The Beach Boys and the Fourth of July go together like summer and well, the Beach Boys. Until you throw a politician into the mix, that is. Back in 1983, President Ronald Reagan's controversial Secretary of Interior James Watt banned the '60s icons from their semi-regular gig at the Washington Monument in favor of the "wholesome" Sin City icon Wayne Newton because, Watt believed, all rock bands attracted "the wrong element" and encouraged drug use.
Problem was, Watt, who said he never actually listened to the band (is that possible?), overlooked a few important facts: 1) Ronald and Nancy Reagan were fans; 2) drummer Dennis Wilson once dated their daughter, Patti Davis; 3) the Beach Boys campaigned for George Bush in 1980; and 4) the Beach Boys are the quintessential American band.
The backlash was as intense as it was sudden. Radio stations campaigned to get the Boys back on the concert. "Honk if you love the Beach Boys" signs popped up in major cities, and fans flooded the White House switchboard.
The Reagans personally apologized for Watt's gaffe. "They said James Watt had made a mistake," laughs Beach Boy Mike Love. "I said, 'Well, it probably won't be his last.' " Love was right. Watt resigned in October 1983 for his infamous "a black woman, two Jews and a cripple" comment.
Seventeen years later, the Beach Boys aren't the same band. Dennis Wilson drowned in December 1983. Carl Wilson died from cancer complications in February 1998. Brian Wilson is in the middle of a solo tour, and Al Jardine is now fronting Al Jardine's Family & Friends Beach Band with sons Matt and Adam and Brian's daughters, Carnie and Wendy Wilson. That leaves lead vocalist Love and Bruce Johnston as the only remaining Beach Boys. The rest of the band consists of touring musicians, some of whom have been part of the road version of the band for decades (Full House star John Stamos will play drums). Can it be as good as the original?
"We have a lot of great musicians, a lot of great singers, [and] players, so the music doesn't suffer," says Love. "I think from a technical point of view, and a factual point of view, it sounds pretty darn good."
Wouldn't it be nice?
The Beach Boys will headline the Power of Freedom Festival 2000 at Buffalo Bayou Park on Tuesday, July 4. Showtime is 8:15 p.m. Fireworks start at 9:25 p.m. For more information, call (713)220-2000, access code 3524.