The Lost Beach Boy
David Marks Interview

By Ronnie

I recently got to talk with original Beach Boys member David Marks, prior to his 1st solo appearance in Atlanta. We talked about his tenure with the Beach Boys, his relationships with the various members of the band, his solo career and his current projects. I was a little hesitant with my questions at first, not knowing if he was bitter about his time with the Beach Boys (As some ex-band members can be really touchy about their former bands), but David was really easy to talk to with just about any subject. At the end, he laughingly said, “Well, this is the first time I've forced an interview out of someone.

E.C.: Is guitar your primary instrument?

David: When I was in 4th grade I started taking trumpet lessons. But, I'm not a wind guy, so I picked up the guitar - I really wanted to play drums, but my parents didn't like that idea.

E.C.: So, you were already playing guitar before you met the Wilsons?

David: Yeah, I started on my own. Carl kinda started at the same time.

E.C.: Were you closer to Dennis or Carl?

David: Well, it shifted. When I first moved into the neighborhood, Dennis adopted me as his "little brother". When the music started, Carl and I became closer, because we were guitar-brothers. Brian was so much older than I that we didn't do much hanging out, although he took me under his wing as well. All three of those guys were like my brothers, because I was an only child and I was at their house constantly. And I learned alot from all of them. And the parents, too. Audrey and Murry were geniuses in their own right.

E.C.: I always heard how Carl Wilson was influenced by Chuck Berry, but when ya'll played together, did you try to bring other influences in?

David: As far as the guitar goes, Carl and I were influenced by many different sources - there was the surf genre, which came through Dick Dale and the Ventures. And we loved Chuck Berry of course. Then Brian was influenced by the vocal groups like the Lettermen and the Four Freshmen. And that marriage is really what was the signature sound of the Beach Boys- the electric guitars and the vocals; it was a unique thing at the time.

E.C.: In the studio, did you play any leads?

David: Carl played the lead guitar, I played rhythm guitar. The story is - we both learned how to play guitars together and we had the same influences. So we were pretty equal with our abilities. Carl, being one of the Wilson brothers, had the forefront. Of course their father was the manager, and the boss - so he wanted Carl to be like the "limelight". I didn't mind playing rhythm - that's an important element in the band.

E.C.: The TV film, "Summer Dreams", which was based on the Steven Gaines book, "Heroes & Villains" seemed to totally ignore your part in the band, having the Al Jardine character throughout the band's history...

David: I gotta say that that's not real accurate, its drama, and it’s really mostly fiction. There's alot of misinformation there.

E.C.: Is that why you had the official book out ("The Lost Beach Boy") to kind of clarify things?

David: There were great pains taken to make that book accurate - dates, personnel. It was all carefully researched. In my opinion it’s the most accurate history of the genesis of the Beach Boys band. John Stebbins did a good job writing that, he put it in story form- not regurgitated statistics like the other books.

E.C.: When I was listening to David and the Marksmen, I noticed that guitar wise, it was almost garage punk...

David: Yeah, that's a good description.

E.C.: It was edgier than you would have heard on a Beach Boys production.

David: Oh yeah...

E.C.: On one of the songs, it sounds like the solo is played on a 12-string. Did you use 12-string much for the Marksmen?

David: Yeah, quite a bit. Actually, I had a 12-string acoustic and a 12-string Rickenbacker.

E.C.: The Marksmen were only around for about 2 years?

David: I would say approximately 2 years. Murry (Wilson) wanted to manage the Marksmen. And I had quit the Beach Boys largely because of Murry. So, I kind declined. After that he recruited me to play on some of the Sunray's things. And Brian recruited me to play on "Surf City" by Jan and Dean. So Murry more or less blackballed me, the Marksmen didn't get a whole lot of airplay. Murry was miffed at me and didn't want me to be competition for the Beach Boys. The radio stations didn't play me because they didn't want to lose their exclusivity with the Beach Boys.

E.C.: How much did you tour with the Marksmen?

David: Extensive touring throughout the state of California which is a very huge state. We hit practically every city - little ones like Vallejo, Fresno...all the little ones and the large cities, too. The Marksmen did two of those tours of California. We played extensively around the LA area.

E.C.: Was it an upgrade from touring with the Beach Boys in a station wagon?

David: No, actually it was pretty much the same. We had our U-haul trailer and we set up our own gear, tore down our own gear, just like the early Beach Boys.

E.C.: Did you apply what you learned in the recording studio with the Beach Boys to the Marksmen recordings?

David: I watched what Brian was doing, and I pretty much learned from Brian. I taught the boys in my band the three-part harmonies from watching Brian teach us harmonies. In the studio I pretty much followed what I saw from Brian. And that's how I got my producer's prowess, was from working with Brian. And we had the same engineer, too - Chuck Britz.

E.C.: You were 13 or 14 at the time with the Beach boys...

David: I was 13 & 14 when we recorded the first four Beach Boys albums and I was 15 when I produced the Marksmen stuff. I wrote all the stuff, produced all the stuff.

E.C.: You said that the Marksmen used the same studios as the Beach Boys. After you left the Beach Boys, did you ever run into them at the studio?

David: I would be driving down Sunset Boulevard and I'd see Brian's car at the studio - so I'd stop in, and he would be working on "Good Vibrations".

E.C.: Was Murry real hard to work under?

David: He was very strict, a disciplinarian with his sons. And Murry gets a bad rap, but his only interest was the welfare of his sons. As a result, alot of people got hurt. But Murry was good, I learned alot from him.

E.C.: From what I've read, it seems like Murry had it out for you?

David: When the money started rolling in, Murry wanted to have it all in the family; he wanted to form a corporation. So he kinda tried to ace me and Mike out a little bit.

E.C.: But you didn't write any of the songs during your tenure with the band, The Moon?

David: No, I didn't have any writings on that - Matt Moore did most of the writing. And then we did two songs that Gary Montgomery wrote. Gary was in a band called the Colours, which I kinda simultaneously did recordings with the Colours and the Moon - we were all like one big family.

E.C.: After the Moon, you did session work?

David: Actually, that was during the Moon when I started getting a little recognition from a producer or two in Hollywood. And from hearing the Moon stuff they hired me. The new Christi Minstrels, they were all doing solo albums and I was on most of that. Just regular session stuff - for Dot Records, Buzz Clifford projects...I can't remember everything that I played on.

E.C.: You played with Delaney & Bonnie, right?

David: Not in the studio - I played live with Delaney and Bonnie.

E.C.: Was George Harrison around at that time?

David: When I was around there was Dr. John, Eric Clapton, and...

E.C.: Jim Keltner?

David: Oh yeah, Jim Keltner. Jim Keltner played on a couple of the Moon sides. We worked with Jim alot - Jim was the one that got me in with Delaney & Bonnie.

E.C.: Back around 1998 or 1999, I saw the Beach Boys when you were in the lineup. How did that come about? Because I know that you had been asked in the early '70s to rejoin the Beach Boys...

David: In the early '70s there was a moment when I was gonna go back, but it didn't work out. We were just on separate paths. At that point Brian had pretty much stopped working for awhile, he was on hiatus. The personnel was a little "iffy". Carl wanted me to play bass - I was just too much into working with my guitar, and I didn't want to switch instruments at that point.

And so...in the late '90s, unfortunately Carl got sick and he was unable to perform. And Mike recruited me to...kind of take his place, but we were all expecting Carl to come back. And I would have stayed on - and we were planning - Mike and Carl and I were planning our future and tragically Carl died. I stayed on for another year or so after that, and then I got sick with hepatitis.

E.C.: Recently, you've worked with Al Jardine. And there's been acrimony the last 15 years or so between him and Mike Love...wasn't Al kinda booted out?

David: I'm not sure exactly what happened between them. I understand they're on talking terms now. I was just there because Mike called and asked me to play and I wasn't involved in any of the politics. So I couldn't really give you the lowdown about what went on between Mike and Al exactly. I wasn't privy to all that. But recently Al and I have been working alot together.

E.C.: And with Dean?

David: Well, Al has his own band that I play with, and then there's the Surf City All Stars, which is Al, Dean and myself.

E.C.: I heard you have a new project with Stephen Kalinich?

David: Yeah, Stevie wrote a bunch of poems and I put music to it. Jez (Graham) wrote a song with Stevie, too. Alot of people have worked with Stevie...Brian of course, all the Beach Boys...and Jeff Sloan.

E.C.: Is the project finished?

David: It's not finished yet, it’s getting close. I hope it will be out in a few months.

E.C.: One thing that I noticed during tonight's warm up was your blues guitar. Is that your favorite style?

David: Yeah, ever since I was a child and started learning how to play, I loved listening to jazz and blues - I loved the concept of improvisation. So I started listening to all the blues guys - its influenced rock and roll throughout, its kinda like a staple - the basis of rock and roll, really.

E.C.: Do you just pick up bands at each venue, or do you have a regular touring band?

David: This is actually my first solo gig, believe it or not. I met Jez (Graham) about a year ago - he sat in with me. I had Brian Wilson's percussionist, Nelson Bragg, and myself - we were just gonna do a duo. Jezz stopped by - and I had heard about Jezz - and he sat in on the piano. We hit it off, he's an excellent - one of the best keyboard guys I know. So he's actually responsible for this configuration of musicians. And they're just like the best players you could ever hope for. So when I get some more solo gigs for my stuff, I would probably use this band, this is a great band! David Logeman on the drums, he's in the Surf City All Stars - I brought him with me. I brought my own drummer.

E.C.: When you play, do you have a regular set list?

David: On this particular job, I tried to mix in some of the obscure Beach Boys, Dennis Wilson compositions, and we do a blues version of "Little Deuce Coupe". About a third of it is my original compositions. And we threw in a couple of covers.

E.C.: One thing I really liked, listening to all your music over your career, is that you didn't have any problem changing genres/styles.

David: I've always been pretty diversified. When I was little I used to love to listen to Bach - and all the jazz guys and jazz piano players. I never really got to play jazz full blown; I just got hung up on blues. But I played classical guitar at home. If it's good I love it - country, reggae, whatever it is.

E.C.: Because if you would have stayed with the Beach Boys - or joined them again in the early '70s - you would have been kind of straight-jacketed into a style?

David: There's been alot of talk about that, speculation on what it would have been like if I had stayed. But, that's a double-edged sword. You're right; if I had stayed I would have been limited. And I wouldn't have been out learning all the stuff that I learned, so I wouldn't have been able to apply that.

E.C.: Listening to some of Dennis Wilson's '70s material, it's too bad you didn't get to sit in, because it seems like it would have been a really good fit, music wise.

David: I'm still close to Dennis' first wife Carol. And she told me that during the '70s - Dennis and her were still pretty close - and he was trying to find me! She said he left me a big note, she can't find it now, its in her storage unit or something. My fantasy is that he was trying to find me to play on that stuff. Listening to it now, I'm thinking, "Wow, I wish I had been there." Because it really needed my playing, really needed my guitar.

E.C.: In hindsight, after all the years, did you regret leaving the Beach Boys? Or was it a natural progression for you?

David: It took a really long time for me to start thinking in those terms. I had so much going on that I didn't start thinking about that until 20 or 30 years after the fact - when I found myself not being quite as privileged as they - looking at what they had, looking at what I had. I started thinking, "hmm, maybe I should have stuck around", but It wasn't very good motivation. It was the money that got me thinking about maybe I should have stayed, which isn't really a good reason (laughs).

E.C.: And then look what happened to Dennis…

David: That's another thing, too, because I was always behind him - following in his footsteps. And I'm sure he would have led me down the wrong path.

The show:
The show was GREAT, with a superb backing by the band: Jez Graham, David Logeman, Del Baroni, David Ellington, and Chuck Bithorn. I was really impressed by David’s prowess on blues guitar! For me, the highlight was hearing two Dennis Wilson songs, “You and I” and “Pacific Ocean Blue”. Jez Graham did vocals on a fantastic version of “Sail on Sailor” and also played his great new song, “Surrender” (co written by Stephen Kalinich; with David Marks playing guitar on the studio version which is yet unreleased). During the encore, the band repeated two songs again, “You and I” and “Sail on Sailor”. Right before “You and I”, David talked about taking this band on the road – let’s hope THAT happens!

Here’s the setlist:
Bright Lights Shine
I'm So Clever
I Aint Goin Surfin’
Louie Louie
You and I
Pacific Ocean Blue
Round and Round
Have You Ever Been Duped?
Little Blues Coupe
Don't Back Down
Sail On Sailor
Land Of Opportunity
Early In The Mornin’
Summertime Blues
Big Wave
You and I
Tore Down
Green Onions
Sail On Sailor
Click on the youtube link below to see the encore of "You and I":