Al Jardine needs little introduction. Here, the Beach Boys co-founder and rhythm guitarist checks in with Guitar World for a quick-fire Q&A in which he shares a new found love of delay pedals – they make Good Vibrations really pop – his favorite guitar amps, and why he wishes he had learned his scales.
And the Beach Boys being pop-cultural phenomenon that crested in the ‘60s, it wouldn’t be a conversation without some weirdness in it, right? So of course Jardine would come to lose one of his acoustic guitars to the Manson Family – and a Martin D-45 of that vintage would be worth quite a bit of money these days.
What was your first guitar?
“It was a Stella acoustic that I got when I was a high school freshman, around 14. I enjoyed the rhythm and blues and doo-wop that was prevalent in the late ‘50s, and I wanted to play along to the music on my record player.”
What was the first song you learned to play?
“Bill Haley’s Rock Around the Clock. Though the song sounds simple, there’s nothing easy about that lead guitar break [played by the late Danny Cedrone]. To this day, playing that solo correctly has been one of the mysteries of the rock ’n’ roll world.”
Do you remember your first gig?
“It was with my high school folk group called the Islanders. I played guitar and we modelled ourselves after the Kingston Trio. It wasn’t really a gig, per se, as we played at a friend’s home in Hawthorne, California. And then from that ‘gig,’ I began to play bass too.”
Ever had an embarrassing moment on stage?
“I can’t think of anything for me, but I recall an embarrassing moment that happened one Halloween when Mike Love got hit while onstage. We were performing at a university in Malibu, and Mike got hit by an egg that was thrown by an audience member. He ran off stage as he was really pissed off. But we kept playing and he later came back on stage. I guess they didn't like his singing. [Laughs]”
What’s your favorite piece of gear?
“Fender amps – in particular, the Super Reverb. That’s what the Beach Boys started out with, and they still seem to be the best sound for us and our kind of music. It also has a vibrato pedal, which is really important. I also love my new pedals – a delay and reverb – which sound so good.
“I’ve been enjoying playing again because, you know, it’s just nice to be able to play Good Vibrations with a little delay; it just makes it sound perfect. Although we originally made the sound without the pedal, I’m just embellishing it just a bit now; I just have to learn how to do it right.”
Suppose the building is burning down. What one guitar from your collection would you save?
“First it’d be my favorite electric, a Gibson 12-string – then my Martin acoustic, a 1976 D-45 Centennial model. Charles Manson actually stole one of my D-45s years ago and I never, ever got it back.”
When’s the last time you practiced and what did you play?
“It was when I practiced for a couple of shows we did recently in Tucson and San Juan Capistrano, California, using a custom-made Fender Strat. They made the guitar for me personally, and I rehearsed my Beach Boys material on that guitar.”
What advice would you give to your younger self if you had the chance?
“To learn my scales – because I never learned scales! All I was, basically, was a rhythm guitarist most of the time because [late Beach Boys guitarist] Carl [Wilson] always played the leads; all I had to do was support him by playing rhythm. But I wish I would’ve spent more time studying the guitar and learning to play lead, because it’s a lot of fun. That’s why I enjoy it now; I can play Carl’s leads when I go out on the road.”
Do you think the art of rhythm guitar is underrated?
“Yes. Every group has to have a rhythm section, as that’s what keeps it all together. Rhythm guitar is so important – and it’s very, very satisfying, too, just to be able to play really nice fat chords, especially when they happen to be 'Brian Wilson chords,' because those chords are generally very cool.”