The Beach Boys - interview with David Marks - part 2

 

The Moon, Colours, and studio work

DM : That experience with the Marksmen was over quickly, but I was fast to hook up with others. I was constantly around different musicians. I met Matt Moore through the people at White Whale Records.

CM : That was the Moon. I thought that was fantastic.

DM : Warren Zevon was working with White Whale Records when I met him. So were friends of mine from the neighborhood, the Turtles, they were on White Whale Records. I was familiar with White Whale and the producer there, Bones Howe, he did the Fifth Dimension and the Mamas and the Papas and countless others. That’s how I met Matt Moore, whose brother Danny was a producer. Danny started hiring me for sessions, because he was producing a lot of people. For a couple of years there, while I was recording the Moon’s albums and the Colours albums, I was also doing work for Danny Moore for the people he was producing. I was very excited about that because I was doing it incognito. I wasn’t being hired because of my association with the Beach Boys ; no one knew that I was associated with the Beach Boys. I was being hired on my guitar talent, which made me very happy. At that time, that’s what was important to me. I did that for a couple of years, but when I went to school in Boston, I gave that up. A couple of years later when I came back, I thought it was going to be waiting for me, but there were always guitar players in the wings.

CM : There are hundreds of them.

DM : Yeah, as soon as I left town, there was another guy right there.

CM : Do you get a lot of people talking to you about the Moon albums ?

DM : Not a lot. Since they’ve been re-released on CD there have been more. People read the book, The Lost Beach Boy, and they see the mention of the Moon in there. They buy it and they comment or post on one of my boards about how much they love it. That was something that was discovered by Cherry Red Rev-Ola records out of England. They found it in the EMI vaults, got all the licensing, talked to Matt about it and released it on CD several years ago.

I was surprised when the Moon CD came out, at how well it was received by people. People liked the album when it came out, but the record company at the time dropped the ball. I believe it would have been successful if Liberty hadn’t messed it up. But they were in the process of being sold at the time, you know how it goes, it’s typical. I love the Moon stuff, it came out really good.

CM : You obviously worked very hard on it. .

DM : Yeah, we lived in the studio virtually. Pizza boxes all over the place it smelled like B.O. But we lived in that studio, we didn’t know what time of day or night it was, we just recorded. Larry Brown, who was running the Producer’s Workshop [studio] for Mike Curb, had met Matt through the White Whale people, I guess. We were all the same age, the three of us were seventeen. We used a couple of different bass players, but the three of us were in that studio, we were the nucleus of the thing. Larry was just learning to be an engineer, but what he did with the Moon and others is just genius. Talking to him today, he said, “I don’t remember ! I don’t know how I did that.” He has since won an Emmy and did work with big stars, but at the time it was just phenomenal. That was one of his first solo projects, co-producing and playing the drums and helping to arrange the songs. He didn’t fit, he had this ’50s style flat-top [haircut] and we had long hippie hair. But it was a great combination, it was that chemistry of people. I sang on the Moon album too ; Matt and I did all the background parts and I had a couple of leads : “Brother Lou’s Love Colony” and “I Think of Her” [“She’s On My Mind”], another Gary Montgomery song.

CM : How did the Colours come about ?

DM : That was another band, it was sort of an integrated thing. Gary Montgomery and Jack Dalton, from Canada, hooked up with us because Matt’s brother Danny was producing them and he met these guys through a mutual friend and turns out that they were trying to make it in Hollywood. Gary was just a great songwriter and singer. He came over to our studio when we were doing the Moon album and laid down a couple piano tracks to “Brother Lou’s Love Colony” and “I Think of Her” and then after our meeting in that capacity, we got along really well and Gary started calling me up to sessions for the Colours. The Colours [reissue] is coming out, the same guys are doing that.

CM : Can you tell me a little bit more about your guitar playing ?

DM : When I first started playing, I was heavily into Duane Eddy, the Ventures, Dick Dale, and B.B. King, and that evolved. When Eric Clapton and the Bluesbreakers hit the scene, I got into the blues quite heavily. That changed my life and my guitar playing. I just loved that. I loved it so much that’s all I played for a few years. I incorporated that style into the pop music I was being hired to perform on by the producer, Danny Moore, and they liked that. Producers weren’t hearing that, much of the time.

CM : Is there a bit of that in the Moon recording ?

DM : Yeah, a lot of it.

Classical Guitar

DM : Right around that same time, during the late ’60s, my cousin Mori was another huge influence on me. Morris Mizrahi, my cousin by marriage, was a performing classical guitar player. He went around the world and gave concerts and was quite good. He showed me a lot of classical guitar styles, introduced me to the Bach lute suites and a lot of orchestral, classical guitar music, orchestral concertos for guitar. That was another pivotal point in my life, changed my life. That was another reason I wanted to go to Boston, because Boston is a cultural center of music, all the teachers and influences. Everybody who was working came through there and played, they did anyway when I was there. That really turned me around, the classical influence, and I even tried to learn how to play jazz guitar. In the process, I learned a tremendous amount of chords and all the scales that go with the chords for improvising and that helped me out. A lot of the chord voicings that I put together on guitar, I use them like background vocals sometimes because of the tensions, the jazz stylings for the popular songs. Therefore, I can’t even put a tag on my style of music. When we were trying to put something on CD Baby [website] and they ask you what genre it is, you can’t say eclectic because that word is overused. I’m thinking about focusing in and doing a blues album, doing a pop album. The last couple of CDs I did were too mixed up.

CM : People like a niche. One of my friends says, “Each album I do is like a movie.”

DM : Has to be conceptual. The lyrics and everything were conceptual and graphics but the songs themselves differed in style a lot. There would be one blues, one ’60s psychedelic, one that’s bluegrass, then one that leans heavily in the jazz style. It was all mixed up. Interesting to me but not so much to the listener.

CM : Versatility is the commercial kiss of death.

DM : Yeah, there you go.

CM : Are there a few recordings that you can tell me that are really representative of yourself ?

DM : On “Surfin’ USA” and “Surfer Girl” my guitar is very prevalent. Most all of those tunes at the time, but I mentioned those two because I think they are iconic records that would just define the Beach Boys.

CM : And from the later things ?

DM : Yeah, I started using the nylon string classical guitar to record with on a few of the Moon songs. I also got to play more blues riffs, solos and stuff. I would say that’s pretty representative of what I was doing at the time. My solo records, for example, the Marksmen, during and right after my stint with the Beach Boys, that’s when I let out my frustration after not being able to play lead in the Beach Boys. So it sounded like Carl on the Marksmen, but better, a little more precise actually. Through the years, up until recently most everything I do is definitely connected to either Mori or John Maus or the blues guys that came around and when it became popular in the late ’60s and ’70s. Like I said, I have too many influences and they just all come out all the time.

Mentors

CM : You have had a lot of mentors.

DM : Yes. My first major influence in the training I received and I consider him my first mentor is Brian Wilson. Without even trying, I learned so much from him. My first experience of course, was going over to the house when they were having a family sing-along. My second experience was spying on Brian through the music room window from the porch outside and watching him work out his Four Freshmen harmonies. I finally got the hands-on training by Brian, where he was teaching me how to sing parts. My second mentor would be John Walker, because of the guitar and again, there’s this handsome guy up there in front of the people playing and singing. I had to be that guy. I idolized Brian and John and after I got a little older and was out of the idolizing stage, I would say Mori Mizrahi mentored me quite a bit towards the classical guitar and music knowledge. He was the first one to introduce me to reading orchestra scores and actually understanding. I had played the trumpet in grade school, but that was just one-note lines.

CM : You didn’t see what anybody else was playing. You just saw your own part.

DM : Yeah, you didn’t get to see the orchestra. It goes on, there’s a list. Dr. Avram David at the conservatory was another guy. I use what I learned from him to this day. Those are my personal one-on-one guys. That doesn’t include the people that I listen to and never met but was influenced by their music.

CM : Who besides Dick Dale, Duane Eddy, B.B. King, and Eric Clapton that you have mentioned already ?

DM : I started listening to Julian Bream, John Williams, and Andres Segovia, the three premier classical guitarists. Of course, Christopher Parkening, he came on the scene a little later. Anything having to do with guitar and guitar music, guitar players, I was always interested in. A lot of the times I would play that down because I didn’t want people to think that lightning hit me and I was a genius, but I studied and followed a lot of those players. The list is huge.

Boston music studies

CM : In later years, you went to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. I did, as well.

DM : I tried to get in, but I didn’t have the correct number of private lessons. I didn’t have a million hours of private instruction, which was required, or a high school diploma ! But they said I could sit in at the summer session if I wanted, which I did for maybe a few weeks, but myself and another couple of guys were disenchanted with it. The instructors were a little too into wanting to be on tour with Buddy Rich.

CM : What year would that have been ?

DM : 1969. So the three of us went around the corner to the New England Conservatory of Music where the resident composer, his name was Avram David, he took the three of us under his wing, moonlighted and gave us private instruction.

CM : On guitar ?

DM : Music theory, copying, orchestration. That was the highlight of my musical education aside from learning all that from Brian as a kid. I composed some string quartets, a couple of chamber pieces, flute and violin pieces, just to mess around with it. I still use what I learned from him. It was an invaluable education, just the basics of writing music, orchestrating, and arranging.

CM : Who were the other two guys at that time ?

DM : One of the guys was Glenn Crocker, who was a friend of Warren Zevon’s. The three of us had an apartment in Hollywood in the mid ’60s. We played around a little bit and recorded some of Warren’s songs that he was starting to write and we played the nightclubs.

CM : You, Glenn and Warren ?

DM : Yeah, Glenn and Warren were high school buddies. Glenn was an accomplished player, studied classical piano and played jazz piano. He had already been to Berklee before I even met him. He wanted to go again and get a degree or something and dragged me along. Glenn and I later did a blues album together, which I have to find. He played piano and sang and wrote a lot of the songs and I just went nuts on wild blues guitar. The other guy that we met at Berklee, Rod Shaw, was from Michigan. He’s still around, he composes and does commercials and is a successful musician behind the scenes.

Reflections

CM : What are you most proud of, either in your life or in your music, or both ?

DM : In music, I’m most proud of having been a part of the Beach Boys. The first five albums I think defines the Beach Boys in what is impregnated and planted in everyone in the world’s minds that likes them. And obviously the things that go with that, the gold records and the state of California erecting a landmark where our houses were. That’s really an honor and I’m extremely proud in having been involved with all of it. In my personal life, I would say that I never thought I would ever get married and I’m proud of my wife and what she’s done with me in her life. Of course, my daughter and the relationship I’ve had with my daughter since she was born. I was a single parent with help from my mother, and she seems to have turned out really well compared to some of the teenagers that are going through hell these days. Teenagers have always gone through a lot of hard growing up. She’s doing well. She’s responsible in that she has a job and is going to school. She has two degrees and she seems happy. She’s 26. Those are the probably the things that make me the proudest.

CM : How would you like to be remembered ?

DM : My friends and loved ones and family will remember me for our experiences we had together. But in general in the world, I would like to be remembered as someone who built the foundation of the Beach Boys’ sound in the early days and was one-sixth of that combination that made that so successful. If one element is missing from a big band, that music isn’t the same. Like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, when they first started out, they had this combination of people that worked, and so did we.

Thanks to Carrie, our other partner, [author] Jon Stebbins, and some others, I have been somewhat resurrected. There was a period through 30 years or so where I was deliberately and intentionally written out of the Beach Boys’ history.

CM : Why do you think that was ?

DM : Well, at first, when I was leaving and making the transition out of the Beach Boys in the ’60s, Murry Wilson, the manager at the time, thought it would be more convenient to just delete that part of the history. There was a long story, but why bother, he’s not here anymore. So I kind of got lost. People at first would write into fan magazines and letters to Murry in whatever fan clubs wondering what happened to me. Murry took advantage of that opportunity to phase me out of the history. It’s funny too because the same thing happened to Al when he left after they recorded, “Surfin’.” He left and they just didn’t mention him at all. When I left and he was already back in the band, there were the six of us all together. Al was going out and taking Brian’s vocal parts and bass parts on the road when we toured, and then, right around the time we started recording “Surfer Girl,” he started coming back into the studio and recording with us again. He would do the bass while Brian would do the keyboards, so there was six of us.

So I was conveniently written out. I could have probably stood up for myself, but I didn’t. I was off doing other projects as well. I cut loose of my identity with the Beach Boys until Jon [Sebbins] started writing this book. It woke up all the memories and the feelings and the emotions and the experiences. Because of that, I’ve been re-introduced into the Beach Boy fan world, not so much to the general public, who don’t really identify the Beach Boys by single names anyway. They never have. It’s funny, I point out that Brian Wilson, everyone in the world knows his name, but probably wouldn’t recognize him on the street. Whereas they don’t particularly know Mike’s name but they identify with the personification, they look at him and they think Beach Boys. I would like to be remembered, like when someone mentions Beach Boys in an historic capacity, in books or interviews, as one of the founding members who contributed to the basic Beach Boy sound that became iconic.

CM : Which of course you did.

DM : I’m glad now that people like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the California landmark people are recognizing that I was a part of it. And I’m front and center and ready to admit, confess.

CM : When these things came back with the book and all, you must have felt a sense of integration with your past and your own personal journey.

DM : Yeah, I stayed in touch with the Beach Boys through the years, not a lot but there would be times when I would sit in with the band once every year or so and I would bump into Dennis on the street and we would hang out. I didn’t put it together that the Beach Boys were so big until I started playing with them again in the late ’90s. I realized how big they had become and how worldly renowned and how Brian is held up as one of the premier music people of the 20th century and it hit me. Even when we were kids and we were in the number one band in the world, it didn’t really occur to us. As adults, and Billy Hinsche made me aware of something I didn’t really think of through the years, he said, “You could have been doing all that stuff that you were doing with us.” I thought, I could have, couldn’t I.

CM : From Dino, Desi and Billy ?

DM : Yes, he was in the Beach Boys for I don’t know how many years. He’s Carl’s brother in-law.

CM : How did you feel when Carl died ?

DM : I believed that we all expected him to pull through. We must have been in denial. You kind of expect it, but when it happens it’s devastating. We were all very very sad and we experienced it as a tragedy. It was very disappointing to me to because I thought after all these years Carl and I were going to be on the stage again together. I’d been playing [again] with the band already and tragically he died and we were all very upset about it. At one point, everyone thought, “Hey, the Beach Boys is over.” But thanks to Mike, he pulled them up by their boot-straps and continued to draw crowds that wanted to hear that music.

CM : Do you think you were closest to Carl ? At the beginning you were.

DM : Yeah, at different times I was closer to each of the brothers. When I fist moved in when I was still a small child, I was close to Dennis. Dennis recruited me to run around the neighborhood and get in trouble with him. But when the guitars came on the scene, I stayed close to Dennis, but I hadn’t really been associated with Carl until that point. The guitars brought Carl and I together and we bonded over that and became very close.

CM : And when Dennis died ?

DM : When Dennis died, I was in the studio and a friend of mine who was reporting at a local news radio station came into the studio and said, “One of the Beach Boys died and I don’t know who it is yet, I just got this news flash.” It was Dennis. For some reason I wasn’t really surprised but I was still hurt. It didn’t sink in ; Carl sank in right away, because I was near Carl at the time. I was in the band and was with all of his mutual friends. But with Dennis it didn’t really hit me until a couple weeks later and then I sat down and cried and sobbed, “Holy shit, Dennis is gone !” That was a bummer for a lot of people ’cause everybody loved Dennis.

CM : Bruce and Terry were an act before Bruce Johnston became a Beach Boy. Were you aware of them when they were Bruce and Terry ? I have a CD of theirs which is great.

DM : The guy I mentioned before, Richie Podolor, who I did my first recording session, went to school with Jan Berry and Bruce Johnston and some other people too, like Sandy Nelson. So I’m not surprised that he was the latest guy to replace Brian on the road because he was in one of the Beach Boys-influenced bands.

CM : They went under the name the Rogues for a version of Buddy Holly’s “Everyday.” They did a really ’60s arrangement with a modulation in it, and they really took it somewhere.

DM : I must say, Bruce is a decent producer and arranger too.

CM : I saw Brian perform last week in Ottawa.

DM : I saw him two nights ago, in Torrington, Connecticut. It was probably the same show

CM : What were your feelings to see that ?

DM : Well, I think he’s been trying something different. He surprised me when he sang “God Only Knows.” It was beautiful, he was right on pitch and it was really good. Brian gets a little tired, but for the most part, he really likes to perform. They guys that he has around him are really good guys and they’re the best musicians in the world and he likes being around that. I guess it reminds him of the old days, the camaraderie and the touring and all. There was a while where he didn’t want to tour. He wanted to stay home and write and produce, which if he hadn’t we wouldn’t have gotten these beautiful songs we have today.

CM : I was very impressed with him. He sang while sitting almost motionless on a stool at center stage, one foot resting on the rung of the stool, for a good 40 minutes. He did not move but had an aura around him. The person I was with said he was like somebody from out of The Bible

DM : Carrie said the Pope. [laughing]

CM : He had so much energy around him. He started moving his hands like he was holding a steering wheel and talking about driving in his car.

DM : It is true that people come to see him just because he is Brian. The other night, he was on the coyote kick, he was getting the audience to howl. It was weird too. I don’t know whether Brian was aware of it, but when I walked outside, I noticed it was a full moon. I’m proud of him, I think he’s doing a great job. He’s been rehabilitated as far as not wanting to perform.

CM : I saw Carl perform once when he had just put out his solo album in the early ’80s.

DM : Yeah, I never got to see Carl’s solo performance.

CM : I’ve seen the Mike Love version of the Beach Boys in Montreal and Vermont. He had the sax player that had played on “Kokomo.” It was a good band, but I don’t know who the other guys were. You were with him for a while in the early ’90s, right ?

DM : Yeah, I was a permanent member of the Beach Boys for two or two and a half years in the late ’90s. Toured the world, but I got sick and I had to take some time off. But I’ve been playing with them again recently. I just did a tour with them in the UK and a bunch of little gigs around the Northeastern United States.

CM : There was a long period where you were in them and out of them and then you’re back in them. You must have gone through a lot of different emotions about that.

DM : Well yeah, on my down time when I’m not doing anything, is when I would tend to think, “Gee, I’m not doing anything. Why am I not playing with the Beach Boys ?” It’s not always that simple. But I’ve always kept pretty busy playing in one capacity or another, whether it be a blues bar or in front of one hundred thousand people with the Beach Boys, or recording. When there’s down time, I wonder what I should be doing, and I think I should probably be playing with the Beach Boys.

CM : At one point, there were three different camps, right ?

DM : There is now : there’s Mike’s band the Beach Boys, there’s Brian’s band, and then there’s the Al Jardine, David Marks and Dean Torrence band. It’s called the Surf City All Stars, featuring David Marks, Al Jardine and Dean Torrence. We’ve been received really well with that band. We played two nights up near the Toronto area, and both nights had five thousand people. We were the only act, hard ticket sales, it was amazing, phenomenal. We played at the Atlantis [a resort on Paradise Island, Bahamas] for the Fourth of July. Granted there were people there already on the beach, but they gathered from the island to see us play, fifty to seventy-five thousand people. A big huge beach full of people. It was great, we loved it. We’re going to be doing a lot more.

CM : Is there something you want to ad ?

DM : Probably, I’ll think of it after you leave.

CM : Thank-you very much.

DM : My pleasure.

The Beach Boys 50th Reunion tour of 2012 featured, from left : Al Jardine, David Marks, Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston


part 1 of the David Marks interview is here

comments or questions ? email me

I have also posted several interviews with musicians from the 1950s and 1960s. To go to the index page, click here.

CRAIG MORRISON
is an ethnomusicologist, teacher, author, and musician
based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada
7 Nights Music Communications, 2006