For many years, David Marks, a founding member of The Beach Boys, was a mere footnote in music history, a forgotten figure relegated to an obscure answer in a rock trivia game.
In the candid new tome, “The Lost Beach Boy,” Marks finally tells his story. Penned by Marks and Beach Boys authority Jon Stebbins, the book shatters the mythology surrounding his role in the band. Ultimately, “The Lost Beach Boy” restores Marks’ rightful place in the Beach Boys’ saga and, in the process, offers a wealth of fascinating insight into the group’s formative years. The following is Part 1 of a two-part interview.
Goldmine: In the book, you speak about sneaking over to the Wilsons’ home and watching Brian painstakingly practice.
David Marks: I would always be busting in at the house over there every day. Sometimes there wasn’t anyone at home except for Brian, and he would be playing the piano. And I was fascinated by what he was doing, so I would kind of spy on him through a window and watch him in the music room. I watched him quite a few times when he was working out harmonies. He was studying The Four Freshmen. His method was to play the same three or four notes over and over again on the stereo. When he had it in his head, he would take it over to the piano and sing it. Carl and I used the same method Brian did to learn guitar parts by Chuck Berry, The Ventures, Dick Dale [and] Duane Eddy.
As we were unveiling the statue at the Hawthorne landmark a few years ago, I sheepishly confessed to Brian that, as a kid, I used to spy on him when he was at the piano working out arrangements. He half smiled and said he knew, and that it was OK I was there watching. I always felt like I was kinda on the outside as far as the Beach Boys go, so when Brian told me it was OK with him that I was part of that private musical world of his, it finally dawned on me that I spent a lot of time needlessly feeling excluded from those guys, and it really helped me embrace my past and got me into the right frame of mind to work with Jon on this book.
GM: How did you come to join The Beach Boys?
DM: Joining the Beach Boys is kind of an elusive thing, because I had been involved with the Wilsons’ musical endeavors as soon as I moved in across the street. The music evolved, and I was just normally there every day.
The Beach Boys band slowly evolved; it wasn’t an overnight thing. It was like, one day Brian was playing the piano, and he heard Carl and I playing guitar, and he recruited us to play along with what he was playing on piano, which turned out to be “Surfer Girl.” So he had us doing that little strumming thing on “Surfer Girl.” He was intrigued that Carl and I were so into Chuck Berry. The surf instrumental thing was a big thing for us, and Carl and I were really into that. Brian wanted to incorporate the reverb unit, big Fender guitar sound that was happening at the time.
GM: It’s amazing to realize that in early 1962 The Beach Boys were playing small gigs and less than a year later, in October of 1962, you were performing onstage at The Hollywood Bowl.
DM: Early on, we had played a couple of local things around and played a party at Milton Berle’s house for his daughter’s birthday. Gigging back then was very exciting.