You’ve said: Weve come full circle. Sharing our memories and our present in the studio has been really remarkable. I can especially feel it when were all singing around the mic together, because we all hear each other and we really lock in.
What was it like making this new record? Were you more actively involved in the process rather than just doing vocals and harmonies this time around?
We’re recording brilliant songs, I think. Or had recorded, I should say. But not in a way I had anticipated; it wasn’t all getting around the piano together and singing. These are songs that Brian had been writing, has been writing, in his head and in his own studio for the last, oh, I don’t know, six, eight years. So, these are new creations, and we all just got together and sang our parts, our various parts, that he had already outlined for himself, something he might have done on his own solo album for instance.
So, all I had to do was drop, shoot, whatever you call it, my own part in, and it sounds pretty good. It’s a wonderful production. Very Pet Sounds-like in scope, very deep and moving. I think people will appreciate his continuing output.
Prior to joining the band, you were more of an athlete, were you not? What led you to pick up the guitar?
Brian and I were on the football team together, if that’s what you mean. Folk music. I was a big Kingston Trio fan. When Brian and I were in school, they had the number one records. They were the hot new act in town. They had the striped shirts and that collegiate look, and so I always aspired to do that kind of music; Brian had other ideas. But being similarly afflicted by the bug, we compromised with each other, and I sang some of his music, and he sang some of mine.
What did Brian say to you to convince you to come back to the band after you had left to go to college?
Oh, he was just fit to be tied. He had so many things going on in his domain, his musical domain, meaning his creative processes. And then his dad was pushing him to go out on the road and be more of a musician instead of a composer. And Brian… he just wasn’t able to do it all. Eventually, he did have a nervous breakdown over it. His dad forced him back into the group a little bit later on. So, it was always a conflict between the appearance band and then the recording band, so I was able to take some pressure off of him for a while by coming back into the touring band and ultimately into the recording studio, well, immediately into the recording studio after a short hiatus.
With regard to the difference between the touring band and the recording band, at what point in time did the recording process change in the studio?
When we were on the road for so many days out of the year, we weren’t available to record anymore. We recorded on the first couple of albums ourselves, and then when we weren’t around anymore, Brian was really left with no other alternative but to use studio musicians, and so, ergo, the Wrecking Crew.
Let’s talk about your Leadbelly cover, Cottonfields. That was the last single The Beach Boys did with Capitol Records, and the arrangement that was released as a single features you on lead vocals, and you actually rearranged the song. What was behind all that? Why did you rearrange it? What was wrong with the original? Or was there something you were trying to grab?
Well, I thought Brian was going to give me another Sloop John B. We went into the studio, and it just didn’t happen. It was quite flat, I thought, and very un-Beach Boy-like. It sounded more like a country thing. Not even that, it just sounded like a demo. So, I picked up the gauntlet and took the appearance band into the studio, and we re-recorded it with my band, which is much more powerful than the studio guys we were using at the time. And I thought it was great. And Dennis Wilson kind of helped me out. He was, you might say, our spark plug guy; he was our energy guy, and he really believed in it.
And a couple of new additions, one being a steel guitar, kinda gave it a country flavor, which, in hindsight, I wouldn’t put on today, but it’s there, and that’s what it is. It was a famous guy, a famous steel player named Red Rhodes. But anyway, that’s how my production ended up being the single. It was just a good live band recording.
You released your first solo album in 2010. Why did it take so long?
I don’t know. I’ve always been a Beach Boy, and I haven’t had time to concentrate on that. Since I hadn’t been touring with the band for so many years, over the last 10 years I got kind of homesick for singing and getting behind the mic, not producing, but singing again. And I used my good friends up and down the coast–Neil Young, America, Dewey Bunnell, those guys, even Brian Wilson and some of The Beach Boys–to fill out my album. It really was a nice panacea for me while I was out of the band.
What was behind the band’s withdrawal from the Monterrey Pop Festival?
Politics. And we were busy making an album at the time, if I recall. But there was some politics about it. And it was the first one, and we weren’t so sure that we really belonged in that particular group that they were putting together. Of course, we were wrong, dead, dead wrong. We should have gone. But sometimes managers and agents don’t all get along, one thing or another. But we did finally make the ’71 appearance, I think. The last one. We were at the last one. The crowd really loved it. I remember singing Sloop John B up there, and the crowd just went crazy.