Wednesday, October 05, 2011


As I continue through ACA, I am finding little coincidences and fingerprints related to it throughout my life.  And one of them is that my favorite recording artist is Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys.

I remember hearing a snippet of Surfer Girl on the television as a child and it was as if I had heard music for the first time.  Never mind that there's no surf in Cleveland, I was hooked bad.  The Beach Boys fostered my love of vocal harmony which led me later to the Manhattan Transfer (but that's another story).

As I got to know Brian and the boys, he became a sort of personal symbol to me.  He was considered a genius.  He was misunderstood by his band, Mike Love in particular.  He was in competition with another group that people seemed to like better (a hint: they were from Liverpool).  And right when he should have blown the doors off of the world, he crumbled and did something else.

I was considered bright.  I did not feel understood by my family.  I was in a perceived competition with my cousin whom everybody liked better (or so it seemed).  And right when I was going to go to New York and draw comic books for a living, my mother "forbade" me.

To be fair, my mother never said I could not go.  She just indicated she disapproved, and back in those days I needed her to approve.  She did not think that I would be able to earn a living drawing and so, much like Brian and the album Smile, I took my dreams of drawing and put them on a shelf and became a writer.

And even though I did well as a writer, it was not what my life could have been if I had just been encouraged a little in pursuing my dream.  And Brian scrapped Smile and the Beach Boys became pretty much irrelevant from that point forward.

I later found out that Brian, my idol, suffered from a horrid family life.  Brian's father Murry Wilson was an alcoholic and abusive, even cruel, to Brian, Dennis, and Carl (the brother three-fifths of the band).  The reason Brian talks out of the side of his mouth is because he is deaf in one ear.  The reason he is deaf in one ear is Murry Wilson, who reportedly smacked him upside his head with a piece of lumber.

Brian eventually fired his father as manager of the band and saw his father go into competition with him with a band called the Sunrays, with as much as Murry could remember of his son's sound.  Given all of this plus Mike Love's manipulative nature, the wonder is not that Brian had his mental breakdown.  The wonder is why it took as long as it did.

Brian eventually fought back from psychosis and a manipulative psychiatrist to have a meager solo recording career and then complete the album Smile as solo project, the uncompleted legendary album that was supposed to be Sergeant Pepper before Sergeant Pepper was Sergeant Pepper.

I knew about Brian's troubles as an adult child of an alcoholic long before I knew of the term or that it was the basis of some of my problems, but it is kind of comforting to see one more basis for my empathy for Brian.

By the way, later this year Capitol Records is supposed to release the original Beach Boys recordings of the Smile material, much long after it would have expanded the world's understanding of the talent of Brian Wilson.  But it is welcome nonetheless.


One of Brian's songs has been one of my personal anthems: I Guess I Just Wasn't Made for These Times.  I felt I was outside of my time as he does in the song.  I do not feel this way anymore, but for the longest time I did.  Enjoy.

1 comment:

Kennnn (I'm with the banned) said...

I was trying to see America, so I was traveling from Boston to Chicago, but I had to make a Manhattan Transfer in order to catch the Ohio Express. Later on I would head south to see Alabama.