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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 4:38 pm | Fair 62º

 
 
 
 

Jeff Moehlis: In Advance of Paso Robles Show, Beach Boys’ Al Jardine Talks ‘Heroes and Villains’

Al Jardine was a founding member of The Beach Boys, and apart from a year off in the early days, he was a key member of the band up until 1998. He was also part of the 50th anniversary reunion tour that visited the Santa Barbara Bowl in the summer of 2012.

You can hear Jardine’s harmonies and/or playing on many classic Beach Boys recordings, including “Surfin’ Safari,” “I Get Around,” “California Girls,” “Barbara Ann,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Good Vibrations,” and many more. His best-known lead vocal is on the No. 1 hit “Help Me Rhonda.” He also brought the song “Sloop John B” to Brian Wilson’s attention, and helped to arrange The Beach Boys’ version. His songwriting credits include “California Saga: California” and “Susie Cincinnati.”

Jardine and musical genius Brian Wilson will be performing  Saturday at the Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.

Jardine talked to Noozhawk about the upcoming show. Click here for the full interview.

                                                                        •        •

Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at the upcoming show?

Al Jardine: Well, you’ll get quite a mixture of things. We’re kind of all over the map, actually. We do some hits from the ’60s, some very interesting songs from the ’70s, and a smattering of stuff from the ’80s. It’s just a heckuva show. Every show is different — you never know what you’re going to get! The song selection’s really interesting, with different eras of The Beach Boys.

JM: If you don’t mind going way back, can you tell me about when you first met Brian Wilson?

AJ: Whew ... We played football together. The first time I met Brian was on the team, football practice. We chatted a little bit. We didn’t know each other personally, other than we’d pass each other on campus and shared some of the same classes. But we didn’t actually strike up a friendship until after we began The Beach Boys. My second year of college we hooked up and started singing together, and then he introduced me to his family, and that’s when everything started taking off.

JM: When you started playing together, was there an instant spark or did that take a while to develop?

AJ: It was instantaneous. He was so into the Four Freshmen, and he was showing me all of these fabulous songs on the piano, and I was showing him a couple of folk songs like “Sloop John B,” for instance. And he was showing me a Four Freshmen tune. We were all over the map. Man, we were having a ball. He said, “You’ve got to meet my cousin, Mike (Love). You’ve got to meet my little brother, Carl,” you know.

I rented some instruments for the first record. I went over and rented all of the equipment and we made our little song called “Surfin’.”

JM: And the rest is history, as they say, right?

AJ: Yeah.

JM: The first song that you sang lead for was “Help Me Rhonda.” How was it decided who would sing the lead on the different songs?

AJ: That was Brian. And that wasn’t my first song, by the way. “Christmas Day” was my very first song, on the Christmas album. But I think his instinct was, hey, the guys are going out 150 days a year. We’d better spread the leads around. (laughs) That would be my guess. I never really asked Brian about it, to be honest with you.

He gave Carl, of course, the lead to “Good Vibrations,” which he could easily have done himself. He was smart. That way he kept himself off the road. He didn’t like to tour. I think that was his way of keeping us all working (laughs) and him off the road.

He knew what keys we all sang in and what best would suit each singer. You know, Mike had those early hits, but that was a certain quality of song, a certain kind of presentation. And then as you grow musically you want a different kind of presentation.

JM: Here’s a question based on the song “Heroes and Villains.” In the story of The Beach Boys, who do you think were the “heroes” and ... maybe you don’t want to say who the “villains” are.

AJ: Is this a leading question? (both laugh) We’re all heroes. I think all of us.

Mike and Brian were first cousins, and they had a relationship that helped cement the musical and lyrical direction of the band from the beginning. Carl was a hero because he was the moral center of the band, also a hell of a guitar player. And Dennis (Wilson), who didn’t even play an instrument, learned to play the drums.

He gave me a lot of trouble over the years. He said, “I hate this song” — “Help Me Rhonda.” I said, “What do you mean?” “I have to hit the drums every quarter note. It’s gonna put me in the hospital.”

Just kidding, I’m overdoing it. But the hardest song he said, on the stage, was “Help Me Rhonda.” Because he played the drums kind of backward. He was an untrained drummer, but had really great time, and great energy. You know, we’d always kid around about “Help Me Rhonda” because that was the one that gave him the most trouble.

All of them are heroes.

JM: I saw the 50th anniversary show a couple of years ago in Santa Barbara. What are your reflections on that tour?

AJ: It was great, and unfortunately came to a close too soon. I would have loved to have seen it go into another year, which is so pragmatic, so logical. But due to certain members of the band it just wasn’t to be. We kind of were hobbled. We added dates, we added up to 74 dates — we added 24 extra dates. It was great while it lasted. We were just getting our motors going, you know, and I would have loved to have seen it continue.

JM: Well, I’m sure that this upcoming show will be wonderful. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me.

AJ: You’re very welcome. My pleasure.

Click here for the full interview with Al Jardine of The Beach Boys.

— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

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