Exclusive: The Beach Boys' Bruce Johnston on surfing, basketball and Kevin Love
When it comes to the greatest recording artists of all time, few groups can top what The Beach Boys have done. It has been over 55 years since The Beach Boys first charted with "Surfin'" in 1961, yet the California-based band remains synonymous with surf culture. The latest release from The Beach Boys is The Beach Boys With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra -- as released by Capitol Records -- which pairs the classic vocal harmonies of Mike Love, Brian Wilson and crew with one of the world's top symphonic orchestras. The album will be released digitally and in CD form this week on June 8th, while its vinyl edition is slated for an August 17th release.
Bruce Johnston first joined The Beach Boys in 1965 as a touring fill-in for Brian Wilson. He stuck around The Beach Boys until 1972, then opting to pursue a solo career. During his years away from The Beach Boys -- he would rejoin in 1978 and still remains a member today -- he penned the Grammy-winning number one hit "I Write The Songs" beyond releasing a series of acclaimed solo albums. Johnston has also notably been heard on recordings by the likes of Elton John, Eric Carmen and Pink Floyd.
While speaking with Bruce Johnston by phone, I focused on his appreciation of sports for a few minutes. One thing that many people may not realize about The Beach Boys is the band's direct NBA connection: singer Mike Love's brother is NBA legend Stan Love, who is the father of current NBA star Kevin Love. More on Johnston, The Beach Boys and the new Royal Philharmonic album can be found online at www.thebeachboys.com.
You are pretty much on the road more than not with The Beach Boys. What is it that you like to do when not touring? I ask because you are kind of mysterious beyond the music.
Bruce Johnston: I don't know about that. (laughs) I have four grown children and one of them has four grown children that have chosen not to be in the music business. They are very talented and they chose not to be it because they thought, "We are going to wind up giving our music away for free, how are we going to make a living unless we begin famous?" What I do is I sail and I surf, and I take my kids all over the place and spend time with them. There's always something going on in your head for a melody or words, I write the lyrics too.
You mentioned surfing and sailing. Are you a person who lives in a warm climate?
Bruce Johnston: When I can. I've been so many places, we did almost 190 concerts last year. I figure I live in every hotel now -- cold, warm... We did the Caribbean, we were just in Cabo San Lucas [Mexico] last week, right where some surf spots are that I know of.
I find places to practice my sport the same way you see guys at airports and the biggest piece of luggage is their golf bag. Well, lucky me, I can go to these places and you can always rent a really cool surfboard like you can go to one of the car rental places and rent a car. I've got it all worked out.
Are you the only member of The Beach Boys that currently surfs?
Bruce Johnston: Each guy in this band surfed in the early days. Mike and I are on the board of the Surfrider Foundation, we have 85,000 members, 65 chapters, campaign for clean water. But I'm probably the one guy [now]... We have some overseas dates coming up in Australia and New Zealand, so I'll be able to surf down there.
Are you a sports fan beyond surfing and sailing?
Bruce Johnston: I love basketball and it's so great that Mike Love's brother's son Kevin Love plays for the [Cleveland] Cavs. We've known Kevin since before he was born.
Have you been an NBA fan all these decades? Or did that become more of a big deal for you in knowing Stan Love and his family?
Bruce Johnston: The Harlem Globetrotters, I thought that was real basketball when I was a little boy, but it wasn't. There's something really elegant about it. It's like Fred Astaire dancing, you know? It's pretty cool to watch basketball.
Do you have a favorite NBA team?
Bruce Johnston: I have always liked the Lakers. Favorite team? No. My favorite team is maybe the Cavs because Kevin's on it. I also have a friend, he and his brothers 30 years ago bought the Indiana Pacers. I enjoy the spectacle.
So in closing, any last words for the kids?
Bruce Johnston: Listen to our album. Forget about the symphony, it's wonderful, but the songs are well-written. The spark and the grooves are there, 17 songs. The new Capitol Records, under the Universal [Records] umbrella, is just rocking their socks off with great stuff, promoting albums, doing what a record label should do. Maybe they should wait until August and if they have a turntable, play the vinyl, it's going to sound wicked.