All three surviving original Beach Boys will be in their 80s by the end of the year, and it doesn’t seem like anyone is slowing down. Lead singer and lyricist Mike Love keeps the band’s legacy alive (and brutally murders it at the same time) by spending his twilight years playing U.S. county fairs, small venues, and trophy hunting fundraisers under the Beach Boys moniker, with semi-original member Bruce Johnston.
The other two survivors—troubled musical genius Brian Wilson and rock and roll’s coolest rhythm guitarist, Al Jardine—also do an extensive amount of touring together, but in a more graceful fashion.
In the last decade, the two have toured with Jeff Beck, collaborated on Brian’s 2015 No Pier Pressure album, and took The Beach Boys’ magnum opus, Pet Sounds all around the world, one last time. And with the recently announced yearlong celebration of the Boys’ 60th anniversary, the possibilities surrounding future projects are practically endless. A reunion tour with holograms of Dennis and Carl Wilson? One last studio record? Maybe a second SMiLE tour for Brian?
But even the remaining members themselves don’t know what projects are coming.
In the meantime, Wilson and Jardine—along with Beach Boys alum Blondie Chaplin—are back on the road, playing support Chicago’s latest run of shows.
Creative Loafing Tampa Bay recently spoke over the phone with Al Jardine about what he hopes to play on tour, his time with Neil Young, and why he’s hesitant to get back into the studio.
Read our full interview below.
How did the “Family and Friends” tour that you're doing with your son Matt, and Carnie and Wendy Wilson come about?
It was an idea that I had about 10 years ago. We thought that the combination of Wilsons and the Jardines would be a good offering, and Beach Boy music, and now today, Wilson Phillips’ catalog. So we reignited the original idea, and Family And Friends was reborn.
I've seen some footage, and the harmonies are fantastic. Would you consider recording with them?
Oh, hell yeah. Carnie is a lightning bolt of energy, and Wendy's got this great talent, their father's talent. Let's face it, it’s not unkept. They’ve been singing with Chynna [Phillips] for several years, but when good material’s available, I would be happy to record.
You and Brian Wilson were both on the Hawthorne High football team back in the '50s and '60s.
That is true!
Do you still indulge yourself in football?
All the time. It's hard to get out of your bloodstream once it falls in there *laughs*. I was just talking to my right tackle on our championship team at Hawthorne. We hadn’t talked for 50 years, and he called me to say he's coming to the Brian concert in Phoenix. And we immediately started talking about the game. So yeah, I still think about it.
That's awesome. What’s your NFL team?
Well, I'm a big fan of the 49ers. I grew up in San Francisco for a few years, so I adopted them. And the Cardinals, I have to say, because I also have a place in Phoenix. *laughs* Anyway, Steve Young and the guys, the legendary guys, they're the best. And of course, Joe Montana, if you want to throw him in.
Let’s talk music a little bit. This is not going to be the first time that you've been on the same bill as Chicago. Do you have any memories of when The Beach Boys were on tour with them back in the '70s?
Yes. I sang a lead with Robert Lamm on “Saturday in the Park.” That was my big deal. It was an encore, we did an encore together. But this time, we're not doing an encore together that I know of. I think we're two independents, it’s not The Beach Boys, to begin with. It’s more of a Brian and Al thing with Blondie Chaplin. We’re two different acts, but who knows? Something might come up as far as an encore goes. Right now, we’re just doing the two independent shows in the same evening.
Your Postcard From California album had a crazy lineup, and I think the biggest shock of all was that Neil Young was on it. Not that you don't deserve it, but how in the world did you get him to guest on that album?
I pestered him, and I pestered his wife. I had a song targeted for him. I knew the verse I wanted, and I knew he liked the lyrics. And he took a break from whatever he was doing at the time and you know what he said? “I remember having such a great time with you guys when we worked together,” because Neil was somehow involved in helping an act. I can't remember how or what we did together, but we did something together.
And he remembered us. He remembered the experience, and he kind of wanted to rekindle the relationship. He delivered a great verse. And [Stephen] Stills did two, by the way. Steve was great. His parting comment to me was “you know, we always wanted to be Beach Boys.” Isn’t that a great line? *laughs*
It is. I think everybody does in one sense or another.
Oh yeah. Everybody wanted to be a Beach Boy.
I definitely did.
Are you a musician, too?
Yeah, but I’m not very good. On a good day, I have a three octave range, and I play a little keyboard. But that's about it.
Jeez. Wow, big range. It's not about being good: It’s about being at the right place at the right time, and somehow, that's what happened to us. Because we got to learn how to be good. We were just a bunch of, you know, kids, who happened to love harmony. We were a harmony band, of course, initially and we had to learn to play our instruments, so we came up a slightly different way. We didn't have we didn't have any chops, you know. We soon learned how to do it.
And is it true that in the beginning, Brian couldn't even read sheet music?
I believe when you say "sheet music,” you mean notation?
It's not likely, but possible. Brian would write out lead sheets for the sessions. So, he certainly knew how to write it, and he knew how to read it right? So wait, do you mean before the band?
Oh, before that. Well, he learned pretty quickly. Whatever he didn't know, he found out pretty quick. He dropped out before I did, because he went to a music school. I learned a lot from Brian. I was studying, but I was in the wrong curricula. Let's put it that way. He was studying the stuff that he loved to do. And that's what we should do in school: We should do the things we love. But he already knew it! He said “hey, I already knew it all!”*laughs* He dropped out and started making music, instead of learning music.
So, it's no secret that you're a huge fan of folk music, but with The Beach Boys, you kinda got sucked into rock and roll. Would you ever like to take on some folk projects?
I love the stories. I love the kind of quintessential ones. It's just one of those things, I guess. So, yes, I would. I probably should, but will I? I don’t know. Studio work is extremely highly focused, and if you’ve really spent a lot of your life in a studio, once you get going, you can’t quit. And I’m afraid that that if I start up again, I might lose track of my family. But having said that, I do have a nice studio here, and I should probably put it to good use. So I might have one more in me.
Awesome. Why not?
See, you kind of get obsessed. It’s an obsessive compulsive thing. Touring starts to take up your life, too, especially so when you get both of those things going. Like, this tour with Brian that I’m doing right now, is going to be two months on the road, out of our lives. In this stage of our lives, that’s a long time. So, that's got me a little nervous and I'm a little fidgety about it. But I know that once I get out there, I'll enjoy it.
Right on. Are there any songs that you would like to do on this tour that may not go over well with Brian or the band?
No, no, I don't believe so. I do want to add a few. It's often hit-heavy, because of the nature of the show, of the offering. But we’re going to do some deeper cuts if possible. “Add Some Music To Your Day” would be one I would like, and I've already expressed that to our music director. And I don't think I really have a problem with that. We all love that one. And “Please Let Me Wonder,” that would be one I would want to do. And fortunately we all know them really well, so it won't take long to polish ‘em up. And Brian’s still got a good voice.
He’s something else.
Recently on Disney+, there was that six hour Beatles documentary “Get Back.” With that documentary being out, does that make you think of any recording sessions, either with The Beach Boys, or maybe by yourself, that would make an interesting documentary?
Yeah, “Good Vibrations.” Did you say what song, or era?
Your call. Album, song, era…
Yeah, Pet Sounds, of course. And I’ve seen some black and white footage of our vocal session for “Vibrations,” and I thought it was pretty cool. It's probably already been out there, I'm sure it'll be included in the documentary. And also, we didn't do much photography. I don't know, we’re gonna have to really look for a third party product on that, because as a band, we didn't really have many cameras around when we were working, so maybe someone else has some material. I'm sure there's a lot out there.
Sure. Speaking of which, can you say anything about that 60th anniversary documentary that was announced?
No, because I don't know anything about it. I'm still wondering myself, I assume they'll send a crew up here and interview me, and that's about it. And a lot will be supported by already existing biographical stuff. They’ll probably do a nice job, like with the Elvis Presley [“The Searcher”] special. This group did that same one, that I thought was excellent. I think it was three hours or so. I don't know how many hours it was, but it was a long one. Did you say six hours on "Get Back?”
Yeah, but it's a three episode series. Each one was two hours long.
Yeah, but where’d they find all the footage?
That’s what I said!
Was it concert footage?
No, it’s basically The Beatles messing around in the studio when they were recording Let It Be, and then it ends with their rooftop concert.
Oh, that one! That was well documented. They did that on purpose. They wanted to have that done before they maybe…left, or split up. And we didn’t do that. We didn't have the sense to do that. We really should have, because I thought that was fascinating to watch them work together.
Stepping away from music for just a minute. As a lifelong California kid, what would you tell a first time visitor to go do immediately?
Disneyland. *laughs* It’s the first thing any of us ever did. I know it sounds corny to artists. And then, La Brea Tar Pits. It’s incredible. It’s a place on Wilshire. I couldn’t give you directions, but it's pretty well known. Prehistoric fossils and stuff. You know, they even made a TV special out of it recently.
I only have one question to ask you on behalf of Brian. He said a couple years back that he's working on a rock album with the working title Sensitive Music For Sensitive People. Did he do he enlist you to record on that one?
No. I guess I'm not sensitive enough. Has it been released?
Well, I think something's coming up after this tour. I was given a kind of a heads-up from a producer of Brian’s. There’s going to be tribute album made, to Brian. But that's not what you're talking about.
I’ve actually heard about that. I don't remember who's doing it, though.
I like to ask all the musicians I talk to this question: What advice do you have to offer to young, up-and-coming musicians?
Keep your publishing. In other words, try to be self published if you can, so you can own your own music. That's always a big help. And get good management.
Try to get someone who's not in the family, but someone outside the family to manage your career. That helps, an objective person. And do it as a hobby. Have fun with it. Don’t expect to make a living out of it. But you know, you never know. It might turn into something. Keep your day job. *laughs* And as Brian would say, finish your songs.
Yeah, once you create them, you’ve gotta finish what you started.
You gotta finish your songs. And then, you go out and play and have fun. It's great if you're gonna have a band play and have fun. And if I'm doing it just for the joy of doing it, that's the key. It's gotta be fun.
Well Al, this has been great. Thank you so much for talking to me, and I hope you have a great time on the road this year.
Thank you, and thanks for asking about the album. It’s being re-released in August.
Oh, it is? Awesome.
Yeah, they're gonna give it another push, because it never really got distribution. I'm looking forward to to seeing it in the top 40 somewhere.
We’ll make it happen.
My favorite song on it is called “Don't Fight The Sea,” because all of the Beach Boys are on it.
Josh Bradley is Creative Loafing Tampa's resident live music freak. He started freelancing with the paper in 2020 at the age of 18, and has since covered, announced, and previewed numerous live shows in Tampa Bay. Check the music section in print and online every week for the latest in local live music.