Feeling both sides of Beach Boys’ vibrations

It’s a book-length scenario/standoff/survival saga in itself.
Brian Wilson and Mike Love provide relatively amicable accounts in their new memoirs.
A popular theoretical myth always has prevailed: Love, Wilson’s cousin, was appalled by music Brian created in the recording studio after he stopped touring with the band in 1964.
It became “Pet Sounds” by 1966.
Such transformative tunes didn’t fit the Beach Boys’ hit- and money-making format. Love preferred short, sweet, dance-ready sing-alongs about girls, surfing, cars and teenage romance. Not rule-breaking experimentation.
Love supposedly hated it. Brian was messing around with an all-American franchise. Sensitive and emotionally fragile, Brian allegedly was shattered creatively by Love’s disdain.
In “My Life as a Beach Boy,” Love admits his reservations. How does such “serious” and mesmerizing music fit into a “Dance, Dance, Dance” stage show? He also expresses artistic admiration for his cousin’s landmark craftwork.
Though not initially credited or compensated, Love contributed lyrics to three of the songs, including “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” a definitive expression of teenage emotion, angst and aspiration that’s yet to be eclipsed.
In “i am Brian Wilson,” the “Pet Sounds” perfectionist doesn’t recollect being totally traumatized by Love’s critique, though the initial commercial apathy toward “Pet Sounds” was discouraging.
Wilson, his imagination unhindered, crafted some of pop music’s most beautiful songs ¬ symphonic and experimental at times ¬ that became “Pet Sounds. ” Released in 1966, many consider the No. 1 album in rock history. Even if it doesn’t rock very much.
It’s a vivid, glorious, aural panorama of Brian’s mind – beautifully harmonic ballads with masterfully-layered vocals emphasizing his entrancing, virtually perfect, falsetto.
Members of the Beatles have recalled feeling motivated to eclipse “Pet Sounds” and its wondrous sonic and melodic imaginings. Even train whistles and barking dogs. So, a year later, they countered with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
Pop music was altered forever.
Disturbed by the initial commercial response to “Pet Sounds,” Wilson admits to feeling intimidated ¬ as much by his own often drug-addled mind as any individual’s opinion ¬ even as the “Smile” saga began.
It became the “Dead Sea Scrolls” of pop music. Battered by personal, emotional and psychological issues, Brian began this pop masterpiece in 1966, ostensibly as a Beach Boys’ successor to “Pet Sounds” for five decades.
Ridiculous rumors, spooky speculation, persistent predictions ¬ almost nonstop nagging and hoping¬ ensued and endured.
In 2004, “Smile” finally emerged as a Brian Wilson solo project. Its grandeur and authentic encapsulation of the American adventure prompted generational comparisons to George Gershwin (1898-1937).
An avid admirer, Wilson recorded an entire album of Gershwin’s music: “Brian Wilson Re-imagines George Gershwin” (2010).
Love was uninvolved in the finished “Smile.” The Beach Boys had released an early attempt, “Smiley Smile” (1967). Two of its tunes are on the final “Smile,” crafted by Wilson and L.A. singer-songwriter Van Dyke Parks, a long-time Wilson writing partner.
The trend-free “Heroes and Villains” (originally 1967) opens both “Smiles,” the latter a mélange of rock, chamber music, operetta, pop, instrumental windstorms, rhythmic oddities, glee-club interplay, animal sounds and some of the most brilliant vocal harmonies ever written, sung or recorded. In any era.
“Pet Sounds” and “Smile” remain among the most imaginative, enduring , ever-intriguing recordings f the rock/pop era,
Interestingly, Jeffrey Foskett, who sings and plays “hammer” on “Smile,” is part of the Beach Boys band Love and Bruce Johnston bring to Stockton’s Bob Hope Theatre tonight (@ticketmaster.com).
Only four “Pet Sounds/Smile” songs typically make it onto the set list. Wilson added and alternate, lyrically-altered version of the essential “Good Vibrations” (Mo. 1, 1966) as the final song on “Smile.”
So, amicably enough, Love can express both aspects of he and his cousin’s stylistic visions.
— Contact Tony Sauro at (209) 546-8267 or tsauro@recordnet.com. Follow him on Twitter @tsaurorecord

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  • About the Author

    Tony Sauro

    Tony Sauro has been writing feature stories and reporting on entertainment events since 2008. Before that, he helped write, edit and design the editorial pages for five years. Tony edited and wrote for the TimeOut section during its first 10 years ... Full Profile
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