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Al Jardine:Bam Interview
Dec 18, 1998

Thanks to David Foyle
 
 

                 "Call Me Al -- The Quiet Beach Boy Comes Clean on Quitting the Band"
 by
Jim Freek

      Since 1963, Al Jardine has sustained his position as "the quiet one" in  the Beach Boys by keeping a low profile in a band that have endured more  drama than an entire season of Melrose Place.  After several years of   desperately crass musical attempts that were geared towards the El Torito  happy-hour crowd (remember that "Beach Boys with the Fat Boys" record from  the late '80s?), Al finally split from the Beach Boys earlier this year,  leaving Mike Love as the sole, original member of "America's Band."  Al is currently focusing his musical energy on unearthing much of the  deeper, non-hit, "album" material from the Beach Boys' vast catalog with a
                 new band largely composed of Beach Boys' offspring.  The mild-mannered   Jardine took time out of his rigorous rehearsal schedule ("I'm working on  the charts for 'Monday Monday' right now, and it's driving me nuts!") to  speak to BAM.

Q:  Tell me a little bit about your current project.

     Right now we're in the middle of rehearsals for a Starlight Foundation  benefit at the Shrine Auditorium.  [The Starlight Foundation] is a charity  that helps terminally ill children.  We're calling the group "The Beach Boys   Family and Friends," and it includes Carnie and Wendy Wilson, Owen Elliot   [daughter of the Mamas and the Papas' Cass Elliot] and my sons Adam and Matthew Jardine.

                 Q:  Do the Beach Boys still exist?  It's pretty much just "The Mike Love
                 Show" at this point, isn't it?

      That's right.  Michael [Love] and I had been touring for awhile together  and it just didn't seem to be fulfilling, so we had a creative parting of  the ways.  He's still working with "The Beach Boys," and he's doing what I  call the "party circuit" -- the hits.  He has always excelled at doing the  uptempo, lead singing style, but I felt we'd been confined to that for so  many years and I desperately wanted to fill the void when Carl left.  With
                 the Beach Boys Family and Friends, I hope to produce some in-depth music   from the album material that's seldom ever heard.

                 Q:  In other words, the touring version of the band started to become
                 something of a joke?

       Oh yeah.  We had to confine ourselves to just the hits.  We were like a  traveling jukebox, and then we added cheerleaders to the jukebox and it  started to look like an overly decorated Christmas tree.  And it just got
                 further and further away from the music and more into the Barnum & Bailey   thing, where you pull out all the circus animals, the tent, the chimpanzee   with the organ grinder -- the whole thing.  It just got to be too much of a  circus and I wanted to put the music back in the show, so I created this  idea of doing what I've called the "b-sides."

               Q:  What's your personal favorite Beach Boys record?

 There's too many; there's just too much going on there.  I mean, we could  spend a year figuring that out.  Emotionally favorite, maybe "California  Girls."  I just enjoy that particular style, and that song reminds me of  some kind of an anthem.  There are so many things over the years that Brian
                 [Wilson] has written that I'd totally forgotten about and, quite frankly,  discarded.  There's a real obscure one called "Be Here in the Morning" from  the Friends album that we'll be doing with this new group.  That was
                 probably the most uncelebrated Beach Boys album, but it has the most  interesting music on it.  It's interesting how reality changes.  We're  somehow confined to our name, the Beach Boys; it confines you to a certain  image, but there's so much there that's so rich.

                 Q: The two most well-known moments of you singing lead vocals are "Help Me
                 Rhonda" and "Sloop John B.", yet, you also sang on "Vegetables" from the
                 aborted Smile project.  Wasn't Paul McCartney at that session?

    Paul helped produced a little bit of encouragement, and he and Brian just   chit-chatted while I was doing the lead.  A real interesting evening.   "Vegetables" is one of those unheralded and seldom heard tunes from the
                 "psychedelic era" of the Beach Boys.  We went through all these phases, just  like all the other '60s bands, yet ours were somewhat more subtle.  The Beatles were "a big explosion," Brian would say, and were kind of a quiet  and long-lasting one.  I always thought we should have done a concert  together with the Beatles.

                 Q:  All the other members of the Beach Boys have released solo albums except
                 for you...

      Why should I?  I like to be surrounded by harmonies and fullness and  richness and vitality.  Most people have to do it just to get it off their  chest, but what a waste of time.  I've been at the microphone, I've sang the  parts, I've stood next to the people that sang the parts, so I'm more or  less qualified to deliver the goods.  Why should I pander to anything else?

                 Q:  The Endless Harmony soundtrack/documentary was exciting for a lot of
                 Beach Boys fans, in the sense that it contained a bounty of unreleased
                 material, including "Loop de Loop (Flip Flop Flyin' in an Aeroplane)," a
                 1969 recording that you actually went in and finished this past year.

       That's a good example of digging into the treasury.  There's some  phenomenally diverse material on that.  It took me 29 years to finish that  song.  That's a typical Jardine move.  I've got another one in the can
                 that's just like it, called "Don't Fight the Sea."  It's pretty good, but I   just can't seem to get it finished.

                 Q:  Similarly, the just-released Ultimate Christmas CD contains 1964's The
                 Beach Boys' Christmas Album plus many of the tracks the band recorded in the
                 mid '70s for a Christmas album that never saw release.

       This additional, previously unreleased music will help to embellish it, and it brings a lot of originality to it.  A lot of those songs are not so highly produced and polished, because, unfortunately, we did the band tracks
                 in a makeshift studio in the Midwest.  We really tried to add some polish to  it up in my studio in Big Sur by adding a spacializer, which is a process by  which you kind of get a #D sound.  Hopefully that gave the songs a little  more depth.  On "Santa's Got an Airplane," for instance, you can hear the
                 sound of the engine going around the room and it spreads the stereo 180 degrees.  My boys, Matt and Adam, actually sing lead on one of the songs, "(I Saw Santa) Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree."

                 Q:  I understand that many of the '70s Beach Boys titles from your Warner
                 Bros. tenure are being reissued next year sometime.

     Those will be out in about March or April.  The Beach Boys Family and  Friends will be exploring a lot of that material, because those are our  favorites.  When the girls [Carnie and Wendy Wilson] were young, we were  literally making a lot of these records at Brian's house in the early '70s,
                 so the music's in their blood.  It's a dream come true for the girls to  finally be singing a lot of those songs.

                 Q:  What was your reaction when you first heard the backing tracks that
                 Brian had recorded for Pet Sounds prior to the band doing the vocals?

    Dismayed.  And that would probably be an understatement.  We'd been  traveling on the road with this music -- the jukebox was out there -- and  when we came back, here's this incredible wealth of material, and it took us  quite awhile to adjust to it.  We approached it like a job and to be brought  up to speed because this isn't music you could necessarily dance to; it was  more like music you could make love to.  Like that great Moody Blues album,  Days of Future Past, it had that kind of complexity to it, so it was quite a  departure.  Once we got the hang of it though, it was magic.  It wasn't easy, but if it was easy, everybody would be doing it.

                 Q:  That's an interesting response, considering that 30 years after it's
                 release, Pet Sounds is universally hailed as one of the most beloved albums of all time.

 Again, we're confined by our name to a certain criteria, and the messenger  is out there singing the leads, and you're confined to that form.  So, to break out of that mold you have to take chances, and that's what Brian was trying to do.  And here I am 30 years later, doing the same thing trying to express the wealth of music that doesn't fit into that early mold.  It's not that Mike's not doing a good job, but I'm just trying to represent the other 90 percent of the music.  It's like Huey Lewis and the News record, "Hip to Be Square."  We'll be hip without trying to be.


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