Taken from the August 2009 edition of Record Collector magazine.
Interview by Ken Sharp.
RIDING THE WAVES
My Life As A Beach Boy by Al Jardine.
A founding member of the Beach Boys, Alan Jardine has been part of the fabric of American popular music for almost four decades. Never hungering for the spotlight, he has always been a team player, more than happy with his supporting role in the band. A wonderfully expressive and dynamic singer – he is the voice of Help Me Rhonda, Susie Cincinnati, Come Go With Me, Lady Lynda, Loop De Loop and Looking At Tomorrow (A Welfare Song) among numerous others – he lent a distinctive and engaging folk sensibility into the group's diverse palette of sonic colours.
Lyrically, Alan's songs provided a wonderful and sumptuous musical storybook, espousing the joys of nature and the environment, ecology preservation, and the power of love. While not exerting a high profile media presence as Brian Wilson or Mike Love, the innate blend and distinctive character of Alan's honey-sweet voice cannot be underestimated to the success of The Beach Boys.
A humble and charming man, he looked back with Record Collector on over thirty years of good vibrations.
Eric Carmen once described the Beach Boys' voices as being an instrument. Brian was a French horn, Carl was a flute, Al Jardine a trumpet, Dennis a trombone and Mike a baritone sax.
That's kind of how we saw ourselves too. In fact, Heroes And Villains, at the start, was one of the first things we ever did, really early on, even before we recorded Surfin'. We were working on that song way back in '61. We all became instruments for Brian's barber shop concept. He said “Let's all do this, let's sing this idea”. Carl would be one instrument, I'd be another, Mike would be another instrument.
So the idea of Heroes And Villains was born back in '61.
Yeah, the idea, not the song. We started singing acapella first because we didn't play any instruments. With none of us really being players we would just scat in the car going to a show or something or going to school, anywhere. Brian had this wonderful gift of remembering lines off of records. He'd pick up harmonies off of Four Freshmen records and he'd just feed them right back to us. We'd go, “Woah!” and like a sponge, we'd just absorbed it.
Do you believe that knowing how to sing harmonies is an inbred skill?
I think so. My son Matt can pick up almost anything. It helps to have that. Otherwise you have to go to a keyboard and figure it out and man, that's laborious. I'd much rather bypass that whole thing. Brian was like our computer. And he'd figure them out and he'd hand them out and we'd remember it. We all had instant recall. Everybody was like a blotter.
It's unbelievable the amount of pressure on Brian as the main songwriter.
He had a lot of pressure. He had no time to rest. And he also never had a chance to enjoy his achievements. We were always being thrown out there on the road to support our next album.
How would Brian teach the band a new song?
He'd simply play it to us on the piano. We did Wendy in ten minutes. And it was like “boom!” That was a big song. He stopped doing one thing and went right to that and it was like “bang!” Come to think of it, maybe the track took ten minutes to do and then the vocal track didn't take much longer. We laughed a lot in the studio, they were great times. We were having a lot of fun.
When did you first meet Brian, was that at Hawthorne High?
We were on the football team together. Brian seemed a little frail to me. He didn't have a whole lot of enthusiasm for the game. I think the year after I broke my leg he quit the team. Brian, however, was a really great baseball player. He could hit the ball a mile and he was a really terrific athlete. He was really built for baseball.
At what point did you recognise the musical side of Brian?
I saw him in concert once at a high school auditorium show with a couple of friends of ours. I think Carl was in it too. They were doing those Four Freshman harmonies. He was copping those licks even then. I remember thinking that I've got to get to Brian and get together with him. At that point I was playing guitar for a couple of years. I had my own band, The Islanders. It was real innocent, Kingston Trio based music.
You and Brian attended El Camino Junior College.
Yeah, I was in pre-dentistry. I had no idea why but I was. I should have studied music. Actually I did take music for a semester and I flunked, all those damn chords.
It's said that your love for folk music was the impetus for The Beach Boys goinf into the studio for the first time with Hite Morgan and recording Surfin'.
We went into the studio quite early on with the intention of just recording a couple of traditional folk songs. Brian had come up with this tune shortly before going down to the studio, this surfing idea. The surfing idea was actually Dennis' idea. Brian prepared this track called Surfin'. I played stand up bass on it.
My mother had to rent the equipment because the Wilson's had gone on vacation to Mexico and the food money was gone. So we had to go beg borrow and steal from my mother who came up with three hundred bucks. That was a lot of money in '61. She just told me recently that she borrowed the money or got a loan from the bank which surprised me.
We cut Surfin' real quickly. We just stood up in front of the microphone and basically played the song for Murry and the publisher and that's the one they liked. Hite Morgan's son Bruce, wrote this song called Luau. It was a cute kind of song. The single was on two labels, X and Candix Records which must have been the same label when you think about it. Just two different ways to make money. They only paid us nine hundred dollars in royalties for the whole thing so they definitely buried a little money. They probably paid us on the one label, the one that sold the nine hundred dollars worth and kep the other label's worth somewhere else in a vault. Murry added a hundred dollars to the check to make it an even thousand dollars so we could each get two hundred dollars. That was very nice of him.
Was it an amazing feeling to hear the completed song back over the speakers in the studio?
I don't think we heard the playback. I believe that was Murry's prerogative. Being young, we didn't think very much of it. I think it was a money thing, we had just an hour and we had to get up and leave. The clock was ticking away (laughs). Next time we heard it was on the radio and that was the exciting part. We were going to Camino at the time and Brian and I would run home at lunchtime to my mothers house and listen to it on the radio.
There's a great quote from you saying 'when The Beach Boys started I wanted us to be a folk group. As it turns out the group has become America's balladeers, recording the folk myths, the experience of this country'.
We became the storytellers but it wasn't just my story. It was the story of the generation, an innocent generation of kids that hadn't really been through a major war, we were post-war generation. I was born right after World War II started actually. Never went through any conflicts. All we knew were the good times. We didn't know anything bad but getting good grades in school and winning lots of football games. That was our reality. No drugs, nobody smoked. Carl actually did start smoking early on and it drove Brian and I crazy.
Were you intimidated presenting songs to the Beach Boys having a writer like Brian Wilson in the band?
God yeah. When I brought Sloop John B to him I was almost trembling. I was thinking, 'Am I wasting Brian's time doing this?' But apparently not because the next day he cut the track on it and it became a huge hit for us. But he didn't bother to stop to acknowledge it, you see. When guys have that kind of capacity for absorption, sometimes they don't acknowledge where they get their ideas from. I showed Brian the chords and he sucked it up like a sponge. With his immense talent for recall, the next day he had arranged a brass section to track the song and it was ready for singing the following day. It is truly a masterpiece.
When you quit the band early on to go to dental school, how long out of the band were you before you returned?
When I left things were happening for the band. Big time. We had already cut Surfer Girl and Surfin' Safari. We had worked on Surfin' USA at the piano but we hadn't recorded it. So I knew what was in the can.
And you still left?
I didn't want to complicate their lives 'cause I knew if I signed the Capitol deal that I would have to commit to it. So I felt they should know that I was going back to school. And Brian was pissed, boy was he mad. He was very upset. I was just too bull headed. I just wanted to finish school.
What brought you back into the Beach Boys?
Just before the summer of '63, Brian called and begged me to come back into the band. By then I was kind of fed up and Brian was feeling pressure from Murry to tour to support the album. He sent me a dub of the new single Surfin' USA b/w Shut Down to help me prepare for the tour. I had already worked on Surfin' USA in its inception so I knew that quite well but I had to learn Shut Down.
Was David Marks out of the band at that point?
No. I replaced Brian. Brian didn't want to tour any longer and he needed the voices that we started with 'cause David didn't really sing that well. The harmonies started to get more complex. Surfin' USA was a big challenge and Dennis sang my parts when I was gone.
See, Dennis wasn't singing either until I left. And then he started filling in for me which was nice. He had an innocent warm sound. And then David would play rhythm guitar and that was about the extent of that. I came back and felt uncomfortable because then Dennis wasn't singing anymore and I always felt real bad about that.
Dennis put all his efforts into drumming and also he hated rehearsals (laughs). It got him off the hook so I shouldn't have felt so bad. He was able to go out and party and drive his cars.
Actually at times we went off and partied in my 1950 Ford but I don't know if we ever made the beach because the damn thing was always breaking down. But we must have because Dennis taught me how to surf in front of the Hyperion plant, a sewage treatment facility, in El Segundo. It must have been the dirtiest water in Santa Monica Bay (laughs). Anyway, Brian was literally forced back into the band when David left.
When do you think you began to blossom as a writer?
I don't think I ever have. I don't think I've ever gotten off the ground yet. When I was meditating I did write some good songs. You have to quiet your own voice a little bit and get real centered within yourself and you can really surprise the hell out of yourself. I think the California Saga (the song Al wrote for their 1973 LP, Holland) is a good example of that. That period of time was great.
That was a strange time for the band. Surf's Up and Sunflower were not big sellers at the time but are now seen as a watershed of creativity for the band.
My son Matt was just born and he never slept so I was up half the night with him and in the studio half the day and on the road half the year. It was a pretty busy time. We were forced to go into a creative hyper speed because Brian was retreating in the opposite direction as fast as we were in the other direction. Carl and I had to piece together Cool, Cool Water (on 1970's Sunflower LP). That song was a forty eight hour mix down. I saw two sunrises on that. Bruce and I were delirious and desperate. We were all walking around like zombies. So weird. How could anything take so long? And we had to reconstruct Surf's Up because we couldn't get Brian to finish it. So Carl ended up singing half of it and we kept Brian's original verses. And I think Carl sang the middle parts. It was like reconstructing the Smile album in a way, that's what that period kind of represented.
So Brian was retreating as a writer?
Yeah, he'd stay up in his room for hours or days. He'd call down and tell us a few ideas. It was like we were in different blocks or countries. We had just decompressed from Heroes And Villains, just prior to his withdrawal and he must have been exhausted.
Although Brian was more excited than the rest of us about the way Heroes And Villains had come out. We went down to a radio station, I think it was KRLA, and burst in on the jock and played the record. Brian wanted to be the first person to play it for LA, for the whole city to hear it. But it just didn't have any punch. The song was great but the sonic value was bad. We were experimenting in that studio with limited equipment.
We had just finished Good Vibrations in Columbia Studios with the greatest equipment ever made at the time, state of the art limiters and compressors and equalizers and the most exotic microphones and state of the art recording machines. And the next thing we did is we decompress and we take the Beach Boys PA system, designed by our engineer, set that up, and then use that as our playback monitors and rented a sixteen-track machine. And that was our studio.
So no matter how good you are it's gonna be limited to the equipment that you are able to record with. I'm trying to figure out why we went from United-Western and Columbia to Brian's living room. There must have been something related to costs.
So Heroes And Villains had no sonic energy, it's kind of flat. I don't know if it was mastered properly. Anyway, I think that really deflated Brian. I think he just completely went into a tailspin because he thought that was his masterpiece. And I did too. But the sound had no edge.
Brian had a major breakdown on a plane and decided to quit touring.
He broke down on a plane right next to me. He started just getting very emotional. He was just very weepy and wanted to go home. He'd never been that way before. I could have broke down myself, we were all just exhausted but we were all just a little tougher, that's all. Glen Campbell came out and that was fun, because he could sing the high parts.
But when Brian stopped touring it did wonders for his creativity. Brian's not meant for touring, he's just not built for it. He's reclusive by nature. You wouldn't push Cole Porter out on the road. Some people don't need to be out in front of great numbers of people. They'd rather be in their room writing a song like the song says.
The rest of us came back from playing in Japan and here we had this massive amount of music already laid out for us to sing and we hadn't even heard any of it. It was the Pet Sounds material.
The Pet Sounds album did not stick with the formula. Mike Love was confused by it.
Mike's a formula hound, if he can't hear a hook in it he doesn't want to know about it. Capitol Records wouldn't promote it. They wanted some hit records. We were a hit record machine and we stopped delivering those big hits. Except for Sloop John B. I think they forced Sloop to be on the album because it was already a hit. They slipped it on there to increase album sales. Capitol didn't like it at all. They weren't too wrong either (laughs) because after that we had the Smiley Smile thing and it just started to go downhill from there.
Pet Sounds was a left turn for the public, the band and the record company but the Smile album was a real detour.
A lot of the stuff that would have been on Smile wound up on the 20/20 album. Cabinessence, Heroes And Villains would have been on Smile. There's a lot of really good elements that all taken together might have been kind of neat.
When you sang lead on Help Me Rhonda I understand you had a hard time getting the vocal right, why?
I don't really know. Some kind of a meter thing in there. I never really tackled a lead before. I was always interested in backgrounds. Carl and I were always on the harmonies but to take a lead was a really big leap forward. And this was not an easy lead to be honest with you. It was pretty different. I was happy that Brian had asked me to sing the lead. Brian had his idea of how he wanted it and I had an idea of how I heard it and that's basically what you get (laughs).
I think the part that was hard was (sings 'Rhonda you look so fine'), the length of fine, that was the part to be specific with you. It could have been sung quicker or longer and I just heard it longer and he heard it shorter. I think it kind of came out halfway in between. The hardest part was dealing with Murry and everyone in the studio. They were fghting amongst themselves over the production and that was really tough. I was out there for hours.
Murry Wilson is viewed as a very difficult character.
Well he had a child prodigy on his hands. He simply had a limited ability to cope with it. Murry was a salesman. Always selling something. Very aggressive and tough minded. Taskmaster. He just didn't have a sensitivity that Brian and the boys needed. These kids were real tender hearted kids except for Dennis. Dennis took after his Dad, he was a street-tough kind of guy. You had this dichotomy going on the family. Audree was real soft and nurturing and Murry was real tough, like a bull.
Murry did co-write one of my favourite Beach Boys songs, Breakaway.
Supposedly. Carl said that was probably not true. Who knows? I loved Breakaway but then again I hated it sonically. It didn't end right. Brian refused to put an ending on it. I could see he was trying to under-produce everything. It just wasn't up to the standards that we had set on a sonic level. We just were singing hard but we weren't singing in the right places hard (laughs). Listen to the end of the song someday and you'll see what I mean.
Give me an example of a Beach Boys song which holds up sonically.
Sloop John B. God, the bass is perfect, the flute, all the guitars are clear and sharp. Most of your Pet Sounds stuff. It's just the way it's recorded.
You, Dennis and Carl started to blossom as songwriters around the 20/20 album.
We had to rudder the ship without Brian being there. He was in the studio with us but he was retreating from producing. He was starting to under produce like he did with Breakaway. Dennis started to produce material, Carl did too. Dennis and Mike started to writing together too. Dennis was kind of scattered but he found the piano as his instrument, he could lock into it with his feelings. It became a real lock and all sorts of stuff started pouring out of Dennis that we didn't know existed. Part of him began to really focus. Dennis wasn't as fun loving at that point, he became more moody, he was more into his music. That was the Manson period too.
Were you frightened by Dennis' involvement with Charles Manson?
No. It was just irritating 'cause they were always around and it was 'Charlie this and Charlie that'. And then he had this little thing that he and Charlie worked out. It was Never Learn Not To Love. Not the melody but the mantra behind that. Then Dennis wanted to put it into everything. I thought 'Oh boy, this is getting to be too much.'
So Manson came up with the song's mantra?
Yeah, kind of a mantra. None of us wrote to it, Dennis did. It's a beautiful track, very dynamic. Then Dennis became all consumed by his new production talents so he would kind of go into the studio for weeks and live there and the rest of us couldn't get in... it was our new studio in Santa Monica, Brother Studios.
Friends was the Beach Boys album where you really began to blossom as a writer, you co-wrote five songs on that record.
That was Brian and I really coming together as friends, just sitting around in his mansion in Beverly Hills, we called it the Bellagio House. It was we did all the recording. We'd get together in the morning. A lot of activity took place in the kitchen. There were these huge freezers. We were always in Marilyn's kitchen, we were in there as much as in the studio. God, we ate well.
Brian has often cited the Friends album as a favourite of his.
Maybe because it was an emotionally stable period for him. He was feeling a little bit better about himself. He was always thinking musically and needed someone to bounce lyrics off of, a sounding board. Brian was real manic in the sense of wanting to get songs finished, because the guys would be coming in every day. I think Brian was looking for a new direction too. I think we both found the same path and kind of explored that path.
What did Transcendental Meditation do for you and the rest of the band?
It was good. It kind of settled everybody down a little bit. Dennis never bought into it. Brian was the one who actually turned us onto it. Mike became addicted to it. Both Brian and Mike have similar unsettled emotional feelings and I think that is his medicine. Otherwise you reach out for drugs if you're not careful. So it's kind of a good substitute for drugs.
The Surf's Up album carries an ecological theme. Looking At Tomorrow (A Welfare Song) may be one of the best songs you've ever written.
It's actually an old folk song. I just rewrote the lyrics to reflect the times that I felt were particularly rough for Americans that were out of work and still are. It's kind of timeless. I remember reading something about Bessie Smith this blues singer from the thirties and I just kind of imagined her as being the figure in this tragedy, being down and out and then finding success at the end of her life and being able to look at tomorrow without looking back.
How about Don't Go Near The Water?
That's me taking an ecology stand. And Mike helped out with that, he pitched in a few lyrics.
Did you always have a great love for the environment?
Oh God yeah, that's why I moved to Big Sur. I wanted to get away from all the traffic and pollution in L.A. It was always so congested there. My house looked out at all the smog, I mean the Pacific Ocean was obscured by this brown haze. It really bummed me out to look at the air. It didn't take too long to figure out we were breathing it of course so we scurried up north where the air gets cold and it's kind of pretty and clear. Big Sur is gorgeous, it's so beautiful. That's kind of where the song California Saga came from, just feeling the impression of the coast is so great.
Take A Load Off Your Feet is a fun song.
Again, a lot of this stuff was to get Brian in the mood to come down and have some fun. So I thought boy, this is really nutty, let's just do something stupid. I said 'Brian, do you want to help me?' 'Sure'. Anything to get everyone motivated. It's cute, but come on, you've heard Loop De Loop and things like that, that's as minimalistic and sappy as you can get. But for some reason Jack Rieley liked it too and said 'it's got to be on the album, that's definitely an ecology song'. Ecology? A song about your feet? It's personal ecology. It was about taking care of your fett and oddly enough my feet are in the worst shape they've ever been. And I haven't been wearing my Bierkenstocks.
Jack Rieley, the band's then manager, sings part of A Day In The Life Of A Tree, how did that come about?
He was a great manipulator. He could sell ice boxes to Eskimos. He was one of those guys who worked his way into your brain and into your life and into your recording sessions and onto your songs.
Some of Jack's lyrics were actually pretty good, songs like Long Promised Road.
Yeah, they were very interesting. Van Dyke's lyrics were a little more colourful, I thought. Even though they were equally misunderstood. I think it was just one of those periods that we went through where someone attached themselves to Brian and our music and put their own stamp of identity on it. There was nothing wrong about it, it was just hard to understand. If you listen to Sail On Sailor it's a little bit difficult to piece the meaning of the lyrics. They're tortured lyrics. There's a lot of torture there. Maybe that's kind of contradictory to what people wanted from the Beach Boys. Van Dyke wasn't tortured. There's a lot of depression in Jack's lyrics.
The song At My Window was probably one of my first efforts at involving the other guys. Bruce Johnston was around quite a bit. I think he sang the lead on that. I have this dim recollection of writing it and Bruce singing it and Brian trying to speak French in it. It had a nice tone to it. We had an accordion player come in and play some beautiful things on it.
What was it like to go to the Netherlands to record the Holland album?
It was Jack Rieley's idea to go to Holland. He was enamoured of Amsterdam because he had certain relationships there that he was fulfilling. We weren't aware of his hidden agendas at the time. But we did feel the need to move on and do something different. I think we talked about going to the South Of France because that's where the Stones had recorded. That sounded a little better to me. So this Holland idea sounded crazy. He talked Carl and Dennis into doing it 'cause Brian didn't want to go anywhere. He could have cared less. In fact when he got there he never came to the studio. He stayed in his house most of the time. We stayed in Holland for a month, maybe two. It felt like a year. My son Adam was there for a short time and fell down a flight of steps, scared his mother half to death so she packed up and went home. She said 'I'm out of here, this place is gonna kill us'.
Does the Holland album stand up for you?
Again, it was one of those home made studios and again we fell into the trap of trying to build a studio in someone's garage. It's kind of romantic but it doesn't work 'cause you don't have the limiters and compressors and equalizers and all the good stuff. In fact the electrical current wasn't right so the sonic quality was not that good. There were a lot of problems. It was very expensive and no one would listen. In today's equivalent it probably would have cost millions of dollars. I like the California Saga. It was born out of absolute home sickness. It was more of a 'get me out of here' kind of song. I wanna be in California. A lot of good stuff comes out of being homesick and just wanting to be somewhere else.
Tell us about co-producing the Beach Boys' MIU album.
At that time Mike and I were into transcendental meditation in a very big way. It was his belief that if we brought Mohammed to the mountain that Brian would recover from his illness. We did yet another Holland adventure which we'd already been through and built yet another studio for someone else. We just didn't have the technology to make a really great record. But I think the kernels of the songs are good, but if you listen to them they sound like demos, something you could do in your own home.
And Come Go With Me is on the record too.
That wasn't done there, it was done at a real studio in Los Angeles and that's why it sounds so good. I started the track at Brian's house where we left off from the Smiley Smile album. I began the song just by sitting around and playing the piano in Brian's living room. Our PA system, which doubled as a recording console, was out on the road so Brian had ordered a sound truck, which was just sitting in the driveway, and we were paying for the thing by the hour and day. So I started the song there and then I moved over to Sunset Sound. We left the country for a tour and when we came back it was top ten.
The Love You album has a lot of childlike innocence, brilliant songs like I'll Bet He's Nice and Airplane.
Oh God, I love Airplane. The Night Was So Young is really heavy, that's one of my favourites. Johnny Carson was a silly one. We had a new board built for that album. Another engineer came in and said 'you ought to build a board'. Then Dennis went in and used that board on Pacific Ocean Blue. Things started getting better.
Tell me about the album L.A. Light (1979) and the track Lady Lynda which is gorgeous.
We had to hire a classical guy to play an absolutely beautiful harpsichord that was brought in just for the occasion. It was a monster session with a twenty six string orchestra. Dennis helped me with the track. I think he played the drums. I did the twelve-string guitar. It would have worked better if it had been on my own album but it certainly worked. We always seemed to be five people making five different albums on the same album.
Your Santa Anna Winds appeared on the next LP, Keepin' The Summer Alive
At the time the Santa Anna Winds didn't connotate anything particularly negative. I always thought of them as a harbinger of Indian summer, that late wonderful dry wind that comes off the desert. Unfortunately it happens to make the environment perfect for forest fires. So it's kind of got a bad rap, not the song but the subject. I found it a very romantic subject because growing up in Southern California, you get summer twice. It's a natural force of nature. It really does clean the environment up, just for a few days you can feel what it might have been like a hundred years ago, a thousand years ago. And also you get that offshore breeze which keeps the waves big for surfers. It's just magical.
You revisited California with California Calling from the 1985 Beach Boys LP and Ringo Starr plays drums on the track.
Wow, I totally forgot about that. The producer Steve Levine, was from England so apparently he was able to get him to play on the track. I co-wrote it with Brian. That album was such a difficult project for us because it was the melding of certain forces. Unfortunately Steve was so dedicated to computers that we weren't able to sing very much. It was like, 'Okay, sing a verse or a chorus and I'll put all the oohs in later. I'll multiply that ad infinitum' (laughs).We would say 'We can sing the whole thing, really Steve', and he would say, 'No it's better if I do it this way. Plus I can pitch correct it and you guys will be perfect.'
But again, a perfect sounding record does not always make for a perfect result. But then you don't get the diversity of the part because it's the same part multiplied over your own part. The character's gone.
While the success of the Endless Summer album rejuvenated the Beach Boys commercially, it also impinged on the band's creative side too.
It put us back on the map, jeez did it ever. It also established us almost as what we are today or what it has become today and that is of a party band primarily focused on the surf music and the good time stuff which is fine.
From that period on, particularly in Mike's mind, it seemed that 'oldies' was the direction the band should pursue.
Absolutely. His instincts were 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'. It seems to work even today. But from a longevity point of view my instincts tell me that you need to go into the catalogue a little bit and preserve some of the less (famous) gems before they're forgotten.
What do you remember of your meeting with John Lennon back in the late sixties?
At the time we were in England. The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was speaking at a conference over there. He had recently initiated the Beatles into TM. He had a way of getting people to spread the word. So he got the Beatles to recruit the Beach Boys (laughs). So they came up to my suite at the London Hilton. I opened the door and there's Joun and George standing there. 'Hi mate, do you mind if we come in?' I said, 'Sure, why not, heck yeah'. We introduced ourselves to them. Lynda Jardine, my first wife, was there. And lo and behold here comes the speech, they were proselytising on behalf of TM. They suggested that we get involved with the program and that they would see us later in Paris because they were going to be with the Maharishi at this huge concert we were doing for Unicef Emergency Children's Fund. We played there and all four of the Beatles were sitting in the front row with the Maharishi listening to the show. I wish the meeting with John was s musical one. I wish he brought his guitar up and said 'hey, let's write a song about meditation'. I'm sure it would have been a lot better than what I sang on the Friends album (“Trancendental Meditation”).
You've spoken a lot about Dennis Wilson as a musician. What's your fondest memory of him?
Standing outside a bowling alley in Hawthorne, California singing folk songs. He just loved when I played guitar or anything. This was in the early sixties. It might have been after I left the group for a while. We'd stay in touch and I'd always come by and I'd sing on a few songs on the early stuff as well. I sang backgrounds on a lot of the very early things even though I wasn't on the album covers. There was one called Lonely Sea, a beautiful plaintive song. Dennis couldn't wait for me to get my guitar out or mandolin and start playing a folk song.
Was there friction between Mike Love and Dennis even in the beginning?
Oh constantly. It was which testerone meter was the highest. Those first cousins had quite a battle to fight all the way up until the end. Remember that Dennis cut his hand somewhere in the seventies. It was in Malibu and he dropped the darn thing as he tried to catch a Sparklets water bottle and it cut his hand wide open. He couldn't play for a year. His solution was that we hire another drummer and that was Bobby Figueroa who plays with our band even now. Dennis would take the microphone with Mike up on stage and you can imagine the competition that goes on there. Oh God, and he began to sing some great songs. There's a song, You Are So Beautiful, which he told me he co-authored that with Billy Preston at a party, but he didn't get credit for it.
He was competition with Mike for frontman. Dennis would infuriate Mike by simply simply standing up. Without saying a word he'd stand up and the audience would release an incredible amount of energy. The girls would go crazy and Mike would have to take a little bit of humility and continue to work like the rest of us as a team member. After a while Mike and Dennis learned to co-exist like on the 20/20 album and a couple of those later projects. They did actually write some very inspirational things together.
Is there one particular Beach Boys album that deserves reappraisal?
Oh that Love You album has some gems on it. It's a shame that the album cover is so crummy, everything about that thing is home made. I think Warner Brothers thought it was our last album. When we went over to sign with CBS, Warners checked their agreements and we owed them another one. They didn't spend a penny on Love You because they knew we weren't coming back. They used real cheap cardboard for it. But the music, you wouldn't believe it. Ed Carter played on that, he's in our band now too. The Night Was So Young is a favourite.
One of the most beautiful moments is Carl's singing on the bridge.
Oh God, isn't that a remarkable bridge? With that little tempo change, it's beautiful. It is Brian and Carl at their best. And also Good Timin'. Those two wrote together or sang together...Brian would use Carl as his surrogate as he did with Mike for many years. Dennis and I were kind of on the outside looking in on a lot of those great ones.