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The Catalyst interview: Beach Boy Al Jardine

Bill DeYoung

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The original Beach Boys (l-r): Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine and Brian Wilson. Photo: Capitol Records.

The legacy of the Beach Boys, as rich as it is, has not come without cost. For many years, there have been two camps, bitterly opposed unless a truce is called for some anniversary occasion or other. On the one side is singer Mike Love, who owns the name Beach Boys and is always performing those good ol’ surfin’ hits somewhere in the U.S.A.

Then there’s singer, songwriter and record producer Brian Wilson, who barely survived the “boy genius” tag of his youth, and has maintained a spotty solo career in spite of mental health challenges.

The last time these guys agreed on anything was early in 2021, when together they sold controlling interest in the Beach Boys’ intellectual property — including their master recordings, a portion of their publishing, the Beach Boys brand, and memorabilia.

Singer and guitarist Al Jardine, one of the original five Beach Boys (Wilson’s brothers Carl and Dennis have long since died) was part of that big-bucks deal, too. He and Love both have significant writer credits in the band’s catalog.

But Jardine, who’ll perform with Wilson June 28 at the Mid-Florida Credit Union Amphitheatre (sharing the bill with Chicago), is not Mike Love’s biggest fan; he was forced out of the lucrative touring group in 1998, following Carl Wilson’s death.

They all smiled for the cameras in ‘21, but as soon as the papers were signed the camps separated yet again.

Al Jardine today. Publicity photo.

Unlike Love and Wilson, Jardine – in a conversation with the Catalyst – has little to say about the band members’ fractious relationships.

“I’m the odd man out,” he says. “I can’t influence that outcome, it’s just completely out of my control.”

When the break came, he adds, “I chose to help Brian out, because he needs the help. That’s pretty much the way it is right now, although after this tour I have a feeling I’ll be doing more of my own shows – with or without the girls. I hope we can do more with the girls. I really enjoy that.”

Jardine is, of course, talking about California girls – Carnie and Wendy Wilson, Brian’s daughters, two-thirds of the pop trio Wilson Phillips. They sometimes take to the road, along with Jardine and his son Matt, as Family & Friends.

“It came together as a result of the split with Mike’s Beach Boys, back at the turn of the century. That’s a funny term! So it’s been a couple, 20 years now. I think it’s a terrific bonus for me, and it give them an outlet too. Because Chynna (Phillips) isn’t interested in going out very often.”

Matt Jardine is the full-time guitarist in the Brian Wilson band.

On this tour, says his dad, “Matt and I are supporting Brian vocally, so we’re kinda the lynchpins. I sing ‘Help Me Rhonda,’ of course, and ‘Sloop John B,’ which I co-wrote with Brian. It’s really just a massive bunch of hits, is what it is. ‘Heroes and Villains,’ stuff like that. We have a lot of different kinds of songs.

“Matt does most of the high-register stuff, and he also fills in on a lot of the important mid-range stuff that Brian’s not able to sing any more. We’re pretty strong.”

On the earliest shows, Chicago performed its 1974 ballad “Wishing You Were Here,” which had originally featured gorgeous harmonies by the Beach Boys.

But the Chicago musicians, Jardine reports, nixed the song after one or two performances, for reasons unknown. Instead, both groups come together to play the Beach Boys classic “Darlin.’” Says Jardine: “They sound really good on that.”

Numerous documentaries, and feature films, have been made about the Beach Boys, about the ups and the downs of one of music’s most brilliant, and ultimately dysfunctional, families.

Have any of them been entirely accurate? “I can’t say,” Jardine offers.

“Documentaries are produced, and they favor one thing over another, so there’s usually a bias when those things are done. There’s going to be another documentary, probably this year, on the band yet again. And you’ll probably see a different story. Every time, there’s a little tweaking that goes on. So we’ll see.”

In closing, he adds this tantalizing tidbit: “I think there’ll be more source material this time around, though. So maybe that’ll help, probably, smooth things out.”

Tickets for the Chicago/Brian Wilson show are here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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