You hear that? That distant harmony basking in the hot sun? Those beautiful arrangements that, for some reason, make you want to pick up surfing? Yup, that’s The Beach Boys, alright. The iconic ‘60s harmony act has returned with the new expanded edition of their Sounds of Summer: The Very Best Of The Beach Boys compilation. Just in time for summer too! How about that…
The retouch of Sounds of Summer, originally released in 2003, celebrates the band’s 60th anniversary and beefs up the original’s 30-song tracklist with 50 additional tunes of young love, distant islands, and, yes, shredding the waves. Curated by Mark Linett and Alan Boyd, who oversaw the SMiLE Sessions compilation, Sounds of Summer also features over 20 new mixes for fans to enjoy.
Projects like Sound of Summer prove just how relevant The Beach Boys remain over half a century on. Children still grow up with hits like “Good Vibrations” and “Surfin’ USA,” megafans still obsess over unreleased material (as evidenced by SMiLE Sessions), and Pet Sounds still consistently ranks as one of the crowning achievements of pop music.
“We [get] rediscovered by another generation, which is happening right now as a matter of fact,” Beach Boys co-founder and guitarist Al Jardine tells Consequence by phone. “It seems like there’s a renewal in every generation. Every ten years, it feels like.”
Like The Beatles, the continued interest can sometimes lead to an over-mythologization of The Beach Boys and its five founding members. Tales of Brian Wilson’s mental health struggles and intra-band conflicts are nearly as famous as “God Only Knows” or “Kokomo.” But, also like The Beatles, it takes just one revisit to their music to remember why the frenzy remains — their songs are simply that timeless.
We spoke to Al Jardine, who has his own re-release coming up in August, about the legacy and lasting success of The Beach Boys. Though he left the band for about a year in 1962, Jardine remained an instrumental member of The Beach Boys throughout their recording and touring career. Along with Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Carl Wilson, and Dennis Wilson — as well as a rotating cast of extremely talented session musicians and temporary touring members — Jardine contributed his talents as both a singer and producer to the many Beach Boys hits.
Tracks like “Help Me, Rhonda,” “I Know There’s an Answer,” and “Vegetables” feature Jardine on lead vocals, and songs like “Cotton Fields” showcase the unique folk sensibilities he brought to Brian Wilson’s otherwise lush rock and roll arrangements. Though the Shakespearean tragedy of the Wilsons or the litigious actions of Mike Love outshine Jardine’s less controversial relationship with The Beach Boys, his fingerprints cover the band’s history much more than many casual fans realize.
Jardine is not blind to the cultural behemoth that he helped start. He’s well aware of the music’s longstanding, overwhelming success — and he couldn’t be more grateful. Check out Jardine’s thoughts on the expansion of Sounds of Summer, the frustrating aspects of the music business, and the one thing people get wrong when telling The Beach Boys’ story below.
Sounds of Summer: The Very Best Of The Beach Boys is available now on digital and physical formats. The Beach Boys’ SiriusXM channel “Good Vibrations” will also relaunch on July 1st; meanwhile, both Mike Love’s Beach Boys (get tickets here) and Brian Wilson with Al Jardine (get tickets here) are currently on tour.
So take us back 60 years. What do you remember about the recording and the release of “Surfin’ Safari?”
Well, it was our third single. What can I tell you? We just came off a bomb, a huge disaster called “Ten Little Indians.” The label didn’t know what the hell it was doing and thought that it would be a new direction for us. Obviously, it wasn’t. So, “Surfin’ Safari” bailed the group out. We thought it was over.
If I’m not wrong, it was around then that you actually left the group for a little bit.
Yeah, that’s true.
Tell me about how you found your way back to the group.
Brian Wilson was in a panic and didn’t foresee traveling with the band all the time. So, there was a phone call from him pleading with me to come back to the band. I was on my way to dental school, I had already been accepted. So, I gave it some thought and said, “You know, might be a hell of a lot more fun than this.”
I was in college about a year longer than he was. He dropped out before I did. It was good, because I could tell he was really suffering from having to go out on the road, which is not easy for him. Interestingly enough, he subsequently had to come back out again because his father was our manager at the time and had fired David Marks. So, it forced Brian to rejoin the band, and then he had another nervous breakdown. That’s when Glenn Campbell joined the band. So, there have been some interchangeable personalities because of Brian’s mental illness.
Going back to the not-so-good selling “Ten Little Indians” turning into the success of “Surfin’,” at what point did you realize, “Oh, this might be a big deal. We might be hitting onto something?”
When “Surfin’ Safari” broke, that was my signal that it was going to be big. I had already left the band by then, but I knew from the stories that David told me that they thought it was over. And my departure from the band also freaked him out. So, there were a couple things going on at the same time. It was kinda complicated, but those two events at the same time kind of foretold doom [laughs]. But Brian pulled them out. Of course, I was on the demos, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. I did all the demo work before I left on most of those early songs.
Looking back in the entirety of your time with The Beach Boys, is there any particular accomplishment that sticks out to you? Any moment that really put the whole experience into context?
Actually, it was in the ‘80s, not the ‘60s. The ‘60s were such a struggle, and so the ‘80s were really the highlight of my career. We re-assessed The Beach Boys, I guess, internationally. We always felt like a hometown band. We didn’t see ourselves on the level of like The Beatles. Although, I guess with “Good Vibrations” we were kind of kicking in there. And with Pet Sounds. So yeah, we had respect, but it didn’t feel like it. In the mid ‘70s, we had a resurgence with an album called Endless Summer. Then we got our legs under us again.
We also got rediscovered by another generation, which is happening right now as a matter of fact. We have that same discovery going on now thanks to Sounds of Summer, for instance. That helps people recognize our accomplishments. It seems like there’s a renewal in every generation. Every ten years it feels like. Because people start listening to music when they are eight or ten years old, or even earlier. And now all of a sudden, it’s like, hey, The Beach Boys are still around?
Especially in the last 30 years, these are generations that have never known a time without The Beach Boys. How does it feel inspiring generation after generation? It seems like across genre, every other band that comes out, the first thing they mention is being inspired by The Beach Boys.
Yeah. It’s great. There aren’t many harmony bands like ours left, really, in the world. We kind of set a standard and everybody else was just trying to meet that standard. But it’s very difficult and it takes a lot of hard work and great songwriting and, of course, great arranging and producing. So, you have to have all those components together at the same time. It’s pretty miraculous.
And, you know, musical styles change as well. It’s not always in vogue in that particular time. And then those other bands come and go, and then they all fall back. And then people realize how great it is to listen to great music. The Beach Boys are always there underpinning pretty much everyone. So, it’s like we’re always here.
The new edition of the Sounds of Summer compilation features new remixes of some classic Beach Boys songs. What are your thoughts on the remixes and remixing old tracks in general?
I’m not opposed to it. It just seems like a different way to enlighten people. And for me, I’ve already been there and done it, so I know pretty much what all is in there. And there’s remixing, and there’s editing. They’re kind of two different things. And so, it kind of blurs the line a little. So, when I was — I’m referring to a song, it was a number one hit all over the world, except in the United States for some reason, it was called “Cotton Fields,” I always wanted to add a countdown. Well, [my son] Matt Jardine, when he was three years old, did the countdown for me. But I didn’t use it because I felt it would be too personal. But in retrospect, I went, “I’m gonna add the countdown right now, because it says right on the remix — that’s it, it’s a remix.”
This is Feel Flows we’re talking about, but it could happen on any of these. An additional component can be added that wasn’t there before. Like the countdown Matt did when he was three years old. To me, it probably would have propelled the song to a much higher status had I used it. Later on, Carl Wilson did the same thing with a future release called “Long Promised Road” with his son. The first thing you hear is Jonah Wilson saying something. He says, “Hi!” Well, Matt went three steps further and went “one, two, three!” It’s so cute. I’ll bet you anything that it would have endeared people because everyone loves the sound of a little baby. And you know, it’s “Cotton Fields” by a little baby! Why didn’t I put it on? I was kicking myself afterwards. So now I can unkick myself. And that’s cool because something like that, it actually will appear on a future “Sail on, Sailor” project.