By Noe Gutierrez
Al Jardine, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter, is best known for being one of the founding members of the California-based group The Beach Boys. He met Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson, Mike Love and David Marks after his family moved to Hawthorne, California from Ohio. They formed The Beach Boys and with their perfect harmonies and original tunes about surfing, beaches, hot rods and California girls, became the Rock ‘n’ Roll voice of the West Coast.
Jardine sang the lead on the No. 1 hit Help Me Rhonda. He also wrote or co-wrote a good number of songs, most notably on the albums Holland, Carl and the Passions—So Tough, Surf’s Up, and Sunflower. Jardine continued to tour with The Beach Boys throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and again on their 50th anniversary tour and the 50 year celebration of their groundbreaking album Pet Sounds.
Jardine will again join Brian Wilson and another Beach Boy, Blondie Chaplin at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino on Sunday, September 1st for the “Something Great from ‘68 Tour” with The Zombies. The show will highlight tracks from the classic Beach Boys albums Friends and Surf’s Up. Tickets are available at fantasyspringsresort.com or at the Fantasy Springs Box Office.
Coachella Valley Weekly spoke with Jardine via phone as he maneuvered through a fog bank in Northern California eating a croissant.
CVW: How are you Al? What are you up to at the moment?
Jardine: “I’m eating a croissant, it’s what The Beach Boys do when they’re not singing, ha ha!”
CVW: The Beach Boys aren’t necessarily known for their political stances. What’s your perspective on politics and those who do speak out?
Jardine: “We’re fortunate enough that we have a different message, music lifts everybody’s spirits, hopes and dreams. When some of our co-conspirators in music go political, I wince a little, I think it makes us a little bitter, to take a position on something and pretty soon you start to alienate folks doing that. You may win some over, but you alienate others. I don’t know if there’s any way to win that one. Fortunately, we have wonderful music and we’ve made great friends which dovetails nicely into the title of our show, Something Great from ’68! I believe our collective destiny is to find equality and reach the whole idea of democracy.”
CVW: You’re featuring songs from your 1968 studio album Friends. The album is very concise and, at the time, did not sell very well when it was released but your fans consider it one of your best. I’m happy you’ll be sharing it with us.
Jardine: “Yes, our album Friends was released in 1968. It corresponds well into what The Zombies did with their great music. It should be an evening to remember. We’ll perform the title track from Friends, it was a lesser known and less commercial album, but the music isn’t necessarily less. It has a lot of important messages. It’s about coming together during difficult times, which we have enough of right now.”
CVW: Your most recent solo album, A Postcard from California (2010), has some really great original solo work as well as versions of The Beach Boys hits, not to mention the all-star line-up.
Jardine: “That was a lot of fun to make. A lot of friends came along with me on that and helped make it my dream come true. It’s great to have lifelong friends. There’s still a lot of us still working and working together. They were all there for me. The album includes Neil Young, Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Steve Miller, Glen Campbell, Gerry Beckley & Dewey Bunnell from America, Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers and Alec Baldwin, plus all the remaining Beach Boys, including the late Carl Wilson. And Matt Jardine, my son and 6th Beach Boy. He gave me all those high parts for the album, and he does it in the Brian Wilson show. He’s also recording on Brian’s new album. His voice is like a teenager. He’s in his early 50’s. He’s managed to continue to add those wonderful high tones that Brian started out doing when he was in his 20’s.”
CVW: Did you or The Beach Boys ever come across the Coachella Valley in the early days?
Jardine: “I’m sure we did. Not a great deal. We were pretty much Southern California guys and more coastal dwellers. We didn’t get out too much further than that because you had to own a car that would drive that far. Most of us had clunkers. I used to take Dennis surfing in my car and it barely made it there and back. We didn’t get to the desert on a regular basis until later in life.”
CVW: You have another musician son, Adam. What’s he up to?
Jardine: “He’s doing fine. He’s in the furniture business. He hasn’t been singing with us for a while, but I may recruit him for a round of Endless Summer dates with Carnie and Wendy. We do storytelling dates. It’s fun. We have some gigs coming up and SoCal gigs in October and November. I also have my 6th Beach Boy, my son Matt and a wonderful composer and musician Jeff Alan Ross is my keyboardist.”
CVW: Your current band with Brian Wilson seems to be top-notch. You recently lost a member, guitarist Nicky Wonder, co-founder of the Wondermints.
Jardine: “Nicky Wonder was our powerhouse guitar guy. He had all the Pet Sounds. He even had a Fender guitar with a Brian Wilson channel. He was great, may he rest in peace. The band is made up of perfectionists. They’re dedicated to reproducing the music note for note so you hear everything the way it was recorded. We have twelve folks up there. It’s a lot. It’s time consuming getting blends in our in-ear monitors. It’s never the same. One evening is different than the next without fail. You think it’s all locked in and you’re trying to get the best blend that you can perform to. You’re really in the hands of the engineer/monitor mixer. We’re usually pretty satisfied, we have a really great crew. We’re a team.”
CVW: After rehearsing with the band what are some of your favorite songs to perform?
Jardine: “Surf’s Up is my favorite and a couple of other songs. Surf’s Up is just magical. The lyrics are magical. The performance and music are magical. It’s counterintuitive. It’s Brian Wilson at his best. There’s another song on the Friends album called Busy Doin’ Nothin’ that we’ll be playing. It’s a completely different tune with a Bossa nova style. Brian does this amazing vocal and the chord changes are amazing. They’re so outside the Beach Boy idiom. We asked ourselves, ‘where did he figure that one out?’ It couldn’t be more different than Surf’s Up. Another one is ‘Til I Die from Surf’s Up. Brian at his moody best. It’s truly a masterpiece as well. We do a smattering of songs from the Friends album.”
CVW: Your relationship with Brian spans almost 60 years. That’s an astounding amount of time to wrap my head around.
Jardine: “We’re like old buddies who survived a couple of World Wars. We’ve been through it all together. He’s a survivor and so am I. The music will out survive us both. Which is amazing. This particular show will be quite refreshing.”
CVW: How mindful are you of the moment and your history in rock and roll?
Jardine: “The moments pass so quickly, it’s the thing that I find that’s a mind-blower. We kind of live in the future a lot. I’m thinking about the next show, like an athlete thinks of the next game, we’re constantly planning. The moments on stage are pretty cool. They’re always challenging. There’s always something we can do better. Very seldom do I say, ‘that was a great show’. It’s more, ‘I really screwed that up’. I think we’re mindful of trying to be as good as we can. The moment is there for the audience more than it is for us. We’re just the messengers.”