Beach Boys co-founder Al Jardine says producers didn’t hear a hit when the group’s now-landmark 1966 album “Pet Sounds” began to take shape.
But in 1965, Jardine, an avid folk fan, suggested to co-founder and bandleader Brian Wilson that they add the Kingston Trio’s version of the Bahamian folk tune “Sloop John B” to the band’s roster, albeit with Jardine’s new chord arrangements.
The song was eventually added to the tracklist for “Pet Sounds,” becoming one of its early singles.
“They (producers) didn’t pick up on the music, but I was able to help out a little bit by contributing ‘Sloop John B’ to the album. That was already a hit single. So that gave it a little credibility for awhile and help with record sales,” says Jardine.
More than 50 years later, that seminal album’s impact on rock and pop music remains unmatched. “Sloop John B,” and timeless tracks like “Caroline, No,” “God Only Knows” and “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)” will again come to life during the a stop on the Brian Wilson — Pet Sounds: The Final Performances tour Saturday night at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord.
Jardine spoke with NHWeekend about why the sonically groundbreaking “Pet Sounds” record — now considered a commercial and critical success — didn’t catch on at first, and why he and Brian Wilson are back on the road.
What is the show like?
It’s the music of the Beach Boys and the music of Brian Wilson and yours truly.
You’re a ‘special guest’ for this tour — are you there just for certain dates?
No, I come to all of them with Brian. He couldn’t do it without me ... and I couldn’t do it without Brian. We go a long way back. He’s a very, amazing and iconic songwriter and a performer in his own right. We’re high school friends, going way back.
What else will people hear?
Well, “California Girls,” of course, “I Get Around,” “Help Me Rhonda,” and then we get into some of the more esoteric ones — the B sides. Besides that, we’re doing lots of cool album cuts of the Beach Boys.
Do you perform the entirety of “Pet Sounds?”
Top to finish. We start with the opening and side one, and then we go to side two, which is probably the best side. As soon as I finish “Sloop,” I’ll say (to the crowd), “Well now we have to flip the record over to the other side. It’s one of your favorite songs. Probably one of the best-written songs of all time, you know, one of Paul McCartney’s favorites — ‘God Only Knows.’” They all love that.
So side two is your favorite?
Yeah. That’s a really great one. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” kicks off the show. It’s been awhile since we did “Pet Sounds.” We haven’t done it for about a year now, so we’re going to have to get back in there and really knock it out.
Why did you think “Sloop John B” would work as a Beach Boys song?
Well, it just felt like a hit to me. I felt our harmonies would work with that song. So I thought, ‘Why don’t we do it? Why can’t we have a hit with a folk song?’ And Brian put his production team together and produced a brilliant track. Two years later we did “Pet Sounds.” We brought (it) to the label. They didn’t hear a hit ... single to sell the album. So they decided to add “Sloop John B.” There you go. That’s the story.
About 30 years later, “Pet Sounds” became like the biggest album next to ... (The Beatles’) “Sgt. Peppers (Lonely Hearts Club Band).” It became one of the world’s most popular rock albums. We’ll call it a rock opera.
Do you recreate the ambient sounds from “Pet Sounds,” too?
Yeah, we’re pretty close to it. It’s a great band we have behind us, so Brian and I can kind of coast. We can just enjoy the music and sing the songs and then the band does all the technical stuff, just as if it were a studio performance.
How is Brian these days?
He’s great. You know, he’s a real warrior. He used to hate going out on the road. Now he loves going out on the road and playing the music, but before he used to like to stay home and write and record. So it’s kind of flip-flopped.
When Brian first introduced “Pet Sounds” to the rest of the band, what did everyone think?
Very new. Very, very avant-garde. We would call it (a) cutting-edge thing. It took a long time for it to be received. It was not an instant success, but over the years it has become quite well compared to “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” In fact, “Sgt. Pepper’s” wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for “Pet Sounds.” It’s a pretty important album.
Paul (McCartney) said, “Hey, we’ve got to get our act together. The Beach Boys have this new album called ‘Pet Sounds,’” so John and Paul had to work pretty hard, you know, coming up with some great material for “Sgt. Pepper’s.”
So maybe the dogs and other farm animals you hear on The Beatles’ “Good Morning Good Morning” was a direct nod to “Pet Sounds.”
You know the dog was one of Brian’s pets. It was his pet dog. His name was Louis.
“Pet Sounds” has inspired so many musicians over the years, but are you surprised at the legacy it’s created?
Yeah, pretty much. We worked really hard on it, but it didn’t sound like a hit album to me or to the other guys. And it took awhile for the audience to come around — although we did have “Good Vibrations” to follow it up, so we were OK. It didn’t hurt our career at all, but it turned out to help our career and in the later years.
It’s nice that the band stays as dedicated to the original sound as possible.
In fact, you’re reminding me of how much rehearsal I have to do now. … It’s starting to sink in. I have to play the banjo on this one song and I can barely remember where the frets are now, come to think of it, and now I’m going to have to go down and rehearse, doggone it.
Which song are you talking about?
God, what’s the name of the song? (speaking to someone else in the room.) What do I play banjo on? (mimics the melody). “They trip through their day and waste all their thoughts at night.” That one — “I Know There’s An Answer.” I haven’t picked up a guitar in six months. I better hang up and get going.
Pretty sure you have your muscle memory there.
Everything will kick in. You’re going to enjoy “Pet Sounds” live. It’s going to be a good experience for the audience, so I recommend it highly.