HOLLYWOOD ― “It was a rough night,” Mike D’Amico sighed as he poked through the offstage drapes to deliver a couple of passes to waiting friends at Seminole Hard Rock.
No chance to explain, only to say before returning to his dressing room that he hoped to make it home to Lake Worth “sometime in September.”
But any reason is plausible, since D’Amico is adopted: He’s a member of perhaps the most dysfunctional family in show biz history, and therefore a key element of The Beach Boys 50, this time on bass.
The experience is hardly alien or alienating to D’Amico, who’s been involved with the Brian Wilson wing of the family for nearly 15 years. Previously he performed as a drummer.
But then D’Amico was made for these times. As a member of the Wondermints, a Los Angeles-based power-pop band, he can play just about any instrument. Some of the band’s music has a Beach Boys ring to it, so when Wilson hit the road in 1999, he took them along. Several more tours and recording sessions followed.
But just like the crowds come and go at any surf beach, so, too, has the Beach Boys lineup shifted over the decades. God only knows how many individuals have actually been “Beach Boys” while recording more top 40 hits (36) than any other American band.
In the beginning (1959) were the Wilson brothers ― high schoolers Brian, Carl and Dennis ― with cousin Mike Love as “Carl and the Passions.” Al Jardine came on board and The Pendletones were born in 1961, only to die when Candix Records changed the label on their first record, Surfin’, to The Beach Boys. On New Year’s Eve 1961, they played a Richie Valens memorial show, following Ike and Tina Turner. Two months later, Jardine quit, and two months after that, David Marks, then 13, signed on.
In 1963, Jardine returned and Marks left. Glen Campbell joined in 1964 and was replaced by Bruce Johnston in 1965. Other notables included Daryl “The Captain” Dragon and Toni Tennille, Carl’s brother-in-law Billy Hinsche (Dino, Desi and Billy), actor John Stamos and John Cowsill (of the Hair-y Cowsills).
Over the years, as Carl and Dennis died, Brian battled psychological and chemical demons, and members sued members, Jardine (fired from the band in ’98) and Love launched their own touring bands. Johnston hung around most of the time, and in 1997 Marks returned for a couple of years and was officially recognized as an original Beach Boy before leaving two years later to battle hepatitis C.
Twisting here, stretching there, The Beach Boys easily could have been the rubber band. That stint with Glen Campbell, for example, evolved from his session work with the band that actually played the instruments on some of the Beach Boys hit records.
Campbell, among others including Leon Russell, was part of The Wrecking Crew, a talented but unheralded group of studio musicians. They were mostly well-known for providing instrumental work for the likes of The Monkees, Carpenters, the early Byrds, Simon and Garfunkel, even Frank Sinatra and Elvis.
That telltale intro to Good Vibrations? The Wrecking Crew. The original Beach Boys could play, but The Wrecking Crew could play anything – rock, pop, jazz, rhythm and blues – and play it better.
Fast-forward half a century: Brian’s interview on CBS Sunday Morning the week before the group’s May 4 concert at the Hard Rock Live in Hollywood had viewers wondering if he was capable of playing anything. Definitely not the sharpest pin in the cushion, yet with a little help from his friends, he played piano and even plucked a few notes on a bass and tried a few steps with lead guitarist Jeff Foskett.
Meanwhile, D’Amico was on the back riser carrying out the serious bass line. The Wondermints were there, and elements of Love and Jardine’s splinter bands – a wacky family reunion of sorts. Just as The Wrecking Crew did in the ’60s, this bunch was there to bring that sound to life.
It’s all about the music, and what a celebration it was when they did get to South Florida, beginning with Jardine’s invitation to “get together and do it again.” The joint never stopped rocking. In remarkable harmony (even Brian),with rousing falsetto by Foskett, they romped in rough chronological sequence through surfing songs, high school angst and romance and hot rods. Love’s banter provided context, for example, explaining to the youngsters in the house the meaning of “flip side.”
Be True to Your School. Fans dressed as cheerleaders with pompoms dance in the center aisle. Wouldn’t It Be Nice? Everyone is on their feet, singing along and batting beach balls.
Tributes to the late brothers follow: a video screen shows clips of an eerily Lennonesque Dennis singing Forever and Carl offering the plaintive God Only Knows. Taking cue from his brothers, Brian sums up the evening with his new single, That’s Why God Made the Radio:
So tune right in, everywhere you go
He waved His hand, gave us rock ‘n’ roll
The soundtrack of falling in love
That’s why God made the radio
Making this night a celebration
Spreading the love and sunshine
To a whole new generation
Whole new generation
After an exhaustive 40 songs, they left the stage, only to return with Bruce Johnston declaring, “It’s the weekend; we can stay later,” and close with Kokomo, Good Vibrations and Fun, Fun, Fun.
Back to reality. There’s no place “off the Florida Keys” called Kokomo, and Daddy didn’t take the T-Bird away: Ford quit making it. But even if Brian’s launch of Good Vibrations was a bit rough, the Beach Boys have proved they still can get around.
SET LIST (May 4, 2012)
1. Do It Again
2. Catch a Wave
3. Don’t Back Down
4. Surfin’ Safari
5. Surfer Girl
6. You’re So Good To Me
8. Then I Kissed Her
9. The Little Girl I Once Knew
10. Why Do Fools Fall In Love
11. When I Grow Up To Be A Man
12. Cotton Fields
13. Be True To Your School
14. Disney Girls
15. Please Let Me Wonder
16. Don’t Worry Baby
17. Little Honda
18. Little Deuce Coupe
20. Shut Down
21. I Get Around
22. California Dreaming
23. Sloop John B
24. Wouldn’t It Be Nice
25. This Whole World
27. Sail On Sailor
28. Heroes and Villains
29. In My Room
30. All This Is That
31. I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times
32. God Only Knows
33. That’s Why God Made The Radio
34. California Girls
35. All Summer Long
36. Help Me Rhonda
37. Rock and Roll Music
38. Do You Wanna Dance
39. Barbara Ann
40. Surfing U.S.A.
42. Good Vibrations
43. Fun, Fun, Fun
THE BEACH BOYS
Mike Love, lead vocals
Brian Wilson, vocals, keyboards, bass
Al Jardine, vocals, guitar
Dave Marks, vocals, guitar
Bruce Johnston, vocals, keyboards
Mike D’Amico – bass, drums, vocals (2012)
Probyn Gregory – guitar, horns, bass, theremin, percussion, vocals (2012)
Darian Sahanaja – keyboards, mallets, vocals (2012)
Nick Walusko – guitar, vocals (2012)
Scott Bennett – keyboards, guitar, vocals (2012)
Nelson Bragg – percussion, vocals (2012)
John Cowsill – drums, vocals (1999-present)
Jeff Foskett – guitar, mandolin, percussion, vocals (1981-1991,2012)
John Stamos – percussion, guitar, vocals (1988-2012; select shows, not Hollywood)
Scott Totten – music director, guitar, vocals (2001-present)
Paul von Mertens – woodwinds (2012)