By John Benson
When it was an- nounced earlier this year that Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Brian Wilson and Jeff Beck were teaming up for a fall tour, the initial reaction of most classic-rock fans was, “Wow.”
The former co-wrote more than two dozen top-40 hits for The Beach Boys, while the latter is known as one of the most influential lead guitarists in rock. However, it wasn’t until the tour started earlier this month that audiences understood how the two legends would fit together. Wilson opens the show — joined by former band mates Al Jardine and David Marks — with what amounts to a diehard Beach Boys fan’s dream.
Unlike the classic group’s reunion tour last summer, which reportedly was marred by infighting, this outing finds Wilson and company experimenting and reinterpreting the Beach Boys’ hits, as well as unearthing choice album cuts from decades ago.
As for Beck, he performs a career-spanning set including covers of Jimi Hendrix (“Little Wing”) and The Beatles (“A Day in the Life”). He’s also joined by Wilson for a few more Beach Boys tunes. The tour rolls into Northeast Ohio for a Sunday show at E.J. Thomas Hall in Akron.
The Vindicator talked to Wilson about the unique pairing, his upcoming album, which includes Beck, and the likelihood of another Beach Boys reunion.
Q. First of all, how did the Brian Wilson and Jeff Beck tour come about?
A. We first heard Jeff in the MusiCares Award show [Tribute to Brian Wilson], and he played “Surf’s Up” on guitar and he sang. It sounded unbelievable, so we called him up and had him play on my new album. He fits with what we’re doing because he can play anything at all — rock ’n’ roll, ballads, medium tempo. He plays busy guitar against a nice easy track. He plays a lot of notes per bar. So we’re kind of mellow and he’s kind of busy.
Q. What are your expectations, stylistically speaking, for the new CD, which is due out next year?
A. We wanted to try something new. That’s a return to an earlier sound and a very kind of mellow type of album. It brings back a lot of good memories. Being a recording artist these days means a lot of hard work. And that hard work turns into a good album, but you have to work and work and work until you get it good. And then after this next album, I want to make a rock ’n’ roll album, one that really rocks.
Q. Looking back to last year, work on this new CD started right after you came off tour with the Beach Boys’ 50th anniversary outing. Why did you jump into an album project so quickly?
A. It was an inspiration because it’s quite an event to hear the [Beach] Boys sing. It was a thrill for me. The guys are great, and they’re great to watch.
Q. Considering so much of the Beach Boys’ material was written in the ’60s, what was it like revisiting the older tunes?
A. I saw it in the light of the spirit of 50 years being together. That’s a half of century. [The music is timeless] because the harmonies are all together throughout the repertoire. Songs like “Good Vibrations” and “California Girls” were great to play.
Q. Considering reports that the band members didn’t get along last year, any chance of doing another Beach Boys reunion?
A. No, actually we’re not going to do anymore reunions.
Q. Finally, are you surprised, whether it’s a Beach Boys reunion or a tour with Jeff Beck, that people are still interested in the music of Brian Wilson?
A. Yeah, it’s wonderful, but I’m not really surprised. I expected it.