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Mike Love: Sounds of the Beach Boys are timeless and enduring

Mike Love is one of the original Beach Boys.
Mike Love is one of the original Beach Boys. The Associated Press

At least two things are certain regarding the Beach Boys: There will always be a demand for their music, and dissension will always hover around the band.

In 2012 the Beach Boys celebrated their golden anniversary with a 50th Reunion Tour. The five-man lineup included original members Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine and David Marks plus longtime member Bruce Johnston. It was the first time in 47 years that Wilson embarked on a full tour with the band. The tour coincided with the release of “That’s Why God Made the Radio,” the band’s first album of original material in 30 years.

The tour and the album aroused a lot of sentiment for the reunited version of the Beach Boys. But once the tour ended, Love, citing an agreement signed before the tour was launched, returned to the prereunion lineup, without Wilson, Jardine or Marks, though all three were reportedly interested in continuing the tour. Fans launched an online petition, urging Love to reconsider and “preserve the validity of ‘The Beach Boys’ as a whole, and not as a ‘money saving, stripped down version’ that only contains one original member and one member that joined in 1965.”

But Love declined, citing what he said was a contractual agreement, and returned to the lineup that will perform at Ameristar Casino on Friday: Johnston, guitarist/vocalist Jeff Foskett, bassist Randell Kirsch, guitarist Scott Totton, drummer John Cowsill and keyboardist Tim Bonhomme.

Love recently talked to The Star about the reunion tour (and the aftermath), and what has kept him on the road for several decades.

Q. You went back into the studio in 2012 to record “That’s Why God Made the Radio.” What was that like, and what kind of memories did it revive?

A. It was very cool. When my cousin Brian and I listened to the song called “That’s Why God Made the Radio,” it reminded us of 1965 all over again, just the way the harmonies on that particular song sounded like when listening to it. … The one thing I didn’t like was, I was told I would write with my cousin Brian, but it didn’t turn out that way. It was not to be, which was a disappointment to me. But I thought what we accomplished sounded good.

That same year you toured together for the 50th anniversary of the Beach Boys. What was that like?

It was really cool to set aside our individual activities for the purpose of getting together to celebrate that milestone. I think it was great for our hard-core fans to see all of us together. But it was for a limited amount of time, a specific time. We originally talked about doing 50 shows for 50 years, but then it grew to about 73. There was a commitment that we do those shows together, then go back to doing things the way we ordinarily did.

But there was a disagreement about whether that was the case.

That was put out by other people, other than group people. But there was a contract, an actual agreement to do “X” amount of shows, and the agreed-upon thing would be we go back to doing things the way we’d done them up until that time. It was all agreed upon. That (disagreement) was some kind of fabrication.

Do you think you will tour again as that band?

Well, I’m not opposed to it. But everyone has their own way of doing things. It would have to be a special occasion. I’m not opposed to it whatsoever. But there are no imminent plans right now.

What do you love most about touring after all these years?

What’s remarkable is the effect those songs have on the audience. And it makes a huge difference when the audience is fully engaged. Older fans are often a little less energetic than younger ones, but we find multiple generations of families are turning out, depending on the setting. Casinos are usually an older crowd, but we find that grandparents bring grandchildren to our shows. At a show in San Diego, we had a 90-year-old lady and a 9-year-old girl on stage, singing along to “Barbara Ann.” We bring people on stage for that one. That shows the incredible spread of appeal for those songs.

It doesn’t look like you’re slowing down.

Well, we try to tour in concentrated areas. We have about 25 shows in August already. Summer is the busiest time. We’ll be going to England in May. We have two shows booked there at the Royal Albert Hall. Then we’ll come back to the U.S. and do some shows. We’re going all over the U.S. We’re talking about going to Australia, maybe in the fall. We’re fortunate to have enough of a demand for the Beach Boys to allow us to go out and do shows all over the place, depending on the season.

How do you stay in shape?

We don’t do anything to destroy our voices, that’s for sure. We don’t smoke or drink to excess. I meditate every day. I learned transcendental meditation in 1967 from the Maharishi (Mahesh Yogi). I still do it every day. … And a little bit of yoga. We sing a lot, do sound check and vocal warm-ups. The more you use your voice, the stronger it stays.

Talk about the band you’re bringing to Kansas City.

Well, besides myself there’s Bruce Johnston, who joined the group in 1965. He took Glen Campbell’s place. (Campbell had) taken Brian’s place for a few months. Brian left the touring group for the most part in 1964. He’d come out sporadically but not as a rule. So Bruce took his place and, except for a hiatus for a couple of years, he’s been with us ever since.

Then there’s John Cowsill. The Cowsills were a family group who had some big hits in the late 1960s. John was the youngest Cowsill. He was their drummer. He’s now our drummer, and he’s a really good singer as well.

Scott Totton plays lead guitar. My cousin Carl (Wilson) originally played lead. He passed away in February of 1998. In the show we have Carl singing “God Only Knows” from a concert film recorded in England. So we isolated his voice, and we sing and play with him. We also found an old video of my cousin Dennis Wilson, our original drummer, who passed away in December 1983. We found footage of him doing “Do You Wanna Dance?” It’s real vintage stuff. So we have everybody represented on stage. The audience really loves it.

Jeff Foskett had been with Brian for 15 years. Last year he came back to us. He’d been with us before many years ago. And on keyboards, Tim Bonhomme. We get lots of compliments on how great the band sounds.

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to tfinn@kcstar.com. Follow the Back to Rockville blog on Twitter @kcstarrockville.

Friday

The Beach Boys perform at 8 p.m. Friday at Ameristar Casino. Tickets are $45 to $65 and are available via Ticketmaster.

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