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Step inside The Beach Boys' world, 50 years in the making

A lot has been written over the last 50 years about The Beach Boys. While the group has had more downs than ups in recent years, its fan base remains as loyal as ever.

By David Beard

A lot has been written — and re-written — over the last 50 years about The Beach Boys, some of it exaggerated to the point of pure fiction. A lot of it, however, is right on the money. Perhaps the most notorious period is from 1966-67, during the “Smile” sessions, (finally released November 2011), which mythically pitted The Beach Boys against one another. Since those times, the group has had more downs than ups, but The Beach Boys’ fan base remains as loyal as ever ... particularly those who immediately understood that the band’s creative wheel turned and churned in Brian Wilson’s mind, without whom The Beach Boys never would have reached the iconic status they hold today.

As for the 50th anniversary, it was inevitable that the group would return to the studio and release a 29th album. Brian Wilson went into the studio – according to reports — thinking this was it ... the end of the road with the band. And, although Joe Thomas is Wilson’s main collaborator on “That’s Why God Made The Radio,” the new songs that Brian and cousin Mike Love have written together are a dynamic reminder of why we fell in love with The Beach Boys’ sound in the first place, and kept right on loving it throughout the last five decades. Rich harmonies, dynamic chord progressions and arrangements, classic lyrics, strangely inviting chord changes: It’s all here. If you love The Beach Boys’ early sound, you’ll be pleased. If you favor the “Sunflower,” “Surf’s Up” and “Holland” era, you’re in for a pleasant revelation, as well.

Beach Boys 1962 Capitol Records Photo Archives

The Beach Boys in 1962, with David Marks, Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, Brian Wilson and Carl Wilson. Capitol Records Photo Archives.

It may surprise you when you read the interviews that follow that Wilson really is having a good time, and because of it, he is willing to continue working with the group. Along with this positive news, Al Jardine and David Marks each share thoughts about the recent sessions, touring environment and the group’s legacy, which began in Hawthorne, Calif., some 60 years ago, when 10-year-old Brian Wilson’s parents, Murry and Audree, converted the garage into a music room.

It wasn’t long before Wilson had his little brother, Carl, singing along with their mother. Middle brother Dennis was a troubled youth, but — at Audree’s insistence — landed in the group as the drummer. Dennis, the surfer, inspired Brian and cousin Mike Love to write a song about surfing, and the rest is literally history.

Beach Boys at piano Capitol Photo Archives

As Brian Wilson plays piano, members of The Beach Boys (fron left) Al Jardine, Mike Love, Dennis Wilson and Carl Wilson gather. Copyright Captiol Photo Archives.

Goldmine: How does it feel to be together without Dennis and Carl present?
Brian Wilson: They’re on tape ... We’ve got them on tape in our catalogue.
Mike Love: I think emotionally they’re around, by virtue of the fact that they’re Brian’s brothers and my first cousins. They are missed, and they are part of the history of everything ... They’ll be a part of any new compilation album coming out [purportedly titled “50 Big Ones”]. You know, whenever we do “God Only Knows” in concert ... Carl’s there, because nobody ever did that song any better than he did. He sounded wonderful on it. It’s obviously an emotional drag to consider the fact that a couple of your relatives aren’t there. The beautiful thing about music is, if you’ve got the right performers, you can replicate those songs beautifully. We’re fortunate to have myself, Brian, Alan Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks. We’re there — particularly in concert — to do some great renditions of our songs.
Alan Jardine: That’s the only bummer. Boy ... those guys checked out too early. It’s just really, really weird. It feels weird, particularly with Carl. Dennis left us much earlier, but they obviously had their own timetable for leaving us. It’s like a football team. You always think, “How are we going to do it without that guy?” ... Then his backup comes and gets a chance to prove himself. In a way, David has come back into the fold to fill a missing gap, and John Cowsill is kind of a maniac drummer like Dennis was. It kind of has that same good vibe to it.
David Marks: The five of us hadn’t officially worked together as a unit, but we have all worked together enough and spent enough time together at different points over these 50 years that it doesn’t really occur to me. The way I see it is that the original band is back together — the core six from the early days, and Bruce was only a few years behind the rest of us. Of course, Dennis and Carl will be missed tremendously, but I think we are all in a good place and feeling nostalgic.

Beach Boys at Malibu Beach house 2012 Guy Webster

Like they have done hundreds of times before, Beach Boys (from left) Bruce Johnston, Al Jardine, Mike Love and David Marks gather around the paino with Brian Wilson at the keyboard. Guy Webster photo.

GM: What do you attribute to the group’s staying power?
DM: It has to do with the positive message — the fun, the escape, the ideal of what California means. People want to relive their happiest memories of youth and summer by sharing the music with their children, and now grandchildren. In many cases, The Beach Boys have become a family tradition that unites the generations. I’ve said many times how much it amazes and touches me to see little children, 80-year-olds and every age in between all singing along and dancing at shows.

GM: Do you feel limited when it comes to writing because of The Beach Boys’ name?
ML: Nah, it doesn’t even enter into the picture at all. The Beach Boys is a name we were given 50 years ago. That has never limited us in terms of what kind of music or subject matter that we do. It’s never been a limitation. It’s just a name that’s pretty catchy ... and it stuck with us.

Beach Boys Pet Sounds session

Brian Wilson (second from left) directs Beach Boys (from left) Bruce Johnston, Al Jardine and Dennis Wilson during a recording session for "Pet Sounds." Copyright Capitol Photo Archives.

GM: What’s it like for you to watch Brian working in the studio again after all these years?
ML: Well, it’s cool, because Brian will go over to the piano, and he’ll play some chords on a section of a song, and you go, “Wow, that’s cool!” Not everybody can craft those chord progressions and harmonies like Brian can. He’s the best ever at that kind of thing. It’s really exciting! It’s really a pleasure to be around the piano with Brian playing part of a song: “Here’s your part (Mike), here’s Al’s part, here’s Brian’s part, here’s Bruce’s part,” etc. It all comes together so naturally. It’s exciting, because there’s this unique kind of creativity in terms of vocals and vocal arrangements that Brian brings to the recording process. Brian’s come up with great tracks, great songs — and hopefully, I did them justice with the lyrics I was asked to write.

GM: You haven’t worked in the studio with these guys for a while.
Joe Thomas: A lot was the same. These guys really have a formula in how they do things. I can only imagine what it was like in the early days, but that formula still seems to stay true. Mike very much takes the lead on the live shows, touring, set lists, etc. I remember in 1996, when I played Fan Fair with The Beach Boys and Carl was around. I was backstage, and Mike was very hands-on with the set list and how one song intertwined into another. Carl was there to add a few comments, and Mike was very receptive to listen, but he was very much the field general once we were on stage.
When we were doing “Stars And Stripes,” when we were in the studio ... Brian was always the field general in the studio. It was always amazing to me how each individual respected each other’s role, and how they adhered to it. It was very orderly. When Mike is in the studio, Brian is the complete, 100 percent boss. Mike will make suggestions, but Brian — after two suggestions — will say, “Nope,” and it’s shut down. The same thing is the other way. Brian has a lot of confidence in Mike and his ability to work the crowd into a frenzy and pace the shows. He gets a real hoot out of Mike on stage. I’ve been out on the road now with these guys dozens of times now between 1996 and now. And when they are together, Brian really does appreciate and respect the way Mike can maneuver through a crowd. When I did “Stars And Stripes,” it was fun and kind of right in my bull’s-eye as (a country music) label president. I got to help produce the record, and it was fun. But, let’s sit here and think about this: What major group can do this? Nobody. To have a No. 3 debut record, No. 1 on Amazon… Battling with Adele for the No. 1 spot in the country. Not in a category; this is the Top 200 Billboard charts! Everybody is in the mix. To think that The Beach Boys — after so many years — would have their highest debut ever has been the biggest kick I’ve ever gotten in my entire life to be a small part of that happening. I’ve never seen Brian happier. When we were in Cincinnati and Cleveland, he was skipping around asking, “How many records did we sell?”

GM: What was the most challenging aspect of getting these songs recorded?
JT: With these guys, you have to be patient. I’ve said before in interviews that Brian does things in his own time. It’s a good way for him to weed out the pretenders, the people who are going to be short-term folks in his life. He’ll throw up little obstacles — whether intentional or not. He’s very, very, very crafty. It took a lot of patience and perseverance to not bug Brian over the years to say, “Hey, what about those songs? Let’s get going.” I think Brian respects people who have a life outside of him.

Beach Boys Capitol Photo Archives

The Beach Boys pause on the steps of the iconic Capitol Records building in 1962. The lineup at that point consisted of Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Mike Love and David Marks. Capitol Photo Archives.

GM: Jeff Foskett is a tremendous vocal force on this album. In my opinion, he has earned the right of passage.
JT: Jeff is vice-Beach Boy; it’s a very weird spot. He’s got the toughest job of everybody, because he doesn’t take credit on himself; he doesn’t draw attention to himself. He gets a lot of criticism, because Brian views him as the voice of Carl now. He sings really wonderfully. Nobody will ever hear Jeff think that he can do what Carl did, so he’s a very humble guy. He’s the guy that Brian goes to now for that part ... Jeff’s our Carl. You can’t replace Carl, but that note in the chord is still there, so Jeff’s job is to supply that range. It’s kind of sad when I see fans take a couple shots at Jeff, saying that he’ll never replace Carl. Jeff isn’t trying to replace Carl; he’s just trying to fill that void that Brian hears in his head. As far as Jeff’s official Beach Boys status, nobody is happier to be singing in the studio with the guys, and you’ll never hear Jeff complain. Jeff loves his role in the band. When we do the demos, it’s Jeff, Brian and I starting the demos out. Rather than have Brian tax himself singing every one of these parts. People are wondering why Brian doesn’t go in and demo every part himself like he did with “Pet Sounds,” it’s because he’s frickin’ tired. So when Jeff comes in, it’s much easier for Brian to have Jeff sing various parts. Then Jeff comes back and gives us a representation of what all the parts would sound like. Brian will sing a few parts so he doesn’t have to sing all of them. Then the idea is to replace all of Jeff’s parts with Al, Mike and Bruce with their vocals. That’s how this album worked.

GM: “Think About The Days.”
JT: Brian suggested that I play a minor chord progression, and I started fiddling around and did this descending bass line. I just kept playing it over and over and over again for — oh, gosh — hours. Brian would make a few suggestions to move the C to an E-flat. Then all of a sudden ... Boom! One day, he just came up with this [sings the opening progression]. It was like magic! All of a sudden, the chords just blasted into this song. Once we got the melody, we left it lay there for a while. When we played the tapes back (to ourselves), Brian said it’d be a really good song to start the album with. It’s been pointed out to me that he started “Smile” with a similar a cappella track. I have to be honest with you, Brian never mentioned it, and it never crossed my mind.

Beach Boys touring group Capitol Archive

Brian Wilson long preferred the studio to heading out on the road. The group's live performances were left for a time to (from left) Bruce Johnston, Mike Love, Dennis Wilson, Al Jardine and Carl Wilson. Capitol Records archive.

GM: If anyone knows how to set up an album, it is Brian.
JT: Yeah. I thought at first it was a little weird that he started out with an a cappella thing. I never questioned it, and that’s when I found out that he had done it before. When you think about it, it says everything in 1:27. No. 1, it says that these guys can still sing. No. 2, the mood that Brian conveys with his arrangement is so Beach Boys; there’s nobody else in the world that can come up with that kind of arrangement. When Brian did the arrangement — where he puts his emphasis on the ninth chord — it just really makes it a Brian Wilson arrangement, which was amazing.

GM: Then this track was written between 1998 and ’99?
JT: This one was, yes. This one was something that we had for a while. There were four that we found on tapes, and the rest of them were new compositions. This is part of this suite that he has concocted. We were calling it everything from “Pacific Coast Highway” to “My Life” to “From There To Back Again” to the “My Life Suite,” etc. We still don’t have a name for it, but basically, this was the first part of that, and it was an excerpt that we pulled off of the original tapes. I hope that people think that this was, by any means, the better songs; they’re all equally phenomenal. These are just the appropriate songs for this album. Brian originally wanted to call this album “Summer’s Gone.” The only reason that the first seven songs were eliminated is because he is getting geared up to do a second record, and he saved some of the best stuff for last. There’s some stuff on there that’s just mind-blowing!

GM: “That’s Why God Made The Radio.”
BW: That’s one of our special ones; that one’s very special. With “That’s Why God Made the Radio” we’re trying to remind people that there used to really be a thing called the radio, ya know?
ML: You can really hear the Brian Wilson chord progressions and vocal harmonies; they’re just really fantastic. I mean, it sounds like it could be 1965 or ’66 again. So, yeah, that song in particular, is philosophically great, and artistically it’s really a great piece of work.
JT: Brian, Jim Peterik, Larry Millas and I used to hang out together with disc jockey Steve Dahl. Brian really liked going to the Sox games when he lived in St. Charles, Ill. Steve had the best Sox tickets. We’d sit in the owner’s box with Jerry Reinsdorf. One of the times we went to a game we went to an Italian restaurant called Bice. Brian really loved the food there. It was the four of us sitting around. Brian was sitting there saying, “We really gotta’ come up with a song for The Beach Boys that talks about the radio.” Kind of like, “That’s Why God Made The Radio.” We all just stopped and put our forks down. We would write stuff down all the time, so we wrote down the title, and he was off of it. Someone asked what he heard. He said, “A ’50s beat ... kind of like ‘Silhouettes On The Shade.’ ” Then Brian goes, “With a lot of key modulations.”
It sat there for a little bit. We got together another time, and Brian came up with the “Tune it in our latest star…” part while playing his piano. Jim brought his guitar, and literally, in an hour, we had the genesis of the song. Jim and Larry have a studio, and they worked on it a little, then gave it back to us. Brian said, “Look, this song is really good, I absolutely do not want to use it on a solo album. When The Beach Boys and I get back together, this is gonna be the first single on The Beach Boys record.” He knew back then, and that’s the last he said of it. At the time, we were going to do a Beach Boys record, but it never happened. Jim and I would talk every year or two. Jim would ask me, “Have you ever played it for Brian?” I said, “Nope, when he calls me he calls me.” Then Brian called me. We actually have a demo from 1997 or 1998; it is quite different than the song is now. Brian added all of his parts (this last year) and changed things around.
BW: When we get together, there’s five of us, so there’s actually a five-part harmony. To hear the guys sing makes it all worth it.
ML: Brian hears it in his head, but in order to get it so that it comes back out of the speakers, we always have to get around a microphone and record. It’s fulfilling ... and a pleasure when you hear back what you once heard in your head.
BW: Yeah ...[Laughs] That’s a good way of putting it.
AJ: The process was a lot like “Smile.” We’d just get thrown into this blender, and Brian would throw stuff at us to see if we could do it. It’s almost like a marathon. Brian knows our ranges and exactly where we’re supposed to be, and that makes it easy on all of us. We’re getting as lot of work done. We’re a team. Where my solo album [“A Postcard From California”] is a little lighter, airy, a lot more about the outdoors, Brian’s music is a lot more internal and more about what he hears in his head. We’re living inside of Brian’s head is what we’re doing.

Beach Boys Chula Vista 2012 Maria Younghans

The Beach Boys perform "Add Some Music To Your DAy" during a May 25, 2012, performance at The Cricket Wireless Amphitheater in Chula Vista, Calif. Maria Younghans photo.

GM: Nothing’s changed, right?
AJ: [Laughs] That’s right! Nothing’s really changed.

GM: Does music have healing properties for you?
AJ: Oh, God! Doesn’t it for everybody? We get testimonials every day about that. It lifts us up. We create music, because it resonates with the soul and our inner emotional needs. We need that; it’s like a balm for the soul.

GM: “Isn’t It Time.”
JT: Mike thinks conceptually, also. He was thinking that “That’s Why God Made The Radio” harkens back to the ’50s with the progression, but a lot of what gave us our sound was doo-wop. Brian and Mike went through about 15 doo-wop groups that I’ll never know. One of them was “Stranded In The Jungle” by The Cadets (1956), and they started getting off on this doo-wop thing. Then Mike came up with a cool bass line [sings]. So we built our song around his bass line. This is a brand new track, so this just (recently) happened. Our friends Larry and Jim were there. Jim started stomping his boots on the floor [sings]. Kind of like a “Hey, Mickey you’re so fine” vibe. We all started stomping and clapping, and came up with a real basic rhythm track. Jim pulled out the ukulele and put some basic chords down. All of a sudden, Brian came up with, [sings] “Isn’t it time…” It was like, “Wow!” It probably couldn’t have taken more than three hours to write the genesis of the song. Mike went (upstairs) and came up with some really cool lyrics. Brian sang the first verse; Mike sang the second verse. The thing that I like the most about “Isn’t It Time” is all of The Beach Boys were involved from the beginning. David put some really great lead guitar licks down, making it really cool. Al has a part, Bruce has a part and even Jeff has a part in there, too. All of the members of The Beach Boys are represented with little vignettes, and I think it’s the most group-oriented of the songs.

GM: Will it be the next single?
JT: I think it’s going to be. We were in Cincinnati, Ohio, [June 12] and we actually got a conference room. Since that was the last song we put on the album, we kind of felt that it was a little rushed. Mike harkened back to “Help Me Rhonda,” where they actually had a single version of “Help Me Rhonda.” So Brian, Mike, myself, Al and Bruce got into a conference room and did some demos. Capitol Records loved them so much that it looks like that coming out on the next Beach Boys compilation [“50 Big Ones”] album will be the single version of “Isn’t It Time,” which is quite different from the one that you hear on the album.

GM: What moments of the collaborative process are you enjoying the most?
ML: I enjoy — the most — listening to a track back in the studio with all the vocals, vocal arrangements and all the parts coming together and hearing the end product. That’s always a really neat part of it for me. When Brian does a track ... and let’s say he doesn’t have all the vocals, he has some ... and he wants me to do some vocals, etc., I always like to have the feel, the tempo and the mood of the track influence, whatever words and whatever message I come up with.
BW: You mean vocally?
ML: Yeah. Lyrically. If the track is really mellow, you might want to get into something more contemplative, a little bit more sensitive. If it’s more up-tempo, you might want to get into something that invokes more visuals of something like an earlier Beach Boys song, like “California Girls” or “I Get Around.” So it really depends on the track, and the mood and tempo.
BW: The track casts sounds for the vocals.
ML: Yeah.
BW: The lead singer sinks his voice into the track.
ML: The tempo and the mood of the track — for me — has always influenced how you finish up the vocals.

GM: “The Private Life Of Bill And Sue” has a “South American” [“Imagination,” 1998] vibe to it. Was this an older track?
JT: Not at all. This is a brand new song. I don’t know why, but one of the most enjoyable times that Brian and I ever had was going down to Jimmy Buffett’s place in Key West many years ago. We always talk about it, because we were in this puddle-jumper (going from Miami to Key West), and I don’t like to fly. Brian really got a kick out of the fact that I was more nervous than anyone else on the plane. He always brings it up to me. We had a good time. We spent a week with Jimmy and wrote “South American,” but we didn’t write this song at all. I heard about the title about a year ago. Brian just came in one day to the studio, and it’s a brand new song. He had these chords that had a Jimmy Buffett feel. Brian said, “I kind of hear a Jimmy Buffett feel; what would Jimmy do here?” That’s how that song came about. Brian intentionally wanted to give the song that feel, so we went for it.
Brian: It’s about a couple that like privacy.

The Beach Boys - That's Why God Made The Radio - album cover

GM:This track reminded me a bit of “Happy Days” from “Imagination” because of the talking on the end of the track.
JT: Brian really likes that. Skip Masters is a film editor here that works at Sound Stage. He’s got a real low voice. Brian heard his voice and really liked it. Brian came up with this whole concoction of these reality people whose lives are about nothing. I asked him, “What’s the song about?” Brian said, “It’s about nothing.” I said, “Who are Bill and Sue?” He said, “We don’t know, because it’s their private life.” It was kind of like a circle and an ironic take on reality TV from Brian’s perspective. He basically came up with the line where Bill and Sue fake their death — because their ratings are dropping — in a plane crash over Catalina Island. I said, “What kind of plane?” Brian said, “The kind of plane we were riding in Key West…” I was like, “Yeah, because I thought we were going to crash.” So it all came together on the whole thing and how it reminded him of that trip.
AJ: “The Private Life Of Bill And Sue” is kind of a wacky song. [Laughs] It’s a funny title, isn’t it? It’s a cute song, too. It’s really very inventive. There are a lot of very Brian things on this album — very interesting tempo changes and arrangements that you’d only hear from Brian. There’s no one around that could write this stuff.

GM: “Shelter” is an amazing track. There is really a lot going on this track.
BW: “Shelter” is a song about a house that is sheltered from the sunlight in the cool of night.
JT: There are probably five songs in “Shelter.” [Sings the different parts.] There are all these little parts in there ... I would think this is kind of a tribute to his Tony Asher days. “Shelter” is kind of a hip way to refer to his house. I said, “Where did you come up with that?” Brian said, “Back in the ’60s, we used to call it our pad or our shelter.” I could imagine Brian in his Nehru jacket, saying, “Welcome to my shelter (or pad),” back when he was this groovy guy. I look at it as an expansion from “In My Room.” “In My Room” was him in his room when he was a kid, and then we he got his big mansion and his piano, sandbox and swimming pool ... All of a sudden, his room became a shelter. Think of all the things you could do in your house; it keeps you warm, it keeps you cold, you live there with your family, you have children there, you grow up, you make love, etc. Nobody ever thinks about that stuff, so it’s a song about a tribute to a house, and all the cool things you can do in it.

Beach Boys on Beach 2012 Guy Webster

The Beach Boys' lineup in 2012 (from left) Al Jardine, David Marks, Brian Wilson, Mike Love and Bruce Johnston. Guy Webster photo.

GM: Break down some of the vocals and singing on each part.
JT: Brian sings, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm, and a house to keep you warm…” That’s one of the highest notes that Brian has sung since I’ve known him. It’s just great to hear him back there. A lot of people think that’s Jeff, but it’s Brian. That’s Jeff on the high part, but Brian does the lower one on, “Do you still ever think of me?” That’s Mike singing the octave below (on the bottom) with Jeff doing the octave. Brian is answering, “think of me… used to be,” etc. It’s basically a descending answer.

GM: What are your thoughts on Mike’s “Daybreak Over The Ocean”?
JT: Brian had said to — I think “Rolling Stone’s” Jason Fine — “This is my favorite song on the playlist in my head right now.” He really liked the beginning of it and really enjoyed singing on it. Mike brought it to the studio one day, and I thought it was great! There was such fine production, there was no real reason to change it around any, except adding the new Beach Boys (vocals) on there and giving it a remix. The guitar solo was (initially) longer, and we cut that out a little bit.

GM: “Beaches In Mind” strikes me as a new Beach Boys classic, too.
ML: Brian’s done a lot of work, as you know, on solo stuff going back eight or 10 years. Some of those songs that he worked out but didn’t come out with are being recorded with the rest of us in this effort. “Beaches In Mind” is a really cool track.
JT: This one was a total Mike Love/Brian Wilson start-from-scratch (songs). Mike was on one side, and Brian was on the other, and I was sitting at the piano. Mike came up with the “beaches in mind.” It just flowed. It was another one of those three-hour wonders. I got it on tape, and it all came together really quickly. There’s really fun stuff from all of the guys on there. You get that really nice lead vocal from Mike, and Brian came up with the melody of the chorus. It was a real collaboration. It was fun to be able to be in the studio to see those two guys going crazy writing a new song together. Brian called in the touring band. They tracked it in one session and did the handclaps together, etc. So that was really nice.

GM: I noticed that Brian and Mike used Jeff “Skunk” Baxter in a couple of places.
JT: Jeff is a really favorite lead guitarist for a certain style of Brian’s. I don’t think David Marks was in town. So being impetuous, Brian called Jeff up right away. While Jeff was there, Brian asked Jeff to play on “Spring Vacation,” too. Jeff is great, because he’s so calm in the studio, and Brian likes him because he can give him 17 different variations in three minutes and kind of pick one.

GM: “Strange World” strikes me as being a part of the original suite. Was it?
JT: “Strange World” is a very major part of the suite. Brian wanted an accordion on there. We got Gary Griffin to come in and play the accordion on it. This is a brand new song that had a couple of parts in it that we heard before on tapes, but the lyrics are kind of political message on all of the people who live in California. Just the fact that everybody is from somewhere else and what a fun collection of people there are when you go down to the pier.
BW: I love Gary and everything he plays. He’s a very talented engineer, piano player, vibe player, accordionist ... everything.
GM: It’s tough for me to not love “From There To Back Again” the most. It’s simply incredible.
AJ: I like “From There To Back Again,” because I whistle on it. It really came off kind of nice. I was singing this one part, and then I started whistling it, and we agreed that the whistle might be better than the part I sang. It’s really good — my first whistling lead! I was brought in to do all these parts. I was just handed song after song after song without hearing anything all the way through.
JT: This is more what the suite sounds like. “Strange World” may be a song that’s part of the suite, but the thing that we’re dealing with now (in hoping that it will come out on the next Beach Boys album), is the fact that there are so many different key changes and so many different segments (that) I don’t know that we could do it without ProTools, because we have portions of songs. It’s almost like deciphering a code. Brian is putting these songs out there, and they are little 30 to 60-second vignettes. All of a sudden, with all this technology, he’s able to listen to one part of a song and put them all together. He’s really the only one who can do it. The whole thing I love about “From Here To Back Again” is that it’s a microcosm of the suite. That’s exactly what the suite is all about; little portions. I mean, he goes into Al’s whistle. I can’t even explain it in words. It’s just one treat after another.

GM: It really is. There are different track numbers assigned for “Pacific Coast Highway” and “Summer’s Gone,” but these are obviously meant to be seamless.
JT: The only reason we have to give the songs the titles — because it’s really one long suite at about 34 minutes; it’s really one big suite. There are really no song titles. With iTunes and things like that, we had to come up with cut off portions and titles. These three songs always did lead into each other and always ended with “Summer’s Gone,” so not much has changed with those three. Anything else before it is (still) up for grabs. The Jon Bon Jovi connection seems a little weird. Brian picks his collaborators for reasons only Brian knows. He always picks people that are unusual and not the obvious fan choices. We were stuck on “Summer’s Gone.” We had one verse forever when Jon came in and heard it. He said, “Brian, this is your ‘My Way’.” Brian loves Frank Sinatra. There’s been a lot of people who have tried to force themselves on Brian Wilson, and he’s rejected them. It takes a guy like a Jon Bon Jovi to come in to give Brian a new thought on how to approach it. We were stuck on that song for 10 years on that verse. Maybe this will be the only thing that Jon and Brian do together.

GM: There’s a lot of wondering out there by fans about Brian’s state of mind and how much fun the guys are really having with one another. And, will there be another album?
JT: All I can say is the album was supposed to be called “Summer’s Gone,” and Brian had so much fun that he didn’t call it that anymore. He’s certainly up for it, I believe. I don’t think people realize something about Brian. Yes, he is a complete creative guy, and money doesn’t really mean anything to him. He certainly isn’t capitalistic in that sense. The fact that people enjoy his music is the real reason that keeps him doing this. If nobody cared and “That’s Why God Made The Radio” didn’t get up to No. 3 ... Yeah, he got along well with the guys, and it was fun making the record. Now this is the competitive side of Brian, and I think he wants another No. 1 record. I think this has charged him up. It’s charged the guys up. They get along impeccably. Brian has a great time in the studio. I absolutely hope that I’m a part of it and that all the hints are there. The question was, “Will the public want to buy this?,” and they did, so I completely expect that we’ll finish this. The fans’ support is more critical than they think. The support of the album and the tour is really what has driven this, and the guys are all amazed that people still care.

GM: Do you want to record another new Beach Boys for next year?
BW: We’re considering it, yes. I would like that. We had a great time working on this last record.

David Beard is editor of the Beach Boys’ fan magazine “Endless Summer Quarterly.” For more with Brian Wilson, David Marks and Bruce Johnston, subscribe to ESQ ( and request the Fall 2012 edition.