It’s been kind of a dead year so far for Beach Boys fans, at least as far as any kind of “new news”, so something like this maybe jumps out as a bigger deal than it might be.
Apparently, Al will be joining Mike and Bruce for a gig in July at Jones Beach in New York. Details are literally non-existent at this stage beyond the advertisement pictured above. That Al is appearing is not even 100% confirmed. In the past, gigs for Mike’s band have on rare occasions been incorrectly billed as having other band members present. However, when promoters mistakenly do this, it usually consists of a more general “all original members” or accidental use of a picture of an old band lineup. For this billing with Al to be a mistake would take a lot of deliberate action, since someone had to specifically put his name on the ad and also leave out Brian and Dave. So it seems more likely than not that the Al billing is legit.
The two main questions this curious fan has are: What does this mean in the grand scheme? Also, What will Al’s appearance consist of?
Let’s look at the latter first. It’s worth noting that Al has never played a full-length gig with Mike and Bruce’s version of “The Beach Boys”, with the possible exception of one or two pre-50th tour private/charity shows Al reportedly played with Mike and Bruce’s band in April 2012, of which there were scant reports at the time. Apart from that, and I suppose technically the few gigs Al played in early 1998 before departing the band, Al’s only on-stage appearances with Mike’s “Beach Boys” have been quick cameos such as the early 2011 gig, or earlier this year at the Ella awards. So will Al be on stage for the entire show, or will he just pop in for a few numbers? Will he get a special introduction like he did when he played with Brian in 2006/2007, or will he just appear for the duration of the show as if it’s just a gig like 1997 again? Will he simply get tossed a few Al-centric leads like “Help Me Rhonda”, perhaps “Sloop John B” or “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, and maybe “Come Go with Me” or “California Dreamin’?” Setting aside the sort of visceral weirdness and potential uneasiness with Al simply rejoining Mike’s band, my main concern with this happening has always been that Al would simply get relegated to a role with only a few leads despite having such an in-tact voice.
Grand-scheme wise, does this mean anything? I’m not sure it foreshadows some huge imminent event in the Beach Boys universe, but it is very notable. It signifies a lack of estrangement between Al and Mike, which is a big deal. One also can’t help but wonder what this means in relation to Brian’s solo work and tour (and Al’s potential participation), and also what it might mean for more full reunion activities. When Al made a guest spot with Mike in early 2011, most spectators agree that among other things, it had to be a very small early trial run for making sure Al and Mike could handle being on stage together, and indeed we got the reunion project which began a few months after that. It’s tempting to wonder if Al “jumped ship” from the Brian camp to the Mike camp, but we also know that mere days or weeks ago, Al was pictured doing more recording with Brian.
Generally speaking, it’s refreshingly nice to see these guys be able to work with each other in various capacities and not be estranged even if they don’t all stay together as a group. It’s also frustrating, since the reunion tour was so amazing.
Also interesting to ponder: What is Mike’s motive in this? Is there one beyond just playing with Al? I truly want to believe these guys just love each other and want to sing together. That’s one possibility. I’d like to believe even more they are priming things for an eventual return to the reunion lineup, perhaps in 2015 or 2016. But fans are not completely out of line to wonder if there are band politics involved here, and/or any number of motives. Reading Jon Stebbins’ and David Marks’ book and its recounting of the shuffling with bringing David on board in 1997, one always has to wonder if something like that could be happening again.
Time will tell, for lack of a less clichéd way of putting it. I can’t particularly see anything negative about Al playing a gig with Mike. There is a vast potential for some observational irony, and it’s easy to be cynical. But let’s see what happens…..