BBC broadcaster and Managing Director of Radio 6 International,TONY CURRIE, was sceptical about The Beach Boys new single - until he played it on his car stereo.
There can be nothing sadder than a sixties pop act that won’t give up gracefully.
We’ve all encountered them – hit acts from that extraordinary decade who can be found now playing the minor halls and theatres.
Bands whose glory days are far in the past, with sometimes only one original member left on stage alongside a line-up of youngsters who rattle with lacklustre through songs that were hits long before they were born.
And then there are those awful CDs that you find for next to nothing in dumper bins at the supermarket.
“Hits of the sixties” they proclaim. And then, in tiny print, “These songs have been re-recorded in digital audio with at least one member of the original band.”
Which usually means synths and drum machines failing miserably to recapture the original excitement of records that were produced by the masters of music, the men who knew how to put the excitement into the grooves.
In the UK, Tony Hatch, George Martin, John Schroeder, Norman Newell and Larry Page were among the elite whose skills in the control room created the million sellers.
The pale imitations on many of these exploitative ‘bargain’ CDs are simply an insult to the record buyers.
Fights and fall-outs and fragmentaion
With all of the above in mind, it was with little hope and a heavy heart that I put the new single from The Beach Boys into my CD player.
The All-American rivals to The Beatles, with that unique Californian surf sound. But that was fifty years ago.
In the interim have been the inevitable fights and falling-outs, as key members of the band came and went.
At one time there were several versions of the band, each claiming to be the ‘official’ Beach Boys.
Some of the boys are no longer with us. Of the original three Wilson brothers – Dennis, Carl and Brian – only Brian survives, and his struggles with personal demons of mental health and substance abuse have been documented in countless column inches.
Their cousin Mike Love and their friend Al Jardine made up the rest of the original band in 1961, with Jardine leaving a year later to complete his college studies. His replacement was 13 year old David Marks, but Jardine rejoined in 1963.
The following year, Brian Wilson suffered panic attacks while touring and withdrew more or less permanently to the studio – his place on stage being taken first by Glen Campbell and then by Bruce Johnston, who became a permanent member of the band.
Creative conflict and changes of musical direction meant further fragmentation of the band in the late sixties, as other members came and went, and assorted members fought each other in court with increasing bitterness over the rights to the name and the songs.
Back to the 60s
Which brings us to the disc in my CD player. First question – exactly which version of The Beach Boys do we have here? The surprising answer (given the litigation over the years) is – nearly the original.
Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, David Marks and Bruce Johnston are all there. The title track from their fiftieth anniversary album is the new single – That’s Why God Made the Radio (Released by Capitol-EMI on April 26) and it’s a remarkable piece of work.
For a start, it genuinely sounds like The Beach Boys. Not the later, experimental efforts, but an unexpected return to the earlier sixties roots of the band with a happy, almost unbearably catchy little pop song.
The hallmarks of The Boys are there – the great harmonies, a bit of acapella on the final chorus, and some excellent lyrics. (My favourite line – “It’s paradise when I … lift up my antenna.”)
In fact it sounds like a genuine summer surf pop single from the sixties. And the repeated use of the word ‘radio’ pretty much guarantees that the disc will find its way into station’s trails and self promotions as well as playlists.
Of course it won’t please everyone, as its unashamed commercial appeal may turn away fans of the band’s more psychedelic music.
Good Vibrations it ain’t, but given the extreme odds against it ever happening, this song is more than just acceptable - it will put a smile on the face of Beach Boys fans everywhere.