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Beach Boys: A California Saga

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"They went through a lot of attorneys and business managers. Once you have a few hit records for the company and it looks like you might be there a while, you start dealing with a lot of strange people. Like all of a sudden I didn't deal with them anymore, I dealt with attorneys, bookkeepers, executives. Eventually I think they were dealing directly with the vice-president.

"I think Brian got eaten up by that syndrome. He thought he was going to make it forever on their terms. So when they asked for a record he gave them one. A lot of people kept trending him. Like, 'That was a hit, that's it, but now that's out.' That was a lot of shit. Brian was growing and they held him down. They held down his music. They would say, 'Well, surfing is off, you know, dead, or car stuff is dead.' But Brian Wilson was still alive.

"I think Brian's gonna be with us as long as he wants to be with us. I would never count him out. You can't push the man. He is not a Mickey Mouse person. If I had him under contract, he could take four years between records. As long as he was happy with the record, that's all. It's the only sane thing. He was always brilliant and I'm sure he's a lot smarter now. So consequently it'll take him a lot longer, because it's probably very hard for him to be satisfied.

"Carl was the other one in the group that I thought was brilliant. I thought he would become a producer on his own, branch off and work with other acts. I still think that's what he will do. Carl was the silent voice in the early stages. He'd quietly make a few changes, quietly make sure everyone got their way. He was all right, a very mature young guy.

"I didn't really help Brian that much. I didn't hinder him but I didn't help him because I never really got close to him."

* * *

From a Warner Bros. publicity release:

Young people everywhere were enchanted by the romance of the open road, and no one had to strain to understand all that was implied by the search for the perfect wave.

Earl Leaf, author of a regular column ("My Fair and Frantic Hollywood") in Teen Magazine, has led a checkered career. A real Hollywood original, an elderly gent (he admits only to being "somewhere between the age of consent and collapse") whose walls are covered with framed, autographed tit shots ("Fuck you, Earl") in the midst of which is a startling pic of National Geographic photographer Earl Leaf at a table outside a house with a bottle of wine and Mao Tse Tung and Chou En Lai when the latter two were fugitive bandits in the mountains of China ("Yeah, me and Mao were pretty good friends there for about a week"), Earl was once paid by the Beach Boys to make a documentary film of their European tour and start a fan sheet.

From his files he produced the transcript of an old interview in which Brian Wilson explained how he came to make the decision to stop touring with the group.

"I used to be Mr. Everything," Brian had told Earl. "I felt I had no choice. I was run down mentally and emotionally because I was running around, jumping on jets from one city to another on one-night stands, also producing, writing, arranging, singing, planning, teaching—to the point where I had no peace of mind and no chance to actually sit down and think or even rest. I was so mixed up and so overworked.

"We were on a tour, December 23rd, 1964 (two days before Christmas). We were going to Houston to kick off a two-week tour. I said goodbye to Marilyn. We weren't getting along too good. The plane had been in the air only five minutes when I told Al Jardine I was going to crack up any minute. He told me to cool it. Then I started crying. I put a pillow over my face and began screaming and yelling.

"Then I started telling people I'm not getting off the plane. I was getting far out, coming undone, having a breakdown, and I just let myself go completely. I dumped myself out of the seat and all over the plane. I let myself go emotionally. They took care of me well. They were as understanding as they could be. They knew what was happening and I was coming apart. The rubber band had stretched as far as it would go.

"That night I cooled off and I played that show. Next morning I woke up with the biggest knot in my stomach and I felt like I was going out of my mind. In other words it was a breakdown period.

"I must have cried about 15 times the next day. Every half hour I'd start crying. Carl came to my hotel room, I saw him and I just slammed the door in his face. I didn't want to see him or anybody because I was flipping out.

"Nobody knew what was going on. I wouldn't talk, I just put my head down and wouldn't even look at anyone. That night the road manager took me back to L.A. and I didn't want to see anybody except my mother. She was at the airport to meet me. As soon as I saw her again I started crying. I just needed to hear her talk to me, it's a kind of security to be able to talk to your mother as I can talk to Audrey.

"We went over to the house and we had a three-hour talk there. I told her things I'd never told anyone in my life and she sort of straightened me out. Generally I dumped out a life-long hang-up.

"And this was the first of a series of three breakdowns I've had since then. (The latest one happened two weeks ago. That was a much more profound thing, triggered by another stimulus, not something that had been building up for a long time.)

"The other guys didn't want to bug me but they wanted to know what was happening. There were four Beach Boys on the road. So they finished out that five-day tour without me and when they came back I didn't want to talk to them or anybody. I just wanted to sit and think and rest, pull myself together, check my life out, and once again evaluate what I am, what I'm doing and what I should be doing.

"So what it amounted to was a guilt feeling. I knew I should have stopped going on tours much earlier to do justice to our recordings and business operations. I was also under pressure from my old man, who figured I'd be a traitor if I didn't travel on one-nighters with the other guys. He always has had a problem of understanding people and their feelings. I had a lot of static from everyone outside the group as well as the members. The only way I could do it was by breaking down as I did.

"The boys stayed home for a long rest, about two weeks, then, we started recording the Beach Boys Today album. We were about half way through the album, and one night I told the guys I wasn't going to perform on stage anymore, that I can't travel.

"I told them I foresee a beautiful future for the Beach Boys group but the only way we could achieve it was if they did their job and I did mine. They would have to get a replacement for me . . . I didn't say 'they.' I said 'we' because it isn't they and me, it's 'us.'

"That night when I gave them the news of my decision, they all broke down. I'd already gone through my breakdown – and now it was their turn. When I told them, they were shook. Mike had a couple of tears in his eyes, he couldn't take the reality that their big brother wasn't ever going to be on the stage with them again. It was a blow to their sense of security, of course.

"Mike lost his cool and felt, like there was no reason to go on. Dennis picked up a big ashtray and told some people to get out of there or he'd hit them on the head with it. He kind of blew it, y'know, in fact the guy he threatened to hit with the ashtray was Terry Sachen, who became our road manager within two weeks.

"Al Jardine broke out in tears and broke out in stomach cramps. He was all goofed up and my mother, who was there, had to take care of him.

"And good old Carl was the only guy who never got into a bad emotional scene. He just sat there and didn't get uptight about it. He always kept a cool head. If it weren't for Carl it's hard to say where we'd be. He is the greatest stabilizing influence in the group. He's been like that ever since he was a kid and he's like that now, together with a lot of experience and brains. Carl has mastered his emotions. He cooled Dennis, Mike and Al down.

"Now it was just a matter of time until the guys adjusted to the new scene. The first replacement we had was Glenn Campbell. He was adequate, but he wasn't really a Beach Boy. He didn't look or act like one. That must have gone on for three or four months. Then Glenn got sick and couldn't tour. The Beach Boys were really in trouble now because they couldn't cancel out the tour.

"So Mike in the last minute called up Bruce Johnston and found he was free. Bruce and Carl got together. Carl taught Bruce all the songs we were doing on the stage. Bruce learned enough songs in one day to perform with the Beach Boys the next night. In one day's practice, he got in the group.

"He was making records with Terry Melcher before he joined us. Bruce sounds somewhat like me when he sings falsetto. He plays and sings well. Bruce is making the Beach Boys his career. He's happy with us, he's making good money, but more than anything he just digs being in the group. And we love Bruce. He came just at the right time when we were against the wall. It was Mike who brought him in. It was very logical as Bruce had done surfing records very similar to the Beach Boys. We've known Bruce for a couple of years. Bruce and Terry discontinued their duo only recently because of the different paths they have taken. Bruce is with us and Terry is producer of the Raiders' platters. Both now swinging in their own scenes.

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