The Beach Boys: The Healing of Brother Brian
What did he say at the time?
AUDREE: Not too much. He stayed in bed a lot.
You Need a Mess of Help to Stand Alone
Meanwhile, back at the Bel Air mansion, Brian had just gone upstairs for his noontime nap when Dennis Wilson bounded into the living room. Dennis is easily the most infectious Beach Boy, the prettiest, wittiest, most outgoing and independent, the most, say his family, like his father. Not surprisingly, it’s gotten him into a lot of trouble over the years, with his dad, his schoolteachers and later with his notorious roommate Charles Manson, to whom he now, bearded and prancing impulsively, bore a striking resemblance. (According to New Musical Express, Dennis told a reporter for England’s Rave magazine in 1968, “Fear is nothing but awareness, man… Sometimes the “Wizard” frightens me. The “Wizard” is Charlie Manson, who is another friend of mine, who says he is God and the Devil. He sings, plays and writes poetry and may be another artist for Brother Records.”)
As Dennis sat down, Sandy Friedman handed him a local trade paper with the Beach Boys on the cover. He glanced at it for a moment, then shrugged and said, “Come on, you can’t read everything you believe.” Then he stood up and walked to the center of the room for an important announcement.
DENNIS: I’ve just made a monumental decision. [Dennis pauses dramatically.] I’m not guilty about masturbation anymore! [Then seriously, folks] I just started my own record company. It’s like, I’ve been in one group my whole life. I always thought if I wasn’t a Beach Boy I would fail. [Here Dennis sticks his arms straight out in mock agony.] So I called up my attorney and said, “Hey, get me a record company.” But my biggest piece of shit is, I’m gonna do a movie where I’m gonna be a flaming gay boy who wants to be a policeman.
So many positive things are happening in the Beach Boys’ career right now. Let me tell you something about the Beach Boys… we had a very normal childhood. Our father beat the shit out of us; his punishments were outrageous. I never saw eye to eye with him, ever. In fact I used to lie to him when I was young. I learned at an early age to be very protective of myself, I played a great mind game.
But one thing about my father — beautiful music would always melt my father’s heart. You always wanted to sing for him. Dad was a frustrated songwriter, and I think Brian wrote his music through him.
[Dennis suggests we go to his VW camper in the driveway, where we listen to a cassette of two cuts from his planned solo album. They have kind of a Beach Boys sound to them, but rougher, more rock & roll, like Dennis’ voice and temperament. Actually, they sound great. Finally I get up enough nerve to ask him a question that has intimidated me for some time.]
I know this is an unpleasant subject, but it’s been a number of years now, and I was wondering if we could discuss your experience with Charles Manson…
[But even before I finish, Dennis is shaking his head.]
DENNIS: No. Never. As long as I live, I’ll never talk about that. [He gazes out the windshield of his camper.] I don’t know anything, you know? If I did, I would’ve been up on that witness stand.
[Just then actress Karen Lamm Wilson, Dennis’ new wife, drives up in a small sports car. “Gotta go, guys,” yells Dennis, bolting from the camper and taking off.]
Inside, Carl, the youngest and most stable Wilson brother, had arrived, sporting, like all the Beach Boys these days, a full, rough beard, and like himself, a workmanlike jumpsuit. He owns a whole closetful of jumpsuits, in a spectrum of colors from gray to brown, and one suspects they are designed to ameliorate the last vestiges of a sweet baby chubbiness. Although he’s occasionally made headlines in the past, resisting the draft for years before a federal court granted him C.O. status, his personality is basically shy and quiet. It was Carl who invariably kept his head while all about him were losing theirs, who took charge of stage performances after Brian left the road and who later took over record production when Brian could no longer handle that one.
Why was your father fired as manager?
CARL: My recollection could be kind of foggy on that. I just know it started in Australia — this was around ’63 or ’64. Brian, and Michael especially, wanted to not have my father involved because he screwed them up with chicks, you know? We’d want to find a girl to be with, the thing on the road, and he was really kind of prudish about it. Also, Brian really disagreed with the way my dad wanted things to sound. And I remember having a conversation with my dad in his bedroom at home. I said, “They really, you know, don’t want you to manage the group anymore.” When I think about it now, Jesus, that must have really crushed him. After all, he gave up his home and business for us, he was kind of crackers over us, you know?