Beach Boys in the 1980s and ’90s

Dennis Wilson’s Death

The death, by drowning, of drummer, Dennis Wilson, in December, 1983 temporarily cast doubt over the band’s future at the start of the decade, but they soldiered on, employing Dennis’s friend and co-drummer, Mike Kowalski as his full-time replacement.

Dennis Wilson

Did Mike ever think that The Beach Boys would cease to exist after Dennis’s untimely demise?

“It was Carl, Mike, Bruce, and Al – they made the decisions and we were the players,” replies Mike, “and if they did decide not to tour, then so be it, but it seemed that back then, there was a market – people still wanted to hear it.

The nostalgia thing was going on in ’84, ’85, ’86, and The Beach Boys had too many hits, you know what I mean? Too many hits that people wanted to hear, that was part of their growing up – and the kids wanted to hear it too.”

Kokomo and the ’80s

Kokomo and the '80s

As Brian Wilson struggled with personal problems throughout the ’80s, becoming a virtual prisoner of his psychologist, Dr. Eugene Landy, The Beach Boys released songs and albums, that although mostly panned by the critics, saw them return to the top of the charts.

Kokomo was their first number one hit since Good Vibrations back in 1966, and was written without any contribution from Brian. The lovely Getcha Back, a duet with The Fat Boys on Wipeout, and a version of California Dreamin’ also kept them in the public eye.

How did Mike Kowalski feel about the negative criticism?

“Well you’re always gonna get that kind of stuff,” he replies. “When it comes right down to it, when you’re listening to Brian Wilson’s music, how can you defy his genius? Every note, every bass note, guitar note, every vocal part, every percussion part – he was a master.

To me, if you go back a couple of hundred years for instance, say 150 years, I always say Claude Debussy, George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Brian Wilson – Burt Bacharach’s one of my favourites as well, as far as writing and producing, but Brian wrote it, arranged it, played on it, and sang it!”

Baywatch and the ’90s

Baywatch and the '90s

The first Beach Boys album of the ’90s, Summer in Paradise, was also lambasted by the critics on its release in 1992, and, to date, is the last “proper” Beach Boys album – not counting the Stars and Stripes Vol. 1 project, where country singers, backed by the group, performed classic Beach Boys hits.

In 1996, The Beach Boys appeared on the popular TV show, Baywatch, in a storyline that involved them staging a charity concert to save a polluted beach from being closed down. The songs featured in the episode included Summer of Love – the third track off Summer in Paradise, which was played over the opening credits, Surfer Girl and Fun, Fun, Fun.

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