USA TODAY: Beach Boys, including Brian Wilson, reunite in ‘special moment’

In the beginning, The Beach Boys were merely a family band, sharing harmonies and trading vocal runs around the living room.

Brothers Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love and buddy Al Jardine merged their affection for the vocal stylings of 1950s-era pop groups such as The Everly Brothers with the beaming sunshine and languid vibe of their native Hawthorne, California, and innocuous lyrics about T-Birds and surfboards.

But between their 1962 debut album and 1966’s “Pet Sounds” – the undisputed pinnacle of Brian Wilson’s studio wizardry – the band survived changes in lineup, sound and even their outlook, as they joined The Beatles in learning transcendental meditation from the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Their saga is presented in the Disney+ documentary, “The Beach Boys,” arriving on Friday. During the two-hour film co-directed by Frank Marshall and Thom Zimny, the band’s growth unfurls quickly. Brian Wilson’s mental health issues are briefly explained through the nervous breakdown he suffered in 1964 on a flight to Houston – which led to his decision to quit touring – and the camaraderie among the members understandably suffered when the Wilson patriarch, Murry, sold the band’s Sea of Tunes publishing company for $700,000 in 1969 without their consent.

The Beach Boys perform on stage circa 1964 in California. From left, Dennis Wilson, Al Jardine, Carl Wilson, Brian Wilson, Mike Love.

Deeper versions of specifics in the band’s lore can be found in the recently released Beach Boys’ first official book, aptly titled “The Beach Boys.” But unearthed performance footage, interviews with contemporary artists such as Ryan Tedder and Janelle Monae expressing their affection for The Beach Boys’ innovative music, and current interviews with members ranging from Brian Wilson to onetime member Blondie Chaplin will feed fans’ cravings.

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The Beach Boys still tour relentlessly. Love, 83 and longtime member Bruce Johnston, 81, are the only veteran members on stage and come armed with a set list of timeless singalongs including  “I Get Around,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” “Help Me, Rhonda” and “Kokomo” (the namesake of Love’s Club Kokomo Spirits rum line).

The summer leg of their Endless Summer Gold tour starts Friday in Connecticut and travels the country through October (honorary Beach Boy John Stamos will join for a series of dates).

Love chatted with USA TODAY recently from his home in Lake Tahoe, touching on his relationship with Brian Wilson, valuing transcendental meditation and seeking perfection on “Pet Sounds.”

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Question: In April, the hardcover book “The Beach Boys” came out and now you have the documentary this month. What is this current Beach Boys renaissance about?

Answer: Well, our “Endless Summer” album came out in 1974 so it’s the 50th anniversary. We still do about 15 songs from that album in concert. And Iconic Artists Group (led by music business legend Irving Azoff) has taken over the revitalization of The Beach Boys. Irving made a deal with Disney because he felt that we would benefit – and all the great music we’ve done would benefit – from a documentary that would show the chemistry of The Beach Boys. But we’ve had some great things this year. We did Stagecoach (in April) and had the largest crowd at the stage we were playing and our friend Mark McGrath joined us and John Stamos was playing drums. It just showed the joy that was present in the audience response.

Let’s start at the end of the documentary when the band reunites at Paradise Cove. What was that like for you?

It was very sweet. Brian and I grew up together singing songs. He was bringing up things from the past. We had a chit-chat and sang some things a capella, which they didn’t use (in the film). Brian could not have been more into the moment with us. That was a special moment, especially since Paradise Cove was the site of our debut album (“Surfin’ Safari”) cover photo.

(From left): Al Jardine, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Carl Wilson and Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys sing around a piano circa 1964.

How do you feel about the documentary in general?

I feel nostalgic and I feel sad. Our music has been a miraculous blessing for ourselves and many others. But Dennis hasn’t been with us since ‘83 and Carl passed away more than 25 years ago. I think seeing everyone in this touches the heart.

There is quite an array of artists who chime in with thoughts about the band, from Janelle Monae to Lindsey Buckingham. How did you find artists with such a deep love and knowledge of The Beach Boys?

I think that was Thom’s (Zimny) contribution. But I’ve always said The Beach Boys are kind of a sonic oasis. We focus so much on harmonies and positivity with “Good Vibrations” and “Fun, Fun, Fun.” For so many decades now, our music has touched so many people. I think the formula for The Beach Boys is love of harmonies and (other artists) appreciate that.

Brian Wilson directs from the control room while recording the album "Pet Sounds" in 1966 in Los Angeles, California.

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I think people will be surprised to learn how much you contributed to the songwriting. Would you say you were the Bernie Taupin to Brian’s Elton John?

Yes, I absolutely was. Brian was brilliant musically and no one was better in the studio than him at that time. And then when he took a lesser role, Carl and Bruce and Al stepped up and I came in with some songs as well. We effectively had two groups – a touring group and studio group. Glen Campbell filled in and was brilliant but he left to do fantastic things himself. Then Bruce joined in 1965 and the first song he sang on record was “California Girls.”

The film points out Brian’s obsession with details and perfection. Were the “Pet Sounds” recording sessions frustrating for you?

No, but they were … arduous. Everybody was going for perfection. I started calling Brian “dog ears” because they can hear ranges humans can’t and he was like that. On “Wouldn’t it Be Nice” we’d do a vocal section and he’d say do it again and I’d say why, it was perfect! I called him either dog ears or the Stalin in the studio.

You and Bruce are on the road for most of this year. How do you handle the rigors of touring and traveling?

Travel is probably the most challenging part to get adequate rest. But I have to be thankful to the Maharishi who taught us mediation in Paris in December 1967 and The Beatles were all there. That was a fascinating time. But the value of transcendental meditation for me is that you can get deep rest through a mental technique, which is very simple but powerful. Life can be challenging, but the Maharishi taught us TM himself, which was amazing. And to then be in India for a couple of months with The Beatles there … George Harrison’s birthday was Feb. 25 and I’m March 15. We’re both Pisces and we both took meditation very seriously. Even now, my biggest responsibility is to get the rest and relaxation to have the energy to do a great show.