The Beach Boys kept music all in the family, with brothers Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson, along with cousin Mike Love, comprising 80 percent of the band's classic Rock & Roll Hall of Fame lineup. Guitarist Al Jardine, a school friend not related to his fellow Beach Boys co-founders, also keeps family members close to his musical circle.
Jardine, who will join Brian Wilson for a hits-filled tour has two sons — Matt and Adam — with first wife Lynda Sperry. Matt's “the high voice in the Brian Wilson band and in my band,” Jardine said. “Matt is my anchor. He gets out there and delivers the goods. He's the Brian Wilson strength we have, what we enjoyed all those years in The Beach Boys. He produces that terrific falsetto and sings a darn good lead, too.”
Matt, who also performed on some Beach Boys records and was a touring member of the group, plays guitar and sings on Jardine's 2010 album “A Postcard From California.” Adam and Mary Ann, Jardine's wife since 1983, also provide backing vocals on the set — reissued in 2012 with bonus tracks — while Jardine and Mary Ann's son Andrew — who has a twin, Robert — playing banjo.
“It's quite a family affair, Jardine quipped. Matt and Adam also appeared on their dad's 2001 release “Live in Las Vegas.” The album, credited to Al Jardine, Family & Friends, also featured Brian's daughters, Carnie and Wendy Wilson. As to whether the Jardine family will record a full album as a band, “it's all about the songwriting. I have a few of those in the can, come to think of it, so you never know. I have a lot of songs I didn't put on ‘Postcard.’”
Aside from Brian and other Beach Boys, “A Postcard From California” featured guests such as Glen Campbell, Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Steve Miller and Neil Young. A 24-bit vinyl release of the album, to feature a gatefold, will arrive on Record Store Day's Black Friday in November.
Beach Boys go ‘Surfin'’
Born in Lima, Ohio, Jardine's family moved west when he was a young child, eventually settling in Hawthorne, California, where The Beach Boys — initially named The Pendletones — formed in 1961. Aside from the classic lineup, other prominent Beach Boys members through the years include David Marks and Bruce Johnston, the latter who still tours with Love under The Beach Boys moniker. Following the group's first single, “Surfin',” Jardine briefly left in 1962.
After signing with Capitol Records, The Beach Boys released its first album, “Surfin' Safari,” in 1962. Sophomore effort “Surfin' U.S.A.” yielded the smash title track, which became the band's first top 10 single on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. Jardine returned in a limited capacity in 1963 for third album “Surfer Girl,” when “Brian Wilson came along and said, ‘you gotta come help me out. Then I came back to work. Except it's not work, it's fun.” Jardine was back full-time for fourth album “Little Deuce Coupe.”
Starting with “Surfer Girl,” Brian — who stepped back as a stage member in 1965 to focus on writing and producing for the group — produced nine consecutive Beach Boys studio albums, up through 1966's “Pet Sounds.” Regarded as one of the greatest albums ever made, “Pet Sounds” was central to “Love & Mercy,” a 2015 biographical drama film focusing on Brian and his struggles with mental illness during the 1960s and 1980s. (Both Brian and Al have praised the movie for its accurate depiction of events.)
In 2016, Brian kicked off a tour celebrating the 50th anniversary of “Pet Sounds.” The classic set spun-off hits like “Wouldn't it Be Nice,” “God Only Knows” and “Sloop John B.” The latter, a folk-rock adaptation of the traditional folk song, later inspired Jardine to write the 2005 children's book “Sloop John B: A Pirate's Tale.”
During The Beach Boys' 1963-1966 heyday, the group scored 13 of its 15 top 10 singles, including “Fun, Fun, Fun,” “California Girls” and “Barbara Ann,” plus three No. 1s: “I Get Around,” “Help Me, Rhonda” — on which Jardine sang lead — and “Good Vibrations.” The Beach Boys, inductees in the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, scored a fourth No. 1 with the 1988 comeback hit “Kokomo.” Two of the band's albums were No. 1 sellers: 1964's Beach Boys Concert and the 1974 compilation “Endless Summer.”
Outside of select shows and appearances, Brian — a Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee — had not performed as a regular touring member of The Beach Boys since 1965, until he, Jardine and Marks joined Love and Johnston for a 50th anniversary tour in 2012. (Two original Beach Boys had passed on: Dennis, who drowned in 1983, and Carl, who succumbed to lung cancer in 1998.) That same year, The Beach Boys released its 29th studio album, “That's Why God Made The Radio,” the band's first album of original material since 1992's “Summer in Paradise” and its first top 10-selling album since 1976.
Since the reunion tour, Jardine, enlisted for several tracks on Brian's 2015 album “No Pier Pressure,” has performed with his own band and with Brian's. The Beach Boys — of which Brian and Jardine remain members, despite not touring with Love and Johnston — continue to prosper, 57 years since scoring its first hit. A new album, “The Beach Boys with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,” pairs the group's original vocals with new symphonic arrangements. In addition, “Good Vibrations: The Beach Boys Channel” runs through the summer on SiriusXM's Channel 4, and every November/December, the 1963 single “Little Saint Nick” returns to spread some holiday cheer.
Jardine recently spoke about his early days. (Brian, who recently spent time at a rehabilitation facility recovering from major back surgery, was unavailable for an interview at the time.)
The Beach Boys has influenced countless acts. Who influenced the band?
We all had our influences. Mine were The Kingston Trio and The Weavers, and the folk movement of the late 1950s. Also, doo-wop and rock and roll, for that matter. I have to give Chuck Berry, the founding father of the rhythm guitar, a little credit. Most of the early Beach Boys stuff was based on his rhythm patterns. That's pretty important stuff.
Brian and I loved The Four Freshmen. A lot of our harmonies were rooted in those chord structures, in Freshman harmonies. The Beach Boys were a mélange of many kinds of influences and somehow, it all worked out. We ended up doing surf music, which is even more ironic. That was Dennis Wilson's idea. Funny how things work out.
You and Brian played on the Hawthorne High School football team. Did you really become good friends after a play-gone-bad?
He went one way and I went the other. Of course, he had the ball, everybody kinda knew where the ball was going. I broke my leg. To this day, he's still apologizing for it. I tell him, “Stop, stop with that, it wasn't your fault.” That's what I tell him, anyway. It really wasn't. Someone else screwed him up. It was a chain reaction of events. Football's a crazy, pretty serious sport. It's so violent. I love watching it, but I'm so grateful I don't have to play. It's so difficult on your whole psyche. I always say, stick to music, and watch it on TV. Play soccer — that's a great game.
What led you guys to start playing music?
I admired his off-the-field, even more so than on-the-field, accomplishments. He had a little musical group he used to perform in. I became enamored of that style, the Four Freshmen high-low style of music. I had my own folk group, so I don't know how those influences ended up on a song about surfing, but somehow we imprinted our own musical identify at that point in time. Hot rods and surfing — it just happened that way.
We became fast friends around the studio. We tormented the music teachers at El Camino College. We would sneak in and use the piano between classes, and teachers would get very upset with us for using their piano. We finally decided to get together with his brothers and cousin and do it as his house. We kept our relationship to a musical one, from the gridiron to the recording studio. We translated our passion for music into the first of its kind. We put lyrics to the Southern California passion of surfing. Not just Southern California — it translated across the world. “If everybody had an ocean...”
Initially, you wanted the band to record folk music. Your idea was shot down pretty quickly?
I thought we were going to record “Sloop John B” or something like that, but I had to wait my turn. I got to finally show Brian my idea for an arrangement. He loved it and he produced a great version of one of my favorite folk songs. I had to add a couple extra chords to make it complete, which worked really well for the vocal harmony.
Had things gone your way, do you think The Beach Boys' career would have turned out differently?
I think it would have. Folk music was dying out by then. It's a good thing we were able to transform ourselves. The Four Freshman and the folk-music era was coming to an end. We transformed those styles into Beach Boy music, popular music. It all worked out for the best.
(At this point, Jardine hears the pounding of keyboards.)
Are you typing? I thought you were recording this. Congratulations. I wrote a song about typing, “A Postcard from California.” My dad was a typist. We moved from upstate New York to California on the back of his typewriter. There's a line in the song, “I knew I was doing good, they typed it on an Underwood.” He had a Royal Typewriter. The Underwood is the one everyone seems to know about.
In the late 1960s and 1970s, you took on more duties in the band. Was that a natural progression for you?
We all started producing more, because Brian was starting to get tired. He just exhausted himself. We kinda took over the reins. We do one of those songs, “Susie Cincinnati,” in concert now. We all took on bigger roles after the big hits.
Aside from instigating the “California Sound,” in what other ways has the band left its mark?
You have to come to my show to find that out. (laughs) There's too much to tell you. We influenced The Beatles, that's for sure. The Beatles love our stuff, as we do theirs. Paul McCartney loves The Beach Boys. “God Only Knows” is his favorite song, according to his testimony. He’s a great admirer. Brian and he are about the same age, have the same qualities, and appreciate one another, as we do them.