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50 Years Later, Beach Boys' Harmonies Are Still Heavenly

Tour and new album connect with old and new fans

With decades of legal squabbles, family tragedies and personal setbacks behind them, the Beach Boys are pickin' up good vibrations once more. Led by the group's three surviving founders — Brian Wilson, 69; Wilson's cousin, Mike Love, 71; and their high school pal, Al Jardine, 69 — the Beach Boys embarked on a 50th-anniversary tour in April of more than two dozen North American cities. Just three months earlier, they had begun recording songs for a new album, That's Why God Made the Radio, to be released June 5. (The group's other original members — Wilson's brothers Dennis and Carl — died in 1983 and 1998, respectively.)

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Wilson and Love recently spoke to AARP about revisiting the era during which they introduced surfing culture — to say nothing of California girls — to a myth-hungry nation.

The band Beach Boys standing around a piano

Robert Matheu

The Beach Boys from left to right: Bruce Johnston, Al Jardine, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, David Marks

Q: What was it about the group's 50th anniversary that made you want to reunite? 

Mike Love: Fifty years, man — that's such a special milestone. It just made sense for us to get back together. 

Brian Wilson: It's been a real thrill for me — and a treat to see the guys again. 

Q: What was it like being back in the studio together? 

Love: We basically got together and did a re-record of "Do It Again." Brian said to me, "How does a 70-year-old sound that good?

Wilson: I shouldn't have said that — I'm pushing 70 myself! 

Love: It was just like old times. Brian would sit down at the piano and deal out all the parts. He has that uncanny ability to structure vocal harmonies, and it's very fulfilling. It sounds like '65 or '66 all over again. We've had some losses in our family, but there's still a lot to be thankful for. It's obvious that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Q: Can you describe your new material? 

Wilson: Most of it's very mellow music. We haven't gotten into hard rock yet — but we might! 

Q: What makes the Beach Boys this popular 50 years on? 

Love: So many people love Beach Boys music — and have for a lifetime. One guy told me he's bringing his grandkids to the Hollywood Bowl show. He said, "I want them to see and hear what I've loved all my life." It's pretty neat when our music transcends multiple generations. 

Wilson: I think it's the harmonies. That's the special ingredient that distinguished us back then, and still does today. It's the love of harmony, the love of music. We go back to childhood together; there'd always be music at our family gatherings. 

Q: Did you ever imagine when you first started out that you'd be recording and touring together 50 years later? 

Love: I don't think I ever thought quite that far ahead! 

Q: What was it like to perform at this year's Grammy ceremony? 

Love: That was a tough gig. There was a lot of pressure on us, but then the audience was so kind. They really gave us a great reception. 

Q: What songs will you perform on tour? 

Love: We've got a ton of songs to do, so we'll choose them according to how they sound best together. Now that we're getting together with Brian, it's going to be a special occasion. I think you're going to see a lot more people turning out.

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