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Beach Boys: A California Saga

Page 9 of 9

"I know, I recognized his voice!" Rieley had heard this version of the track, had in fact played it for me several days previous; but now he seemed to be telling Brian this was the first he'd learned of the additions. "You did that when I went home! Brian, that's beautiful." So who's putting on whom?

"Brian?" Jack settled in a corner and scribbled on his clipboard. "Remember that song we talked about, about the fourth of July?" "Yeah." "Well . . . I think we've got it." Brian said nothing.

Al Jardine appeared. "Hey," he grinned, his voice Andy Hardy's, "can I make a record?"

"Listen to this lyric I wrote for Dennis' song, Al," Jack called. He read it through once aloud then repeated it, explaining each line to Jardine. The lyric does not leap readily to mind, but had the words been Francis Scott Key's anthem, the explanation would have been: "'The bombs bursting in air' – explosives going off; 'the rockets' red glare' – light given off when the bombs explode; 'gave proof to the night' – showed the people were watching that . . . " Al nodded dubiously, with energy.

* * *

"And then, hope. Surf's up! . . . Come about hard and join the once and often spring you gave! Go back to the kids, to the beach, to childhood.

"'I heard the word' – of God: 'Wonderful thing' – the joy of enlightenment, of seeing God. And what is it? 'A children's song!' And then there's the song of the universe rising and falling in wave after wave, the song of God, hiding His love from us, but always letting us find Him again, like a mother singing to her children."

The record was over. Wilson went into the kitchen and squirted Reddi-Whip direct from the can into his mouth; made himself a chocolate Great Shake, and ate a couple of candy bars.

"Of course that's a very intellectual explanation," he said. "But maybe sometimes you have to do an intellectual thing. If they don't get the words, they'll get the music, because that's where it's really at, in the music . . . that's what I'm doing. Spiritual music."

from "Goodbye Surfing, Hello God!" by Jules Siegel

* * *

Down in the back yard I asked Brian why he was deaf in one ear. I had heard rumors. "Ever since I was born – or maybe, when I was two years old somebody punched me in the ear."

Inside the house he asked if I liked Phil Spector. I told him all of Spector's early stuff would be coming out on Apple. He got very excited. "Are you kidding? On Apple? His early stuff?" He walked real fast into the living room and put "And Then He Kissed Me" on the record player. He played it through four or five times. Then he played "Da Doo Ron Ron" seven times. Then he flipped furiously through a pile of 45s looking for "Be My Baby" or some other one. It wasn't there. He turned off the record player and left the room. Well. If it's not there—can't . . . It's funny to watch him when he can't find something he owns. He was back in five minutes. He played "And Then He Kissed Me" 12 times.

He was watching me. I danced to the music. I sang along. Once when I looked over he had the petrified look he wore when he and Dusty Springfield had their picture taken hugging each other. The next time I looked over he was smirking. Once Carnie tried to come in the door and he closed it in her face.

Carl drifted in, then Jack. The intensity bouncing around the room modulated into something else. Brian put on a tape of "River Deep Mountain High."

"Was that a hit in this country, Tom?"

"Well — ahh, no, not really." I happened to glance at Carl as he smiled like a brother tolerating a bad habit and rolled his eyes heavenward. I realized this was it. It was here. The put-on. I found it rather insulting.

"Was it a hit in England?" Brian continued.

"You know it was, Brian." I held up two fingers. "Twice."

Carl tried to rescue me from the moment. "It sure was. It was a monster hit in England."

Brian was walking to the tape deck. "Well," he mumbled, "I knew it was a hit once in England . . ."

That was the put-on all right and it seemed more like a symptom than the disease itself.

* * *

I'm a cork on the ocean
Floating over the raging sea
How deep is the ocean?
I lost my way
I'm a rock in a landslide
Rolling over the mountainside
How deep is the valley?
It kills my soul
I'm a leaf on a windy day
Pretty soon I'll be blown away
How long will the wind blow?
Until I die

Brian Wilson

Later Carl, polite and thoughtful as ever, tried to explain. "Well, he's not too accessible, you know. There's probably about three people that know him, four people that really know him. He must not want to talk to journalists, I guess. I think the Jules Siegel stuff and a lot of that stuff that went around before really turned him off. Most of the stuff about Brian is grossly inaccurate. Most of the stuff is in the past, anyway.

"He's a pretty vulnerable guy. And I think that anybody that really knows him would probably regard it as a private friendship and wouldn't really be into a thing of 'what's Brian like?' or something like that. It's quite natural, really, that weird stories circulate.

"Oh, he is somewhat of an eccentric, that's true. There's lots of stories about him being flipped out and all that sort of stuff, but . . ."

Well he does spend a lot of time in his room.

Carl laughed affectionately. "Sometimes he stays in his room for awhile. But he's not, you know, I mean that really cracks me up, that 'he spends a lot of time in his room.' He's all over the place.

"But he's not cooperative with the press at all. And Brian, I'm sorry, he is a put on. Yeah, he's out there. He's really a very highly evolved person. And he's very sensitive at the same time, which can be confusing. Brian's Brian, you know?"

(Next issue, Part II: Growing up, if that is the word, in Hawthorne, Calif. The early surfer culture. The tours. The side trips of the side men. Maharishi, Manson and Murray the Wilson. Plus new developments, musical and political, in a group that has already influenced rock more than we probably know.)

This story is from the October 28th, 1971 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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Song Stories

“San Francisco Mabel Joy”

Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

More Song Stories entries »
 
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