This year (specifically this Fall), marks the 50th anniversary of the band. There appear to be a number of special things in the works to commemorate the occasion, but it seems as though the biggest official push will come next year when the band celebrates the 50th anniversary of their first hit and major record label deal.
But the first anniversary event took place this past Saturday at a celebration of Ronald Reagan's 100th birthday. The Boys have a bit of history with the Reagans. After playing to a huge crowd on the national mall on July 4th, 1980 (during the Carter administration), the Beach Boys returned the next year after Reagan's election. But they were famously not allowed to return in 1982 on the grounds that they drew an "undesirable" crowd. This caused a huge public outcry.
So as you can see Ronald Reagan and The Beach Boys definitely had some history together (and that's not counting how Dennis Wilson and First Daughter Patti Davis allegedly got to know each other, um, extremely well...).
And for the 100th birthday party this past Saturday, the band performed a set of six songs. To understand what made the show special you need to understand the current state of things in Beach Boy Land.
With the passing of Carl Wilson in February of 1998, the band finally splintered. Brian seemed further estranged from Mike than ever before and Al left the act very quickly (his last show as a Beach Boy was in May of 98). Mike then acquired the legal right to use the name "The Beach Boys" and continued to tour under that name with Bruce and a band of backing musicians.
Al formed The Beach Boys Friends and Family Band, which included his sons as well as Brian's daughters, Carnie and Wendy (of Wilson Phillips fame). Mike then sued Al for misusing the name Beach Boys (forcing Al to change the name of his act to The Endless Summer Band). And later, in 2004, Mike sued Brian for using the Beach Boys name to promote his solo release of SMiLE.
So you can see the mess of things. With Dennis and Carl dead and Mike alienating Brian and Al, it was really-- finally-- at last--the end of The Beach Boys.
...except it wasn't.
Mike and Bruce have continued to tour heavily with a backing band that has changed drastically since Carl's death. A lot of the longtime supporting band members (e.g. Billy Hinsche, Ed Carter, Jeff Foskett) can now be found in either Brian's or Al's band.
In 2007, Al even played a series of dates with Brian, but he has not shared the stage with Mike & Bruce. Not since May of 1998, after the last of the shows for which he was already contracted prior to Carl's death in February, has Al Jardine taken the stage as a Beach Boy.
Until this past Saturday.
At Regan's party, Mike and Bruce made room for Al for the first time in nearly 13 years. Not only that, but Brian had been officially invited to join them. Brian's camp released a statement last week explaining Brian couldn't participate as he is hard at work in the studio working on a new album.
So it wasn't quite a big, official Beach Boys reunion (which by all rights should include not only Brian but David Marks as well), but it was a kinda-sorta mini-reunion having Al finally back with them.
In the six-song set, Al even sang lead on two of them. It wasn't the best show this incarnation of the band is capable of but it seemed to pick up momentum as it went along. Mike looked bad like he might not have been completely healthy, but he is about to turn 70 in a couple of weeks so maybe we can cut him some slack in that area.
Of the six songs, three of them were #1 hits. The set list was California Girls, Sloop John B (Al), Good Vibrations, Kokomo, Help Me Rhonda (Al) and Fun Fun Fun.
The 50th anniversary has the fan community buzzing. Expectations are that Capitol Records will put out a Beach Boys SMILE box set and the possibilities of a proper reunion are still high. In my mind, though, a reunion should include not only Brian and David, but Ricky and Blondie and all of the supporting band veterans like Hinsche, Foskett, et. al.