The Beach Boys' Al Jardine On The Band's Wild and Woolly Days, 50th Anniversary and New Album

Categories: Q&A

Al Jardine, in the "wild and wooly" days of The Beach Boys.
See also: Al Jardine Would Much Rather Be a Beach Boy Than Go It Alone

Al Jardine played standup bass on the very first Beach Boys single, "Surfin'," and since then he's been an integral part of the band's sonic makeup, playing guitar and navigating complexities not often associated with The Beach Boys: environmental concerns ("Don't Go Near the Water," written with Mike Love), transcendence ("All This Is That"), and spoken word prose (Jardine read Robinson Jeffers's poem "The Breaks of Eagles" as part of the band's stunning "California Saga" from Holland).

Though he left the touring version of the 'Boys in the '90s, Jardine settled a lawsuit with Mike Love and is onboard for a brand new record, That's Why God Made the Radio, with all surviving original members, Bruce Johnston, Mike Love, David Marks, and Brian Wilson (Wilson brothers Dennis and Carl passed away in 1983 and 1998, respectively) and has embarked on a tour in support of the band's 50th anniversary.

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Jardine spoke with Up on the Sun about recording a brand new record, the band's "wild and wooly days," the differences between the northern and southern parts of California, his solo record, Postcard from California, and took the time to put in a plug for the Smile Foundation, an organization that The Beach Boys support and have performed in support of.

Up on the Sun: The Beach Boys have a new album, That's Why God Made the Radio. What made you guys feel compelled to make a new record, beyond the reunion?

Al Jardine: Well, Brian has about eight years worth of songs stored up in him and he didn't want to do another solo album. It also coincides with our 50th anniversary, and Brian's desire to reconnect with us, and there's a synergy between having a label like Capitol/EMI to support the tour. It's a one feeds the other kind of thing, and everybody feels very happy about it. It just kind of all works.

The last three songs, "From There to Back Again," "Pacific Coast Highway," and "Summer's Gone," for a "California Suite." The sounds remind me a lot of Smile, which was finally released properly last year. What was it like listening to that completed record, and to some degree did it influence That's Why God Made the Radio?

I don't know. I think it just...Smile is its own entity. I don't really think we were thinking about that. It was a natural evolution of where Brian's head is at now. [The "California Trilogy"] has a nostalgic element to it, it has a looking back over the years feel. It's very poignant I think. I kind of thought the production has more of a Pet Sounds-esque feel to it, to me. It uses some of the same techniques. It's a real pleasant, real nice recording. It's a kind of like a little pop masterpiece. It brings you to a place lyrically and emotionally. [That's Why God Made the Radio] is not full of hit records. It's not meant to be a hit record, it's more of a hit career. This is a hit career, trust me on that. This is kind of the icing on the cake.

That suite reminded me of the "California Saga" from Holland (1973). You do a spoken word song song, "The Breaks of the Eagles." Could you tell me a little bit about that?

Yeah. It's interesting you mention it. That song really has its foundations in the a little known area of the California coast called the Monterey Peninsula and the San Joaquin Valley, where most of the food for the nation is grown. It's the bread basket of the country, they call it. That's something I always felt close to with the relationship with our fellow man and his struggles. It's one of the "average guy" kind of things. That song came from that. The average guy in the most beautiful on earth, the central California coast where Big Sur is and the Salinas Valley and all of that. It's picturesque, and Brian kind of picked up on that too in some of his work. That nostalgia thing. It's kind of a landscape that we painted long ago. That might have been one of the first of its kind [for us], that kind of trilogy, like what you find at the end of God Made the Radio.

I just rerecorded that for my own solo album, Postcard from California, with Neil Young, David Crosby, and Stephen Stills. That's pretty significant, because I felt Neil Young played an important role in that particular song as the voice of the pioneers. He has that rugged voice that carries the lyrics. You might enjoy that if you're interested in that kind of musical landscape. Brian paints the same kind of landscape emotionally and musically, but in a different way. With His Lucky Old Sun he kind of approached that dynamic in a Southern California area. That's where his focus is. Mine's more about growing up in the northern climates of California.

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