Two months ago, we presented Part 1 of our feature interview with Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and Mike Love of the Beach Boys as part of our special theme issue greard around the release of their career-spanning new box set Made in California.
Part 2 followed in September, and now it’s time to wrap it all up.
Here’s Part 3, the finale of the three-part joint interview.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Take us through the Holland period where you were writing songs that were celebrating California history – but not the sun, surf and cars ethos of the early Beach Boys songs.
Al Jardine: Yeah, that was something completely different. It was a reflection of the lifestyle of the Central coast of California. It’s like a little bio-pic of central coast of California circa (John) Steinbeck era and maybe before. But in my mind’s eye it was about discovery. California is so diverse and it has so many different kinds of history that The Beach Boys celebrated…primarily the Southern California lifestyle of the ‘60s. So I just took another step and after I moved up to this area, I discovered a whole different California. I became enamored of the whole scene. I enjoy history and put it to a Beach Boy kind of rhythm, kind of a California Girls feel. Also, being in Holland, we were all homesick as hell. By the time we mixed it down, we were just salivating to go home.
Brian just walked into the studio and began singing (sings line from California Saga) “On my way to sunny California…” he just laid that thing in there and immediately lifted our spirits because we knew we were going home. It was rough being in Holland. We were working 24/7 in a small homemade rebuilt piece meal little studio in a garage next to a cow pasture (laughs). Yeah, it was rough. We didn’t even have the correct electricity; it was 50 cycles as opposed to 60 cycles so that kind of affected the sound of our equipment. It was a mixed blessing.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Mike, in 1970 Bruce spoke about the problem with how the public perceived the band as “Surfing Doris Days”. The music you were creating during this period stands among the band’s most artistic and forward thinking. How did you work to counter-attack that problem and do you think that perception affected how those records were ultimately embraced by the public?
Mike Love: When the Vietnam war was heating up in the late ‘60s and everybody was concerned about their draft status—Carl received a draft notice and he became a conscientious objector and that led to us playing a lot of prisons and hospitals as part of his community service—Capitol Records would be promoting us at the number one surfing group in the U.S.A. That’s what Bruce meant by that remark and it was irrelevant.
At the same time, we’d done Good Vibrations which is one of the more avant-garde classic psychedelic songs. It was both avant-garde and commercially successful, mystical and poetic. I dictated the words to my then wife Suzanne on the way to the session. I didn’t say “Don’t f#@k with the formula”.
I like to be creative and artistic but I also like to be successful and that’s the beauty of Good Vibrations. It was as avant-garde as you could ever hope to be.
It was a classic arrangement and so unique and brilliant musically – but also because it was so unique and such a departure musically, I literally had the thought that this was gonna be kind of challenging for some of the fans in mid-America. But I know that everybody can relate to boy and girl (recites), “I’m picking up good vibrations, she’s giving me excitations…”
So for Capitol to say that we were the number one surfing group in the U.S.A. was a bit passé at that point. That didn’t help how the pubic perceived us. It didn’t reflect the evolution and progression musically, lyrically or conceptually of what we were into starting with Pet Sounds, Smiley Smile and onward. But I wouldn’t place the blame fully on the label. Had we had our stuff together, we would have been able to handle it better. I was in India at the teacher’s training program with the Maharishi in February/March of 1968 and had a conversation one night with Paul McCartney on the roof of this building.