Beach Boys' Al Jardine on Touring With Brian Wilson: "We're Not Done Yet"

A charter member of the Beach Boys, Al Jardine deserves as much credit as anyone for steering their success. He met Brian Wilson soon after his family relocated to Hawthorne, California, and it was while the two were attending El Camino College that they first discussed the idea of creating a harmony-laden band. Although Jardine tried to convince the Wilson brothers that folk was the way to go, the idea of a rock 'n' roll band quickly took flight, and Jardine would not only embrace the concept but sang several of the songs that put them on pop turf.

He famously left the band in 1962 to pursue a white-collar career -- leaving an opening that guitarist David Marks soon filled -- but rejoined in the summer of 1963, making his most indelible impression when he took the lead on the band's number-one smash "Help Me Rhonda."

Jardine has also been a part of practically every Beach Boys incarnation, including, of course, last year's reunion tour. In the aftermath of singer Mike Love's decision to reclaim his ownership of the band's name, Jardine opted to continue on with Wilson and Marks, contributing to Wilson's album in progress and performing on the forthcoming tour featuring special guest Jeff Beck. We recently chatted with Jardine as he shared his thoughts on the state of the Beach Boys, past and present.

See also: Brian Wilson on Songwriting: "I'm Always Anxious to Make Each One Better"

New Times: How did you guys hook up with Jeff Beck? It seems like a kind of unlikely combination.

Al Jardine: I asked the same question [laughs]. Jeff and Brian hooked up at a rock 'n' roll fantasy camp. It turned out that Jeff was a huge Beach Boys fan and Brian Wilson fan, and one thing led to another, and their two management groups got together and decided that it might make some good chemistry. And that maybe the audiences will be compatible... We hope laughs]. It's an unusual coupling, I think, but we'll be doing some songs together, songs he's learned on the guitar -- which is his specialty, obviously -- and he'll be doodling on a little tune called "Surf's Up." We'll be opening he second set with some songs from Smile, and he'll accompany us, or we with him. He'll do the melody on guitar, and we'll accompany it with some vocals.

Can you tell us anything about Brian's new album that you and Beck are a part of?

There are a couple of interesting things. I got to sing the lead on my first car song. Well, I shouldn't say my first car song. It's actually my second car song, although we won't be doing it on this tour to my great disappointment. We'll probably pull it out for the spring/summer period... It's about a little souped-up coupe, and it's so cute. It's got all that great Beach Boys energy. It's called "Run, James, Run."

That sounds like a Beach Boys song from the outset.

Yeah, doesn't it? And it's got Jeff's guitar on it, and I'm singing the lead, and it's got that Brian Wilson magic.

Was it a foregone conclusion that you would be part of this tour with Brian?

Absolutely. We had a ball on the reunion tour, and we were thinking, "We're not stopping. We're not done yet." laughs] Maybe that other guy was ready to go back and be whatever he wanted to be as the "Beach Boys," but Brian and I and David are still creating. So this is our version of the reunion tour, doing a lot of similar songs but a lot of new ones too. We've been working on this quite a while. I was with Brian on the 2006 Pet Sounds tour, and then David joined recently for the reunion. So we're going, "Hey, we're having a good time. Why quit?"

With five great singers in the Beach Boys, how was it decided who would sing lead on a particular song?

I think Brian was hearing our voices in his head and thinking who would be the best for that particular part. I was involved at that time, and then "Help Me Rhonda" came along. I sounded more like Brian than anyone else did in the band, or do, or whatever the word is. laughs] So I had a little more punchiness -- my vocals are a little more punchy -- so we had different styles, and I suited that particular song really well, and it just unfolded from there. We worked together quite a long time, so we got to know each other pretty well.

Do you have a favorite Beach Boys album?

Believe or not, there's one that's extremely rare -- it was rare even for us -- called Love You. That one is really remarkable in its own way. Of course, Brian was stretching as a solo artist on that one, which was really cool. And I sang a really crazy song on that called "Honkin' Down the Highway," which I really dug, and then I put it on my solo album because I liked it so much. Man, that thing kicks butt! We haven't put it into this tour, but you never know.

Brian WIlson and Jeff Beck, with Al Jardine and David Marks, 7:30 p.m. Friday, September 27, at Hard Rock Live at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood. Tickets cost $59.25 to $96.60. Call 954-797-5531, or visit ticketmaster.com

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