Daniel Coston: You first saw the Beach Boys around 1964, at a dance.
Ann Moses: When I was in high school which was 1963 to ’64, the kids from school, when there wasn’t a school dance, we sometimes would go out to Disneyland, because some of us worked there, so it was free to get in. Other friends would just pay the admission, and we would all meet in Tomorrowland, and we would all dance to Kay Ball and the Spacemen, and that was really fun. On other nights, we would go to the Retail Clerks Union Hall, which was right across the street from Knott’s Berry Farm, and bands like the Standells played there. It was kind of the up and coming garage bands. But that the first time that I saw the Beach Boys.
They were different in that all were wearing matching shirts. That was not common with other groups. They were striped shirts. Because the kids went there to dance, and it was kids from all the surrounding high schools, so you would see other kids that you knew. The stage was, like, four feet high. It wasn’t a super-tall stage. You could stand in front of the stage, if you wanted to. But in those days. everybody would just go to dance. So, even though it was the Beach Boys, and even though they were singing surf music, everybody just danced to it. It wasn’t like we were there to see the Beach Boys perform. We were kind of taking them for granted, like they were every other band. Who knew how huge they would become?
I didn’t see them again until . I originally interviewed them for Rhythm & News, and then it was reprinted in NME in February of 1966. The interview was done in the fall. It was done in their dressing rooms at the Andy Williams Show. Mrs. Wilson spoke up at one point during the interview. Carl had said that all of the material was written by Brian, and I asked if they still worried about their next single becoming a hit, and before he could even answer me, his mother spoke up and said,, “If I may comment, Brian goes through Panicsville every time a new record is released.” Carl then went on to say that Brian will say, “This one is going to be a bomb.” Of course, in America, a bomb means, a failure. And in Britain, it means, a success, so when they published it in New Musical Express, they had to explain that to the readers. [Mrs. Wilson] then said that he’d worry like crazy, and he’d see it enter the charts, and he’d stop worrying, until the next one comes out. That sounds very Brian, because he cared the most, because he had written them.
Coston: What were your impressions of the band, when you interviewed them?
Moses: Because that was so early in their career, most of them were a little bit older than me. I think that Carl and I were the same age. Particularly the Wilson brothers, they were just like all of the boys I’d known at school. In that, they had grown up in southern California, in a very middle-class family. Even though they had begun having hit records, and here I am interviewing them while they were doing the Andy Williams show, they were still those middle class boys from southern California. They did not exhibit any of the attributes that I would see later in some of the groups that had become famous. [The other groups] might be kind of full of themselves, but that is certainly not where the Beach Boys were at when I met them. I think that because we had that commonality, I just felt totally comfortable with them. I wasn’t awestruck, because the first time I’d seen them had just been at a high school dance.
I would see them in the years following, when I started working for Tiger Beat. When Carl got married, and we featured that story about how he married Annie Hinsche.
They still hadn’t gone Hollywood, at that point. At that point, Brian was writing, and Bruce Johnston had come on to take Brian's place onstage. In fact, Bruce dated our receptionist at Tiger Beat for a long time. I can’t remember her name, but she was a knockout.
They just weren’t like the big stars. As you can read in the interview, Carl said that he loved his beard. He said, “Have you ever seen a golden beard?” And he said that they made him cut it off for the TV show. I’m sure that their parents still had a big influence, at the time. They were saying, “No, you’ve got to be clean cut.” They didn’t want them looking like hippies, and they didn’t want them to look like the Beatles, because they were distinctly different.
I can’t remember which interview it was, but the article says that I left the interview with an autographed copy, and I don’t recall that at all. I wish I did. That’s how those things often happened, in those days.
Coston: Tell me about interviewing Brian. How did that go?
Moses: I interviewed Brian in August of 1966. I have no idea what the drug situation was at that point in his life. I just remember that he was just this nice, shy person. He was kind of shy. In essence, he was the bandleader, but he just hung back, because he was not one of those personalities, like “I’m going to be out front, and be the spokesperson.” He was more reticent. I’m sure it was his creative mind that played a part in that. He was really nice to talk to.
Reading through my interview now, it’s really cool. I asked him if he was going to use the sitar. I ask him what his favorite song that he’d written thus far. It was, “Don’t Worry Baby.” He said, “I think that my favorites in the current batch are things I’ve done for Pet Sounds, our new album. I like a couple real well than anything else we’ve done.” He said, “I worked for about four or five months on that album, writing and planning the overall sound for it.” Which is kind of interesting, because Pet Sounds was such a huge game-changer for them, and the listeners.
I think that they really went through a tough period from when I first met them, and then when the Beatles became so famous. Derek Taylor was doing everything he could to get publicity for the Beach Boys. Derek had come over from England. He had been the Beatles’ publicist, now he was publicizing all of the artists on the Dick Clark Caravan Of Stars, and certainly the Beach Boys. He was really pushing me. “Will you come out and interview them? Will you do this story?” I thought that they had been taken for granted, at that time. They were this group that had had surf songs, and were integral in starting the whole California surf music. Along with Jan & Dean, and Dick Clark. They were so important, but it was as if it was less important, once the Beatles came along. Everybody was just overwhelmed and shocked by this new sound in music, and they certainly found it irresistible. But I think it was a particularly hard time for the Beach Boys, because they had been this hit group and sold a bunch of records, but then all of a sudden, all anybody wants to take about is Beatles and long hair, and she loves you, yeah yeah yeah (laughs).
In the interview, I ask Brian, “You have been a part of the record business for a long time, in the life of a pop star. Was there ever a time when you wanted to give it all up? And he says, “Right about the time that we made records like ‘Dance Dance Dance’, I was in a rut on the road, you know. I couldn’t expand and grow naturally, like I knew I could. Like I have been doing in the last few months. I never wanted to quit the music business, I just wanted to get off the road, which I did. It was a big turning point with the group. It was a big hassle, and sort of had an emotional revolution. I told the group that I wasn’t able to produce records effectively, and travel, both.” Even Brian says, “We must find a good replacement for me, for the gigs, and Bruce Johnston was perfect.”
And then I asked him what the group’s reaction was to your announcement, and he says, “They were bugged. It was at a recording studio one night when we were in the process of making an album called Beach Boys Today, which was in January of 1965, and I had gone through what I would call a minor nervous breakdown.” That’s really interesting that he was speaking of it, at the time. I think that it would become a more complex situation, and a royal mess, later on.
It’s really interesting to read this now. It’s a capsule of one little period of time, in what has been a long, amazing career. I would love to see him now. That would be a really good show.
All of these years later, there’s such an appreciation for what they created, and how you feel when you hear one of those songs. Whether it’s "Little Deuce Coupe” or “God Only Knows”, every time you hear it, it just takes you back to that time, and boy, they have survived well.
Coston: How did you come to meet Dino, Desi & Billy?
Moses: I was hired by Tiger Beat in December of 1965, to begin in January of ’66. I was still finishing my last semester of junior college, but I got credit in communications class for working 20 hours a week for Tiger Beat. That was a time when Dino Desi & Billy were starting to hit it big, and the girls were seeing them on TV. So one of my first assignments was to interview them. I write about it in my book. I went to Dean Martin’s house, and it was arranged by their manager. I had not met them, so I go to the Martin’s. It was such a gorgeous house. It was the neatest house I had ever seen, at that time. Just a beautiful, two story brick house in Beverly Hills. I went in, and their manager said, “I’ll go get the boys.” So I’m sitting in this little parlor. It wasn’t a big living room, it was more of a comfortable sitting room at the front of the house. And in comes Dean Martin, and he introduces himself, and I’m definitely standing there in awe. And he goes behind the bar, and he says, “Would you like a drink?” You can’t make this up. And I said, “Yes, I’ll have a Coke.” I really doubt that he was offering me a cocktail, but the way he said, I’ll never forget it. Dean Martin offered me a drink!
Then, the boys came in, and they were introduced to me. So we went up to Dino’s enormous bedroom, and did a really long interview. Because it was one of the first concerns, finding out all of the facts, and their favorites. The innocuous first interview. Then, we were planning to do a story on 24 hours with Dino Desi & Billy, so I also took pictures that day. And they were such young boys. They were 14, 15, 16, maybe. They were really young. I remember that following summer, I went with them to Hawaii, and I’m riding on a motorbike with Desi, and he was 15. They were still really young, and they goofed around, and had a lot of fun. They were typical teenage boys, and they were all so nice. Both Desi and Dino, when you met them, you wouldn’t know that they were children of major celebrities. They were loads of fun.
At the end of the interview, because we hadn’t taken a photographer along, I believe that their manager just took my camera and took the picture I have of them pulling my little ponytails. I had pigtails coming out the side of my head. We had so much fun, and every time that I would be around them after that, it was always a joy. They were happy to be getting publicity, but they always made it fun, and that’s why it was so neat to be around them.
Coston: You later did an interview with Carl Wilson and Annie Hinsche.
Moses: She was 16 at the time, and I think that she was Billy’s older sister, We did this spread about them being young and in love. Some people were kind of taken aback that she was so young, and she would get married at 16.
Carl seemed like a straight guy. He wasn’t wild, like Dennis. I would hear stories from this one writer that would travel with them. He told a few eye-raising stories, but who knows? But I never saw that, myself. Not at all. Someone asked, “You were at the show were [the Beach Boys] all took LSD. What was that like?” And I was like, “I don’t know.” I actually think that we actually left while they were still on stage, because Dino Desi & Billy had performed, and Desi said, “Let’s go ride on a motorbike.” And I did until the cops stopped us, and said, “You’re out after curfew, you’d better go home.” (laughs) He asked for Desi’s license, and he didn’t have one, so I showed him mine, so he said, “Well, you kids are out after curfew, so if you go straight home, no problem.” So, Desi dropped me off at my hotel, and the band was staying at a house together, that they had rented. That was a wild, fun time.
Coston: Tell me about meeting Jan Berry, and how Davy Jones took the time to be with Jan, while on the road with the Monkees.
Moses: Jan & Dean was the first album I had purchased. I had bought it with my window-washing money, and I listened to it endlessly. I was at the Dallas and Houston shows on the first national Monkees tour [in August of 1967], and those shows would have been about a year after Jan’s accident. He had been in rehab, and his manager had been putting out these things. “Oh, he’s doing fine.” And I was blown away. I didn’t know about Davy befriending him, and the times that Davy had taken him into the studio. But that was part of Davy’s plan. He felt that if Jan could get into surroundings that were familiar to him, then it would be helpful to his progress. Getting back his memory, because he had suffered some brain damage.
Jan came out to that dinner in Houston, and I was blown away. Here he is, walking on crutches, and what I didn’t anticipate that he was still having to learn all his ABC’s, and how to read. Those had not come back yet. During dinner, he was writing with a crayon. He was enjoying being around people. He wasn’t being shy, and he was in no way embarrassed about his condition. I guess he felt comfortable, because Davy was next to him. and they had been spending time together. But he said very proudly to me, “I know my ABC’s!” And I said, “That’s incredible!” And he said, “Do you want me to show you?” It’s like he had a long way to go in his rehab, but it just blew my mind that Davy had done this. Here’s the guy who’s life was pretty darn full at the time, and yet, he carved that time out to help Jan out. I felt fortunate to experience Davy’s generosity, but also have a first-hand look at how Jan was coming along. To me, it was progress that he was re-learning these basic life skills. It was positive, in my mind.
Coston: Did your paths cross with the Beach Boys, after that?
Moses: I don’t recall doing any stories on them. By that time, I really was focusing more on the big teen idols of the time. The Beach Boys were never, in my mind, teen idols. They sold lots of records, they had fans all over the world, but that still didn’t mean that they were teen idols. I guess you could say that Dennis was the biggest heartthrob, but even so, that only got him mentions in magazines like Tiger Beat, because they weren’t seen as teen idol status.
Coston: When you hear the Beach Boys records now, what do you think of? Or Dino Desi & Billy’s records, for that matter?
Moses: I always think about the time, I guess. Because they take me back to my youth. Both the high school, with all the surf music, and certainly the Beach Boys have stayed with me all along. You can’t think of watching Love Actually, without thinking of the incredible ending [with “God Only Knows”]. I’d say, more than anything, they’re just nostalgic for me. I always felt fortunate that I got to experience the 1960s and 70s. To me, they were just a really awesome time.
Interview done 2018.
March 23, 2020