Photo courtesy Mary Ann Jardine
Co-founding Beach Boy Al Jardine and his creative musical partner Larry Dvoskin look back on life during the global pandemic
Al Jardine is Switzerland—at least that’s how the co-founding Beach Boy jokingly describes his current place in the iconic California band’s ever-shifting geography. Since the five surviving classic-era Beach Boys wrapped-up their lauded 50th anniversary reunion run in 2012, the 78-year-old Jardine has remained in contact with his longtime bandmates despite their often warring factions, collaborating/checking in with Mike Love and spending much of his time on the road and in the studio with Brian Wilson and his solo band.
Last June, Jardine also celebrated the 10th anniversary of his debut solo LP, A Postcard from California, a star-studded collection that featured appearances from Neil Young, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Alec Baldwin, Steve Miller and America, as well as past and present Beach Boys like Love, Wilson, Bruce Johnston, David Marks and Glenn Campbell. This summer Jardine will reissue A Postcard from California and, ahead of the release, he’s shared two new songs, “Waves of Love 2.0” and “Jenny Clover.” The former tune is a fresh take on a bonus track from A Postcard from California’s reissue and features one of fellow founding Beach Boy Carl Wilson’s final recordings. Jardine wrote both songs with Larry Dvoskin, a New York-based songwriter/producer/musician who has been one of his closest musical collaborators. Working with Dvoskin—whose credits include Robert Plant, Cheap Trick, MGMT and Spacehog, among others—reconnected Jardine to his pre-Beach Boys folky roots and that Greenwich Village spirit is apparent throughout their myriad collaborations. (Dvoskin’s release Life is Strange charted in December at #3 in New Music Weekly Indie chart and #16 New Music Weekly Top-40 charts.)
Shortly after releasing their new singles, Jardine and Dvoskin checked in with Relix from opposite coasts to discuss life during quarantine, Carl Wilson’s final vocal takes and what’s in store for The Beach Boys’ 60th anniversary.
Al, you traditionally spend so much of the year traveling and performing. How have you and Larry occupied your time during the past year?
Al Jardine: We’ve been very busy—we’re just pretty lucky, actually. [My wife and I] have a nice place in California where we have a lot of space and are not exposed to a lot of the bad things. We can go out and walk around without being fearful. I really feel for those who are not as fortunate and, hopefully, there’s a little piece of comfort around the corner and we’ll be able to lead our normal lives again.
In the meantime, Larry and I have been working on this project, which we affectionately call “Waves of Love 2.0.” There’s a “Waves of Love” on an album, A Postcard from California, that I released a number of years ago—it is also going to be re-released on UMG this coming September. “Waves of Love” was originally a bonus track on that album. So folks are getting a sample of the East Coast version. My son Matt is on it, too—he’s terrific. He is my Beach Boy on my solo record. [Matt Jardine spent a number of years performing with The Beach Boys and recently served as a musical director in Brian Wilson’s solo group.]
Larry and I and my wife also released a song called “Jenny Clover.” Jenny Clover was our bovine friend that we adopted—we rescued her from a dairy farm here in Monterey. She was our little ball of sunshine—she was so beautiful and inspired us to write this beautiful melody. We emailed each other all these things which made it very convenient.
In the old days, Larry would have to literally send a tape or a CD. There were four choices—there were four different arrangements, and I sang through the ones I liked and sent it back to Larry and then he added some more background parts. I was able to actually match the ending part of what he sent, which is hard to do vocally. You have to anticipate it. I hope it is a little sunshine in a very dark time. That’s what we need. I can’t imagine not having the sunshine.
Larry Dvoskin: We put “Jenny Clover” together for Valentine’s Day and similarly we are giving a portion of the proceeds to World Central Kitchen, who are feeding people during the pandemic right now. They moved over to Texas during that terrible storm where people lost power for so long. The song also is a [nod to] The Beach Boys relationship with The Beatles, who have always had this brother-sister relationship. Paul McCartney has always said that Pet Sounds really influenced them while they were making Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour and Revolver. Paul has a song called “Martha My Dear,” which you might think is about this beautiful woman or his wife, but it’s really about his dog. So when we saw the cow, it felt right.
The pandemic has also created this situation, which in a similar way to the Billie Eilish syndrome, has made everyone start recording at home because we can’t record traditionally. I just started looking at what was on my computer. One of the things was a book that I had written as a songwriting textbook called Do What You Love Songwriting when I was living in the former home of Jimi Hendrix and others in Greenwich Village. I just put that out and it led me to a charity called The World Central Kitchen. As I mentioned, they set up camp immediately all around the world and the book is a fundraiser for their efforts.
It came out May of 2020, and it debuted at #1 on Amazon books bestsellers list. And there’s stories about Al and the writing of this song in the book. And I also put out a single called “Life is Strange” at the end of last year because 2020 was so weird and crazy with the election, the pandemic, climate change, the fires and California that the theme of it seemed to resonate.
Both versions of “Waves of Love” feature some of Carl Wilson’s final recordings. When did you capture his vocals for the songs?
AJ: It’s definitely one of his last performances. It was about six months or a year before he passed away. [The song was recorded in August 1997 and Carl passed away in February 1998.] He was very generous. Literally after wrapping a show at Merv Griffin Resorts in Atlantic City we got that take. That would have been his last actual Beach Boy performance. He flew home the next day and, after that, he stopped touring. I asked him [to record] because we felt it really resonated with The Beach Boys—in particular it has what we call the “dit dits.” Larry’s obsessed with “dit dits” and so you’ll hear that all over this recording point. He graduated Summa Cum Laude on “dit dits” so I would say.
Larry, despite living on the opposite side of the country, you’ve been one of Al’s primary writing partners for decades. How did you first connect?
LD: At that time, in 1993, Brian was not back fully restored after years of being with Dr. Eugene Landy so Al was really looking to meet new people and spread his creative wings. So it was really through BMI playing matchmaker that I went out to Big Sur to meet him. Al was so welcoming and open. We worked almost like Lennon and McCartney’s “eyeball to eyeball” approach—he’d say a line or play a line on the guitar and I’d add a line and then he’d come back with something else. So it’s the most creative type of writing which is something that maybe is even a lost art these days where people are buying beats online.
We’ve written a number of songs—“Good Good Feelings” and “Wish” and then there’s a song we wrote in Cleveland during the Rock Hall of Fame dinner called “Life’s A Wave”—just jamming or programming something in Ableton.
AJ: I always really enjoyed writing with Larry, and he was living in Greenwich Village at that time and that just had a nice vibe to it. I’ve always loved the Village, even since my folk days—my Kingston Trio days—before I joined The Beach Boys. I was [a folkie before I joined the band] and I always loved the Beat Generation—it was the right neighborhood at the right time and I think we got some of that.
LD: Absolutely—it was just a nice feeling. I just love that. The Village vibe is there. To an extent, every time you see a street sign reminds me of some memory and Al too. When he came to visit me, we would just do these spontaneous things like show up at Electric Lady—Al just rang the doorbell of Electric Lady and said hey, “I’m Al Jardine can we come in?” And then we just showed up to Guitar Center to borrow a Fender Precision bass—like a 1963 bass that has the type of sound that was on a lot of the big records of the 1960s.
AJ: Yeah it was crazy, a real New York moment. We’d have these jam sessions at Larry’s. I remember one where Richie [Cannata] was there, playing the tenor saxophone like a madman. [The longtime Billy Joel band multi-instrumentalist was also a member of Jardine’s “Family & Friends Band.] He could really honk!
The Beach Boys will celebrate their 60th anniversary at the end of this year. The “classic” Beach Boys have not performed together since the 50th anniversary tour wrapped-up in late 2012. You have stayed in touch with both Mike Love and Brian Wilson during the past decade. What are the latest plans for a reunion show or tour to mark the upcoming milestone? [Jardine and Love weighed in on this subject last year and again in January.]
AJ: Yeah, there’ll definitely be three big tribute concerts—at least that’s the plan. And, hopefully, we can expand from there. It’s just a matter of getting to know each other again and feeling comfortable together.
There will be other bands on there too paying tribute to the Beach Boys—it will be a big celebration. We’re going to start with one and then, logically speaking, once you do one, you can do more—let’s put it that way. The premise is to do it in places like LA, New York, London.
And then, after that, there could be a tour, which would just be us and maybe a few openers. That would be my wish—to do an actual world tour based on that premise and for it to just be us. But we’ll see—we’re going to start with one and see how it goes.