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Brian Wilson is arguably the greatest American composer of popular music in the rock era. Born and raised in Hawthorne, California, he formed the Beach Boys in 1961 alongside his two younger brothers, cousin Mike Love, and school friend Alan Jardine. Serving as the group's primary songwriter, Wilson combined the rock urgency of Chuck Berry with the harmonies of the Four Freshmen before expanding his musical imagination during the late '60s, during which time he experimented with new songwriting structures and production techniques. Wilson retreated from his dominance of the Beach Boys after 1967, yielding most of the control to his younger brother Carl. He made sporadic contributions to their records, returning only briefly as a songwriter and producer in the mid-'70s.
Following a long period of drug addiction, mental illness, and general isolation, Wilson issued his first solo album in 1988. Despite the promising lead single "Love and Mercy," commercial success proved elusive; ironically, the Beach Boys had recorded their own comeback record around the same time and wound up topping the charts with "Kokomo." Wilson attempted to find his footing with a second solo album, Sweet Insanity, which was rejected outright by Sire and permanently shelved. In 1995, he reunited with his mid-'60s collaborator Van Dyke Parks for Orange Crate Art, a collaborative album that featured Parks' songwriting and Wilson's vocals. That same year, Wilson was the subject of a documentary feature, I Just Wasn't Made for These Times, for which he also recorded a full soundtrack. Following those releases was 1998's Imagination, which included several throwbacks to lush Beach Boys productions but failed to entice a wide commercial audience.
During his time with the Beach Boys, Wilson had often remained at home -- or in the studio -- while the rest of the group set out on tour. Things started to change in the early 2000s, when he began touring as a solo act (often accompanied by a large backing band) and released a pair of live titles: Live at the Roxy Theatre (2000) and Pet Sounds Live (2002). Unfortunately, the cobbled studio album that followed in 2004, Gettin' in Over My Head, exhibited the same foibles as Imagination. Also, it was overshadowed by Wilson's next project: preparing the legendary Beach Boys record SMiLE for its live debut, as well as making new studio recordings of its songs. He debuted the new SMiLE at the Royal Festival Hall in London on February 20, 2004, and recorded it in the studio that April. Both the live and studio versions earned rapturous reviews, prompting Wilson to launch a full world tour in support of the Grammy-winning album. The seasonal effort What I Really Want for Christmas followed in October 2005.
Wilson began preparing another thematic work after he was commissioned by London's Southbank Centre to help kick off the venue's 2007 season. The result was That Lucky Old Sun, a concept album based on the American vocal standard and including the participation of his SMiLE band, as well as Van Dyke Parks. That Lucky Old Sun premiered at the Royal Festival Hall in September 2007 and was released as a studio album later that year. Wilson returned to the studio two years later, this time to put his own stamp on a number of George Gershwin covers. At the behest of Gershwin's estate, he also completed two piano compositions that were unfinished by Gershwin at the time of his death. Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin was released in August 2010, marking Wilson's first album for the Disney-affiliated Pearl label. Wilson's second project for Pearl, In the Key of Disney, arrived the following year, and featured 11 classic Disney songs.
Wikipedia:For other uses, see Brian Wilson (disambiguation).
Brian Douglas Wilson (born June 20, 1942) is an American musician, actor, and producer best known for being the chief songwriter, co-lead vocalist, bassist, producer, arranger, co-founder, and leader of The Beach Boys. After signing with Capitol Records in mid-1962, Wilson wrote or co-wrote more than two dozen Top 40 hits for the group. Due to his unorthodox approaches to song composition and arrangement, and mastery of recording techniques, he is widely acknowledged as one of the most innovative and influential creative forces in popular music by critics and musicians alike.
In the mid-1960s, Wilson composed, wrote and produced Pet Sounds, considered one of the greatest albums of all time. The intended follow-up to Pet Sounds, Smile, was cancelled for various reasons, which included Wilson's deteriorating mental health. As he suffered through multiple nervous breakdowns, Wilson's contributions to the Beach Boys diminished and his erratic behavior led to tensions with the band. After years of treatment and recuperation, he began performing and recording consistently as a solo artist, being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and winning Grammy Awards for Brian Wilson Presents Smile and The Smile Sessions. On the Beach Boys' 50th anniversary, Wilson briefly returned to record and perform with the group. He remains a member of the Beach Boys corporation, Brother Records Incorporated.
In 2008, Rolling Stone magazine published a list of the "100 Greatest Singers of All Time" that ranked Wilson number 52. In 2012, music publication NME ranked Wilson number 8 in its "50 Greatest Producers Ever" list, elaborating "few consider quite how groundbreaking Brian Wilson’s studio techniques were in the mid-60s." He is an occasional actor and voice actor, having appeared in television shows, films, and other artists' music videos. His life will be portrayed in the upcoming biographical film Love and Mercy."Re: The Stephen Desper Thread". Retrieved September 23, 2010. Badman 2004, pp. 34-150. Murray, Amanda (August 7, 2005). "The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds (staff review)". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved October 30, 2012. "The 50 Greatest Producers Ever". Tracy Cheesman. 2012. p. 5. Retrieved July 6, 2013. "The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time". 1060. Jann Wenner. November 2008. p. 52. Retrieved December 26, 2013. "Wilson movie". Los Angeles Times. June 23, 2011.
Wilson was born on June 20, 1942 at Centinela Hospital in Inglewood, California, the son of Audree Neva (née Korthof) and Murry Gage Wilson. He was the eldest of three boys; his younger brothers were Dennis and Carl. He has English, Swedish, Dutch, German, and Irish ancestry. When Wilson was two, the Wilson family moved from Inglewood to 3701 West 119th Street in nearby Hawthorne, California. Speaking of Wilson's unusual musical abilities prior to his first birthday, his father said that as a baby he could repeat the melody from "When the Caissons Go Rolling Along" after only a few verses had been sung by the father. Murry Wilson said, "He was very clever and quick. I just fell in love with him." At about age two, Wilson heard George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, which had an enormous emotional impact on him. A few years later he was discovered to have extremely diminished hearing in his right ear. The exact cause of this hearing loss is unclear, though theories range from him simply being born partially deaf, to a blow to the head from his father, or a neighborhood bully, being to blame.
While Wilson's father was ostensibly a reasonable provider, he was often abusive. A minor musician and songwriter, he also encouraged his children in this field in numerous ways. At an early age, Wilson was given six weeks of lessons on a "toy accordion", and at seven and eight sang solos in church with a choir behind him. Wilson was on the football team as a quarterback, played baseball and was a cross-country runner in his senior year. He sang with various students at school functions and with his family and friends at home. He taught his two brothers harmony parts that all three would then practice when they were supposed to be asleep. He also played piano obsessively after school, deconstructing the harmonies of The Four Freshmen by listening to short segments of their songs on a phonograph, then working to recreate the blended sounds note by note on the keyboard. He received a Wollensak tape recorder on his 16th birthday, allowing him to experiment with recording songs and early group vocals.
Wilson's understanding of music theory was self-taught. His surviving home tapes document his initial efforts singing with various friends and family, including a song the Beach Boys later recorded in the studio, "Sloop John B"—and "Bermuda Shorts" and a hymn titled "Good News". In his senior year at Hawthorne High, in addition to classroom music studies, he sang at lunch time with friends like Keith Lent and Bruce Griffin. Wilson and Lent worked on a revised version of the tune "Hully Gully" to support the campaign of a classmate named Carol Hess when she ran for senior class president. Enlisting his cousin and frequent singing partner Mike Love and Wilson's youngest brother Carl Wilson, his next public performance featured more ambitious arrangements at a fall arts program at his high school. To entice Carl into the group, Wilson named the newly formed membership Carl and the Passions. The performance featured tunes by Dion and the Belmonts and The Four Freshmen ("It's a Blue World"), the latter of which proved difficult for the ensemble. However, the event was notable for the impression it made on another musician and classmate of Wilson in the audience that night, Al Jardine, who would join the three Wilson brothers and Mike Love in the Beach Boys.Gaines 1986, p. 40. http://www.americanancestors.org/ancestry-beach-boys/ Leaf 1978, p. 14. Stebbins 2007, p. 14. Carlin 2006, p. 11. Carlin 2006, p. 10. Carlin 2006, p. 12. Leaf 1978, pp. 15-17. Carlin 2006, p. 15. Stebbins 2007, p. 18. Badman 2004, p. 14. Williams 2000, p. 112. Carlin 2006, p. 23. Carlin 2006, p. 24.
Contents1960s1.1 Early record producer and songwriter era1.2 Pet Sounds and Smile1.3 Reduced involvement with the Beach Boys
I first felt I had a good voice when I was about seventeen or eighteen and was able to sing along well to records by The Four Freshmen. By singing along to those records that’s how I learned how to sing falsetto. I would sing along to songs like "I’m Always Chasing Rainbows," "I'll Remember April" and "Day by Day".…When I wrote "Surfer Girl" I liked it so much that I said that I’m gonna keep on writing songs.—Brian Wilson, 2013
Wilson enrolled at El Camino College in Los Angeles, majoring in psychology, in September 1960. He continued his music studies at the college as well. At some point in 1961 he wrote his first all-original melody, loosely based on a Dion and the Belmonts version of "When You Wish Upon a Star". The song was eventually known as "Surfer Girl". Though an early demo of the song was recorded in February 1962 at World-Pacific Studios, it was not re-recorded and released until 1963, when it became a top ten hit.
With his brothers Carl and Dennis as well as Mike Love and Al Jardine, Wilson first appeared as a music group in the summer of 1961, initially under the name The Pendletones. After being prodded by Dennis to write a song about the local water sports craze, Wilson and Mike Love together created what became the first single for the band, "Surfin'". Over Labor Day weekend 1961, Brian took advantage of the fact that his parents were in Mexico City for a couple of days, and intended to use the emergency money they had left to rent an amp, a microphone, and a stand-up bass. As it turned out, the money was not enough to cover musical expenses, so Al Jardine appealed to his mother, Virginia for help. When she heard the group perform, she was suitably impressed and handed over $300. Al promptly took Wilson to the music store where he rented a stand-up bass. After rehearsing for two days in the Wilsons' music room, his parents returned home from their trip. His father was irate, until Brian convinced him to listen to what they had been up to. His father was convinced that the boys did indeed have something worth pursuing. He quickly proclaimed himself the group's manager and the band embarked on serious rehearsals for a proper studio session. Recorded by Hite and Dorinda Morgan and released on the small Candix Records label, "Surfin'" became a top local hit in Los Angeles and reached number seventy-five on the national Billboard sales charts. Dennis later described the first time that Wilson heard their song on the radio as the three Wilson brothers and David Marks drove in Wilson's 1957 Ford in the rain: "Nothing will ever top the expression on Brian's face, ever ... THAT was the all-time moment." However, the Pendletones were no more. Without the band's knowledge or permission, Candix Records had changed their name to the Beach Boys.
Wilson and his bandmates, following a set by Ike and Tina Turner, performed their first major live show at the Ritchie Valens Memorial Dance on New Year's Eve, 1961. Three days previously, Wilson's father had bought him an electric bass and amplifier. Wilson had learned to play the instrument in that short period of time, with Al Jardine moving to rhythm guitar. On stage, Wilson provided many of the lead vocals, and often harmonized with the group in falsetto.
In early 1962, producer Hite Morgan asked some of the members to add vocals to a couple of instrumental tracks that he had recorded with other musicians. This derived the short-lived group Kenny & the Cadets, which Wilson lead under the pseudonym "Kenny". The other members were Carl Wilson, Al Jardine, and the Wilsons' mother Audree. The only songs the group recorded were two Morgan compositions, "Barbie" and "What Is a Young Girl Made Of?"
Looking for a follow-up single for their radio hit, Wilson and Mike Love wrote "Surfin' Safari", and attempts were made to record a usable take at World Pacific, including overdubs, on February 8, 1962, along with several other tunes including an early version of "Surfer Girl". Only a few days later, discouraged about the band's financial prospects, and objecting to adding some Chubby Checker songs to the Beach Boys live setlist, Al Jardine abruptly left the group, but rejoined shortly thereafter. When Candix Records ran into money problems and sold the Beach Boys' master recordings to another label, Murry Wilson terminated the contract. Brian, worried about the group's future, asked his father to help them make more recordings. But Murry and Hite Morgan (who at this point was their music publisher) were turned down by a number of Los Angeles record companies. As "Surfin'" faded from the charts, Brian, who had forged a songwriting partnership with Gary Usher, created several new songs, including a car song, "409", that Usher helped them write. Brian and the Beach Boys cut new tracks at Western Recorders including an updated "Surfin' Safari" and "409". These songs convinced Capitol Records to release the demos as a single; they became a double-sided national hit.
Early record producer and songwriter era
Recording sessions for the band's first album took place in Capitol's basement studios (in the famous tower building) in August 1962, but early on Brian lobbied for a different place to cut Beach Boy tracks. The large rooms were built to record the big orchestras and ensembles of the 1950s, not small rock groups. At Brian's insistence, Capitol agreed to let the Beach Boys pay for their own outside recording sessions, to which Capitol would own all the rights, and in return the band would receive a higher royalty rate on their record sales. Additionally, during the taping of their first LP Brian fought for, and won, the right to be in charge of the production — though his first acknowledged liner notes production credit did not come until later.
In January 1963, the Beach Boys recorded their first top-ten (cresting at number three in the United States) single, "Surfin' U.S.A.", which began their long run of highly successful recording efforts at Hollywood's United Western Recorders on Sunset Boulevard. It was during the sessions for this single that Brian made the production decision from that point on to use doubletracking on the group's vocals, resulting in a deeper and more resonant sound. The Surfin' U.S.A. album was also a big hit in the United States, reaching number two on the national sales charts by early July 1963. The Beach Boys had become a top-rank recording and touring band. Brian was then officially credited as the Beach Boys' producer on the Surfer Girl album, recorded in June and July 1963 and released in September 1963. This LP reached number seven on the national charts, containing singles that were top 15 hits. Feeling that surfing songs had become limiting, Brian decided to produce a set of largely car-oriented tunes for the Beach Boys' fourth album, Little Deuce Coupe, which was released in October 1963, only three weeks after the Surfer Girl LP. The departure of guitarist David Marks from the band that month meant that Brian was forced to resume touring with the Beach Boys, for a time reducing his availability in the recording studio.
For much of the decade, Brian attempted to establish himself as a record producer by working with various artists. On July 20, 1963, "Surf City", which he co-wrote with Jan Berry of Jan and Dean, was his first composition to reach the top of the US charts. The resulting success pleased Brian, but angered both Murry and Capitol Records. Murry went so far as to order his oldest son to sever any future collaborations with Jan and Dean. Brian's other non-Beach Boy work in this period included tracks by The Castells, Donna Loren, Sharon Marie, the Timers, the Survivors. The most notable group Wilson would attach himself in this era would be The Honeys, which Wilson intended as the female counterpart to the Beach Boys, and as an attempt to compete with Phil Spector-lead girl groups such as The Crystals and The Ronettes. He continued juggling between recording with the Beach Boys and producing records for other artists, but with less success at the latter—except for Jan and Dean.
[I go to] the piano and sit playing "feels". "Feels" are brief note sequences, fragments of ideas. Once they're out of my head and into the open air, I can see them and touch them firmly. They're not "feels" anymore.…My greatest interest musically is expanding modern vocal harmony.—Brian Wilson, 1966
Early influences on his music included not only the previously mentioned Four Freshmen and Chuck Berry, but also the work of record producer Phil Spector, who popularized the Wall of Sound production techniques that Wilson would develop a fervent obsession with for most of his life. In the 1960s, Wilson thought of Spector as "…the single most influential producer. He's timeless. He makes a milestone whenever he goes into the studio." Wilson is said to have later stated "I was unable to really think as a producer until I really got familiar with Phil Spector's work." Wilson attempted to submit two of his compositions to Spector: "Don't Worry Baby" and "Don't Hurt My Little Sister"; both written with The Ronettes in mind. Spector declined "Don't Worry Baby", but accepted "Don't Hurt My Little Sister" on the condition that he rewrite the song as "Things Are Changing (for the Better)". Wilson was invited to perform piano on the song's recording, but was thrown out of the session by Spector due to "substandard playing". It was reported that Wilson attended the session for Spector's cacophonous "River Deep - Mountain High", where he sat "transfixed" and "did not say a word".
The Beach Boys' rigorous performing schedule increasingly burdened Wilson, and following a nervous breakdown on board a flight from L.A. to Houston on December 23, 1964, he stopped performing live with the group in an effort to concentrate solely on songwriting and studio production. Wilson explained in 1971: "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." Glen Campbell was called in as his temporary stand-in for live performances, before Bruce Johnston replaced him. As thanks, Wilson "rewarded" Campbell by producing him with the single "Guess I'm Dumb".
It was during that December that Wilson was introduced to cannabis hesitantly by his friend Loren Schwartz, an assistant at William Morris Endeavor. Attracted by the drug's ability to alleviate stress and inspire creativity, Wilson completed the Beach Boys' forthcoming Today! album by late January 1965 and quickly began work on their next, Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!). Sometime in April, Wilson experienced his first acid trip, which unequivocally changed his musical and spiritual perceptions, as he would recall a year later, "I had what I consider to be a very religious experience. I took LSD, a full dose of LSD, and later, another time, I took a smaller dose. And I learned a lot of things, like patience, understanding. I can't teach you, or tell you what I learned from taking it. But I consider it a very religious experience." Again, Schwartz was hesitant to provide drugs to Wilson, which he did not feel he was ready for, but has recounted that his dosage was "one hundred and twenty-five mics of pure Owsley," and that "he had the full-on ego death. It was a beautiful thing." The music for "California Girls" came from this first LSD experience, a composition which would later be released as a #3 charting single. Wilson continued experimenting with psychotropics for the next few years, sometimes even during recording sessions. He became fixated on psychedelia, claiming to have coined a slang, "psychedelicate," and foreseeing that "psychedelic music will cover the face of the world and color the whole popular music scene." A week after his first LSD trip, Wilson began suffering from auditory hallucinations, which have persisted throughout his life.
Pet Sounds and SmileMain articles: Pet Sounds and Smile (The Beach Boys album)
In late 1965, Wilson began working on material for a new album after releasing a single which was an orchestral reworking of the folk song "Sloop John B", made famous by The Kingston Trio in 1958. As he began work on the new project, Pet Sounds, Wilson formed a temporary songwriting partnership with lyricist Tony Asher, who was suggested to Wilson by mutual friend Schwartz. Wilson, who had recorded the album's instrumentation with The Wrecking Crew, then assembled the Beach Boys to record vocal overdubs, following their return from a tour of Japan. Upon hearing what Wilson had created for the first time in 1965, the group, particularly Mike Love, was somewhat critical of their leader's music, and expressed their dissatisfaction. At this time, Wilson still had considerable control within the group and, according to Wilson, they eventually overcame their initial negative reaction, as his newly created music began to near completion. The album was released May 16, 1966 and, despite modest sales figures at the time, has since become widely critically acclaimed, often being cited among the all-time greatest albums. Although the record was issued under the group's name, Pet Sounds is arguably seen as a Brian Wilson solo album—Wilson even toyed with the idea by releasing "Caroline, No" as a solo single in March 1966—reaching number 32 on the Billboard charts.
During the Pet Sounds sessions, Wilson had been working on another song, which was held back from inclusion on the record as he felt that it was not sufficiently complete. The song "Good Vibrations" set a new standard for musicians and for what could be achieved in the recording studio. Recorded in multiple sessions and in numerous studios, the song eventually cost $50,000 to record within a six-month period. In October 1966, the song was released as a single, giving the Beach Boys their third U.S. number-one hit after "I Get Around" and "Help Me, Rhonda". It sold over a million copies.
With the universal success of "Good Vibrations", Capitol Records decided to back Wilson up for his next project, originally called Dumb Angel but soon re-titled Smile, which Wilson described as a "teenage symphony to God." "Good Vibrations" had been recorded in modular style, with separately written sections individually tracked and spliced together, and Wilson's concept for the new album was more of the same, representing a departure from the standard live-taped performances typical of studio recordings at that time. Having been introduced to Van Dyke Parks at a garden party at Terry Melcher's home, Wilson liked Parks' "visionary eloquence" and began work with him in the fall of 1966. After Wilson famously installed a sandbox in his living room, the pair collaborated closely on several Smile tracks. Wilson recorded backing tracks, largely with session musicians, through the winter. Over Christmas of 1966, however, conflict within the group and Wilson's own growing personal problems threw the project into terminal disarray. Originally scheduled for release in January 1967, the release date was continually pushed back until press officer Derek Taylor announced its cancellation in May 1967.
Reduced involvement with the Beach BoysSee also: Smiley Smile, Wild Honey (album), Friends (The Beach Boys album) and 20/20 (The Beach Boys album)
We pulled out of that production pace, really because I was about ready to die. I was trying so hard. So, all of a sudden I decided not to try any more, and not try and do such great things, such big musical things. And we had so much fun. The Smiley Smile era was so great, it was unbelievable. Personally, spiritually, everything, it was great. I didn't have any paranoia feelings.—Brian Wilson, January 1968
Following the cancellation of Smile, The Beach Boys relocated to a studio situated in the living room of Brian Wilson's new mansion in Bel Air (once the home of Edgar Rice Burroughs), where the band would primarily record until 1972. This has been perceived by some commentators as "the moment when the Beach Boys first started slipping from the vanguard to nostalgia." Throughout mid-to-late 1967, Wilson oversaw the production of only a few heavily orchestrated songs holding continuity with his Pet Sounds and Smile work, such as "Can't Wait Too Long" and "Time to Get Alone". After the diminished reception accorded to the lo-fi Smiley Smile and the R&B-inflected Wild Honey culminated in the muted orchestrations and collaborative ethos of Friends—the band's first unequivocal commercial failure—Wilson's interest in the Beach Boys began to wane.
Still psychologically overwhelmed by the cancellation of Smile and the imminent birth of his first child Carnie Wilson in 1968 amid the looming financial insolvency of the Beach Boys, Wilson's creative directorship within the band became increasingly tenuous; additionally, cocaine had begun to supplement Wilson's regular use of amphetamines, marijuana, and psychedelics. Shortly after abandoning an intricate version of Kern and Hammerstein's "Ol' Man River" at the instigation of Mike Love, Wilson entered a psychiatric hospital for a brief period of time. Biographer Peter Ames Carlin has speculated that Wilson had self-admitted and may have been administered a number of treatments ranging from talking therapies to stiff doses of Lithium and the more extreme electroconvulsive therapy during this stay.
In his absence, 1969's 20/20 consisted substantially of key Smile outtakes ("Cabinessence" and "Our Prayer"), significant contributions from Dennis Wilson & Bruce Johnston, and the long-germinating "Time to Get Alone." The album's singles—the Bruce Johnston-produced original "Bluebirds Over the Mountains" (Billboard #64) and the Carl Wilson-produced cover of The Ronettes' "I Can Hear Music"—won lukewarm attention, with the latter reaching #24 on the Billboard single chart in April 1969; the lead track, the Wilson/Love-authored "Do It Again", an unabashed throwback to the band's earlier surf hits, had been an international hit in the summer of 1968, reaching number 20 in the US charts and number one in the UK and Australia while also scoring well in other countries. During this phase, Wilson also collaborated with his father (credited under the pseudonym of Reggie Dunbar) on "Break Away", the band's final single for Capitol Records under their original contract; although relatively unsuccessful in the United States (peaking at #63 in Billboard), the song reached #6 on the British singles chart.
At a press conference ostensibly convened to promote "Break Away" to the European media shortly thereafter, Wilson intimated that "We owe everyone money. And if we don't pick ourselves off our backsides and have a hit record soon, we will be in worse trouble... I've always said, 'Be honest with your fans.' I don't see why I should lie and say that everything is rosy when it's not." These incendiary remarks ultimately thwarted long-simmering contract negotiations with Deutsche Grammophon. Although Murry Wilson's sale of the Sea of Tunes publishing company (including the majority of Wilson's oeuvre) to A&M Records' publishing division for $700,000 at the band's commercial nadir in 1969 renewed the longstanding animus between father and son, he stood in for Mike Love during a 1970 Northwest tour when Love was convalescing from illness. He also resumed writing & recording with the Beach Boys at a brisk pace; seven of the twelve new songs on the 1970 album Sunflower were either written or co-written by Wilson. Nevertheless, the album was a commercial failure in the United States, peaking at #151 during a four-week Billboard chart stay in October 1970. Following the termination of the Capitol contract in 1969, the band's new contract with then-au courant Reprise Records (brokered by Van Dyke Parks, employed as a multimedia executive at the company at the time) stipulated Brian Wilson's proactive involvement with the band in all albums—a factor that would become hugely problematic for the band in the years to come.Sharp, Ken (September 4, 2013). "Brian Wilson, Mike Love and Al Jardine of the Beach Boys – Interview (Pt. 1)". Rock Cellar Magazine. Retrieved 5 September 2013. Badman 2004, p. 15. Lambert 2007, pp. 27-31. Carlin 2006, pp. 28–29. Carlin 2006, pp. 30-31. "The Beach Boys Biography", Rock and Roll Hall of Fame "Dennis Wilson Quotes", danaddington.com Badman 2004, pp. 16-17. Unterberger, Richie. "Biography". Allmusic. Badman 2004, p. 20. Badman 2004, p. 22-23. Badman 2004, p. 26. Badman 2004, p. 32. Gaines 1986, p. 40. Badman 2004, pp. 39-42. Vinnis, Rob. "Pet Projects liner notes". "Brian Pop Genius!". Melody Maker. May 21, 1966. O'Hagan, Sean. "Feature: A Boy's own story". Review, The Observer (Guardian Media Group) (January 6, 2002): 1–3. Grevatt, Ron (March 19, 1966). "Beach Boys' Blast". Melody Maker. Rock'n Roll In The Groove http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=tn_0JNiqLio#t=196s Carlin 2006, pp. 45. Kubernick, Harvey (March 10, 2011). "Phil Spector, the musical legacy: Part three". Goldmine. Beets, Greg (July 21, 2000). "Review: Pet Sounds: Fifteen Minutes With Brian Wilson". Nick Barbaro. Retrieved August 29, 2009. Denselow, Robin. "Feature: Riding a wave". The Guardian (Guardian Media Group) (September 1, 1976): 8. Nolan 1971. Badman 2004, p. 86. Badman 2004, p. 87. Badman & 2004 p136. Carlin & 2006 pp, 174-175. Boucher, Geoff (August 12, 2007). "‘California Girls’ The Beach Boys". Los Angeles Times. pp. F–4. Retrieved August 17, 2008. Carlin 2006, p. 276. Siegel 1967. Parks, Van Dyke (January 12, 2006). "IN RESPONSE TO: A Lost Pop Symphony from the September 22, 2005 issue". The New York Review of Books. nybooks.com. "Brian Wilson — A Powerful Interview". Ability. 2006. Retrieved 10 February 2014. Badman & 2004 p 194. "Review: Pet Sounds, Charts & Awards, Billboard Singles". Macrovision Corporation. Retrieved August 28, 2009. O'Hagan, Sean. "Feature: The nutty producers". G2 (Guardian Media Group) (December 16, 1999): 10. Hodgkinson, Will. "Feature: The unknown surfer". Friday Review (Guardian Media Group) (December 10, 1999): 16–17. Highwater, Jamake (1968). Rock and other four letter words; music of the electric generation. New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0552043346. The Family - Ed Sanders. Google Books. Carlin 2006, p. 139. Carlin 2006, pp. 139, 141. Carlin 2006, p. 141. Carlin 2006, p. 149. Carlin 2006, p. 169. Carlin 2006, p. 150.
Throughout the early 1970s, Wilson amassed a myriad of home demo recordings which later became informally known as the "Bedroom Tapes." Most of these recordings remain unreleased and unheard to the public, with vague titles such as "Spark in the Dark," "Rooftop Harry," "Symphony of Frogs," "Patty Cake" and "Song to God". Some of the material has been described as "schizophrenia on tape," and "intensely personal songs of gentle humanism and strange experimentation, which reflected on his then-fragile emotional state." Beach Boys archivist Alan Boyd observed: "A lot of the music that Brian was creating during this period was full of syncopated exercises and counterpoints piled on top of jittery eighth-note clusters and loping shuffle grooves. You get hints of it earlier in things like the tags to 'California Girls,' 'Wouldn't It Be Nice' and all throughout Smile, but it takes on an almost manic edge in the '70s." Wilson's daughters have reflected on this period, as Wendy Wilson remembers, "Where other people might take a run to release some stress, he would go to the piano and write a 5 minute song." Carnie Wilson has recounted:
My memories of him are him wandering from room to room…thinking about something. I always wanted to know what he was thinking, you know? Who knows what he was thinking in his head? I remember one day he wrote a song about a cigarette. He said "I’m gonna go write a song about a cigarette!" and I said ‘OK...," and literally, three minutes later I walked into the room, the song was done, he was playing on the piano, something about how he was going to flush the butt in the toilet. We got used to what the whole environment was. It was very musical; there was always a piano going. Either "Rhapsody In Blue" was playing, or…"Be My Baby"–I mean—I woke up every morning to boom boom-boom pow! Boom boom-boom pow! Every day.
Even in those years when he was supposedly in seclusion, Brian came downstairs all the time, this great big guy in a bathrobe. And we went places. Brian and I used to get into his Mercedes and drive over to the Radiant Radish, or we'd go to Redondo Beach and hang out with his high school pals, or go look for Carol Mountain. Brian was as normal to me as anyone else.—Stanley Shapiro
Sometime in 1969, Wilson opened a short-lived health food store called The Radiant Radish. The store closed in 1971 due to unprofitable produce expenditures and Wilson's general lack of business acumen. While working there, he met journalist and radio presenter Jack Rieley, who would manage the Beach Boys and act as Wilson's principal lyricist for the next few years. Reports from this era detailed Wilson as "increasingly withdrawn, brooding, hermitic . . . and occasionally, he is to be seen in the back of some limousine, cruising around Hollywood, bleary and unshaven, huddled way tight into himself." This notion was contested by lyricist Stanley Shapiro. Nevertheless, Wilson's reputation suffered as a result of his eccentricities of lore, and he quickly became known as a commercial has-been which record labels feared. When Shapiro persuaded Wilson to rewrite and rerecord a number of Beach Boys song in order to reclaim his legacy, he contacted fellow songwriter Tandyn Almer for support. The trio then spent a month reworking cuts from the Beach Boys' Friends album. As Shapiro handed demo tapes to A&M Records executives, they found the product favorable before they learned of Wilson and Almer's involvement, and proceeded to veto the idea. Wilson's close friendship with Almer reportedly deteriorated soon after due to a variety of factors, including an alleged liaison between Almer and Marilyn Wilson and the purported theft of recording equipment from Wilson's home studio.
Wilson played and sang on much of the 1971 Surf's Up album—the band's highest American album chart placement (#29) since 1967—and wrote or co-wrote four of the album's ten songs, including the title track. However, only one fully formed original song from Wilson emerged during the album's nominal recording sessions, the dirge-like "A Day in the Life of a Tree". According to engineer Stephen Desper, the cumulatively deleterious effects of Wilson's cocaine and tobacco use began to affect his vocal register in earnest during the Surf's Up sessions.
In late 1971 and early 1972, he worked on an album for the American Spring entitled Spring, a new collaboration between erstwhile Honeys Marilyn Wilson and Diane Rovell. He was closely involved in the home-based recordings with co-producer David Sandler and engineer Stephen Desper, and did significant work on more than half of the tracks. As with much of his work in the era, his contributions "ebbed and flowed." According to Dan Peek of America, Wilson "held court like a Mad King as [longtime friend] Danny Hutton scurried about like his court jester" during the ascendant band's engagement at the Whisky a Go Go in February 1972 Concurrently, he contributed to three out of eight songs on Beach Boys' Carl and the Passions – "So Tough" (1972).
Later that year, he reluctantly agreed to accompany the band to the Netherlands, where they based themselves to record Holland . Though physically present, he often yielded to his bibulous tendencies (primarily hashish and hard cider) and rarely participated, confining himself to work on "Funky Pretty" (a collaboration with Mike Love and Jack Rieley), a one-line sung intro to Al Jardine's "California Saga: California", and Mount Vernon and Fairway (A Fairy Tale), a narrative suite musically inspired by Randy Newman's Sail Away that was promptly rejected by the band; eventually, Carl Wilson capitulated and ensured that the suite would be released as a bonus EP with the album. When the album itself was rejected by Reprise, the song "Sail On, Sailor"—a collaboration with Van Dyke Parks dating from 1971 that had grown to encompass additional lyrical contributions solicited by Wilson at parties hosted by Hutton—was inserted at the instigation of Parks and released as the lead single. It promptly garnered a considerable amount of FM radio play, became a minor chart hit, and entered the band's live sets as a concert staple.
I was snorting cocaine, which I shouldn't have gotten into. It messed up my mind, and it unplugged me from music. I just remember reading magazines. I would say, "Get me a Playboy! Get me a Penthouse!—Brian Wilson, 2004
Wilson spent a great deal of the two years following his father's June 1973 death secluded in the chauffeur's quarters of his home; sleeping, abusing alcohol, taking drugs (including flirtations with heroin), overeating, and exhibiting self-destructive behavior. He attempted to drive his vehicle off a cliff, and at another time, demanded that he be pushed and buried into a grave he had dug in his backyard. During this period, his voice deteriorated significantly as a result of his mass consumption of cocaine and incessant chain smoking. Previously, Wilson claimed that he was preoccupied with "[doing] drugs and hanging out with Danny Hutton" during the mid-1970s. John Sebastian often showed up at Wilson's Bel-Air home "to jam", and recollected: "It wasn't all grimness." Although increasingly reclusive during the day, Wilson spent many nights fraternizing with Hollywood Vampire colleagues including Alice Cooper and Iggy Pop, who were mutually bemused by an extended, contumacious Wilson-led singalong of the folk song "Shortnin' Bread" at Hutton's house and related environs; other visitors of Hutton's residence included Vampires Harry Nilsson, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and Keith Moon. Micky Dolenz recalls consuming LSD with Wilson, Lennon, and Nilsson, where Wilson "played just one note on a piano over and over again". On several occasions, Marilyn Wilson dispatched her friends to climb Hutton's fence and forcibly retrieve her husband. Jimmy Webb reported Wilson's presence at an August 2, 1974 session for Nilsson's "Salmon Falls"; he kept in the back of the studio playing "Da Doo Ron Ron" haphazardly on a B3 organ. Later that month, he was photographed at Moon's 28th birthday party (held on August 28 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel) wearing only his bathrobe. Sometime in 1974, Wilson interrupted a set by jazz musician Larry Coryell at The Troubadour by leaping onto stage and singing "Be-Bop-A-Lula", again wearing slippers and a bathrobe.
During the summer of 1974, the Capitol Records-era greatest hits compilation Endless Summer reached number one on the Billboard charts, reaffirming the relevance of the Beach Boys in the popular imagination. However, recording sessions for a new album under the supervision of Wilson and James William Guercio at Caribou Ranch and the band's studio in Santa Monica that autumn yielded only a smattering of basic tracks, including a banjo-driven arrangement of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"; "It's O.K.", an uptempo collaboration with Mike Love; the ballad "Good Timin'"; and Dennis Wilson's "River Song". Eventually, Wilson diverted his attentions to "Child of Winter (Christmas Song)", a Christmas single co-written with Stephen Kalinich; released belatedly for the holiday market on December 23, it failed to chart. Though still under contract to Warner Brothers, Wilson signed a sideline production deal with Bruce Johnston and Terry Melcher's Equinox Records in early 1975. Together, they founded the loose-knit supergroup known as California Music, which involved them along with LA musicians Gary Usher, Curt Boettcher, and a few others. This contract was nullified by the Beach Boys' management, who perceived it as an attempt by Wilson to relieve the burden of his growing drug expenses, and it was demanded that Wilson focus his efforts on the Beach Boys, even though he strongly desired to escape from the group. The idea of California Music immediately disintegrated.
Eugene Landy interventionsMain article: Brian Wilson (album)See also: 15 Big Ones, Love You (album) and Adult/Child
Dismayed by his continued deterioration and reluctant to payroll Wilson as an active partner in the touring Beach Boys (an arrangement that had persisted for a decade), Marilyn and the Wilson family enlisted the services of radical therapist Eugene Landy in October 1975. Wilson was initially under Landy's care for fourteen months until December 1976, when the therapist was dismissed for a dispute on his monthly fee. Though Landy diagnosed Wilson as paranoid schizophrenic (a diagnosis later retracted) and prescribed medication in accordance, the treatment prompted a more stable, socially engaged Wilson whose productivity increased again. The tagline "Brian's Back!" became a major promotional tool for the new Beach Boys album, 15 Big Ones, released to coincide with their fifteenth anniversary as a band. As a mixture of traditional pop covers with newly written original material, the record was released in the summer of 1976 to commercial acclaim and, despite lukewarm reviews, peaked at number 8 on the Billboard album chart, the band's highest entry (apart from Endless Summer and the follow-up 1975 compilation Spirit of America) since 1965. Wilson returned to regular stage appearances with the band, alternating between piano and bass and, under Landy's advice, made a solo appearance on Saturday Night Live in November 1976; producer Lorne Michaels stipulated Wilson's exclusive performance, much to the chagrin of the other Beach Boys.
[Landy] was such a performer…You couldn't stop him. To him, he was the star of the story…He was full of himself.…He did so many other things that you thought the whole thing might have been a scam. However, one way to keep a person from taking drugs is having a guard there to keep him from taking drugs. It's called prison, but it was in his home.—David Felton
Wilson's behavior during this time was reported by many to be strange and off-putting, and Landy's role as "unethical" and ostentatious. Oftentimes, Wilson would ask for drugs in mid-interview. During this period, Wilson was under constant surveillance by bodyguards, which he resented. Writer David Felton published an editorial piece for Rolling Stone entitled The Healing of Brother Brian, which included eccentric accounts between Wilson and Landy to Felton. This included a report of Landy's medical staff promising Wilson a cheeseburger in exchange for writing a new song. Felton would later talk about the absurdity of his interactions, and noted that he wasn't sure if Wilson really behaved that way or if he was under extreme pressure to appease Landy and his staff. Felton recounts numerous times where Landy scolded Wilson in public for not adhering to his strict behavioral guidelines, and that he believed Wilson felt he had a big pressure to cooperate because of it. He later explained, "[Eugene Landy] said 'Brian doesn't have that much sense of humor,' and I never knew the answer to that. Does he or doesn't he? Sometimes I thought he would have a very wry sense of humor, and others I felt he talked almost like a robot…Just stiff and without emotion or affectation…He does what he's told but he doesn't do much else…And that way he kept out of trouble." Stanley Shapiro, a frequent collaborator of Wilson during the 1970s, would later say "The one-dimensional side of Brian looks like a zombie. But out of the blue, he'd astonish you with the things he'd say."
Wilson expressed a fervent desire to leave the group and record a solo album in this period, but could not due to conflicts it would create between him and the group, leading Wilson to remark, "Sometimes I feel like a commodity in a stock market." He was also firm in that he wanted to record another work on par with the achievement of Pet Sounds. In April 1977, the all-original Wilson album Love You was released bearing the Beach Boys moniker, although the group's contributions were minimal. Described by Wilson as an attempt to relieve himself from mental instability brought on by a period of inactivity, Love You has since been cited as an early work of synthpop. The album's playful lyrics (alternately invoking Johnny Carson, Phil Spector and adolescent interests) and stark instrumentation (featuring Moog bass lines and gated reverb-drenched drum patterns reflective of contemporaneous work by David Bowie and Tony Visconti) failed to impact an audience sated on the ubiquitous Endless Summer sound. Nonetheless, Love You reached number 53 on the Billboard chart and was lauded as an artistic watershed by many critics, including Robert Christgau of The Village Voice. Musicians Patti Smith, Lester Bangs, and Peter Buck have since written heartfelt praise for the album.
Landy was fired during the Love You sessions. Throughout the next five years, Wilson vacillated between periods of relative stability and resurgences of his food and drug addictions. The Wilsons' divorce in January 1979 cited allegations of infidelity on Marilyn's part and inappropriate behavior on Brian's (allegedly offering drugs to his children) but was considered more a mutual surrender to the pressures of Wilson's continued emotional health problems. Brian's role in the band—as well as the Beach Boys' commercial prospects—began to diminish once more. By 1982, Wilson weighed over 325 pounds (147 kg) and was again immersed in his addictions. Landy was once more employed, and a more radical program was undertaken to try to restore Wilson to health. This involved "firing" him from the Beach Boys in November 1982 at the behest of Carl Wilson, isolating him from his family and friends (most notably longtime girlfriend/nurse Carolyn Williams) in Hawaii, and putting him on a rigorous diet and health regimen. Coupled with long, extreme counseling sessions, this therapy was successful in bringing Wilson back to physical health. He lost more than 100 pounds (45 kg) and temporarily became a gym fanatic. As Wilson's recovery consolidated, he rejoined the Beach Boys for Live Aid in 1985 and participated in the recording of the Steve Levine-produced album, The Beach Boys. Largely due to the control that Landy exercised, Wilson stopped working with the Beach Boys on a regular basis after the release of the album. Eventually, Landy's therapy technique created a Svengali-like environment for Wilson, controlling every movement in his life, including his musical direction.
Wilson thereafter signed to a solo record deal with Sire Records label boss Seymour Stein and variously worked with Andy Paley, Russ Titelman and Landy's girlfriend as co-authors on the new material. Old friend and collaborator Gary Usher was a key participant in the early demo work for the album, though Landy later removed him from the project. After several years of genesis, Wilson released his debut solo album Brian Wilson. It is arguable that this work was hampered by Landy's influence, since Landy insisted on controlling involvement in every aspect of Wilson's writing and recording and his lyrical influence is significant.
Despite the critical success of his debut solo album, rumors abounded that Wilson had either suffered a stroke or had been permanently disabled due to excessive drug use. One biographer reported that the actual problem was that Wilson, who had been prescribed massive amounts of psychotropic drugs by Landy's staff since 1983, had developed tardive dyskinesia, a neurological condition marked by involuntary, repetitive movements, that develops in about 20% of patients treated with anti-psychotic drugs for a long period of time. During recording of the Brian Wilson album, engineering staff had observed what seemed to be "every pharmaceutical on the face of the earth," referring to the medicine bag Landy was using to store Wilson's prescription drugs. In order to dispel these claims, Landy separated from Wilson in 1989 to prove that Wilson could function independently. However, they remained "business partners". Wilson's proposed second solo album under the direction of Landy, entitled Sweet Insanity, was rejected by Sire in 1990. It is believed that the disturbingly self-revelatory lyrics of "therapy songs" like "Brian" and ersatz rap like the seemingly sexist "Smart Girls", hurt the album.
In 1990 came a faux memoir, Wouldn't It Be Nice - My Own Story, published in 1990. In the book, whose authorship is still debated, Wilson spoke about his troubled relationship with his abusive father Murry, his private disputes with the Beach Boys and his "lost years" of mental illness. Though the book drew on interviews with Wilson and others (by Todd Gold) it is widely believed to be Landy's account of Brian's life (in an unrelated court case Wilson testified that he had never even read the final draft of the manuscript, much less written any of it.) Landy's illegal use of psychotropic drugs on Wilson, and his influence over Wilson's financial affairs was legally ended by Carl Wilson and other members of the Wilson family after a two-year-long conservatorship battle in Los Angeles. Landy's misconduct led to the loss of his California psychology license, as well as a court-ordered removal and restraining order from Wilson.Chidester, Brian (January 30, 2014). "Brian Wilson's Secret Bedroom Tapes". LA Weekly. Retrieved 1 February 2014. I Just Wasn't Made For These Times Carlin 2006, p. 171–2. Nolan 1971. Hind, John (23 August 2008). "This much I know - Brian Wilson, musician, 66, London". The Observer. Retrieved 28 June 2013. "Sunflower/Surf’s Up 2000 liner notes". Cohn 1970, p. 103–4. Carlin 2006, p. 172. Carlin 2006, pp. 172–3. Carlin 2006, p. 173. Gaines 1986, p. 250. "GIGS70". Esquarterly.com. April 17, 1971. Badman 2004, p. 288. "GIGS71". Esquarterly.com. Carlin 2006, p. 160. Carlin 2006, p. 176. Carlin 2006, p. 168. Carlin 2006, p. 182. Carlin 2006, p. 184. Brown, Ethan (August 15, 2005). "Influences: Brian Wilson". New York Mag. Carlin 2006, p. 198. Carlin 2006, p. 180. Gaines 1986, p. 265. Dillon 2012. Dolenz, Micky; Bego, Mark (2004). I'm a Believer (1. Cooper Square Press edition. ed.). New York: Cooper Square Press. pp. 177–8. ISBN 9780815412847. Shipton, Alyn (2013). Nilsson: The Life of a Singer-Songwriter. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 189. ISBN 9780199756575. "Brian's Back". Newsweek: 79. July 19, 1976. Retrieved 16 July 2014. Carlin 2006, pp. 194–5. Carlin 2006, p. 195. Carlin 2006, pp. 198–9. Brian Wilson - Songwriter - 1969-1982 - The Next Stage (2012) Felton 1976. Rensin, David (December 1976). "A Conversation With Brian Wilson". Oui. Retrieved 16 July 2014. Carlin 2006, p. 213. Snyder, Patrick (March 10, 1977). "Brian Wilson surfs out of nowheresville". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 13 September 2013. "The Beach Boys Biography". Apple Inc. Retrieved 1 July 2012. "CG: The Beach Boys". Robert Christgau. Carlin 2006, p. 11. "Catch a Wave". Aarpmagazine.org. Retrieved September 14, 2011. Sweet, R.A., Mulsant, B. H. Gupta, B., Rifai, A.H., Pasternak, R.E., et al. (1995). Duration of neuroleptic treatment and prevalence of tardive dyskinesia in late life. Archives of General Psychiatry, 52, 478–486. Carlin 2006, p. 272. "Brian Wilson". Netglimse.com. Retrieved 2014-05-23. Brian Wilson's Svengali Has His Wings Clipped, People Magazine, Vol. 31, No. 15, April 17, 1989 The Strange Life Of Brian, Newsweek, September 4, 1995
1990s–2000sMain articles: I Just Wasn't Made for These Times, Orange Crate Art, Imagination (Brian Wilson album) and Gettin' In Over My Head
Wilson released two albums simultaneously in 1995. The first was the soundtrack to Don Was's documentary I Just Wasn't Made for These Times, which consisted of new versions of several Beach Boys and solo songs. The second, Orange Crate Art, saw Wilson as lead vocalist on an album produced, arranged and written by Van Dyke Parks. I Just Wasn't Made for These Times includes Wilson performing for the first time with his now-adult daughters, Wendy and Carnie of the group Wilson Phillips and Van Dyke Parks. The documentary also included glowing tributes from many of his peers, and renewed interest in Wilson as a pop genius and producer extraordinaire. During the early 1990s, he also worked on some tracks with power pop band Jellyfish, which remain unreleased. Roger Manning has recounted an anecdote during these sessions involving Wilson falling asleep at the piano yet continuing to play. Later in the decade, Wilson and his daughters Carnie and Wendy would release an album together entitled The Wilsons (1997). Also, around this time, Wilson sang backup on Belinda Carlisle's "California".
Having missed out on the Beach Boys' 27th studio album Summer in Paradise, Wilson returned to the Beach Boys for sporadic recording sessions and live performances during the early to mid-1990s. Working with collaborators Andy Paley and Don Was, the sessions were reported to have been tenuous. It had also been discussed that Wilson and the Beach Boys would work with Sean O'Hagan of The High Llamas on a comeback album for Wilson and the Beach Boys. All projects collapsed, and instead, Wilson was involved with the 1996 Beach Boys album Stars and Stripes Vol. 1: a group collaboration, backing country music artists singing lead vocals of Beach Boys' standards.
In 1998, he teamed with Chicago-based producer Joe Thomas for the album Imagination. Following this, he received extensive vocal coaching to improve his voice, learned to cope with his stage fright, and started to consistently perform live for the first time in decades. This resulted in Wilson successfully performing the entire Pet Sounds album live throughout the United States, United Kingdom and Europe. Wilson's third solo album Gettin' In Over My Head (2004) featured collaborations with Elton John, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton and brother Carl, who died in February 1998. Clapton played on the track "City Blues," and McCartney's collaboration on "A Friend Like You" fulfilled for many a fantasy union of the legendary Beatles with the legendary Beach Boys. The return to prolific writing and touring gave birth to a new artistic emergence by Wilson.
Brian Wilson Presents SmileMain article: Brian Wilson Presents Smile
With his mental health finally on the mend, Wilson decided to revisit the aborted Smile project from 1967. Aided by musician and longtime fan Darian Sahanaja of Wondermints, and lyricist Van Dyke Parks, Wilson reimagined the session material into something that would work in a live context. His work was finally revealed in concert on February 20, 2004, 37 years after it was conceived, though he later stated that the finished product was substantially different from what was originally envisioned. Wilson debuted his 2004 interpretation of Smile at the Royal Festival Hall in London and subsequently toured the UK. Following the tour, Brian Wilson Presents Smile was recorded, and released in September 2004.
The debut performance at the Royal Festival Hall was a defining moment for Wilson. The documentary DVD of the event shows Wilson preparing for the performance and expressing doubts over the concept of putting this work before the public, moments before taking the stage. After an opening set of Beach Boys classics, Wilson returned to the stage to perform Smile in its entirety. A 10-minute standing ovation followed the concert; the DVD shows several rock luminaries in the crowd, such as Roger Daltrey, Paul Weller, Sir George Martin and Sir Paul McCartney (although neither Martin nor McCartney attended the opening night, contrary to what the DVD implies). Brian Wilson Presents Smile was then recorded from April through June, and released in September, to wide critical acclaim. The release hit number 13 on the Billboard chart. The 2004 recording featured his backup/touring band, including Beach Boys guitarist Jeff Foskett, members of Wondermints and backup singer Taylor Mills. At the 47th Grammy Awards in 2005, Wilson won his first Grammy for the track "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow" as Best Rock Instrumental. In 2004, Wilson promoted Brian Wilson Presents Smile with a tour of Australia, New Zealand and Europe. In December 2005, he also released What I Really Want for Christmas for Arista Records. The release hit number 200 on the Billboard chart, though sales were modest. Wilson's remake of the classic "Deck the Halls" became a surprise Top 10 Adult Contemporary hit.
Post-Smile to That Lucky Old SunMain article: That Lucky Old Sun (album)
In February 2005, Wilson had a cameo in the TV series Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century as Daffy Duck's spiritual surfing adviser. He also appeared in the 2005 holiday episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, performing "Deck the Halls" for children with xeroderma pigmentosum (hypersensitivity to sunlight) at Walt Disney World Resort. On July 2, 2005, Wilson performed for the Live 8 concert in Berlin, Germany.
In September 2005, Wilson arranged a charity drive to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina, wherein people who donated $100 or more would receive a personal phone call from Wilson. According to the website, over $250K was raised. In November 2005, former bandmate Mike Love sued Wilson over "shamelessly misappropriating... Love's songs, likeness, and the Beach Boys trademark, as well as the 'Smile' album itself" in the promotion of Smile. The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed on grounds that it was meritless.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Pet Sounds, Wilson embarked on a brief tour in November 2006. Beach Boy Al Jardine accompanied Wilson for the tour.
Wilson released That Lucky Old Sun in September 2008. The piece originally debuted in a series of September 2007 concerts at London's Royal Festival Hall, and in January 2008 at Sydney's State Theatre while headlining the Sydney Festival. Wilson described the piece as "...consisting of five 'rounds', with interspersed spoken word." A series of US and UK concerts preceded its release. On September 30, 2008, Seattle's Light in the Attic Records released A World of Peace Must Come, a collaboration between Wilson and Stephen Kalinich, originally recorded in 1969, but later lost in Kalinich's closet.
Around this time, Wilson announced that he was developing another concept album entitled Pleasure Island: A Rock Fantasy. Accordingly: "It’s about some guys who took a hike, and they found a place called Pleasure Island. And they met all kinds of chicks, and they went on rides and — it’s just a concept. I haven’t developed it yet. I think people are going to love it — it could be the best thing I’ve ever done." The album has yet to surface, and for several years, Wilson has consistently maintained in interviews that he wishes his "next album" to be more rock-oriented.Mitchell, Justin (July 9, 1993). "Rocky Mountain News". Rocky Mountain News. Retrieved 30 June 2013. Cite error: The named reference Atlantic_City_2013 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). "Back To The Beach". Entertainment. Mar 31, 1995. Retrieved 30 June 2013. Holdship, Bill (May 1995). MOJO. Stratton, Jeff (Oct 26, 2000). "Bandwidth". Porward Palm Beach New Times. Retrieved 30 June 2013. blackwolf_13 Added Aug 10, 2006 All my reviews (August 10, 2006). "Duck Dodgers: Surf the Stars / Samurai Quack". TV.com. Retrieved September 14, 2011. "Donate to hurricane relief and Brian Wilson will say hi". Usatoday.com. September 24, 2005. Retrieved September 14, 2011. "ABC News: ABC News". Abcnews.go.com. September 11, 1967. Retrieved September 14, 2011. "Two Beach Boys to reunite - Listen Up". USA Today. September 24, 2010. "Brian Wilson to headline Sydney Festival - Arts - Entertainment". smh.com.au. September 12, 2007. Retrieved September 14, 2011. "News". Uncut.co.uk. Retrieved September 14, 2011. "Seattle Weekly: The Lost Brian Wilson Album". Retrieved October 13, 2008. Jones, Dylan (2012). The Biographical Dictionary of Popular Music: From Adele to Ziggy, the Real A to Z of Rock and Pop (First U.S. edition. ed.). ISBN 9781250031884.
2010sMain articles: Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin and In the Key of Disney
In 2009, Wilson's workload increased when he signed a two-record deal with Disney. In Summer 2009, Wilson was approached to record an album of his interpretations of classic Gershwin songs, and to assess unfinished piano pieces by Gershwin for possible expansion into finished songs. After extensive evaluation of a vast body of Gershwin fragments, Wilson chose two to complete. The resulting album, Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin, was released in August 2010 on Disney's Pearl label. Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin achieved Number 1 position on the Billboard Jazz Chart, and had sold 53,000 copies by August 2011. Wilson's second album for Disney was In The Key Of Disney, a collection of classic Disney movie songs, which was released on October 25, 2011. This album was especially memorable for its inclusion of Wilson's take on When You Wish Upon a Star, the song that had inspired his own first composition, "Surfer Girl".
Wilson contributed his revival of Buddy Holly's "Listen To Me" to the tribute album, Listen to Me: Buddy Holly, released on September 6, 2011, on Verve Forecast. Rolling Stone praised Wilson's version as "gorgeous," featuring "...angelic harmonies and delicate instrumentation."
Reuniting with the Beach BoysSee also: The Beach Boys 50th Anniversary Reunion Tour and That's Why God Made the Radio
Wilson oversaw the official Beach Boys release of the original, partially completed Smile recordings as a compilation titled The Smile Sessions. Released on October 31, 2011, the album was made available as single CD, a 2-CD boxed set, a vinyl double album, and a deluxe 5-CD/2-LP box set.
On July 27, 2011, Love announced that, "Where we're at right now is Brian's written some songs, I've written some songs. We're talking very seriously about getting together and co-writing and doing some new music together [as a band]. . . He's been doing his own touring, we've been doing ours and so we haven't really been able to lock into that, but it looks like this fall we will." That day, Brian Wilson said the band is going to get back together to celebrate their 50th anniversary. Although a few months later, he claimed he did not really like working with his former band mates, and that a reunion would depend on how they feel and how much money is involved. He concluded by saying that money is not the only reason he made records, but it does hold a place in their lives.
In October 2011, Jardine reported that the Beach Boys would reunite in 2012 for 50 U.S. dates and 50–60 overseas dates. Love stated that during the middle of 2011, the band reunited to re-record their song "Do it Again" and make it into a music video to promote the world tour. Love had nothing but praise for Wilson saying "he sounds great, always coming up with chords, and his singing ability is still there. He hasn't lost the ability to do what he does best." The Beach Boys released their new album, That's Why God Made the Radio, on June 5, 2012. The album's title track was released as its first single in April 2012. The new album debuted at Number 3 on the Billboard charts which was their highest album debut to date. Following the reunion a year later, it was announced that Wilson would no longer tour with the band as Mike Love returned the lineup to its pre-Anniversary Tour configuration with him and Bruce Johnston as its only members.
Return to solo career
On June 6, 2013, Wilson's website announced that he is recording and self-producing new material with guitarist Jeff Beck, session musician/producer Don Was, as well as fellow Beach Boys Al Jardine, David Marks, and Blondie Chaplin. On June 20, the website announced that the material might be split into three albums: one of new pop songs, another of mostly instrumental tracks with Beck, and another of interwoven tracks dubbed "the suite" which initially began form as the closing four tracks of That's Why God Made The Radio. Confirmed song titles include "Right Time" and "Run James Run", which both feature lead vocals by Al Jardine. A version of the traditional "Danny Boy" has also been recorded. Wilson's That's Why God Made The Radio and Imagination collaborator Joe Thomas will also be involved to some extent. Accordingly, "When we started working on this thing, he was calling it his life's suite. He looked at life as three different movements. One was Pet Sounds, the other was Smile and then, he wanted to go out with a bang and have a look back at life from an adult. Pet Sounds was when he was just a kid. Smile was when he was a little more savvy and in the business awhile. And now, this is a guy looking back at life and where he is now, which is in a much happier and less chaotic state." He's also described the recording sessions between Wilson and Beck as "fusion jazz rock with Brian singing, 'oohs' and 'aahs.'" Beck described his contributions: "They let me take the melody wherever I wanted the flavor of them to go, but the fact is when you've got the backing of Brian's chords you automatically play West Coast-style guitar. It's just inbuilt into the essence of what he writes. You can't do anything far from it, so it's hard to wedge my style in there, but I've tried to do it as best I can."
Wilson embarked on a short summer tour which included Jardine and Marks. It was then announced on August 5, 2013 that Wilson would embark on a fall 2013 tour with Beck. According to Beck, "Brian will kick things off, but I'll also be given enough time to establish what I'm about. In the end, we'll mix and match. It's a complete honor to be on stage with him." Jardine and Marks also joined Wilson on the eighteen dates which began on September 27 and ended on October 30 in Milwaukee at the Riverside Theater. Chaplin guested on some dates and performed "Sail On, Sailor" and "Wild Honey" with the group. That October, Wilson informed: "[We're] about two-thirds of the way through. We have eight or nine songs done, and we need three or four more songs. Most of it is very mellow kind of stuff, mellow harmony, not very much rock 'n' roll yet. It's a pretty unique album. It's very different than anything I've ever done."" On Beck, Wilson said: "He really blew my mind, so we thought we'd have him join us on our album. He plays the most goddamn greatest guitar you've ever heard. He really brings quality notes, more notes per bar than you can imagine." Jardine intimated: "The combination of the two forces of music give it a certain breadth and depth that I think neither of us have experienced before. Jeff has a very melodic sense and is keenly aware of where the chord progressions are going, and it helps us to marry our voices to his progressions. We're doing some really innovative things." He also spoke of a track entitled "Run, James, Run", which is a "suped-up 'Little Deuce Coupe' kind of thing. It's just cute as hell." Thomas, comparing the record to That's Why God Made the Radio, stated: "Musically, it has a rougher edge to it. The harmonies are cool, but it’s more akin to the music on Wild Honey and the Carl & The Passions records. . .This new material is not a reprise to that album at all; it’s taking it further."
In January 2014, Wilson clarified that he did not write any material with Beck, and that Beck would only be a guest performer. He also confirmed the titles of two tracks: "Sail Away" and "Last Song". The next month, Beck intimated on the project's status: "I’m not sure. As far as I know, they made a mistake by grabbing me for a tour and opening up the floodgates for a tour prematurely instead of finishing the tracks. And so we left the studio with half-finished tracks–three, four tracks I was supposed to be on and they’re still unfinished. And to me it was a bit stupid because they should have done the album, had a killer album, and then gone out on the road. But I think they wanted to grab me while I was still available. That’s about it." Later in June, Wilson announced potential guest appearances by Lana Del Rey ("Last Song"), Zooey Deschanel ("On the Island"), Frank Ocean ("Special Love"), and Kacey Musgraves ("Sharing a New Day", "Guess You Had to Be There"). The news brought mixed feedback from fans; Wilson is purported to have expressed through his Facebook page: "It kind of bums me out to see some of the negativity here about the album I've been working so hard on. In my life in music, I’ve been told too many times not to fuck with the formula, but as an artist it’s my job to do that – and I think I’ve earned that right ... So let’s just wait until the album comes out because I think you just might dig it as much as I do." Thomas has asserted: "Brian isn’t trying to write to a younger or older audience, he’s telling the story from his perspective."
The next month, a guest appearance by Nate Ruess of Fun was confirmed, and that Ocean's collaboration would be excluded. A remake of the Beach Boys' 1965 instrumental "Summer Means New Love" will be included instead, along with Beck and Wilson's cover version of the traditional "Danny Boy", now evidently part of what is now called "aborted Wilson–Beck sessions". The album's centerpiece, "Last Song", is described: "A heartbreaking ballad that was recorded in two versions — one with a haunting vocal by Del Rey and one with Wilson's lead vocals. The song recounts his sadness about the Beach Boys' dissolution." Don Was commented, "Brian's really on it. I was knocked out by a couple of songs on that last Beach Boys record – 'Summer's Gone' ranks with his greatest work. I didn't expect that he's got a whole other album of stuff on that level ... I got really choked up playing bass on that track. There's something about Brian signing off with it, saying, 'This is it, this is my last song.' It's really intense. If 'Last Song' turned out to be his last song, can you imagine? Wow. That'd be some coda."
In August 2014, Beck was surprised to learn that "Danny Boy" would be included on the album, reporting that the track was left unfinished with only a rough guitar track played by him. He maintained that Wilson hardly spoke to him during sessions, and that sometime after, Beck says, "I did go up to check out this deli in Benedict Canyon or Coldwater Canyon that he frequents. He goes to it regularly three times a day. And I heard about this ... recently, I went up there and sure enough within five minutes he walked in. And on the way out, I said, 'Hello, Brian,' he said, 'Hi!' And he walked straight past me [laughs]. It was like I never existed. We had never toured for five weeks. There's something not quite right." Later that month, Wilson stated that the Beck collaborations would not be included, recording was complete, and that he was currently in the mixing process.
Wilson is set to release an autobiography to be published in fall 2015. It will be written with help from journalist Jason Fine. The project was met with skepticism by Van Dyke Parks, who was approached for questioning by Fine's assistant via Twitter, responding, "Doesn't sound 'auto' to me!""'Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin' Due from Disney on August 17". Brian Wilson Productions. April 14, 2010. Retrieved June 28, 2010. Brian Mansfield, "Brian Wilson sings 'In the Key of Disney'", USA Today (August 17, 2011), Wilson sings 'In the Key of Disney' Matthew Perpetua (August 19, 2011). "Exclusive Download: Brian Wilson Covers Buddy Holly | Rolling Stone Music". Rollingstone.com. Retrieved September 14, 2011. Beach, The. "The Smile Sessions: A Window Into The Beach Boys". NPR. Retrieved April 30, 2012. "Mike Love: Beach Boys Planning New Album for 50th Anniversary". Retrieved July 27, 2011. "Beach Boys plan anniversary blowout, likely reunion tour". Retrieved September 25, 2011. "Mike Love: Beach Boys Planning New Album for 50th Anniversary". Billboard. July 27, 2011. "Beach Boys Beat the Beatles for Billboard 200 Record". Billboard. Retrieved June 26, 2012. "Mike Love sets the record straight on Brian Wilson's 'firing'". Los Angeles Times. October 5, 2012. "Brian Wilson Returns to Capitol Music Group; Currently Recording and Self-Producing New Solo Studio Album — Brian Wilson". Brianwilson.com. 2013-06-06. Retrieved 2014-05-23. "Rolling Stone: Brian Wilson Rocks With Jeff Beck, Plans New LPs". brianwilson.com. June 20, 2013. Retrieved 8 August 2013. Ruggiero, Bob (October 1, 2013). "For Brian Wilson and Al Jardine, Life's a (Busy) Beach". Houston Press. Retrieved 2 October 2013. Cline, Jake (September 24, 2013). "Brian Wilson was made for these times". southflorida.com. Retrieved 2 October 2013. Graff, Gary (October 14, 2013). "Brian Wilson Says Album With Jeff Beck Is 'Different Than Anything I've Ever Done'". Detroit: Billboard. Retrieved 12 June 2014. "Exclusive: Brian Wilson, Jeff Beck touring together". USA Today. August 5, 2013. Retrieved 8 August 2013. Beard, David (Spring 2014). Endless Summer Quarterly. "‘It stopped working’: For the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, it’s about new music not meditation". Somethingelsereviews.com. 2014-01-28. Retrieved 2014-05-23. Doyle, Patrick (February 20, 2014). "Jeff Beck Readying 'Very Important Album'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 21 February 2014. Fine, Jason (July 18, 2014). "Brian Wilson's Girl-Powered LP: In the Studio With the Beach Boy". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 18, 2014. Gordon, Jeremy (June 11, 2014). "Brian Wilson Working With Frank Ocean, Lana Del Rey, Zooey Deschanel, and Kacey Musgraves". Pitchfork. Grow, Kory (August 15, 2014). "Jeff Beck on Going Note-for-Note With ZZ Top and a 'Naughty' Brian Wilson Track". Rolling Stone. Fessier, Bruce (August 28, 2014). "Beach Boys' Brian Wilson talks Robin Williams". The Desert Sun. Retrieved August 28, 2014. @hannahmarge:I'm the researcher for Brian Wilson's autobiography, would love to ask you a few questions VDP:---Doesn't sound "auto" to me! on Twitter.
From late 1964 to 1979, Wilson was married to Marilyn Rovell, although they later divorced. Wilson has two daughters from this marriage: Carnie Wilson and Wendy Wilson, who would go on to musical success of their own in the early 1990s as two-thirds of Wilson Phillips. In 1995, Wilson married Melinda Ledbetter, a car saleswoman and former model he met in the 1980s. The couple adopted five children: two girls, Daria Rose and Delanie Rae, in 1998; a boy, Dylan, in 2004; a boy, Dash Tristan in 2009; and a girl, Dakota Rose, in 2010.
Wilson suffers from auditory hallucinations, and has been formally diagnosed as mildly manic-depressive with schizoaffective disorder that presents itself in the form of disembodied voices. According to him, he only began having hallucinations in 1965 shortly after experimenting with psychedelic drugs. During the 1980s, Wilson came under the care of Eugene Landy, a corrupt psychologist who administered excessive dosages of psychotropics which further damaged Wilson's mental state. Landy eventually manipulated Wilson into handing over control of his business affairs, and exerted nearly absolute power in all realms of Wilson's life, even preventing him from seeing his then-future wife Melinda Ledbetter. Carl Wilson eventually stepped in to remove his brother from Landy's influence. Later, as a result of his mistreatment of Wilson, Landy was stripped of his license.
In recent years, Wilson's mental condition has improved. Although he still experiences auditory hallucinations from time to time, his relationship with his wife and his new regimen of psychiatric care have allowed him to resume his career as a musician."Brian Wilson Official Website: News". October 11, 2009. Retrieved December 22, 2009. Freedom du Lac, J. "It Wasn't All Fun, Fun, Fun". The Washington Post. Retrieved 30 June 2013. "Brian Wilson — A Powerful Interview". Ability Magazine. Ability Magazine. Condran, Ed. "They Get Around". Atlantic City Weekly. atlanticcityweekly.com. Retrieved 18 July 2013. Petridis, Alexis (24 June 2011). "The astonishing genius of Brian Wilson". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 30 June 2013. "Brian Wilson: "LSD fucked with my brain"". NME. June 25, 2011. Retrieved 30 June 2013.
ContentsLegacy1.1 Love and Mercy1.2 Awards and accolades1.3 Tribute albums1.4 Songs written about Wilson
Love and MercyMain article: Love and Mercy (film)
A biopic on Wilson's life titled, Love and Mercy will be released in 2014. It will be directed by Bill Pohlad and will star Paul Dano as a younger Brian, John Cusack as an older Brian along with Paul Giamatti as Dr. Eugene Landy and actress Elizabeth Banks as Wilson's wife Melinda. Shooting wrapped on the film on August 27, 2013 although a release date for the film has yet to be announced. The film will be included in the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. Brian posted a photo of himself along with Cusack and Melinda on his Twitter page.