Review and Photos by Fred Kuhlman
Venue: Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) (https://mim.org/ )
Date: Tuesday February 25th, 2020
Tour: Endless Summer Tour
Growing up in the mid-60s there were 3 flavours of rock & roll music that teens listened to: Motown, British Invasion or American bands. Since I grew up in Toledo, Ohio we were inundated with Motown music. But as a young kid, I really loved the American bands. And the very best was The Beach Boys. The majority of their music was centered around the California scene and surfing. Being a young kid in the snow bound Midwest, California was like a dream.
I was never lucky enough to see The Beach Boys perform all together. However, I did get to see part of them perform when I saw the 50th anniversary of the Pet Sounds album. At that show were 2 of the original members of The Beach Boys, Brian Wilson and Al Jardine. Since Brian is not able to sing the high notes, he is so famous for, Al’s son Matt Jardine has joined the group to take over singing Brian’s parts. It is hard to talk about Al Jardine without also talking about The Beach Boys. So forgive me if this sounds like The Beach Boys review, but Al has been a integral part of them for the last 60 years and it is hard to talk about one without the other.
Al and Matt still tour with Brian Wilson. Brian only does a limited number of shows each year. So, Al and Matt use the time off to produce their own tour that covers many of The Beach Boys songs. This is the show that I saw at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) on Tuesday night. You might ask, why see this show, but instead go to the Brian Wilson show. Personally, I would recommend both shows if you are a fan of The Beach Boys. The Brian Wilson show will be with a large band and they just play the music. If you really want to get a feel for or understand better the history and background of some of The Beach Boys songs, then Al Jardine’s show is the one to see.
Al was joined on stage by his son Matt Jardine and Debbie Shair. Matt provided all of the percussions and sings, especially the high parts that Brian did. Debbie plays keyboards and provides the harmony parts for the songs. She also runs all of the videos that either accompany the songs or are short clips about the music or history of the band. Matt is also Al’s tech assistant and helps change guitars for Al.
The show starts with a short video clip that is about The Beach Boys. Then Al, Matt and Debbie come out and they start with the first big hit of The Beach Boys, “Surfin’”.
Al told the story about how when they released “Surfin’ Safari” in 1962, It was originally the side B of the 45 with “409” as the side A. However, Capital Records finally corrected the problem and reissued the 45 with “Surfin’ Safari” on side A and “409” on side B. Current rumor is that there are no copies of the original 45 publicly available. For those younger people, a 45 is a 2-song mini EP (album) with the hit song always on side A and a filler song on the back side, side B. They also play at a rotation speed of 45 rpms on a turntable. Thus, the name 45s.
They then played a video clip from the Disney Monkey’s Uncle movie where The Beach Boys played the movies theme show with Annette Funicello singing (YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQG10A-ymtg ) (Al is playing guitar on the far left side). Al also indicated that The Beach Boys never recorded and released the song, but supposedly Disney made a few 45s and did a limited distribution.
Al talked about how in the early years of The Beach Boys they were required to produce 3 albums per year and then tour. So, as a band they would tour and then when they took some time off, they went into the studio to produce the next album. This is a far cry from today when bands can take years to produce their next album.
Matt also told some stories about growing up with The Beach Boys. He remembered driving up to the San Francisco area venues when they would play to see the shows. He remembers fondly the catering service (he likes food) and also being allowed to join the band on stage for the encore. The kids would stand on the side of the stage and play tambourine and try to sing along.
A few songs later Al introduced 2 of my personal favorites and critically acclaimed songs, “God Only Knows” and “Good Vibrations”. Some critics say that the Pet Sounds album is one of the best albums produced in the 60s and one of the best all-time Rock & Roll albums. It propelled The Beach Boys and Brian Wilson into Rock & Roll history. The strange thing is that “Good Vibrations” was never on Pet Sounds and instead was released as a single at the same time as Pet Sounds.
Probably one of the strangest songs ever recorded by The Beach Boys was “Vegetables” (alternate versions spelled as “Vega-Tables”) on their Smiley Smile album. They had a short clip that showed one of the managers talked about how they collect vegetable from the local farmer’s market, lined the studio floor with plastic and dumped the vegetable on the floor. The band then came in, broke and smashed the vegetable which they recorded as backing sounds for the song. Al told how even Sir Paul McCartney joined in and broke a few carrots. Al, Matt and Debbie then played the song for us and I still thing it is a very strange song.
I know that a lot of famous musicians started out as song writers and session musicians for other bands. That is how Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow and Carol King all started. But I did not know that Glenn Campbell, the country music star, was also a session player. He is sometime known as the “the Other Beach Boy”. Glenn helped with the recording of Pet Sounds and actually toured with The Beach Boys after Brian temporary left the band. The video clip of Glenn Campbell tell how he was thrown into Brian’s part on the tour singing Brian’s parts and also playing bass. Glenn said it was hard since he never played bass before, but thanked Al when after the second show, Al took over playing bass and Glenn played rhythm guitar which he was more familiar with.
Instead of leaving the stage and coming back for the encore, they all just stayed on stage and continue the performance. The encore consisted of 3 songs, “In My Room”, “Surfin’ USA” and another personal favorite, “Help Me Rhonda”. By this time the audience were standing and cheering. They actually sang along with the last two songs. As a special treat, Al played acoustic solo the final song of the night “Scotch & Soda”. It was an amazing 95 minutes of fantastic songs and wonderful stories. It was everything I expected and more. It is definitely a show to see if you are a true The Beach Boys fan.
Following the show, Al and Matt came out to sign items and meet with the fans. You could tell that by the end Al was getting very tired, but like a really trouper, he hung in there until everyone was through the line.
This is the second time I have seen Al’s show and it is still outstanding. There are changes between the shows so it is not just a rehash. I learn something new each time I attend the show. I would also like to thank Spud and Mary Ann. They were extremely nice and accommodating and I hope the videos I provided work out.
If you get a change to see Al at one of his upcoming shows, please go. It is a very enjoyable evening with some laughs, some great music and inciteful stories. To find out more information about Al and his upcoming shows, please check out the following:
I have to end this review with a call out to the MIM. What a marvelous venue to see a concert of this style. It is perfect as a songwriter’s & musicians’ venue. All of the seats are great and the sound it perfect. They also seem to get acts that not only play the music but also talk about it. This makes the show perfect. I personally like to here the story behind the music or a history of the musician/band. If you go to the MIM also check out the museum part. It is amazing with all of the exhibits. To find out more about the MIM and their upcoming shows, please check out their website: https://mim.org/ .
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2020, All Rights Reserved
Show Intro video clip
Surfin’ (The Beach Boys song)
Luau (The Beach Boys song)
Little Pad / Catch A Wave
Surfin’ Safari (The Beach Boys song)
The Monkey’s Uncle video clip
Surfer Girl (The Beach Boys song)
Don’t Worry Baby (The Beach Boys song)
California Girls (The Beach Boys song)
Sloop John B ([traditional] The Beach Boys cover)
God Only Knows (The Beach Boys song)
Good Vibrations (The Beach Boys song)
Vegetables video clip
Vegetables (The Beach Boys song)
Santa Ana Winds (The Beach Boys song)
Surf’s Up (The Beach Boys song)
California Saga: California (The Beach Boys song)
Glen Campbell video clip
A Postcard From California (Al Jardine song)
In My Room (The Beach Boys song)
Surfin’ U.S.A. (The Beach Boys song)
Help Me, Rhonda (The Beach Boys song)
Scotch & Soda (The Kingston Trio cover)