Sailing toward individuality Shut-out Beach Boys member Alan Jardine launches children's book By Allen O. Pierleoni -- Bee Staff Writer Published 2:15 am PDT Sunday, September 4, 2005 First they were Kenny and the Cadets, then Carl and the Passions and then the Pendletones. They changed the name of the band one more time - to the Beach Boys - and released an album called "Surfin' " in December 1961. An American institution was born. Musical genius Brian Wilson, his brothers Carl and Dennis, their cousin Mike Love and family friend Alan Jardine (and later Bruce Johnston) sang about the Southern California beach scene ("Surfin' USA"), fast cars ("Shut Down") and teen angst ("In My Room"). Their trademark was harmony; no other singers could blend their voices like the Beach Boys. In their day, they were a supergroup. If you want a local connection, here's one: On tour in September 1964, they recorded "The Beach Boys Concert Album" in Sacramento. It was the first live album to top the music charts. The Beach Boys' 1966 album, "Pet Sounds," is usually included in lists of the greatest pop-music albums ever made. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. On the negative side, the Beach Boys' high-energy career had more than its share of tragedy: drug and alcohol abuse; the mental breakdown of the group's leader, Brian Wilson; the deaths of Dennis Wilson in 1983 (drowning) and Carl Wilson in 1998 (lung cancer); and infighting, largely over the rights to the name "Beach Boys." Not surprisingly, the surviving members have charted separate courses. Mike Love, Bruce Johnston and their band tour under the Beach Boys name. Brian Wilson's summer tour, Smile, concludes today at the Hollywood Bowl. Grammy Award-winning guitarist Jardine tours with his Endless Summer Band. Jardine, who turned 63 on Saturday, published a children's book in April, "Sloop John B: A Pirate's Tale" (Milk & Cookies, $17.95 with a CD, 32 pages, ages 4-8, illustrated by Jimmy Pickering). Jardine lives in Big Sur with his wife of 21 years, Mary Ann. "She's an equestrian," he said. "We met through the Arabian horse world. She helps me a great deal with my career." Jardine has two sons from his first marriage and two more children from his current marriage. We caught up with him by phone. Q: What's that noise? Are you putting away the dishes? A: Yes, I'm doing housework, absolutely. When you're home in August and not working, you find a lot of things to do. Q: You should be surfing in Santa Cruz. A: I don't surf. I never got into it. Q: Why did you do a children's book? A: The publisher asked me if I'd ever considered an artist-celeb book-publishing concept and asked if I wanted to be part of that. So I (wrote) a few lyrics (of "Sloop John B") that were more presentable for that age group. I knocked out the drinking and the fighting, the fun stuff, and changed those words around. Q: As you know, "Sloop John B" is an old West Indian folk song. Versions were recorded by the Weavers and the Kingston Trio. It seems out of place on the album "Pet Sounds." A: It wasn't scheduled to go on "Pet Sounds"; it was released prior to that album. But Capitol Records decided it needed a hit song and "Sloop John B" had already charted pretty well, so they thought, "To save our bacon, we're going to put this on 'Pet Sounds' because we don't understand this music that you've presented to us, Brian. We're going to insist that we have a hit song to sell a few records." Little did they know what a gem they had. So the story of "Sloop John B" is (that) it was supposed to save "Pet Sounds." Anyway, the song was always very charming to me. It always took me away from my teenage doldrums. We all get into them, and music was my way of escaping them. So I escaped on the Sloop John B. Q: Did you change the lyrics from what the Kingston Trio had done? A: They're pretty much the same. That's where I first learned it. I extrapolated from there - it would be nice to have a few minor chords and a couple of Beach Boys harmonies wrapped around a different kind of structure. I played the structure on a piano for Brian and he liked it so much that he put a big production around it and the rest is history. Q: There's a new state historical landmark commemorating the site of the old Wilson house in Hawthorne. You and Brian were there for the opening ceremony in May. How was that? A: It was good to hook up with Brian again, but there was too much to assimilate, really. If there was a downside, it was that the site of the house has been so disturbed and the environment is so changed by a freeway overpass that there's no way to connect to it. So it was more of a surreal experience. Q: Set me straight: How many Beach Boys touring groups are there? A: There's only one. There's the group that Mike Love (and Bruce Johnston) has managed to put together. Love has re-created the Beach Boys in his own image. Essentially, it's a giant ego trip. Brian has elected to go a different way, and I was left to my own devices. We live in an age when corporations control everything we do. A good example is Brother Records, the corporation that owns the Beach Boys name. The shareholders consist of people who never set foot on a stage. If you go to a meeting, you see a bunch of lawyers sitting around a table. Mike Love has about four of 'em, Brian Wilson has about six of 'em, I have a couple myself. It's sickening. It's not about music anymore, it's about, "How do we keep the shareholders' penthouses on Wilshire Boulevard supplied with vintage champagne?" (The board of directors) voted to give Mike Love the license to the Beach Boys name and now he has a bunch of imposters that he calls the Beach Boys running around with him. But it's not over. There are more thunderclouds on the horizon. We're now at a crossroads with this Beach Boys business and you will be hearing about it. It's gonna get hairy. I'm sorry for Brian. Poor Brian's under the Mike Love guns again, let's put it that way. Q: You're no longer leading the Beach Boys Family & Friends band? A: Not anymore. Mike Love put the screws to that. I'm not allowed to use the Beach Boys name in any form. Q: You tour with your sons, Matt and Adam, right? A: Yeah, with our Endless Summer Band. The Beach Boys name is far more valuable, though. You could put a band of orangutans on a stage with that name and you'd have promoters selling out tickets everywhere. Q: Are Brian's daughters, Wendy and Carnie, still with the Endless Summer Band? A: No, they were intimidated out. They were told women may not sing Beach Boys songs. That's Mike's and Brian's lawyers saying that. (The corporation voted) that my band did not have the look and feel of the Beach Boys because it had women in it. These are Brian Wilson's daughters, who sound better than he does. It's corporate America run amok. Q: As an artist and founding member, all that must make you ill. A: Oh, yeah. I happen to believe that my voice was one of the better voices in the band, and now it's missing. How can you sell audiences so short like that? Brother Records started out as a partnership. We were all such good friends and partners, and then someone had the bright idea of incorporating. Q: The public doesn't care about the politics behind the front. A: They really don't. The band has been established for so long that the public doesn't know who is actually a Beach Boy anymore, so it really doesn't matter who's up on the stage. You can get away with it now, but you couldn't do that when Dennis and Carl were alive. Dennis was very vocal, he was our energy symbol. But people don't care anymore. It's primarily a ticket-selling device now. Q: Who do you like listening to these days? A: I like classic rock. We just went to an Eagles concert and they reminded me of our own great harmonies. I thought, "We could do that if we put everybody back on stage, the way it ought to be." If Brian Wilson wanted to come out of hiding and be a Beach Boy, we could put the band back together pretty much the way it was and do a damn good job. So that's my mission right now - to get Brian to be a Beach Boy. Q: The Beach Boys are so ingrained in our culture that it must be impossible to separate Al Jardine from the group. Maybe the book is a good step. A: I think so. It has an individuality to it. It shows a little bit of my creativity in a different way, separate from the band. Q: What's your next project? A: I owe myself the luxury of doing a solo project in my recording studio here. It's a little late at this stage of the game, but I think I might have one or two things to offer. It's about how you think and how you perceive yourself. I've always been a young thinker. Whenever Brian and I got together, we were always thinking about music. We would talk about the songs that influenced us as we were growing up, and the bands we influenced since. Like the Eagles, for instance. We influenced them and now they've kind of energized me to get back into the studio. They reminded me of the songs I haven't finished. See, hear Jardine Former Beach Boys guitarist Alan Jardine will sign his children's book "Sloop John B" at 7 p.m. Friday at Borders, 2765 E. Bidwell St., Folsom. For more information: (916) 984-5900. Also, he will guest-star with Adam Marsland's Chaos Band at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Cameron Park Lake, 2989 Cambridge Road in Cameron Park; $8 general, $5 children. Bring lounge chairs or a blanket; food and drink vendors will be present.