The Beach Boys were really a part of my siblings generation. I have a sister almost a decade older and two brothers almost twenty years my senior, and yes, I was planned and wanted. I had a fantastic childhood. But it was always older brothers and sisters of my immediate friends in the Midwestern neighborhood that I was born and raised in who blasted Beach Boys albums through Hi-Fi's--what we know today as stereos with separate channels and not just Monaural recordings--single track. It wasn't until the 1980's that a friend with whom I worked a magazine delivery route brought me up to speed on Brian Wilson. His CD "Brian Wilson" was very much an example of "breaking out" of a self-imposed veil of silence after years of personal and professional trials. This CD was an amazing triumph (my favorite cut was "Let It Shine") and I began to learn about Brian's legendary status in the recording studio.
Despite having hearing in only one ear, he mastered a process roughly called "layering", whereupon he would take harmonies, but also a myriad of musical instruments many of us learned about in our grade school music classes--and he would combine them. I've always looked upon this process as taking the most complicated Algebraic problem and boiling it down to its simplest elements to solve the equation. This came easier to Brian than perhaps anyone else in the industry. And it must be said that in the 1960s, Brian was the progenitor of this process. It also bears noting that to be understood as a genius, referred to as a genius, and regarded as a genius today--as Wilson is-- exacts a tremendous pressure to live up to that term, well intentioned as it is noble. I have one brother (whom I believe from comments during a brief discussion on The Beach Boys as a subject in 2012) who has all but written Brian off. This is neither a dismissal at my brother nor Brian. It's merely rooted in a misunderstanding of Brian's life and all the challenges that he overcame. Today, Wilson is victorious and productive. Witness for example how he is regarded with utmost respect from another legend in this film, George Martin, famous for his recording studio work for decades with The Beatles. There is an assumed collegial respect. This is appropriate.
Years after Brian's return to touring and the aforementioned CD, of course, I went back and began listening and collecting classic Beach Boys vinyl albums from "Surfin' Safari" to ""Sunflower", "Surf's Up", "Holland" and "That's Why God Made the Radio". As I've documented well on these pages in the past, I managed to catch The Beach Boys in concert here in Phoenix, Arizona at Grand Canyon University back in 2012, where PBS Television filmed the concert for rebroadcast. I correctly knew that I had to seize the moment, given the extraordinary touring musicians who were assembled for their 50th Anniversary World Tour; this was a "once in a lifetime" event, and I sensed that this particular lineup of original band members and supporting musicians would not be returning. This gut level feeling of mine (inherited from my late Dad) proved to be true just two dates short of the tour's end (which is a story perhaps for another time).
Looking back at comments from my magazine route buddy who introduced me to Brian's 1980s solo CD, he was correct when he said, "You can hear so clearly where that Beach Boys sound came from". Alternately called "The California Sound" and "The California Surfing Sound", Brian Wilson remains as relevant today, writing and touring with his own band.
Over two years ago, I had a high compliment paid to me from a California friend who stated to my eldest brother of my work, "He still has it, doesn't he?" To which my brother replied in the affirmative. Even if that outcome was different, I would be just as proud of my brother and his own achievements, albeit, in a much different career field. But it's nice to be recognized as having value and relevancy. It's a good feeling.
The Beach Boys story is far too lengthy and involved to incorporate in a mere blog post. But suffice to say, Brian Wilson "still has it" when it comes to being the eminent singer/songwriter/producer and arranger. This fact is most evident in receiving a visit by the great George Martin, and have him recognize through the spoken word Brian's phenomenal achievements then and today. Wouldn't we all be thrilled with the opportunity to visit Brian Wilson over an afternoon to casually discuss the creation of a sound so unique and identifiable, that the world still holds him in great esteem? Well done and well earned!