Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"I'm Not A Genius, I'm Just A Hard-Working Guy"

Composer, producer, arranger, musician, singer, performer and bona fide pop legend Brian Wilson is 65 today. It's wonderful to know that not only has he lived to collect his bus pass (and God Only Knows that longevity has looked a dodgy prospect more than once over the last forty years), but better still that he is healthier, happier and more musically active than he has been for decades.

The list of highly-creative, prodigiously talented and painfully sensitive individuals who did LSD (and Lord knows what else) by the cartload in the late 1960s and survived is a tragically short one: Brian famously took to his bed for five years in the 1970s, and despite many 'Brian Is Back' false dawns in intervening years did not really write or record much of substance again until the late 1980s.

This solo album release, at the time, seemed miraculous enough....

...I couldn't have imagined that 16 years later I would spend the evening of my 39th birthday watching the magnificent, mythic, abandoned-in-'66 song cycle 'SMiLE' performed (completed!) triumphantly by its composer at the Royal Festival Hall as a July sun slipped down across the Thames; this thing we had read about and dreamed about and tried to make sense of and put back together from the broken fragments of bootlegs, there before us, whole, and lovely and old and new all at once. Talk about great gigs of your life...

So, to honour Brian's attainment of OAP status I have posted 1) an interview he gave with Mojo magazine in 1997 where he talks about the recording of 'Good Vibrations' 2) the edited sequence of 'Vibrations' recording sessions from the CD reissue of Smiley Smile 3) a 'SMiLE' centrepiece and one of the few intact songs from the original sessions to actually see release in the late 60s (on this) 4) a cruelly underrated instrumental from Pet Sounds which may just be one of the best things he ever wrote 5) something for the summer (from this).

Happy Birthday Brian - we love ya.

Brian Wilson - Mojo interview excerpt (1997)
Brian Wilson - 'Good Vibrations [Various Sessions]' (1966)
The Beach Boys - 'Cabinessence' (1966)
The Beach Boys - 'Let's Go Away For Awhile'(1966)
The Beach Boys - 'The Warmth Of The Sun' (1964)

[Brian is touring Europe now - details at the official website here; a decent book about 'SMiLE' here; the 2004 re-recording here].


  1. Good post. I'm celebrating Brian's birthday today too but you beat me to it by several hours (6.22am??- don't you sleep). Also I didn't have time for a big write-up so I just picked 4 tracks that I felt like listening to

  2. Yes, it was an early start today Mick, but as Brian would say

    'Fresh clean air around my head
    Morning tumble out of bed. Eggs and grits
    And lickety split. Look at me jump!'

    It's great to be celebrating WITH you. Nice 4 tracks at your gaff too - head over there now readers!

  3. i've never quite managed the beach boys - i've tried and tried and it just doesn't happen. it doesn't help that i have to dive for the off button if i ever hear 'god only knows' because it's too beautiful to bear and always reduces me to a crumpled sobbing mess.
    i'll have another go with this lot.

  4. Oh dear...if 'God Only Knows' reduces you to a crumpled sobbing mess Ally you had better take care with 'Warmth Of The Sun' too.

    Written the day of JFK's assassination, no less. *weep*


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