50 years of Love: The Beach Boys to play Johnstown’s War Memorial Arena

During a more than 50-year career, Mike Love of the Beach Boys has had enough fabulous memories and experiences to match other music legends story for story. And some of his favorite memories are of his friend George Harrison.

On Feb. 25, Love released the song “Pisces Brothers” in honor of the late Beatle’s birthday. According to Love, who spoke with the Mirror by phone on March 5 from a tour stop in Indianapolis, the song is about Love’s trip to India with the Beatles and others in 1968. The legendary trip to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s compound had a profound effect on the Beatles’ later work and on Love and Harrison in particular.

“I recorded it 10 years ago, but it’s a very sentimental song,” the 73-year-old Love said. “It’s about George Harrison and I both having birthdays in India at the Maharishi’s place in 1968, so I called it ‘Pisces Brothers.’ He passed away several years before I wrote that, and it’s about a very mystical time in my life.”

Harrison died in 2001.

The slow, sentimental and Eastern-influenced “Pisces Brothers” will surely be on the set list when Love and The Beach Boys join Three Dog Night for a concert at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena in Johnstown.

Despite the rarity of new music by the Beach Boys, Love was surprised by the public reaction to “Pisces Brothers.”

“Almost 8.5 million people have re-tweeted that song. It’s amazing,” he said. “Between tweets and all that other stuff [online], I don’t even know how many times it’s been heard. In the older years, it was all on the radio stations – if you didn’t get your song on the radio, it wasn’t going to be a hit.”

Love founded the Beach Boys in 1961 with his cousins Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson and their friend Al Jardine. Their Southern California surfing lifestyle created the “surf rock” sound and Brian Wilson’s dominating influence on the classic album “Pet Sounds” – routinely cited as one of the best albums in music history – made them one of the biggest groups in music in the 1960s and ’70s and one of the top touring acts in the time since. Love was one of the group’s primary songwriters and lead vocalists.

The Beach Boys have sold more than 100 million albums, have reached the Top 40 with 36 singles and the group’s original lineup was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.

Though the remaining members of the original lineup – Brian Wilson, Love and Jardine – reunited with long-time members Bruce Johnston and David Marks in 2012 for a 50th anniversary tour, the Beach Boys touring today include Love and Johnston, along with a band that features Love’s son, Christian, on guitar.

On many of the group’s tours, actor John Stamos appears on selected dates to perform in the band. According to Love, the actor met the band when he was on “General Hospital” in the early 1980s and started performing with them occasionally soon after. Later in the decade, The Beach Boys made several appearances on Stamos’ series, “Full House.”

“John Stamos has been a life-long fan,” Love said. “He told me that growing up in California he would ride his bike past my parents’ house to look in the window and see the gold records.”

The Beach Boys have influenced generations of musicians, but in talking to Love it seems nothing has influenced him more than his time in India with the Beatles. The Beach Boys met the Fab Four in 1964, he said, on the group’s first tour of the U.S.

“We were such admirers of the group,” Love said. “We first met the Beatles in Portland, Oregon. … We met them backstage before they were doing a show and one of the guys’ voices was out, so they said, ‘When you get to that line, just shake your head.’

“When they shook their ‘mop tops’, the girls would scream. So they’d scream and no one would care [about the line],” he said with a laugh.

The two groups developed a “friendly rivalry,” Love explained.

“There was a mutual admiration society, for sure,” he said.

That friendship led to Love’s trip to Rishikesh, India with the group in early 1968, where they studied with the Maharishi and learned Transcendental Meditation. The Beatles wrote many of the songs on their legendary “White Album” during the trip.

“I had some interesting conversations with Paul McCartney in India,” Love said. “He came down to breakfast one morning singing ‘Back in the U.S.S.R.’ and I said, “You should talk about the girls there in the middle part.’ And he did, obviously.”

Love paused, then added with a laugh, “But it turns out he was perfectly capable of crafting a song by himself!”

Despite his career starting so long ago, Love looks younger than his 72 years, and he credits that to Transcendental Meditation, which he even taught in the U.S. after he left India. He also toured with the Maharishi at times, in both the U.S. and abroad.

“[Transcendental Meditation] has been a very wonderful tool for survival – and thrival,” Love said, adding with a laugh: “Which isn’t in Webster’s dictionary, but neither was ‘excitations’, which rhymes with ‘good vibrations.’ So that was a bit of poetic license.”

The Beach Boys have a devoted fanbase the world over. And the central Pennsylvania portion of that fanbase is very excited for the War Memorial concert, according to the arena’s general manager, Tom Grenell.

“That is a huge show,” he said. “We’re in the process of trying to find some additional spots to release tickets. but the arena is small enough that, even if you’re in the top row, you’re in ‘the best seats.'”

Grenell said the Beach Boys-Three Dog Night concert is important for the arena, being that it comes the night before another big show on Thursday, featuring Christian artists Third Day and Skillet.

“The fact that you’re bringing in Three Dog Night and The Beach Boys [along with the Christian music bill] is just incredible,” he said. “That’s two double headliners back-to-back. … I’ve been here 17 years and I can’t remember ever having such big shows on consecutive nights.

“There’s a lot of good things happening in Johnstown, and the industry is taking notice.”

Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.