Thursday, January 24, 2013

The State of the Beach Boys in 2013......


The theoretical debates of the reunion tour's aftermath are now beginning to become less theoretical, as the group's 2013 plans are beginning to come into focus even if the actual members are staying relatively silent.

So what do we know about plans for 2013 so far? The long-awaited "career-spanning boxed set" is apparently being prepped. That project, if done well, could end up being the most exciting event of the year. Let's hope it's light on the hits that we own a hundred copies of and heavy on rarities and unreleased tracks.

As far as tour plans, while nobody has yet come out and specifically said "no reunion shows in 2013", the writing appears to be on the wall as it pretty much was before the reunion tour was even over. The Love/Johnston contingent now has more than just a handfull of shows booked for 2013. If there had ever been a chance of somehow weaving reunion shows into that fold, that chance would seem nill in light of how disastrous it was when the reunion tour butted up against Love's "Beach Boys" tour last year, literally to the point of finishing the reunion tour and heading out the next day for a "non-reunion" Beach Boys show featuring only Love and Johnston.

If there ever is another "reunion" show or tour, I would imagine they will space the two tours out much more (which, I'm well aware, was the original plan with the 2012 tour as well; although I would argue even giving it a month or two as was the original plan was probably not enough spacing).

Meanwhile, the plans of the other three Beach Boys, who don't feel compelled to peform 100+ shows per year, are not quite as apparent. But we may well have a glimpse of what is in store. Brian did a couple of solo gigs in late 2012, capping the year off with a very short set peformed in L.A. with Al Jardine in tow.

Just days ago, word got out of a solo Brian Wilson show in Ohio, billed as "Brian Wilson with Special Guests Al Jardine and David Marks." So what could this mean? At this point, it's literally one show. It will be interesting to see if Brian is going to do an actual "tour" this year, meaning at least a dozen or two shows strung together. If he does tour, will Al and David be in on all of the shows?

The less functional and more gossipy question is, what does Brian touring with Al and David mean in light of the full "reunited" group's dynamic, not to mention the corporate setup concerning Mike's license to use the Beach Boys name? Is Brian's camp making some sort of passive-agressive move here? Is there any implication that Brian and Al will move to vote to strip Mike of the license to use the Beach Boys name? Are Brian and Al simply trying to send a little shot across to Mike to motivate him to get back to the reunion lineup? Perhaps it's as simple as Brian, Al, and David wanting to continue to perform (as they did with the reunion last year), and then simply deciding to tour together in the fullest possible contingent.

Even if Brian touring with Al and David is not meant as any sort of message or shot across to Mike, it's hard to argue against the idea that putting together a three-member Beach Boys contingent touring under their own names while a two-member contingent uses the name "The Beach Boys" is something that will not make Mike look good in the media. We may be able to count the days until some media outlet points out that there are two Beach Boys in "The Beach Boys" while there are three Beach Boys in a different band. One of the few things in PR terms that Mike has had going for him in past years using the Beach Boys name is that no other touring contingent was able to scrape together more Beach Boys (or even two Beach Boys, aside from a few Brian/Al shows in 2006/2007) to compete. With Carl gone, Brian disinterested, and only Al in the way (who at various times may or may not have wanted to even peform with Love), Mike could throughout the 2000's contend that he was presenting the only version of "The Beach Boys" that was available and willing to perform together.

This no longer appears to be the case. Brian, Al, and David all by everybody's admission were ready and willing to do more reunion shows in 2012 and/or beyond. Even as the members split back up into multiple parties, Mike is now faced with at least the possibility of another indirect (and perhaps unintentional) competitor in the form of three more Beach Boys performing together. Realistically, this doesn't mean much. As with the ruckus of late 2012, Mike may see a bit of negative PR. But as long as he uses the "Beach Boys" name, no other Beach Boys-related band will pose any threat in terms of Mike's ability to book shows and generate income.

The only thing that would have more broad implications is the prospect of Brian and Al moving towards voting to change the licensing setup for use of the band's name. Some fans have continued to point out that Brian and Al may want to continue on with the full reunion lineup, but their inaction in doing anything about the licensing arrangements havs shown no strong desire to keep Mike from using the name. In terms of the future, this may or may not be true. It's too soon to tell. We just don't know enough about the machinations of the inner-workings of BRI or enough details of the licensing agreement. Brian and Al may want to act, but are unable to do so until a specific point in time. They may not want to act, and are touring in at least symbolic competition to Mike's "Beach Boys" to imply that they could move in that direction. Or, as I've said, things may be a bit awkward or strained but still friendly, and Brian, Al, and David may just be touring together because they want to or because it sounds like a good idea. Perhaps the full reunited lineup will record in the studio at some point this year, and perhaps they'll work up more joint live shows at some point.

The idea of a permanently reunited Beach Boys was dead before the idea was brought up, and was certainly dead as soon as Mike started booking his own "Beach Boys" shows in 2012. Given the current setup, it appears the best we can hope for is that the full band will still be able to co-exist with seperate touring groups. When bands break off and do solo stuff, this is often quite easy to pull off. The problem the Beach Boys are having is that one of the members wants to continue to break off but continue to use the band's name. If they can somehow resolve this issue to everyone's relative satisfaction, my small shred of hopefullness still leads me to believe we may be able to see a scenario play out where Mike and Bruce tour in 2013 as "The Beach Boys" while Brian, Al, and David tour with their setup, while all five simultaneously record in 2013 during downtime from touring, and then perhaps they can put a new album out in 2014 and maybe even tour behind it again as a reunited five-piece group.

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