There's a quote inside the cover of Jeffrey Foskett's new compilation, Stars in the Sand (The Pop Collective), from C.S. Lewis's The Weight of Glory: "The whole of man is to drink joy from the fountain of joy." A more apt epigraph might have been "Be in the world but not of it." A Christian since 1972, Mr. Foskett spent the mid-to-late 1970s not in praise-and-worship groups but in British Invasion cover bands and power-pop combos. In 1980 he became a key member of the Beach Boys' touring band, and in 1990 he went solo, releasing seven Beach Boys-influenced albums that made him a star in Japan.
Recently Mr. Foskett, 48, has played an integral role in Beach Boy Brian Wilson's latest projects, playing and singing on the critically acclaimed SMiLE album and serving as the accompanying tour's musical director. Shortly before leaving for the tour's Australian leg, he discussed via phone his unique opportunities to be an increasingly visible light in the frequently dark rock 'n' roll world.
WORLD: How did you become a Christian?
JF: When I was 14, I was a junior leader at a YMCA camp, and the senior leader was a Christian. She turned me on to Christ. She said, "I want to see you in heaven when it's time. I want you to accept Christ into your life." I said, "What do I do?" She said, "You get down on your knees and you ask Jesus to be your Lord and Savior." So I did. I said, "I don't feel any different." She said, "You will" (laughs). God has literally guided my life ever since.
WORLD: Did you have any involvement with the "Jesus Movement" of the early 1970s?
JF: Well, I lived in San Jose-and strangely enough I live there now, after being away for almost 30 years-and around here there was this place called the Maranatha House, where guys like John Fischer and the group Love Song were hanging around. It was basically a home for music-oriented people and on-fire Christians who had just come to the faith.
WORLD: How did you first meet the Beach Boys?
JF: For my 20th birthday I wanted to meet Brian Wilson. I knew he lived on Bellagio Road in Bel Air, and I knew that the Wild Honey album sleeve was a picture of a stained-glass window in his house. So I drove up and down Bellagio Road until I found that window. I went to the gate, rang the buzzer, and he let me in. Obviously you couldn't get away with something like that today, and I'm sure I'm the only human that ever did that. I met Michael [Love] shortly after that at a restaurant where my cover band, the Reverie Rhythm Rockers, was playing.
WORLD: What happened?
JF: We were doing all Beatles, Beach Boys, Dave Clark Five, the Who-British Invasion with a flavoring of Beach Boys songs. Anyway, somebody said, "Hey, Michael Love's in the restaurant!" So I went up to him and said, "Hey, man, I'm a big fan of yours. My band's playing in the back of the room. If you'd like to come back later and see us, it would be really neat." He said, "Well, listen, man, I don't smoke, and I don't drink, and I know a lot of that goes on back there, so thanks anyway but no thanks."
WORLD: This from a guy who routinely performed in sports arenas full of marijuana smoke?
JF: Well, yeah. So I said, "Thanks a lot. Nice meeting you." Then, without his knowing it, I paid for his dinner. He came back to say thanks and ended up staying for the whole set. Within two or three days, his manager called and asked our band if we wanted to go out on the road to support his solo project.
WORLD: Did your being a Christian ever make you think twice about performing with a group as immersed in the rock 'n' roll lifestyle as the Beach Boys were in 1980?
JF: No, because, quite frankly, I was hired because I was straight. In those days, the Beach Boys weren't exactly the most clean and sober organization. Michael and Alan [Jardine] were totally straight, but the other guys basically weren't. So they needed somebody like me who was responsible, who would show up for gigs, and who could sing and play guitar.
WORLD: Did anything ever come up in your decade with the band to make you question your decision?
JF: I never questioned it. Even when I was a student at UC Santa Barbara-where basically all of my friends were musicians-I could go from the Christian, church-going, never-say-a-bad-word-about-anyone table to the I-only-smoke-dope-and-occasionally-snort-coke-and-play-in-bars table. I could cross from one to the other and feel totally comfortable in either setting. And while the Christian table was frowning on me, I reminded them-not that I was Christ-that Christ said, "Why are you hanging out with your own people when you should be ministering to the other people?" (laughs). So I just looked at it that way and tried to live my life by example. I wasn't always perfect, but I like to think that I had some kind of an influence. And I'm still good friends with everyone in the Beach Boys.
WORLD: Besides a guest appearance by Brian Wilson, your new compilation also includes cameos by Robert Lamm [Chicago], Doug Fieger [the Knack], and Marshall Crenshaw. Has your interaction with so many rock luminaries ever led any of them to ask you, "Gee, Jeffrey, what makes you so different?"
JF: I don't really have a "Hey, Jeffrey, you're so different" story. I don't know. I mean, every day is a battle, if you look at it that way. But, even more so, every day is a blessing. God has really blessed me by allowing me to meet and play with so many of the people I've been influenced by.