Beach Boys: A California Saga

Page 3 of 9

"The logical thing to do from then on was to expand in our publicity, photographically, and to make a much more planned production in records. I always knew what I was doing but I had a rough time communicating with people for a while.

"The fellows are just growing up and adjusting to the position in life which we are in. I think that being actually originally a teenage group that made that much money and success in such a short time, was a little bit hard to handle for obvious reasons. It's been almost five years since we started, and it's taken just about that long to adjust and reach present maturity . . .

"You learn so much about people's motives, especially when you're in a position to bring out greed and such in people. But understanding the weaknesses of other people helps you to see your own weaknesses as well as strength, and so it's been helpful to us all.

"I don't think there'll ever be a dull moment in my career as I'm too dedicated to some kind of a scence. I don't want to be static, I must keep functioning ... No, I'm not a genius, I'm just a hardworking guy."

* * *

From a Warner Brothers publicity release:

It was from '63 through '65 that the Beach Boys cranked out the bulk of the songs for which they are best remembered. You know the titles as well as they do: "Surfer Girl," "Little Deuce Coupe," "I Get Around," "Don't Worry Baby," "Be True to Your School," "In My Room," "Fun, Fun, Fun," "Barbara Ann," "Surfin' U. S. A." "California Girls," "Help Me Rhonda," etc. It was simple, undemanding music, and the kids gobbled it up, contributing mightily to the group's total sales to date of 65 million records.

* * *

Although the youngest Wilson and the youngest Beach Boy, 25-year-old Carl clearly leads the group when they're on the road. And now some say he even . . . but we're jumping ahead. Carl, like his brothers, attended Hawthorne High, five miles from the Pacific Ocean. Unlike his brothers, he fucked up his grades and eventually was kicked out for going to the bathroom without permission.

"Brian was a tremendous student. He was interested in music more than anything, but he was into sports quite a bit. He was really a good baseball player, he could be a pro, actually, if he wanted to. He quit the football team his senior year because he wanted to do music, and the coach got pissed off at him, wouldn't talk to him for the rest of the whole year. He was really a very good athlete. He played quarterback. Al Jardine played there too. In fact, Brian got Al's leg busted in a game, for fucking up on a play. He was quarterback, and the ball went the wrong way and Al got his leg broken.

"It was around 1963 that Brian started to get into it. In '64 he was already solid into what he was trying to do, and in '65 or '66 it was realized in Pet Sounds. An album called Summer Days and Summer Nights was the last studio album before Pet Sounds, and that has 'Let Him Run Wild' on it and a few other things that are indicative of him getting into orchestrating things.

"He just dug it, he just loved music and he just did it. He made it up. He though it. He taught himself how to read and how to write music. He really does it from soul, really. Just ear.

"There were many years of his life where he did nothing but play the piano. Months at a time. Days on end. He'd listen to Four Freshmen records. Just all music. And, of course, Phil Spector I think would be his biggest influence or inspiration, pertaining to recording.

"Brian's influence is much more than anyone would know. He inspired a lot of musicians and writers to get into orchestration and to really doing a sort of high music. Brian was really sort of the first one to get into the album thing as an art, you know? This was like in 1964. I think that Summer Days and Summer Nights was the first indication of it. Pet Sounds was the obvious step.

"He doesn't have to prove himself. He doesn't really want to either. He doesn't need to. I think that's what maybe he was doing with Smile, you know, and of course he realizes now that he really doesn't have to prove himself. His music is really ingenious. I mean, all the guys really regard him as the most talented person in the world."

* * *

Terry Melcher is a prince, victim of a bad press, lives in Benedict Canyon, and is attended by a secretary known only as Ginny. Many years ago, as a callow youth, Melcher was one-half of a duo known as Bruce and Terry. Bruce later became a Beach Boy. Terry remembers Brian Wilson with affection.

"He isn't fashionable. He's definitely not fashionable in any sense of the word as it might apply to anything. We all have certain modes; we're wearing levis, we're not wearing gingham pants. But he might be wearing blue-and-white-specked ginghams when you get to his house. And a red short-sleeved T-shirt with some food on the front. It wouldn't be a shock. He's just so involved in that one thing that he doesn't see any reason for concessions on any level. They just don't exist. He's really an unusual guy.

"As a record producer, somebody who knows what goes on as far as mixing, EQs, things that make a balance sound right, there isn't anyone better. He's as good as anyone I've heard.

"He writes fantastic melodies. He's like a classical composer. Brian can do a Bach thing. Give him 90 pieces and he'll give you a Bach thing; then give it to an expert and he'd have a hell of a time finding the difference. But he isn't a lyricist, so he's been put down a lot for being an asshole. But the people who put him down, if they were really musicians, they'd forget the words and get into the structure of the thing.

"Take one of his albums out, play a song that he wrote, play the chords, and then play, say, the Who's chords. One's got a surface kind of excitement going to it, that Brain's not into. But his has a depth that other people can't touch. If he had someone who wrote good words . . . "

It's been suggested that he couldn't live with Van Dyke's lyrics.

"That's possible. So he should have tried somebody else. Not just stop there. He stopped there. He should have tried 50 people. If I could write melodies and chords like Brian Wilson, I'd take those fucking songs and make up demos of the tracks and send them out to Hal David and to Lennon and to McCartney – I'd send 'em all over the fuckin' world, and take the best one. That's what he should do. 'Cause he's good enough. He's better than all those people. He knows more about music than anyone who's at all present on the music scene. He knows a lot more.

"He left the music, yes. He left it, it never left him.

"For years I spent my nights at Brian's house, sitting around, not saying a word, not getting into any conversation, just hearing him play the piano and write some melodies once in a while. It was just fantastic. The guy's . . . he's better than anyone. It's really true. He just knows everything there is to know.

"It's unfortunate. He was born too late or something. If Brian Wilson were born 500 years ago, he'd be one of those giant classical figures that we all revere so much. But he wasn't, and he had some brothers who fooled around with words and stuff, so his melodies came out on a different plane. His music is genius and his words, the ones that come out of those songs anyway, are grammar school. And that's the whole trip. I guess it's hard to be a hit like that, if your music and words start separating from each other so distinctly.

"If I were Brian and couldn't live with someone's lyrics I'd just do an album and . . . delete all the lyrics. Just hum it. But he always puts lyrics on there. I think that's kind of a . . . a habit: 'What are the words?' Well, fuck the words. Nobody asked Chopin what the fucking words were.

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