Almost 60 years since The Beach Boys’ first hit “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” their music continues to energize fans.
Composer, piano player, singer and producer Brian Wilson, along with his brothers Carl and Dennis, cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine, brought southern California culture into popular music in the mid-1960s. His songwriting captures and romanticizes a lifestyle filled with sand, sunshine, surfing and cruising.
During the recent Greatest Hits Live Tour stop in Berks County, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Wilson took center stage behind a piano flanked by eight other musicians at the Santander Performing Arts Center. Part of the success of the tour is the band lineup of special guests Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin.
“California Girls” lights up the theater like so many rays of west coast sunshine. “Dance, Dance, Dance” and “I Get Around” follow as a wall of sound flawlessly brings to life the “Sea Of Tunes” catalogue. Layers of harmonies and instrumentation on “Don’t Worry Baby,”” Surfer Girl” and “Good Vibrations” bring imagery of seashells washed up on shore and a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway.
A complex, elusive artist on a level unique to him, Wilson’s only interaction with the audience is to announce each song. Any empty spaces between songs is filled with audience chants of “We love you, Brian” and “Pet Sounds is better than Sgt. Pepper’s”, a reference to the creative rivalry that existed between The Beach Boys and The Beatles during the 1960s, still kept alive by fans of both bands today.
Then, the theater is briefly plunged into darkness. A red light finds Wilson and the tone shifts to a more serious one with “God Only Knows.”
In that moment I realize the mystery of Brian Wilson will not be solved tonight. I will have to wait for the release of “Long Promised Road,” a 2021 documentary film set to release in November that follows Wilson and Rolling Stone editor Jason Fine as they drive around Los Angeles and visit locations from Wilson’s past.
Wilson also releases his album “At My Piano” in November.
“Fun, Fun, Fun” closes out the set and while the title may be a simplistic philosophy, it’s one that makes Brian Wilson, his music and The Beach Boys so enduring.
Interview with Blondie Chaplin
I later spoke with Blondie Chaplin, a guitarist and singer since age 12 and performer since age 14, about his life as a musician and becoming a Beach Boy. (Hear full interview at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNDGcD3twHI)
Carl Wilson and Al Jardine noticed Chaplin while he was a member of The Flames in 1969 and asked him to join their Brother Records Label in the early 1970s. Exiting The Beach Boys in the mid-1970s, Chaplin released a self-titled album and played for other bands on tour including The David Johansen Group, The Band, and The Rolling Stones.
“If you really love what you do, if you really love music, nothing’s going to stop you from doing it,” said Chaplin in his advice to youth. “The existence of a musician is not all rosy. If you’re committed somehow or other, you’ll make it work.”
Commenting on the importance of music education, he said, “It needs to be pushed and funded. That’s a great release for the spirit. Over the years they cut a lot of those programs. I don’t think that’s right. It’s very much what’s needed for the young people coming up.”
As a musician from South Africa, Chaplin offers his take on the 1985 song “Sun City” written by Steven Van Zandt and the artistic movement to bring social awareness to the policy of apartheid.
“We were classified as non-whites so whenever we played gigs the audience would be completely separated so it was just a matter of time before we, as musicians, had to get out. Thank God for Van Zandt for making it even more publicly aware. Most people on the world stage hadn’t come to that consciousness or speaking out and thank God he did.”
In late 2013, Chaplin performed shows with Wilson, which brought him back into The Beach Boys family. Playing alongside Wilson and Jardine on the Greatest Hits Live Tour, the circle is now complete.
“It’s a lot of fun. He’s got a great band so it makes my job easier to step up there and move around a little bit and get some energy going. Brian is very patient and encourages me. I’m more happy hanging out with him than ever before because there’s a lot of history there. It’s a pleasure.”
When asked about his recent visit to Berks County, Chaplin said, “I thought the audience was very nice. They went a little bit wild. I was a little bit tired and that picked me up. The audience in Reading was great. I say thank you to them.”
Chaplin hinted at his next project, a CD recorded in 1997 when he was performing with another world famous band will be out within the next 6 months.
Rodeo Marie Hanson of Fleetwood is a teen columnist specializing in coverage of entertainment events and celebrity interviews. Follow Rodeo’s Drive-Thru Hollywood News on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rdthn/ and on her YouTube Channel Rodeo’s Hollywood Drive-Thru News at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5zPmRRqa9HK_-Z9-G9OPGA.
Source: Berkshire mont