I could spend every bit of the 940 words on this page relating exactly how this particular Beach Boys lineup came to be booked for a show tonight at the Lawn. But that would leave exactly zero words for an actual interview with one of them. So I'll be brief: tonight, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, Tim Bonhomme, John Cowsill, Randell Kirsch, Jeffrey Foskett and Scott Totten will take the stage alongside co-headlining group The Temptations. So that means no Brian Wilson, Al Jardine or David Marks – like I said, it's complicated.
But although the tour is lacking in original members, at least the entire catalogue will be on display. Recent setlists have them playing all the oldies and goldies: "Fun, Fun, Fun," "Wouldn't It Be Nice," "Surfin' USA," "Catch a Wave," plus the objectively best Beach Boys track "God Only Knows" should all make appearances.
Bruce Johnston, who first sang with the group for a stint from '65 – '72, then again from '78 'til, well, now, picked up the phone in his California home last week to chat about his love of: surfing, nice hotels, Lady Gaga, Dick Dale, and more. (And no, he hasn't seen new Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy, but he hopes to see it sometime soon, possibly on an airplane.)
NUVO: Any memories of Indianapolis you'd like to share before coming through our very landlocked town again?
Bruce Johnston: I remember in the mid-60s we played a place where it had wooden chairs, like a civic auditorium. The kids were kind of freaking out and they broke all the chairs. And we got blamed! We got blamed. ... Indianapolis is cool, and we've played there muchos, muchos times. I'm a big Pacers fan. We had the Pacers onstage once. We also played at your Market [Square] Arena that you have Downtown. There's great memories of playing shows over the years, and now here we are.
NUVO: Dick Dale came through Indianapolis on Monday. What are some memories of his music?
Johnston: Let's go back in time. Before Dick was a guy who exploded from surfing on his own record label he and his dad owned with "Misirlou" on it, he was ... I don't know what you'd call his music. A little Elvis-y. It was quite good. In 1959 I remember being on a little show in a backup band for most of the artists that were on the show. It was Duane Eddy, who had his own band, which was "Rebel Rouser" and all those songs. And Dick Dale ... I remember his darling, supportive, cool unbelievable father standing in the audience in a suit with a little ASCAP/BMI sign. ... If you listen to "Misirlou" he would say to Dick onstage with his band, "Play your trumpet, Dick! Play your trumpet!" And there is actually a trumpet on "Misirlou." We played on and off with shows with the Beach Boys and Dick Dale. ... I have the best of memories of Dick Dale.
NUVO: It's a big week for '60s bands in Indy. We have the Grass Roots and The Turtles coming through, too.
Johnston: You're [also] having the Cowsill Family coming through [on the Happy Together tour] – our drummer John Cowsill is one of the Cowsills, and his sister and two of his brothers are coming through.
NUVO: Looking back on those early days, what's the biggest difference between now and 50 years ago in terms of your fans?
Johnston: Nothing! Girls are girls. Guys are guys. Girls and guys fall in love, they go to school, they love their cars, they surf, they sail, they get older, they get married, they have kids. Nothing's changed. I'll tell you the real change with number one records: I'd be staying at a Quality Inn, or something, because that would be the best hotel in town, or something built in the '30s that lasted until the '50s and '60s. Now, you stay at the Four Seasons or the Ritz-Carlton, or you stay at Hyatt, or the Hilton Garden Inn, or the Courtyard by Marriott and they're all great. You have amazing flat screen TVs, great food, comforters, amazing beds. It's so much easier. It doesn't matter what hotel I stay in because they're all great, whether they're over-the-top expensive or just a business person's hotel. They're all really cool.
NUVO: Any new recordings on the horizon?
Johnston: I don't know. I think we might record a Beach Boys symphonic album. We play with a lot of symphonies. Mike and I were talking about a duets party album. That might really be cool. Think of "Barbara Ann." Okay, duets: think of Jan and Dean. Jan got in an argument with Dean, Dean left the studio, came across the hall and into our studio and said, "Hey, Brian! Why don't you guys record 'Barbara Ann'?" (A party album was like an unplugged album.) So Brian said, "Okay, why don't you sing it with me?" So there's a duet because the lead vocals, "Oh, Barbara Ann," is Dean and Brian Wilson. So we might do that again.
I don't think we're going to make tons of albums. But we're around. If you look at who's around whose voice is perfect? Tony Bennett. Oh my god. That guy sings so beautifully. Get on Google and get to YouTube and type in Tony Bennett Lady Gaga "The Lady is a Tramp." Is that not great? I think it's gonna be a good time the next 40 years for everybody. [Editor's note: Here, let me Google that for you.]