Putting the long-estranged Beach Boys back together for their “That’s Why God Made the Radio” album, their first in 20 years, and the 50th anniversary tour that visits Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Saturday took “about 10,000 phone calls — no exaggeration — a year of planning and a ton of forgiveness,” said Jeff Foskett, literally the Beach Boys’ secret weapon.
Foskett still has a photo of the sign outside SPAC that announced, that summer night in 1982 when singer Mike Love took ill, that “Tonight Mike Love’s vocal parts will be sung by Jeff Foskett.” He rescued and ran the Beach Boys that night, carrying them like a big surfboard through a show without Carl or Brian Wilson or Love; and with Dennis Wilson, Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston as the only principals.
Foskett had joined the Beach Boys in 1981 after touring in Love’s solo band, to sub as Carl Wilson pursued a solo career. “No one could fill Carl’s role in the Beach Boys,” said Foskett. “I was hired to play the guitar parts he would have played, but I have always sung the highest part in the harmony structure,” sometimes Carl’s part, sometimes Brian’s.
Just as Foskett joined the Beach Boys from Love’s solo band, he returned to the Beach Boys from Brian Wilson’s solo project, which he joined in 1998.
“I had been out of the Beach Boys and working on a solo career since 1990,” said Foskett, who ran into Brian and his wife, Melinda, at actor John Stamos’ wedding. “I went up to Brian and told him I heard he was recording a new solo record, ‘Imagination,’ ” said Foskett.
“I told him I would be very interested in working with him on it. He said, ‘I think you’re on to something.’ The next day, he called me and asked me to perform at a BMI function where he was being honored as Man of the Year.”
Foskett sang three songs with Wilson and his daughters Carnie and Wendy. “I have been with him ever since and happy to be here.”
Foskett was with Brian Wilson through Wilson’s surprising resurgence, the second act of a troubled career, and exulted in its peak: the completion of the fabled “SMiLE” album and its triumphant tour that visited SPAC in 2004. “Performing that record live was quite an accomplishment and one of the thrills of my career,” said Foskett, who admitted he misses singing “Wind Chimes,” “Wonderful” and “Child is Father of the Man” from “SMiLE” in the current 44- to 48-song Beach Boys’ reunion show.
Love plans the set lists, Foskett explained.
“Brian and Alan give input on which songs they want to sing each night, and Mike kind of assimilates that and configures what he thinks makes the most sense. It’s definitely a fulfilling show with a ton of Top 40 hits!”
It’s also nearly as unexpected as the Eagles 1994 “Hell Freezes Over” reunion tour, after decades of disputes and lawsuits.
“Many people had approached me about a Beach Boys reunion, but let’s be realistic,” said Foskett. “The only people that mattered were Brian, Michael, Alan and Bruce.” He said he was glad the principals insisted on inviting David Marks, briefly a member at the very beginning.
“I think it’s very fitting to have all of the surviving members included.” Foskett said he spoke several times about a reunion with Brian, his wife and manager, “and finally the positives won out.” He also credited producer Joe Thomas “for having the fortitude to deal with all of the concerned parties and sticking with it when anyone else would have bailed at any given bend in the road.” Foskett said, “Joe was key in putting the record and tour together.”
“It didn’t make sense to tour without supporting a new record,” said Foskett. “Capitol loved the idea of a new record because it will help them sell the back catalog of master recordings that they control,” he explained. “I’m really glad that we made the new record. As you now know, it entered the Billboard Hot 200 at number 3: the highest debut of any Beach Boys record in history!”
Once the band, comprising players drawn mainly from Brian’s crew, was in rehearsal, Foskett said they played with a “really beautiful, natural feeling.”
Foskett mused, “I think the thing that has changed most for me is the absence of Dennis and Carl [deceased in 1983 and 1998, respectively]. Everything else seems pretty much as it was when I joined over 30 years ago. I sure miss those guys, but we do a lovely video tribute to them where we show a video of them singing ‘Forever’ and ‘God Only Knows.’ So it’s almost like they are there.”
The Beach Boys play on Saturday at SPAC (Saratoga Spa State Park) at 8 p.m. Tickets are $35 to $125 in the amphitheater, $27.50 on the lawn. Phone 800-745-3000 or visit www.livenation.com.
Any jazz fan who’s heard Bill McCann on WCDB or met him at every jazz performance of note knows he’s a jazz hero of knowledge, enthusiasm and energy.
Now it’s official: McCann will be awarded the Jazz Journalists Association’s “Jazz Hero” Award on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at the Van Dyck (237 Union St., Schenectady) as part of the JJA’s Jazz Awards Satellite Party. McCann has hosted “The Saturday Morning Edition of Jazz” on WCDB since April 1985, celebrating the masters, introducing the music of local players and shouting that if the tune he just played didn’t get you going, you should seek medical attention.
The 5:30 p.m. celebration of McCann as jazz activist, advocate, altruist and aider-and-abettor is just the first part of a Van Dyck jazz double-header. At 7:30 p.m., Italian-born jazz violinist Luca Ciarla leads his band (accordionist Vince Abbracciante, bassist Nicola Di Camillo and percussionist Francesco Savoretti) onstage to perform one of his few U.S. shows before festivals in Montreal and Ottawa. His contemporary sound blends jazz with ethnic music for a Mediterranean flavor.
Tickets are $15. Phone 348-7999 or visit www.vandycklounge.com.