Excitement is building in East Providence as a new concert venue prepares to open. Even better, the kick off show is sure to be one of the highlights of the summer. Bold Point Park, a new outdoor pavilion, is ready to go, and on Wednesday August 9, the Beach Boys are coming to christen the stage.
We spoke to Beach Boys leader Mike Love last week as he was preparing to do a show with the Righteous Brothers in Detroit. “Bill Medley will be there, looking forward to seeing him, one of the great voices of all time. Their song ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’ is the most played song in radio ever.” Of course, Love is pretty famous for singing in his own band, one that has amassed over 100 million record sales with classics like “I Get Around,” “Help Me, Rhonda” and “Fun, Fun, Fun.”
Bold Point Park
Love says he’s excited about “opening” a new venue. “Usually people are interested and curious to check it out and see what it’s like and so are we. We’re always happy to be in the New England area,” explained Love. The longtime vocalist and founding member of the legendary California band has a history in our little state. The Beach Boys played numerous shows through the years, including several at the former Newport Yachting Center, which was operated by the same company that runs Bold Point.
It’s notable that the band played the largest single concert ever in Rhode Island history. The show happened at the Narragansett Park race track on September 2, 1977. Over 38,000 attended the show which according to reviews was marred by sound problems and a two-hour delay. (Amusingly, a Boston Globe review also notes “a minimum amount of greasers,” were in attendance, apparently still a thing in ’77).
In recognition of that historic concert, the band will be honored by the city of Pawtucket. “I understand they’re going to be naming a street after us which is pretty cool,” Love explained. Indeed, the street outside the former race track will be re-named “Beach Boys Way.”
More than any other band, the Beach Boys are known for ceaseless touring. How does a man in his 70’s keep up the pace?
“In 2015 we did 172 concerts and last year we did 160. We’re on track to do about the same this year,” noted Love.
“For me, its Transcendental Meditation that I learned from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1967. It’s been a practice that I’ve done every day since that time. That has really sustained me and given me the energy and clarity. Travelling can be really tiring but I’ve always been able to resort to my meditation practice.”
“In addition to that, you learn early on, in the first couple of years of our existence as a group, that if you’re going to be a vocal group, you can’t go out and destroy your health. You got to live a sensible lifestyle. I never smoked cigarettes, I drink hardly anything, I do a little bit of yoga and aerobic stuff. Exercise, rest, meditation, and clean lifestyle is what I would attribute it to.”
Generations and Continents of Fans
After 55 years, the Beach Boys continue to appeal to a broad range of fans. Love has some ideas as to why.
“The subject matter and the sound. The close four-part harmony and the blend. The secret ingredient for the Beach Boys are the harmonies – it’s something that distinguishes our sound from almost any other group. That comes as a result of family get togethers – Christmas and birthday parties. My family was very poor when they came to California from Kansas, but they had their music and that was really the glue that brought the family together. It was the joy of getting together and re-creating the songs – It was always about music.”
The group has an international audience. “Our music not only appeals in the English-speaking countries … but also in Germany, Japan, Spain and France – all over the world. We used to get fan letters from Russia.”
“I can remember playing Prague in 1969, six months after the Russians invaded the country. They were subjugated by the USSR and they wanted their independence. The reception was incredible, it was pandemonium. We represented rock and roll and America; therefore freedom. It was profound how loud the applause was. It’s always been amazing to me that our music transcends language groups.”
“We’ve found that our music – the beat, the sound, the concept, the rock and roll itself, that quintessential American music has resonated for decades around the world.”
The music never stops for the Beach Boys. The band just released a new album of archival material, 1967 – Sunshine Tomorrow, as well as a new video of the classic “Do It Again.” The video accompanies the release of a new studio version of the song, featuring Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray and John Stamos on drums. They recently performed the song live at the annual July 4th concert in Washington, DC.
In addition to founding member Love and Beach Boy-vet Bruce Johnston on vocals/keyboards, the band includes Jeffrey Foskett on guitar, Brian Eichenburger on bass, Tim Bonhomme on keyboards, RI native John Cowsill of The Cowsills on drums, and Scott Totten on guitar. For more Beach Boys history, look for Mike Love’s new book My Life as a Beach Boy, out in hardcover now and coming in paperback on September 12th.
Were you at the 1977 concert at Narragansett Park? E-mail your memories to Ken Abrams here.