By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
With the death earlier this year of founding member Carl Wilson, the remaining Beach Boys have taken some time away from the spotlight.
"We've had to reassess where we are," said Al Jardine. "We're stepping back and looking at the holes in the fabric."
The reassessment is bringing up the old split in the creative approach of the original Beach Boys.
On one side you have Jardine, 56, looking to recreate the sounds of the records and exploring meatier territory in new material, while Mike Love sides more with the surfing and parties approach that originally got the band noticed, Jardine said. Love and Jardine are the only original members of the band still performing.
Jardine said he wants the band to re-examine its live versions of songs, getting rid of all the changes that have crept in after years of playing. "I'm trying to get the harmonies that were on the records."
On new material, Jardine said: "I think the Beach Boys need to get behind issues that count. Our songwriting should be a little more substantial. The summer in paradise is over."
Although there have always been two sides to the band, the opposing forces are linked by the layered harmonies of the songs. The group learned harmonies from barbershop music, Jardine said.
"The Beach Boys cut their teeth on barbershop," he said. "We imitated instruments."
When it came time to decide what they wanted their music to sound like, the band merged the Four Freshmen and Chuck Berry.
"We made a template of our harmonies off their harmonies," he said of the Four Freshmen. "Then we started bringing in the rock 'n' roll influence of Chuck Berry. The guitar, the instrument itself, became an influence, through Chuck. We captured two markets. We were able to take two markets and put it in the music."
Hitting on a small label with "Surfin'" in 1962, the band moved to Capitol Records and churned out hits such as "Surfin' Safari," "409," "Little Deuce Coupe" and "In My Room."
By the mid-'60s, the band's musical ambitions were expanding beyond the realm of pop hits, using the full range of a recording studio's capabilities to explore chief songwriter Brian Wilson's ideas.
The band would record numerous versions of a song, each showing a different approach. Speaking of "Help Me Rhonda," Jardine said: "The album version is a little strange. The second time we did it was more commercial."
The second version is the one that most people know. The group recently redid the song with a country feel, he added.
"California Girls" retained the party atmosphere in its lyrics, while showing the band's more experimental musical impulses.
"I always liked 'California Girls,'" Jardine said. "That has a Grand Canyon sweep to it."
The group's album "Pet Sounds," released in 1966, has become known as its best, but it took years before its impact would be felt. Jardine recalled the recording of "Pet Sounds" as very different from what the band had done before.
"It was like a 9 to 5 job," he said. "It was like putting your entire soul and your entire being on the line every day. Brian knew what he wanted and we knew where we were going with it. It just took a long time to put together."
Capitol had mixed feelings about it, he said, even though "Pet Sounds" included the hits "Wouldn't It Be Nice," "Sloop John B" and "God Only Knows."
"They didn't know how to market it and eventually gave up."
After "Pet Sounds" the band recorded a batch of "party songs," as Jardine called them. One of them, "Barbara Ann," was released before anything from "Pet Sounds."
"'Barbara Ann' was probably the death knell for 'Pet Sounds,'" Jardine said. "It leveled it, which is what Capitol wanted."
Over the years "Pet Sounds'" reputation has grown; it inspired The Beatles to record "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band." A few years ago Capital re-released it along with outtakes of the recording sessions that include alternate versions of songs, mixes that feature different aspects of the harmonies and early versions of songs the band would perfect later.
"'Pet Sounds' material has really become a prominent part of our show," Jardine said. "We might add more. I think the audiences are ready for it. I think audiences are ready for a more in-depth look at the harmonies. That's where I'm coming from."