On Friday night, Bovard Auditorium went back in time to the 1960s as the The Beach Boys brought a surf-rock party to the stage as part of Trojan Family Weekend. Parents and students danced and sang to classics such as “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” “Barbara Ann” and “California Girls.” The USC Song Girls also joined frontman Mike Love to remind the audience to “Be True To Your School” as part of a special performance.
The concert featured Love, Bruce Johnston, who joined the band in 1965, along with their band of five additional vocalists and instrumentalists. Founding members Brian Wilson and Al Jardine, and longtime member David Marks, were not present because they were touring with Jeff Beck. The Daily Trojan sat down with Love and Johnston before the concert to talk performing, songwriting and the importance of music education.
Daily Trojan: Why did you choose to perform at USC?
Love: We have, in the past, come to USC for various events. One time, we did a show with [rock duo] Jan and Dean … I have a brother who graduated from ’SC. We also did a show at the Coliseum at a USC game for Full House … And they have a really nice modern music program, in addition to where most music programs are jazz or classical but they also have a contemporary music program, which is really good.
DT: How do your own experiences help you guide your daughter as she looks to enter the music industry?
ML: I grew up in a home with a Steinway grand piano, a Lyon and Healy harp and a Hammond organ … so music and singing — harmony — has always been a fact of life. But what I didn’t know anything about was the mechanics of the music industry, and some very unfortunate things arose because of that, so I would advise any young person who loves music, and the art of it … that you should become educated about the music business, sure, but also about business in general, so if you’re fortunate enough to become successful in this industry, you have some knowledge and armed with that knowledge, you can protect yourself better. … Education plays an enormous role in preparation for anything.
DT: The opening act of the concert is comprised of Thornton School of Music students who have written songs inspired by The Beach Boys’ style. Why do you think your music has remained popular across generations?
ML: I think there’s a lot of warmth in the harmonies, and the feeling that you get when you hear that kind of harmony which we’re known for and we love doing. I think that is a warmth that transcends mountains and nationalities and language groups. It’s truly amazing. If we’re in Japan, we’ll start a song, they’ll hear just any of the songs, and they’ll just roar. … Harmonies, and the warmth of the harmonies, the blend, is really attractive to the ear.
Johnston: He’s being very humble because he wrote all the lyrics. You kind of have to have the lyrics to sing these songs, you know.
DT: What advice do you have for aspiring songwriters?
BJ: Just do it. A song can from any place, and just if it’s the right song, it can be up on a chart one day. Just do it. A little inspiration: I have my funny inspiration…: Go to CVS and read the greeting cards. They’re great. And they have to get right to that message. It’s great discipline if you’re trying to pen a very commercial song.
ML: If you’re going to try to make a life or a career out of music, then know the structure of the music business, understand publishing and perhaps contracts and all that … I think that’s vitally important to become educated, and therefore if you’re in a position to gain knowledge, such as being in a university, that’s great.
DT: How do you decide what to play every night?
BJ: We change it every night. There’s a different set list, this isn’t the horse running back to the barn. Every night there’s a different set list and it keeps you on your toes. We sound check-slash-rehearse. We just did “Please Let Wonder” the other night, probably hadn’t done it for a couple of years, you know, stuff just comes back out on the set list.
ML: We have so many different types of songs, it depends kind of on what the mood is. If the mood is upbeat, maybe it’s “Fun Fun Fun” or “I Get Around” or “Surfin’ U.S.A.” And then there’s a little bit more cerebral stuff, the Pet Sounds album, “God Only Knows,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.”
DT: How do you adapt to performing without the other founding members?
BJ: You can still hear Tchaikovsky. You can still hear it all. We have a great music director, Scott Todd. He has helped us restore every note and it’s pristine and it’s in the keys — we always sing in the keys we recorded in — that every note is correct and sounds the way you want it to sound.
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