By Allison Johnelle Boron
Asking any of the Beach Boys about slowing down is futile; the phrase “retirement plans” simply doesn’t seem to exist for them.
“You don’t retire what you love doing,” Al Jardine told me when we spoke in April 2012, just before the reunited Beach Boys launched into a whirlwind 50th anniversary tour. Beyond reuniting to hit the road, the And Jardine’s long-coming solo effort “A Postcard From California,” also was released.
Now, with the 50th reunion tour in the history books — as well as the 2012 releases of Jardine’s long-coming solo album “A Postcard From California” and The Beach Boys’ first studio album in 23 years, “That’s Why God Made The Radio” — Jardine has moved on to his next project: llive shows with Brian Wilson and former Beach Boys guitarist David Marks. (Dates appear at left.)
Goldmine: How are you?
Al Jardine: Pretty busy (laughs).
GM: I can imagine! I was reading up on your current projects with the ONE Agit8 campaign and Sean Lennon…
AJ: Oh, Sean Lennon (laughs). Sean’s a real Beach Boy fan. Loves Brian Wilson, loves the more esoteric things. He’s a real, pure soul. He’s all musician, all spirit and he doesn’t rest on his laurels. He’s gonna be an original, if he’s not already. He’s got a lot of talent.
We wanted to pay respect to his dad on this Bono charity experience that happened in June, during the G8 summit. Bono wanted to make a statement to the G8 to get off their butts and do something and get the debtor countries off the hook and, you know, he’s a guy waiting for a cause to happen. So, we got together and said, “Let’s give peace a chance.” [The campaign] is more for poverty; poverty is really at the root of all evil.
I had originally agreed to do something with Pete Seeger, actually, which is what got me involved, but then Pete pulled out of the deal for personal reasons with regard to some other issues. So, I ended up singing “If I Had a Hammer” with his producer. I love that song. It lifted my spirits. I was high as a kite.
And then, coincidentally after that session, we bumped into Sean Lennon at a coffee shop. We started yakkin’ about all kinds of Beach Boys history and his dad — he wanted to know more about his dad because I met John before, and it was really a nice evening. So, we all decided to have a crack at this iconic song [“Give Peace a Chance”] and came up with a Beach Boys arrangement for the chorus, and that’s really what it is, just a little treatment. And maybe it’s the start of something, who knows? I’d really like to finish the song, actually.
GM: And then release it — maybe as a single or on a future album?
AJ: It would be his thing, I would think, then he could use it. Who knows? It just depends on if it’s suitable. You know, it’s timely and it’s always timely. [There’s] always something going on somewhere that a song like this can reflect upon, like in Egypt and Syria right now. There’s always something going on.
I thought we should finish the verses, myself, and have some fun with that. It’s all about having some fun delivering a serious message. You can do both. And why not? But [Sean] is a busy guy. He’s the musical director for his mom, and I’m doing this Beach Boy thing — or trying to anyway.
GM: Of course, I wanted to talk about this summer. How did the tour with Brian and David come about? I’m guessing it was sparked by the reunion last year.
AJ: Yeah, you’re probably right. Brian’s also recording a new album, so it’s an offspringing of that. Although we won’t be doing the new songs on this particular leg of the tour, it’s still due to the fact that I’m obviously participating on his album, and David as well, and we would naturally want to go out, and continue to perform and finish what we started.
We really enjoyed the reunion tour and we’re greatly disappointed that we couldn’t continue performing with Mike [Love]. That was, to me, the epitome — the best thing we could have done for ourselves, for the fans and for the music. It was a perfect reunion, only to stop abruptly. It’s hard to stop or slow down a jumbo jet once it gets going, you know? (laughs) I was going to use the train analogy but, you know, once inertia sets in, who the hell needs it? We didn’t want to go back to the way it was; I didn’t want to go back to the way it was.
It’s as good as you’re gonna get it when you see Brian and David and Al — it’s the heart and soul of the Beach Boys. [We] may not be able to call ourselves the Beach Boys, but it’s the heart and soul of the music. And I think people will really enjoy hearing some new stuff that we didn’t do on the 50th. Then later this fall, after the album’s finished, we’ll probably add a few of those songs. It feels good. it’s a natural thing to continue to do what you were born to do. So why not?
I guess it’s strange to have two groups of touring Beach Boys on the road. It’s silly. But, we’re not calling ourselves “The Beach Boys,” so it’s a clear distinction between the two bands. One’s implied and one isn’t. One’s overtly — it is, and the other is doing just the opposite, I guess. We’re just doing what we do. And then of course everyone knows who we are. At least I hope everyone knows who we are!
We would love to have Mike and Bruce [Johnston] with us. It’s the most natural thing we could do. It’s the way it should be. I hope they change their minds.
GM: It doesn’t sound like there’s bad blood there.
AJ: No, there’s no bad blood. Those are some really nice people. It’s just unfortunate that we’re making people choose between one [group] or the other, in this economy especially. You can only go to so many concerts every year and there’s other music out there people want to listen to, so you have to make choices. Not just Beach Boy choices, but there are a lot of people touring, a lot of reunions happening. What happened to the Stones, are they finished?
GM: I think they’re overseas now. I know they just played Glastonbury.
AJ: How are they doing?
GM: I heard they’re doing around 20 songs in their set.
AJ: Twenty?! No way! That’s just gouging. Crazy. We did something like 60 songs, average of 50 a show [on the Beach Boys’ reunion tour]. That’s not right. I can’t believe it. They’re probably getting worn out or something. You know, just physically, it’s just so demanding. That show, when you think about it, there’s only one singer (laughs) — [Mick Jagger] jumps around like a 20-year-old kid.
On our tour, we get to trade leads around and enjoy watching the other guys sing, and we have so much more depth. We can pull out all the stops. We could do a three-hour show easily.
GM: You guys have an excellent backing band, too.
AJ: I know. We’re really lucky. We’ve got a heck of a lineup. And with Jeff Beck coming along, he’ll open the show with a little bit of a rock ‘n’ roll thing, and then he’ll probably join us on an encore. It’ll be great. It’ll be fantastic. Everything’s good. Full-steam ahead.
GM: Have you started rehearsing?
AJ: No, we start on the 16th of July. Our first show will be the 20th in Atlantic City, and then we’ll move onto the Midwest for a brief time and put our toe in the water and see what happens.
GM: And you’re thinking about more tour dates after the summer?
AJ: We have a whole schedule planned for the autumn, although we haven’t gotten it set yet so I can’t say when or where, but we do have one in Los Angeles at the Greek Theatre. There will be an official announcement.
GM: What can we expect from the set list?
AJ: A few new things. I’m going to try out “Don’t Fight the Sea” from my own album [“A Postcard From California.”] I like that one. We’ll do a big production onstage, and then I have a video that goes with it, but it’s pretty graphic — the fisheries taking a little too much for granted and the butchering of the seals up in the Alaskan areas. It’s probably not the right thing to show an audience. (laughs) I might be able to tone it down a little, but I don’t know, maybe it’s a good idea because we’re supposed to be protecting the oceans. We’ll see if this is the right venue for that. We’ll find out when we get to rehearsals.
Maybe we’ll do a folk song, but I don’t want to bore the audience. On “Surf’s Up,” there’s a tune called “Lookin’ At Tomorrow (A Welfare Song),” and it actually sounds pretty good, but I think it’s better suited for a club in the Village. Brian will do a couple of things from his solo projects. A beautiful, haunting tune, “Summer’s Gone,” will be the closer. We’ll do “That’s Why God Made the Radio,” and then of course the big hits. I think they still wanna do “Cottonfields,” although I don’t know why. It was never a big hit here. But why not? I think we’ll do “California Saga: California” again. And David Marks will be be singing the Dennis Wilson song called “Little Bird” — it’s a cute song, really charming.
So, there will be some new things that you haven’t heard on the 50th. And, of course, Brian will take some of the leads on the car songs. We won’t be doing too many of those, but I might take one myself. We’ll know better when we get there. I’m really looking forward to it. I love working with Brian; it’s nice to work with the architect. That’s how I see it. The music is the motherlode (laughs). It doesn’t get much better than that.
I think Brian — actually, all the Beach Boys — are on “Don’t Fight the Sea.” It should sound pretty darn good.
GM: I’m excited to hear it.
AJ: Brian sings my favorite part on there. I really enjoy working with him. That’s why we don’t stop. When you’re digging up the relics and you realize how great they are, these wonderful songs, it would be a crime not to do them.
GM: And I think a lot of people are expecting those deeper cuts from you guys in particular.
AJ: You’re right, and it deserves that. I’d like to do the whole Love You album. Man, those are some of the best songs we ever did. Oh, I hope we do “Honkin’ Down the Highway.”
GM: Please do “Honkin’ Down the Highway”!
AJ: That would be great. I’ll mention that. I think we should. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before. I’m glad we talked.
GM: I’m gonna take the credit for this, if you do that song.
AJ: (Laughs.) OK, I’ll give you the credit.