for "Good Vibrations" with Maroon 5 and Foster the People), but didn't rehearse for the tour - everything just fell into place. We're using primarily Brian's band - that helped a lot. They're pretty sharp. We're basically plugging into that. They're helping us and backing us when we can't sing two or three parts at the same time.
Q: With the focus mostly on your catalog, how are the old songs holding up?
A: I get a chuckle from one song, "When I Grow Up (to Be a Man)." We didn't have enough years for the end of the song - we couldn't envision beyond 30 or maybe 35. It's funny - we should be saying 61 or 62.
Q: Do you believe the music has gotten its proper due?
A: We were pretty far ahead of our time, especially in the mid-'60s and '70s. We were just trying different stuff, not being commercial, just having fun and just experimenting. It kind of caught on 30 years later.
Q: Having worked so hard to reunite, are you staying in the moment, or do you think the group has a longer future together?
A: We're taking it one show at a time. We're still working on the setlist, to be honest with you. It will probably keep evolving. I think it's possible we could go for another season - I think we should go out every other year. That gives everybody a chance to do their thing.
Help from 'Rhonda' and John Stamos, too
Longtime Beach Boys fans will find the current 40-plus-song set offers plenty of hits, as well as B-sides and album cuts that have rarely been performed live.
Co-founder Al Jardine, for example, reprises his lead vocals on one of the group's biggest hits, "Help Me Rhonda," while also performing the lesser known "Cotton Fields" and "The Little Girl I Once Knew."
"They talked me into singing my more esoteric things," Jardine says. "These are things you don't know unless you're a
real diehard fan."
However, diehards may be surprised to see a much younger, dark-haired Beach Boy sitting in with the group at various shows: actor John Stamos, left with Mike Love.
Best known for his TV roles in "Full House" and "ER," Stamos also has starred in "Cabaret" and other Broadway musicals, but certainly doesn't come to mind when you think "Beach Boys."
How did Stamos get the call to sit in on drums on "Be True to Your School" and other tracks.
"He and (co-founder) Mike (Love) are great friends," Jardine says. "It's all one big happy family. John played on my solo album, too."