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The Beach Boys, and the genius of Brian Wilson (1 Viewer)

ekbeats

Footballguy
A few weeks ago I watched on Amazon Prime "Brian Wilson - A Long and Promised Road". I was amazed at the Brian Wilson story, and somewhat ashamed that I had never heard about his story before. Easily one of the most interesting, amazing persons in the 20th century. I don't think it's a stretch to say that he will go down in history as one of the greatest, most influential musicians in world history - right up there with Mozart and Beethoven.

Some interesting tidbits:
  • Paul McCartney's favorite song is "God Only Knows". When he was invited to sing this song along with The Beach Boys, in warm-ups he got so emotional that he couldn't play the music. Paul said that this was the only time this has ever happened to him.
  • Pet Sounds was one of the best albums in music history. The Beatles were amazed by it, and it was instrumental in their creation of "Sergeants Pepppers".
  • The chord changes and musical innovations by Wilson are legendary. What I love most about his story is that the musicians he worked with were treated with the utmost respect. They loved Brian Wilson. At first they were skeptical of him - mostly because he never had any formal musical training - but boy did he win them over. When all was said and done the people who worked with Brian viewed him as one of the greatest musical minds and ears of the 20th century. To see the reverence displayed by Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, and Linda Rondstadt - you get a sense for how much he is revered in the music industry.
  • His story is amazing. He was abused by his father, suffered terribly from mental illness (heard voices in his head), and was taken advantage of and abused by his shrink, who essentially took him hostage.
  • In 1967 The Beach Boys were voted as the #1 band in a poll in England. Yes - more popular than the Beatles.
He is now 80 years old - just one week older than Paul McCartney. One of the most underrated musicians of all-time, and an incredible human being.
 

Psychopav

Help us, Joebi-Wan Brynobi, you're our only ho
Can you cite your source for that last bullet? It’s not that I don’t believe you, it’s that I want to quote it.
 

rockaction

Footballguy
One of my favorites. I just listened to the SMiLE sessions today and was about to start a thread.

Stand or fall, I know there shall be peace in the valley, and
It's all an affair of my life with the Heroes and Villains.

In the cantina, Margarita keeps the spirits high.
There I watched her, she spun around and wound in
The warmth, her body fanned the flame of the dance.
Dance Margarita! Don't you know I love you!
My children were raised, you know they suddenly rise.
They started slow long ago, head to toe, healthy, wealthy, and wise.
 

Encyclopedia Brown

Footballguy
What I love most about his story is that the musicians he worked with were treated with the utmost respect. They loved Brian Wilson. At first they were skeptical of him - mostly because he never had any formal musical training - but boy did he win them over.
In the documentary about "The Wrecking Crew" they talked about how well he treated the session players. He was collaborative in the basic sense of the word, was open and willing to listen to other ideas.

He was also intensely focused, he knew what he wanted and was able to articulate exactly how he thought something should be played, which made the job for the session players much easier.
 

ekbeats

Footballguy
What I love most about his story is that the musicians he worked with were treated with the utmost respect. They loved Brian Wilson. At first they were skeptical of him - mostly because he never had any formal musical training - but boy did he win them over.
In the documentary about "The Wrecking Crew" they talked about how well he treated the session players. He was collaborative in the basic sense of the word, was open and willing to listen to other ideas.

He was also intensely focused, he knew what he wanted and was able to articulate exactly how he thought something should be played, which made the job for the session players much easier.
If you've ever managed people you know how hard that is - being demanding, almost to the point of being stubborn, yet still being collaborative. Brian really did believe "The Wrecking Crew" were the best musicians in the business. There's a great scene in the Brian Wilson movie "Love and Mercy" where one of the musicians tells Brian that he'd worked with all the legendary musicians - Elvis, Sinatra, even Ronnie Spector - and Brian was the single greatest talent.

He never took a music lesson in his life. He learned to play the piano on his own, just by sheer will and memory. He was deaf in one ear, a gift his Dad gave him with a hard beating when he was a kid. Despite this limited hearing he had perfect pitch. Bob Dylan once said this about him - “Jesus, that ear. He should donate it to The Smithsonian. Brian Wilson, he made all his records with four tracks, but you couldn’t make his records if you had a hundred tracks today.”

Here's the Trailer for "Brian Wilson - A Long and Promised Road". I can't recommend it enough.
 

ekbeats

Footballguy
One of my favorites. I just listened to the SMiLE sessions today and was about to start a thread.

Stand or fall, I know there shall be peace in the valley, and
It's all an affair of my life with the Heroes and Villains.

In the cantina, Margarita keeps the spirits high.
There I watched her, she spun around and wound in
The warmth, her body fanned the flame of the dance.
Dance Margarita! Don't you know I love you!
My children were raised, you know they suddenly rise.
They started slow long ago, head to toe, healthy, wealthy, and wise.
Great minds think alike Rock. Heroes and Villains is my favorite Beach Boys song.
 

culdeus

Have good
Always wondered why Jimmy Buffet made billions and the Beach Boys were playing concerts after MLB games to make ends meet at the end.
 

rockaction

Footballguy
Always wondered why Jimmy Buffet made billions and the Beach Boys were playing concerts after MLB games to make ends meet at the end.

That's not making ends meet. They get paid a pretty penny to do all that. That's also Mike Love and wealth accumulation.
 

foxco

Footballguy
He was deaf in one ear, a gift his Dad gave him with a hard beating when he was a kid. Despite this limited hearing he had perfect pitch. Bob Dylan once said this about him - “Jesus, that ear. He should donate it to The Smithsonian. Brian Wilson, he made all his records with four tracks, but you couldn’t make his records if you had a hundred tracks today.”
This has amazed me for decades, and to hear musicians speak about it, it almost shouldn't be possible what Brian Wilson could do with one ear. I asked my brother-in-law about it once as he's a bassist in a fun local rock band that has gigged for years, and without missing a beat he answered "Deal with the devil. That's the only way Brian Wilson could be so brilliant." Who knew selling your soul could yield such beautiful music?
 

ekbeats

Footballguy
This has amazed me for decades, and to hear musicians speak about it, it almost shouldn't be possible what Brian Wilson could do with one ear. I asked my brother-in-law about it once as he's a bassist in a fun local rock band that has gigged for years, and without missing a beat he answered "Deal with the devil. That's the only way Brian Wilson could be so brilliant." Who knew selling your soul could yield such beautiful music?
Beethoven composed his 9th Symphony (Ode to Joy) when he was almost totally deaf.
 

culdeus

Have good
Always wondered why Jimmy Buffet made billions and the Beach Boys were playing concerts after MLB games to make ends meet at the end.

That's not making ends meet. They get paid a pretty penny to do all that. That's also Mike Love and wealth accumulation.
Really? How much could they have possibly been making doing those? The only times I ever saw them (or some of them) were on those MLB tours. They couldn't have possibly been paid more than $10-15k a pop for those gigs. Ticket prices were like $3 for bleachers back then and there were baseball players to be paid too.
 

Encyclopedia Brown

Footballguy
The Beach Boys became unhip in the late 60's.
Mike Love deserves a few fingers pointed at him for his behavior both from the business and the creative side of the band.

He harangued Brian so fiercely about Smile that Brian shut it down. That could have been their Abbey Road but Mike wanted to keep singing about surfboards and drive-in movies.
 

Penguin

Footballguy
Liked the Doc but the Pet Sounds Doc is way better IMHO. Brian, although it's been said he had some level of mental illness appears to be on the spectrum to me, that's how I believe he was able to come up these melodies and arraignments but also why he was almost a prisoner in his own body. I thought there was a point where he didn't leave his bedroom for like 2 years.
 

Godsbrother

Footballguy
The Beach Boys became unhip in the late 60's.
Mike Love deserves a few fingers pointed at him for his behavior both from the business and the creative side of the band.

He harangued Brian so fiercely about Smile that Brian shut it down. That could have been their Abbey Road but Mike wanted to keep singing about surfboards and drive-in movies.
As much as I love the BB and obviously Brian Wilson in particular, I have many hours of the Smile sessions and much of it is unfocused weirdness. Good Vibrations and Surf's Up are masterpieces and Heroes & Villians is a classic and there are other high moments but much of the recordings that I have are very bizarre and it is clear those sessions weren't going well. Brian was in a really weird state and getting worse.

Mike Love deserves a lot of criticism for a lot of reasons and certainly exasperated the situation but I don't think he is to blame for scrapping the Smile project.
 
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rockaction

Footballguy
The SMiLE project is a tough listen. Knowing Brian Wilson's mental state makes listening to it a bit less than fun. Some of the songs, like "Heroes and Villains," "Our Prayer," and "Do You Like Worms (Roll Plymouth Rock)" are some of the best Beach Boys songs ever, but there is a ton of "unfocused weirdness," as Godsbrother so aptly puts it. It can be a challenging listen and that's putting it kindly.

If I had to do a Beach Boys top ten (and I've done this before on this very site -- started a thread about it back when people here really weren't sold on me), "Heroes" would have a really good chance at making the cut. It's that good, and it says something about their catalog of songs being so good that it might crack the top ten.

I can't think of many other bands where "Heroes and Villains" wouldn't be their magnum opus. Then again, I can't think of another band like the Beach Boys. They are so singular they inspired a whole genre of chamber indie-pop from the aughts on.

Brian Wilson was an unfortunately put-upon genius who never really made you feel like he was put upon so deeply until you knew the story, nor did he ever made you feel intimidated by his genius until you really just listened and thought about how much performance and compositional talent those songs must have taken. I'm amazed his lyrics are so positive (even though Pet Sounds can lean toward the mawkish) given his upbringing and mental state.

What an idea for a thread, ekbeats! I could go on and on...
 
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Bogart

Footballguy
Always wondered why Jimmy Buffet made billions and the Beach Boys were playing concerts after MLB games to make ends meet at the end.

My first concert was The Beach Boys after a Rangers game at the old Arlington Stadium, probably around 1984-85. My stepmom and grandmother always wanted to leave the game early, so I didn't care who was playing, I got 9 full innings of bad Rangers baseball. My grandparents danced their @$$e$ off, and young Bogart first understood the power of live music.

Buffet made billions because he wanted to make money more than music, while Wilson wanted to make music more than money. The industrial complex that is all things Margaritaville is impressive and made Buffet almost a billionaire. It only costs him singing the same ten songs over and over, every night.
 

ekbeats

Footballguy
The SMiLE project is a tough listen. Knowing Brian Wilson's mental state makes listening to it a bit less than fun. Some of the songs, like "Heroes and Villains," "Our Prayer," and "Do You Like Worms (Roll Plymouth Rock)" are some of the best Beach Boys songs ever, but there is a ton of "unfocused weirdness," as Godsbrother so aptly puts it. It can be a challenging listen and that's putting it kindly.

If I had to do a Beach Boys top ten (and I've done this before on this very site -- started a thread about it back when people here really weren't sold on me), "Heroes" would have a really good chance at making the cut. It's that good, and it says something about their catalog of songs being so good that it might crack the top ten.

I can't think of many other bands where "Heroes and Villains" wouldn't be their magnum opus. Then again, I can't think of another band like the Beach Boys. They are so singular they inspired a whole genre of chamber indie-pop from the aughts on.

Brian Wilson, an unfortunately put-upon genius who never really made you feel like he was put upon so deeply until you knew the story or was such a genius until you really just listened and thought about how much performance and compositional talent those songs must have taken. I'm amazed his lyrics are so positive (even though Pet Sounds can lean toward the mawkish) given his upbringing and mental state.

What an idea for a thread, ekbeats! I could go on and on...
Great post my man. Brian said that "Heroes and Villains" was how he described the warring voices in his head. :frown: He was such a tortured soul.
 

ekbeats

Footballguy
Smile was a jumbled mess when it was shelved. Some of it was due to Wilson's deteriorating mental condition and drug use. But some of it was due to the way he composed. He knew in his own head what he wanted to do, and he would compose it in segments that the studio musicians would be perplexed by. Then he'd put it all together and boom - you'd get Good Vibrations - one of the greatest rock songs ever written. It was also composed at the same time as some of the Smile stuff that never made it to Smiley Smile. Wilson made a noble attempt in finishing Smile several years later, but we'll never know what Smile would've been if he had finished it back in 1966. It could have been incredible. It could have been a dud.
 

simey

Footballguy
Buffet made billions because he wanted to make money more than music, while Wilson wanted to make music more than money. The industrial complex that is all things Margaritaville is impressive and made Buffet almost a billionaire. It only costs him singing the same ten songs over and over, every night.
Jimmy Buffett made millions of dollars, because he is a good businessman. He made a run of great albums in the 70s, and in the early to mid 80's his live shows caught like wildfire within the college circuit (which he was doing), because he was so much fun live, and his audience related to his music. He basically created his own genre of music, and when a whole new generation grabbed hold of it, they embraced his style and took it to a new level making him bigger than he ever thought possible, and he had the intelligence to realize he could capitalize on it. The Grateful Dead had the intelligence to do the same thing.
 
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Bogart

Footballguy
Buffet made billions because he wanted to make money more than music, while Wilson wanted to make music more than money. The industrial complex that is all things Margaritaville is impressive and made Buffet almost a billionaire. It only costs him singing the same ten songs over and over, every night.
Jimmy Buffett made millions of dollars, because he is a good businessman. He made a run of great albums in the 70s, and in the early to mid 80's his live shows caught like wildfire within the college circuit (which he was doing), because he was so much fun live, and his audience related to his music. He basically created his own genre of music, and when a whole new generation grabbed hold of it, they embraced his style and took it to a new level making him bigger than he ever thought possible, and he had the intelligence to realize he could capitalize on it. The Grateful Dead had the intelligence to do the same thing.
I agree completely. I hope I didn't come off giving the impression that I don't think Buffet isn't talented, he is. I have been to a couple shows and probably know 20 songs word for word. Like you said, he took that talent and added a business sense about it (Dead a great comparison) where I don't think the Beach Boys did as much.
 

Da Guru

Fair & Balanced
Heard an interview with Mike Love a few years ago and he was asked what people don`t know about The Beach Boys.

Love said that none of them actually ever liked going to the beach or ocean, they never hung out at the beach, and only Dennis Wilson ever surfed and was a novice at that.
 

ekbeats

Footballguy
Heard an interview with Mike Love a few years ago and he was asked what people don`t know about The Beach Boys.

Love said that none of them actually ever liked going to the beach or ocean, they never hung out at the beach, and only Dennis Wilson ever surfed and was a novice at that.
BRIAN WILSON Surfing. Best part is the surfboard being backwards, which was not written into the script.
 

jwb

Footballguy
The Beach Boys are decent. When I was a kid I liked the surf and car songs, but as I got older I liked the "Brian Wilson = genius" stuff more, although I hardly think he's a genius. I also feel Pet Sounds is a little overrated. As an album, start to finish without skipping anything, it's a tough listen.

I think it's because I feel his songs from that album/period lean too much on harmony and tend to meander. Even good songs like Wouldn't It Be Nice and Good Vibrations abandon what makes them good and end up losing me a little. Wouldn't It Be Nice (a song I really like) would be 10x better without the "talk about it" part.
 

ekbeats

Footballguy
I liked the "Brian Wilson = genius" stuff more, although I hardly think he's a genius.
I always questioned the genius label myself - until I started watching all the documentaries on him. It’s amazing how many music legends gush over him - Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Linda Rondstadt, Phil Spector, the Wrecking Crew…. The documentary on “Pet Sounds” does a great job isolating some of the things he did musically that hadn’t really been done before. A lot of it is very technical, but when they isolate the complexities of the vocal harmonies it’s pretty amazing to hear. The Beatles had George Martin producing, and three extraordinary composers. The Beach Boys just had Brian Wilson, though he did have help on the lyrics from Tony Asher.

Add to that he did everything in his head… He never took a music class and had a very limited ability to chart the music…. The innovation in using musical (and non-musical) instruments that had not been used before in rock and roll… I’m not sure there’s been another person like him.
 
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Senor Schmutzig

Footballguy
If you're THAT into the Beach Boys, you can cruise with them in 2023....

2023 Beach Boys Cruise

Here is a video from the 2022 Beach Boys Cruise. The lineup for 2023 isn't posted yet, but this is who they had on in 2022 -
  • THE BEACH BOYS
  • MICKY DOLENZ CELEBRATES THE MONKEES
  • THE TEMPTATIONS
  • JOE PISCOPO
  • EMERSON HART
  • YACHT ROCK REVUE
  • THE SURFRAJETTES
  • HARD DAY'S NIGHT
  • MARK MCGRATH
And yes, I do have a vested interest (I work for the cruise line that this event is on) but I also know that if you are a fan of the Beach Boys, this is a much more immersive experience than just going to see them in concert.
 
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jwb

Footballguy
I always questioned the genius label myself - until I started watching all the documentaries on him. It’s amazing how many music legends gush over him - Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Linda Rondstadt, Phil Spector, the Wrecking Crew…. The documentary on “Pet Sounds” does a great job isolating some of the things he did musically that hadn’t really been done before. A lot of it is very technical, but when they isolate the complexities of the vocal harmonies it’s pretty amazing to hear. The Beatles had George Martin producing, and three extraordinary composers. The Beach Boys just had Brian Wilson, though he did have help on the lyrics from Tony Asher.

Yea, I do see where anyone would get that. He is unique, and there's no doubt that he's hearing something we don't. But I guess my reluctance to say "he's a genius" is more my personal taste for his music. It's good... and sometimes great. But almost every song of his from that period that I like has a part where I'm like "why?"... like I mention in Wouldn't It Be Nice - that "talk about it" part brings it from a 10 to an 8 (for me). Good Vibrations... the da da-da da-da part near the end... again, a 10 to an 8. Like he doesn't know when to stop I guess.

I do understand the Pet Sounds love, especially taken in the context of the time period and the technical aspects of it. But goodness, it's a tough listen as an entire album.
 

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