By David Beard
While 1966’s “Pet Sounds” remains one of The Beach Boys’ finest hours, it was 1965’s “Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!)” that featured two of the group’s biggest hits to date — “California Girls” and “Help Me, Rhonda.” Most of the album’s construct resides in the band’s previously established fun-in-the-sun imagery, but below the surface there are displays of growth in terms of composition, arrangement and production (e.g. “Salt Lake City” and “Let Him Run Wild”).
In the late Carl Wilson’s words, “‘Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!)’ was a turning point; that album sticks out. Brian [Wilson]was really getting into a very expansive stream of energy. We could see that he was opening up and making very serious music, and it was serious rock ’n’ roll music, which made it complete.”
Endless touring and recording was the regimen for The Beach Boys in 1965, and although Al Jardine missed the photo shoot he still remembers those days fondly.
Let’s discuss the songs.
Al Jardine: “The Girl From NY City” was a Beach Boys version of the Ad-Libs’ song “The Boy From NY City” from earlier in the year.
This had a very happy-go-lucky feel to it. I think the inspiration for “Amusement Parks U.S.A” and “Salt Lake City” [both] came from the Salt Lake City Lagoon that we loved to play every year. It was a magical time. It was like being in a time warp (I think). It felt like we were back in the 1940s and ’50s doing these big ballroom dances, which were so popular in that era. People actually danced to the music, they didn’t sit and listen.
We set attendance records every year … it became an annual affair. That’s the kind of vibe we were having with our fans and [even] the promoters at that time. Everybody was pretty happy with The Beach Boys. It was reciprocal feeling, and we always set attendance records.
Bill Hesterman was the deacon in the Mormon Church — he never prophet-eltized (sic) or tried to push his particular faith on us. He was just a normal guy with a great radio voice and just promoted the heck out of The Beach Boys. That spilled over to the promoting of the Lagoon.
In 1968, Bill took us out to the Salt Flats out there at another old ballroom called the Salt Palace that had since — literally — started to fall into the Salted Sea in the Great Salt Lake. In the 1940s, there was a dance hall out there. The lake shrank away and Bill thought it would be a great place to have pictures taken. So we were sitting on pier pylons and goofing around in the sand out there. You can imagine that the Salt Palace was a hell of a place, and it must have really rocked… The Lagoon was our Salt Palace.
Everything was heading in a real positive direction in 1965. Did you sense that the music you were recording in the studio represented the crest of music that would still stand up today?
Jardine: We were fundamentally just keeping up with the pace of the productivity. You could feel it growing at an accelerated rate. Brian was always waiting for us to come home from touring. He got inpatient and began experimenting with other musicians. This was the turning point.
What do you remember about recording “Help Me Rhonda?”
Jardine: I have no memory of the first version of the “Today” version album version, except that I thought it was odd because Brian kept messing with the fader… It went loud then soft, then loud and soft… and I thought, “This is never gonna work.” For the single we had a highly charged session. All the families came and sat around with refreshments. I remember sitting out in the studio listening to the guys singing their background parts on playback. It was hard articulating certain rhythms that Brian wanted, and I heard it a little differently. I stretched out “Rhonda you caught my eye…” Then Murry Wilson would butt in, totally take over… Ultimately, the song went to No. 1.
“California Girls” is a monster song. Carl played the 12-string through the board. Brian and I discussed how incredible that sound was. We got a very special sound by isolating Carl from the band. I used the same technique in 1979 for the intro for “Lady Lynda.”
Brian thinks he sounds like a girl on “Let Him Run Wild.” What do you think of it?
Jardine: I loved it. That was a great production with the Wrecking Crew. It’s a wonderful arrangement from Brian. He started to up the ante… Listen to that horn chart; it’s pretty heavy. Brian would write the parts out himself the night before and he’d be all ready to go the next day.
“You’re So Good To Me” has a bit of a Motown/Beatles vibe.
Jardine: I think The Beatles picked more up from us.
I remember how hilarious that session was … Brian would have us in the studio as soon as we returned from the road, because he was so impatient to get us back in the studio. We started laughing around the microphone so hard that I couldn’t stop laughing. The actual muscular requirement to sing the “la la la la la la la’s” made my tongue start to freeze up — literally — from the exertion after being on the road for so many months. It was like doing 10 extra wind sprints after a football practice. It was one of the few times that I couldn’t finish my part. It’s so funny, and such a good memory to have. I completely lost control of myself and fell on the floor laughing.
On “Summer Means New Love” you hear that “Pet Sounds” is just around the corner.
Jardine: You sure do.
What about “I’m Bugged At My Ol’ Man”?
Jardine: That’s a total throwaway… Sometimes when you don’t have enough material for an album there’s always a clunker. There’s obviously some psychological significance too, because he was really bugged at Murry. It’s just Brian venting.
“And Your Dreams Come True”?
Jardine: That’s a return to the Four Freshman on that one. That comes from the “Baa-Baa Black Sheep” melody.
We used to practice our harmonies on that song… That and “Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring.” We used to love singing that one. That’s brought back some memories… Boy is that a great arrangement! It’s a beautiful extrapolation of total quality. We never sang that one together after that. I could write up an arrangement real quick and do it with my band. I still remember all the parts.
Photos courtesy of ESQuarterly
To learn all about the recording sessions be sure to visit ESQuarterly.com and order the Summer 2010 edition dedicated to the Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!!) album.
Today, The Beach Boys are in the early phases on plans for their 50th anniversary in 2011. This year, you can find a new complimentary CD in the summer edition of Endless Summer Quarterly, the world’s leading Beach Boys publication. The collection brings together Jardine, with bandmates Brian Wilson, Mike Love, David Marks and Dean Torrence (of Jan & Dean). The set also includes music by Dennis Wilson, Carl Wilson and Jan Berry (see the story on page 38 for more information)..
David M. Beard is the editor and publisher of Endless Summer Quarterly. In addition to his 17-year tenure with ESQ, he has served as consultant for VH1’s “Jan & Dean — Behind The Music,” “Glen Campbell — Behind The Music” and A&E’s “Jan & Dean — The Other Beach Boys”; and co-written liner notes for the Dennis Wilson “Pacific Ocean Blue — Legacy Edition” and “Jan & Dean — The Complete Liberty Singles.”
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