Aug. 25--The Beach Boys were riding a wave of national success in 1963, but when they arrived here that summer for their first concert in the islands, they weren't big enough yet to be anything more than a warm-up act.
You probably won't find that bit of trivia in the group's special six-CD set, "Made in California," which will be released Tuesday to celebrate 50 years of intricate harmonies and surf-centered tunes. But legendary Hawaii promoter Tom Moffatt remembers it well.
Moffatt said The Beach Boys liked the idea of performing in Hawaii so much that when he brought them out for a "Show of Stars" revue at the Civic Auditorium in the summer of '63, they agreed to be the backup band for the headliners.
"They could come to Hawaii and perform but they had to back the whole show," recalled Moffatt, 82. "I think we had a couple of local acts on and then The Beach Boys, and then they had to back up Jackie DeShannon and Dee Dee Sharp. Here they are, The Beach Boys -- the backup band on their first appearance in Hawaii."
When the group returned the next year for one of Moffatt's "Million Dollar" parties, it was as the headliners. By that time The Beach Boys had several more hits and written and recorded a song, "Hawaii," that told the world about their love for "the island called Hawaii."
It was mutual. As the only state in the country with better surf than California, people here didn't have to dream of what it would be like "If everybody had an ocean/Across the U.S.A." -- lyrics from "Surfin' U.S.A.," which included a shout-out to "Waiamea Bay."
The Beach Boys' early songs, most written by founding members Brian Wilson and Mike Love, described an idealized lifestyle that American teens, tweens and young adults everywhere naturally aspired to: surfing, certainly, but also hot rods ("Shut Down," "409," "Little Deuce Coupe") and romance -- who doesn't have "Surfer Girl" on their Beach Boys playlist?
The group's close vocal harmonies were inspired by the pop vocal groups of the mid-'50s and were something new for kids coming of age in the '60s. The vocal contrast between Love, the lead singer on many of the early hits, and Wilson's high falsetto was fresh and distinctive. The pair also knew how to write songs with catchy lyrics and strong instrumental hooks. The unmistakable guitar riff that opens "Fun, Fun, Fun" is an almost irresistible invitation to crank up the volume of your car radio and sing along.
It's no surprise then that as the surviving Beach Boys -- Wilson, Love, David C. Marks, Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston -- wrap up the group's belated 50th anniversary celebration that began in earnest last year, their record label is celebrating as well. "Made in California" contains most of the group's timeless hits from the early to mid-'60s and continues with home demos, unreleased original songs, alternate takes and mixes, rehearsal tapes, radio station jingles, and tracks culled from concert, television and radio performances.
The collection is cleverly packaged in the style of a high school yearbook and is filled with vintage artwork and photos that go back to the guys' teen years.
The Beach Boys' work was well-documented with the 30th anniversary "Good Vibrations" box set in 1992, and "The Pet Sounds Sessions" and "Smile Sessions" CD sets explore those projects in exhaustive detail. "Made in California" brings similar attention to detail in covering the group's entire 50-year career.
IT BEGAN in 1961 when brothers Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson of Hawthorne, Calif., their cousin, Mike Love, and friend Al Jardine founded a pre-Beach Boys group called The Pendletons. Their first regional hit, "Surfin'," written by Love and Brian Wilson, did very well in California and got them a deal with Capitol Records.
David C. Marks, another longtime friend and neighbor, had replaced Jardine by the time they released their first album, "Surfin' Safari," in 1962 as The Beach Boys. With the release of their second album, "Surfin' U.S.A.," early in 1963, group became a national phenomenon.
Jardine returned later in 1963 and Marks departed. Bruce Johnston joined the group in 1965 when Brian Wilson stopped touring. Dennis Wilson, the only Beach Boy who actually surfed, drowned at Marina Del Rey, Calif., in 1983. Carl Wilson died of cancer in 1998. The surviving Beach Boys recorded an album of new material, "That's Why God Made the Radio," in 2012 and have been celebrating their 50th anniversary with a tour and other activities.
Hawaii has loved them through it all. Moffatt presented them several times in the Honolulu International Center Arena (now the Blaisdell Arena) and at Aloha Stadium.
Honolulu resident Ron Whitfield "came close a few times" to seeing The Beach Boys in their early years, but when Brian Wilson stopped touring with them in 1965 he figured "seeing the famous lineup was never going to happen again." But Whitfield got his chance when Brian Wilson came out to Hawaii in 1982 for a Beach Boys two-nighter in Blaisdell Arena.
"The first night must have been terrible ... because the (Honolulu) Advertiser really slammed the concert," Whitfield said. "I went the following night hoping for the best and we sure got their best. I was impressed that Alan Jardine came out before the show and addressed the matter directly with apologies and promising that the band would do their very best this night.
"Everybody who sees The Beach Boys comes away in tears saying it was the best ever, but those who saw this second show in '82 can rest assured they certainly saw one of the greatest ever by these legends, right here in Honolulu."
In 1986, The Beach Boys performed an unannounced concert at the Royal Hawaiian beach in Waikiki for a 25th-anniversary television special. Two years later, when Moffatt persuaded the producers of the Hula Bowl to present The Beach Boys as post-game entertainment, ticket sales jumped.
Honolulu attorney Greg Frey remembers their 1988 Hula Bowl show as "a sensational concert."
"The Beach Boys put on a classic Beach Boys performance and I remember vividly a couple of really neat things. ... I remember Mike Love and I remember the Wilsons, people dancing in the aisles of the stadium, all of the people, literally young and old, singing along with The Beach Boys."
MANY VETERAN entertainers in Hawaii have their own stories of meeting or working with some of the band members.
Musician Doug Dragon, a Maui resident since the 1970s, was living in California when he became a member of The Beach Boys' backup band in 1968. He was introduced to them by his brother, Daryl Dragon, who was taking a break from touring with the group. He counts "God Only Knows" and "Good Vibrations" as his favorite songs from the show.
Forty-five years later, Dragon remembers "the little girls screaming" during the concerts. He has colorful memories of life on the road with Carl and Dennis Wilson, such as the time he and Dennis set off a cherry bomb in a hotel hallway.
Local entertainment veteran Tommy D met Dennis Wilson hanging out in Waikiki in the early '70s.
"I asked him what direction they were going in and he said, 'I love writing new music, but if I have to sing 'Surfin' U.S.A.' one more time I'm gonna croak. I want to advance, I want to move forward, I want to do different styles of music.' He said the (old) songs would live on, but he wanted to go beyond that."
Love might have been having a bad day when Sonya Maya Mendez met him "sometime in 1978 or 1979." Hawaii knows Mendez now as Sonya of Sonya & Revolucion, one of Honolulu's cutting-edge alt-rock bands of the early '80s, but in the '70s she was singing pop songs in the Garden Bar at Hilton Hawaiian Village. One afternoon Love walked in.
"I was performing a medley of songs recorded by Barry Manilow, with the closing song being 'I Write the Songs.' One afternoon, a short, blond-haired guy comes up to me and says, with (condescension) in his voice. 'I'm Mike Love from the Beach Boys. Barry Manilow did not write 'I Write the Songs.' I did!' So I looked him straight in the eye, with (condescension) in my voice and said, 'I didn't say he wrote it. I said he recorded it. You need to listen better,' and off he went."
(The song is credited to Bruce Johnston, who had replaced Brian Wilson in 1965.)
Tom Holowach, manager of Paliku Theatre in Kaneohe, got to know Carl Wilson "fairly well" in the mid-'80s when Holowach and his wife, Holly, were members of Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness, a spiritual group based in Southern California that Carl was also involved with.
"It was nice to just be able to talk to this guy who you knew was part of this superstar group (but) who was just this nice, sincere, friendly teddy bear of a guy who would give you a huge hug and really connect with you."
Holowach's professional experience as a TV cameraman and a director resulted in his involvement with a Beach Boys concert at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles.
"All of the guys are there. Brian is there. He's sitting at the piano. He's actually singing. He sounds pretty good. Everybody's friendly. Mike Love is doing things like finally giving Bruce Johnston the credit that he deserved for writing the song 'I Write the Songs.'
"Right after intermission Brian just came out by himself and sat down at the piano and just played a song. The rest of band wasn't there. He just played a nostalgic '30s-ish, '40s-ish torch song."
Hawaii recording engineer Ron Klohs met Wilson in 1988, when he went to Klohs' Dolphin Sound studio to record the keyboard tracks for "Love and Mercy."
"Jim Linkner was the engineer. I got to sit in and was even graciously credited on the album. He was friendly, gracious and very at ease drinking his Perrier water. ... A most wonderful memory," Klohs said.
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