They are regarded as the most iconic American band of all time, and have taken the world by storm with five decades of their chart-topping summer hits. Now The Beach Boys are bringing their Good Vibrations to Hong Kong. We catch up with frontman Mike Love ahead of the band’s live performance this weekend with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra (HK Phil).
What is the secret to your long, successful career as a band?
I think our “secret” is our harmonies. They distinguish The Beach Boys from so many other groups and at the center of it all is love – the love of creating that sound and unique harmonies together that wrap around subject matter that resonates with young and old alike. When we started out we were not trying to be famous, rich, or any of that, we just loved making music together. All of that said, I honestly believe the core of our success is due the fact that the center of it all is love.
You’re known for your Cali-themed songs about surfing, cars, and romance. Do you practice what you preach?
We are from Southern California and beach life is so important to us. Surfing is such a great sport, in fact, Bruce Johnston, who took Brian’s place with The Beach Boys, has been surfing basically all of his life and continues to do so. Brian Wilson only had hearing in one ear and his sense of balance was not good, so he was never a surfer per say, nor was his brother Carl, but Dennis was. Al Jardine and myself had surfboards, and although we are not great surfers, we did enjoy the beach life. As our first song Surfin’ (from 1961) goes, “Surfin’ is the only life, the only way for me, now surf, surf with me.” We still catch some waves when we get the chance, be it in Hawaii, California, or Florida, and although we aren’t pros, we’re pretty good at singing about it.
Have you ever played with an orchestra like HK Phil before?
We toured Germany last December with the Night of the Proms and were backed by a 65-piece orchestra. Prior to that we have performed with several symphonies in the US (Pittsburgh, Omaha, Dallas, and Jacksonville) and abroad (Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide). Our performances are normally in performing arts centers, but we are very much looking forward to performing with the Hong Kong Philharmonic, because many of our songs sound wonderful with an orchestra.
You are said to play around 150 shows a year. Where do you find the energy?
Yes that’s true, we do play around 150 shows or more per year. I personally practice a form of meditation called transcendental meditation, which I learned from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in December of 1967. The practice of Transcendental Meditation, which is the type I practice everyday, gives me a way to dissolve stress and fatigue that actually allows me to get deeper rest. This in turn gives me more energy, clarity, and positivity so I can continue to tour and engage in life. Transcendental Meditation has been a big source of strength for me both on and off the road.
What is your favourite song to perform to a huge crowd?
I have many favorite songs, believe it or not. It just depends on what kind of mood I’m in. There are some beautiful harmonies and ballads that are wonderful to perform, such as the song, Pisces Brothers, which I wrote when George Harrison passed away in 2001. It’s a tribute to George that is reminiscent of the time we spent together in India when he and I both had our birthdays in the Spring of 1968. It’s a very sentimental song and people really love it. With it being a tribute to George, it makes reference to some of his great music, and for me, it is very special because it reminds me of a precious experience I had. So Pisces Brothers is my “new” favourite song, but I enjoy performing all of our other songs as well.
A question for Bruce: which famous artist did you most enjoy collaborating with and why?
It’s a tie! As you know, I wrote the vocal arrangement for Elton John’s Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, and then sang on Elton’s great recording of his song (FYI: Carl Wilson and Toni Tennille sang with me on the recording – what a nice backing vocal blend we all had!). Equally wonderful for me was writing vocal arrangements for some of the songs for Pink Floyd’s The Wall album and singing on a few of the tracks. The best part of working on The Wall was getting to know Roger Waters. After all these years, I’m still in touch with him.
What can Hong Kongers expect from your concert in March?
Everything you think The Beach Boys will perform, we will likely perform. Everything from Surfin’ Safari, Surfin’ USA, I Get Around, Fun Fun Fun, California Girls, Help Me Rhonda, Good Vibrations, Kokomo, and many more. So it will be quite a comprehensive concert. I think the audience will get plenty of The Beach Boys when we perform with HK Phil.
Catch the Boys! Don’t miss your chance to see Mike and the Boys in action at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium Arena in Wan Chai on March 18 and 19. Ticket prices range from $380 to $1,580, and are available at URBTIX.