There were two sides to the Beach Boys: the sunny, pop half that contributed to a vision of white-capped waves and beach parties in the early ’60s, and an experimental side that helped define psychedelia and landed the band in neck-in-neck competition with the Beatles — and yielded “Pet Sounds” — later in the decade.
Fans will hear some of each when all the surviving 1960s members of the Beach Boys celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary on a tour that stops Saturday and Sunday at Mohegan Sun.
The outing marks the first time that Brian Wilson has toured with the Beach Boys since the late ’70s. So why now?
“I think it’s a natural thing,” singer Mike Love says by phone from California, with Wilson. “It’s 50 years.”
They haven’t always been peaceable years. Wilson has been in and out of the Beach Boys several times while dealing with addiction and mental illness, and there have been various legal disputes over use of the Beach Boys name and songwriting credits. There has been outright tragedy, too: Drummer Dennis Wilson drowned in 1983, and guitarist Carl Wilson died of cancer in 1998.
Yet starting late in 2010, rumors began circulating that Wilson would rejoin the others for a 50th-anniversary tour. (The actual anniversary was last year — the Beach Boys formed in 1961.) Ultimately, it was a record deal that helped cement the reunion.
“One of the things that precipitated us getting together is Capitol Records has offered us a really nice recording deal and we’re in the studio right now,” Love says.
By “we,” he means himself, Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks, all of whom were part of the seminal 1960s lineups of the band. Those Beach Boys charted 27 top-40 singles between 1962-69, including enduring the classics “Surfin’ USA,” “Surfer Girl,” “I Get Around,” “Help Me, Rhonda,” “California Girls” and, of course, “Good Vibrations.”
Various incarnations of the Beach Boys have also released 30 studio albums over the years, including “Pet Sounds” in 1966, which Paul McCartney has said was a key influence on the Beatles as they recorded their 1967 release “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
Not bad for a group of middle-class kids from the suburbs.
“We’re all proud, of course,” Wilson says of the band’s legacy.
“We’ve had the blessing of music all of our lives, basically since we were children,” Love says. “Music has been an integral part of our lives, and we’ve been blessed enough and fortunate enough to have that become a career rather than just a hobby. The music has been appreciated by millions of people, but we appreciate it tremendously, too.”
Versions of the Beach Boys have been touring without Wilson for decades, and Wilson has in recent years gone on solo tours to perform classic songs and tunes from more recent albums, including his long-delayed “Smile,” originally intended as the follow-up to “Pet Sounds,” which he released in 2004.
Overall, then, the band is in great shape vocally, Love says, and musicians from Wilson’s touring band will augment the lineup.
“The band that you’re going to be seeing on stage is going to sound pretty phenomenal,” Love says. “We’ve been practicing. For 50 years.”
Wilson puts it another way.
“We’re pushing 70 here, so it’s not as easy to sing as it used to be,” he says. “But for guys our age, we’re still kicking ass.”
The Beach Boys perform Saturday and Sunday, May 12-13, at Mohegan Sun, 1 Mohegan Sun Blvd., Uncasville. Tickets for the 8 p.m. shows are $75 and $55. Information: 860-862-7163 or www.mohegansun.com/entertainment.
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