Jeff Beck, left, and Brian Wilson are working on a new album together, as well. (Mr. Bonzai)
Don’t ask why there are more Beach Boys onstage with Brian Wilson and Jeff Beck in their current tour than on the road with Wilson’s cousin Mike Love in his “official,” state fair version of the band.
Just chalk it up to the latest iteration of Wilson-Love family dysfunction, and enjoy the collaboration between Wilson, the formerly reclusive genius behind “Pet Sounds,” and Beck, the guitarist whose fiery sound is a cornerstone of British rock of the 1960s.
Wilson and Beck perform Friday at the Fox Theatre, joined by longtime Beach Boy Al Jardine. Jardine met Wilson when they played on the Hawthorne (California) High School football team. He joined the Beach Boys at their inception, in 1961.
Former Beach Boys guitarist David Marks is also onboard. Marks, who first left the group in 1963, thrilled audiences at the Beach Boys’ 2012 50th anniversary tour (technically, it should have been their 51st anniversary) with the authentic early ’60s surf guitar sound of his Fender Jaguar.
And former Beach Boys sideman Blondie Chaplin — he sang on “Sail On, Sailor,” from the Beach Boys’ “Holland” album — is onstage with the Wilson-Beck menage, as well. The month-long tour wraps up Oct. 30 in Milwaukee.
Wilson, 71, spoke recently by phone from his favorite studio, Ocean Way in Los Angeles, joined by his longtime friend Jardine, also 71.
The first question has to be, why Jeff Beck?
“I was the MusiCares ‘person of the year,’ and he played my song ‘Surf’s Up’ and blew my mind,” Wilson said, referring to the Grammy MusiCares tribute in 2005.
“And just recently he started recording with me on my new album, so it came from that.”
The pairing isn’t as odd as it may seem on the surface. Beck is considered by many the premier blues-rock guitarist of his generation from his stints with the Yardbirds and his own Jeff Beck Group, and like most British musicians, he has a keen appreciation of American music. As a passionate collector of American cars of the ’60s, he’s well-versed in the ’60s surf/car sound.
Wilson started working on the album, his first solo set of new music in five years, after the Beach Boys’ 50th anniversary reunion tour ended in some acrimony, taking hopes for more new Wilson-penned Beach Boys songs with it.
Instead of planning for another leg of the tour, Mike Love “fired” Wilson, Jardine and Marks and went out on the road with his trademarked but less-authentic version of the Beach Boys, contending the reunion was never meant to be permanent.
Although Wilson was disappointed, he’s been forging ahead with his own projects.
The solo album was put on hold temporarily while Wilson, Beck, Jardine and band tour, but they’ll get back to it in November.
While most of the material was written by Wilson, there are several instrumentals he and Beck were working on together, and a Beatles song (“A Day in the Life,” which they have played on some tour stops).
There’s a car song about one of Wilson’s favorites, (according to Jardine), the ’32 Ford Deuce Coupe, called “Run James Run” (“a wonderful song; we may even play it on tour,” said Jardine), which leads to a brief conversation about the Michiganian, Chili Catallo, whose blue ’32 Ford (and arms, clad in a red jacket) can be seen on the cover of the Beach Boys’ 1963 album “Little Deuce Coupe.”
Another Wilson-Beck instrumental on the forthcoming album is titled “Metropolis.”
While Beck famously took a detour into fusion jazz in the ’70s, and many of the arrangements Wilson writes reflect a jazzy sophistication, he insists that jazz was never a big influence.
Mention Motown, though, and Wilson becomes animated. “Motown’s bass player made me write bass lines; he was a really good bass player,” he said.
He’s referring to the late James Jamerson, the cornerstone of the Motown studio band. Which Beach Boys album shows the most Motown influence?
“The ‘Pet Sounds’ album was inspired by Motown,” Wilson said. He wrote the bass lines for “Wrecking Crew” bassist Carol Kaye for those sessions.
While there have been changes in the set list over the past few weeks, the Wilson-Beck live show consists of many Beach Boys and Wilson classics, including “California Girls,” “Good Vibrations,” “I Get Around” and “Heroes and Villains.” Wilson and the Beach Boys then leave the stage, and Jeff Beck comes out with his own band.
Some of the numbers Beck has been playing include Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” and the old blues song “Rollin’ and Tumblin’.”
Later in the set, Wilson, Jardine and Marks come back out to perform a number of songs with Beck, including “Our Prayer” from the “Smile” album, their Beach Boy-ified version of “Danny Boy,” etc.
On the phone, Wilson praised Jardine’s voice — and indeed, the guitarist sounded great during the 50th anniversary tour.
For his part, Jardine praised Marks’ contribution: “He has a natural guitar sound that we had on our early albums, it’s very difficult to reproduce, but somehow he manages to come across just like the original.”
Both Marks and Jardine are playing Fender Jaguars this time out. “It’s my favorite now, although I play the (Fender) Strat also,” Jardine said. “But David, he and Jeff are going to play a couple of tunes together, they’ll have fun on the car songs.”
As for his voice, “I try to avoid cheese,” Jardine quipped. “It’s true; it interferes with my singing. The other day in the studio I had a turkey melt just before I came to the studio, so we had to do it all over again. Too much information?”
Brian Wilson with Jeff Beck and Al Jardine and David Marks
8 p.m. Friday
2211 Woodward, Detroit
In the works
The Beach Boys’ official reunion may have ended with a whimper and not a bang, but Brian Wilson has been busy in the last year with his solo album, the tour with Jeff Beck and other projects:
“Made in California,” a 6-CD boxed set released in late August covers the full scope of the Beach Boys’ career, from their early Pendleton shirt days of car and surf songs, up to the tortured brilliance of “Pet Sounds” and “Smile” (and the post-Brian kitsch such as “Kokomo”). Wilson helped pick and sequence songs.
Love and Mercy,” a movie about Brian’s life directed by Bill Pohlad (he secured the rights to his life story and the rights to use his music), is to be released next year.
Paul Dano is starring as Brian as a young man, growing up in Hawthorne, Calif. and during the early days of the group. John Cusack plays him as an older man, and intriguingly, Brian gives high marks to Cusack’s singing.