Happy Birthday, Brian Wilson: Genius ► A Musical Appreciation

There’s no point in writing a Brian Wilson biography; every one knows the high points of his life. What started as a love of the four-part harmonies of The Four Freshmen consumed a lad in Hawthorne, California, who went on to write music that defined several generations. As the leader of The Beach Boys and beyond Brian Wilson has created true art in the form of music. For me it’s sufficient that Brian Wilson’s music is the background to so many of my memories. His music will stand the test of time, but it’s an absolute bonus that he’s come back around to playing music again, both without and with The Beach Boys. Celebrating their 50th Anniversary The Beach Boys are touring again, with Bruce Johnston and David Marks. Too bad Glen Campbell couldn’t join them. They have also released a new album, “That’s Why God Made the Radio,” which will be a fitting capstone to their career, if they decide to wrap it up.

Brian Wilson still has the ability to write an instant classic:

The first 45 I ever bought (kids, ask your parents) was “I Get Around,”
because it was all the money I had left over after buying “The Best of
the Lovin’ Spoonful.” I have been a huge Beach Boys, Brian Wilson fan ever since; collecting bootlegs like I also did with The Beatles. One of the things that I have found thrilling is that 20 years ago, starting with the 4-CD box set of “Good Vibrations; Thirty Years of The Beach Boys,” the band has been releasing alternative takes and works-in-progress in the studio. [Sadly, that box can’t be shared on Spotify.] It was also done with The Pet Sounds Sessions and culminated in the semi-recent massive box for The SMiLE sessions. These give the listener the total Fly on the Wall experience. With SMiLE, we can hear just how close Brian Wilson really was to releasing his Magnum Opus. Collectors of bootlegs have, over the years, put together the fragments based on scant evidence. It’s great to finally hear SMiLE as Brian envisioned. It was worth the wait.

SMiLE took his sanity and some 35 years to finally finish, but Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys are back and, if show biz metrics mean anything, back on the top of the game. This week The Beach Boys broke a record set by The Beatles. As Billboard tells us:

 As their reunion set, “That’s Why God Made the Radio” (their first album of all-new material since 1992), bursts onto the chart at No. 3,
the Beach Boys break a record by expanding their span of Billboard
200 top 10s to 49 years and one week. They first graced the top 10
with “Surfin’ U.S.A.” the week of June 15, 1963.

Beach Boys’ stretch between their first week in the Billboard 200
top 10 to their most recent is now the longest among groups, passing
the Beatles, whose top 10 span covers 47 years, seven months and
three weeks. The Fab Four first entered the top bracket when “Meet
the Beatles” rocketed 92-3 on the Feb. 8, 1964, chart at the
blastoff of Beatlemania. The group most recently appeared in the top
10 with “1” the week of Oct. 1, 2011.

 Now with sell-out concerts and current hits on the radio. Here’s a Brian Wilson Jukebox for your listening pleasure, with some rarities, some well-known songs, and some versions you’ve never heard before:

 As always, CRANK IT UP!!!


For people who are as certifiably insane as I am, here is every version of Heroes and Villains I could find. Set on crossfade and you will never need another song. Ever!

About Headly Westerfield

Calling himself “A liberally progressive, sarcastically cynical, iconoclastic polymath,” Headly Westerfield has been a professional writer all his adult life.