Back in 1990, a telefilm with the self-explanatory title of Summer Dreams: The Story of the Beach Boys was broadcast by (I think) NBC. As many other fans of the group undoubtedly did, I tuned in. The star of this compressed, two-hour (minus commercial time) recounting of the turbulent history of the legendary West Coast pop group (who initially came to fame by riding surfing’s new-found wave of popularity in the early sixties, but eventually exceeded all artistic expectations thanks to the musical genius of group leader, Brian Wilson), the focus of this TV movie, was actor Bruce Greenwood.
He played Dennis Wilson.
Hey, he was the sexy one, the bad boy, the one who hung out with Charles Manson, the Beach Boy who - how’s THIS for tragic irony? - actually DROWNED! Throw in numerous drug problems and a revolving cast of bedmates and you’ve got yourselves a story even the most casual American tube watcher could understand, one that surely comes across a whole lot easier than trying to properly portray brother Brian’s fragile mental and emotional state during the group’s heyday, the period when he composed his masterworks. To be fair, Brian DID get a fair amount of screen time, second only to Dennis. After that, attention paid to the core members dropped off precipitously: Mike Love was mostly there to man the microphone for some iconic lead vocals and, later, not dig his cousin’s revolutionary ideas - and to bluntly tell him so! Young brother Carl, well, he had a few lines, and a few vocals.
And Al Jardine?
Pity actor Andrew Mylar. The Internet Movie Data Base lists his portrayal of Jardine as his debut credit - followed up by only three more, the last in 1995.
(Bruce Greenwood, by contrast, has 89 credits, dating back to 1979 right on up to the present. I recall him best as Dr. Seth Griffin during the 1988 season of St. Elsewhere…)
Anyway, you’d think taking on the role of a world-famous rock-star would’ve propelled Mylar’s thespian ambitions, but there was one little thing missing from his role that might’ve helped him even further:
Look, it’s been 17 years, so maybe I’m misremembering, but best as I can recall, the Al Jardine character wasn’t afforded a single line of dialog in the entire piece! Mostly, our faux Al just hovered around in the background, smiling when the group was up, frowning when they weren’t.
Not fair. Not fair at all. Not to a man who sang lead on (among others) “Help Me Rhonda” and “Vegetables,” and who suggested Brian cut a version of “Sloop John B,” the only smash hit single from the since-universally lionized (but at the time of release, commercially disappointing) Pet Sounds LP.
Hey, there’s even some evidence that Al, following founder Brian, was actually the second man recruited for the group. After a musical assemblage made up of the pair and some of their college friends didn’t quite jell, their university associates were booted, only to be replaced by Carl and Mike, and THAT’S when the real Beach Boys were born! (Mother Audree Wilson later insisted that Dennis be added.)
You’d think THAT scenario would be worth a line or two, but apparently not.
Well, all these years later, Brian and Al are back together, touring to perform Pet Sounds on stage in it’s entirety one last time (or so they say). This is a rather recent development. Brian and The Boys went their separate ways years ago, with Wilson touring on his own while Mike Love, Carl Wilson, mid-sixties recruit Bruce Johnston, and Al went out before audiences as The Beach Boys. After Carl’s tragic passing nearly a decade ago, the group not only sorely missed his angelic voice (my personal favorite amongst all of the group’s extremely talented vocalists), they also missed his peacekeeping nature. Thus, soon after, lacking in love for Mike, Al split to go off on his own. However, Love legally controlled The Beach Boys brand, so Jardine was forbidden from performing under any sort of a moniker that included the word “Beach” in it.
Still, Al managed.
Don’t believe me? Check out this live recording, Al Jardine Family and Friends: Live In Las Vegas…
Recorded in 1999, and featuring Jardine sons Matt and Adam - as well as Brian’s offspring, Carnie and Wendy - sharing lead vocals with Al on a generous helping of Beach Boy classics and overlooked gems alike (”Surfer Girl” and “Breakaway,” “Good Vibrations” and “Girl, Don’t Tell Me”), I was pleasantly surprised not only by the music’s energy but by its polish as well. Frankly, as much as I love The Beach Boys, I have never been overly impressed by the handful of concert recordings they’ve issued over the decades (and that includes most of Brian’s recent forays as well), as the shimmering vocal precision so instrumental to the original tracks’ success is rarely close to being duplicated, with the live recordings always sounding positively ragged by comparison. Plus, there’s always those groan-inducing raps of Mike Love’s to endure. After all, who needs to hear “Good Vibrations” sung live if the lead vocalist is gonna mock it midway through?
But this record is an awful lot of fun (which Al closes out with “California Energy Blues, a studio track of his own). Hey, it may not be SMiLE, but it’s not Looking Back With Love, either. You can order a copy through Al Jardine’s Official Website, and I think even a casual Beach Boy fan would find it to be a worthy purchase.
Who knows - maybe somewhere out there, Andrew Mylar is listening to his very own copy right now?
(And Ned Vaughn, as well. He also took on the role of Al Jardine, this time in 2000 TV flick called The Beach Boys: An American Family. Frankly, I don’t remember if I actually watched this latter day rehash of The Boys history or not - as big a rock music fan as I am, after awhile I wearied of mostly second-rate attempts to dramatize pop music history, and have a half dozen still unwatched network takes on key moments in Beatles history languishing downstairs to prove it, and the American Family likely suffered from a similar indifference…
Maybe I SHOULDA tuned in - Vaughn’s imdb listing is far more impressive than his predecessor - 47 credits overall, 18 since he slipped into Al’s striped shirt, including four appearances as Mitch Anderson during the fourth season of my beloved 24! I don’t know if he sidled up to the mic to warble “Help Me Rhonda” during The Beach Boy bio flick, but I’m pretty sure he screamed “Help me, Bauer!” during his 24 stint!…)
Sadly, Carl and Dennis are gone - and Mike has staked out his own path - so for the group’s two originals, Brian and Al, it’s a much belated reunion, which, from all accounts, has infused a new level of confidence in the stage-wary Wilson. Clearly, Brian is the musical immortal, but let’s not overlook the contribution Al Jardine made to the group’s success. This man has seen it ALL, folks - just imagine the sort of book he could write? A blockbuster, I’m betting - one just ripe for a THIRD teleflick!
AND a far juicier role for narrator Al Jardine, I’m betting!
And now, for you comics fans who’ve muddled through my rock ramblings, allow me to share with you a strip I did for the 71st issue of Marvel Age (February 1989) which features not only Cartoon Fred hosting an earlier version of “The Fred Hembeck Show,” but Brother Voodoo, several Beach Boys, and their NEW lead singer as well! I even give Cartoon Al Jardine a pivotal line - and this a full year before Video Al Jardine showed up on the small screens of America, woefully bereft of dialog!
This strip was drawn in the regular centerspread format of the day, meaning that I had to divvy up the twenty one panels rather than just post the double-wide pair of pages for your viewing enjoyment. Also, bear in mind that this was composed while I was deeply in thrall of the great Jack Benny, and shortly after Mike Love shot off his mouth during the group’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acceptance speech! In retrospect, I wonder exactly HOW many Marvel Age readers knew just what the heck I was talking about, but good ol’ editor Jim Salicrup let me run around unfettered, and this was one of those times where, hey, good luck getting the punchline, kids! (Another was when I did a strip about Roy and Dann Thomas taking over the scripting of Dr. Strange, and the humor revolved around Cartoon Fred mistaking Roy’s missus with comedian DANNY Thomas, culminating with a Dormammu bearing a big honker, and an “Uncle Tonoose” reference to boot. After it came out, I was in my local comics store, and the clerk - a pre-Hutch Owens Tom Hart - confessed he didn’t understand the gags in that particular strip at all! I think that was when I first began to realize that, y’know, maybe I shouldn’t always be so narrow with my quips…)
But before that overdue bolt of lightning finally hit, I did the following strip…
Aside from my labored caricature, the Jardine impressions above were all garnered from the 1979 trade paperback, The Beach Boys, by the late Byron Preiss, and were the work of, in order of appearance, Bill Nelson, Joey Epstein/Tom Hachtman, George Chastain, and Overton Loyd. This handsome volume also contains contributions by such stalwarts as Howard Chaykin, Ralph Reese, Edward Gorey, John Pound, Kenneth Smith, Walt Simonson, Bobby London, William Stout, and Harvey Kurtzman - none of whom, unfortunately, offered up a Jardine of their own. Still, it’s a book well worth searching out, especially for the comics fan who likes to listen to Endless Summer while reading his (or her) Man of Tomorrow Archives…
Well, that’s about it for this week - say good night, Al…
Visit Hembeck.com for all the good vibrations you can handle! And worry not - no one’s gonna eat all your corn there, I promise!
-Copyright 2007 Fred Hembeck
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