There is a new book out about Brian Wilson and it is fantastic.
I Am Brian Wilson by Ben Greenman traces the life of the enigmatic Beach Boy who produced some of the most innovative sounds of the sixties at a time his band were riding the wave of surf popularity.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Wilson showed a keen interest in music from an early age. A top athlete he excelled at football and baseball who didn’t surf (his brother Dennis was the surfer in the family), but he loved the beach and loved the ocean. It would inspire musical hit after hit after hit and many people around the world create the first mainstream ‘soundtrack’ for summer with songs like ‘Surfing USA’, ‘Californian Girls’ and ‘Do It Again’.
Wilson doesn’t hold back in the book. Three pages in and he is talking about the voices in his head, on-going mental health issues and the death of his brothers Carl and Dennis. He then opens up about alcohol, drug abuse, being bullied and abused by his father. His honesty is refreshing and it makes you appreciate what it has taken for him to survive troubled times, and continue to create music.
I was lucky enough to see the Beach Boys live a few years back in Melbourne. I figured I was going to get a nostalgic set of their best hits and that was fine. What I didn’t expect was two hours of fast, tight rock and roll from a bunch of blokes in their sixties.
They rocked the place down from ‘Help Me Rhonda to Barbara Ann’ and a bunch of hits in between. It was amazing… and these guys have been making music and performing at concerts longer then the Rolling Stones.
Whether you love or hate them… the impact that Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys had on music cannot be questioned. They helped popularize surfing at a time when surfers were seen as anti-establishment and social outcasts.
The one thing that does come out of the book is Wilson’s positive energy. Regardless of the demons he faced over the years he still strives to be a better person and create happy sounds. ‘Good Vibrations’ was always just that… a song about being positive inspired by a dog he saw walking down the street.
So if you’re after a great book to read this summer check out I Am Brian Wilson. It will give you a unique insight into the Beach Boy who changed the face of music.
‘Catch a wave and your sitting on top of the world’. Not a bad line from a bloke who didn’t surf.
Written by John Foss