photo manipulation by nacrowe
i think i speak for a lot of people when stating that my mind's eye conception of THE BEACH BOYS is basically synonymous with that of the singular generational talent of BRIAN WILSON. in terms of composition, songwriting and production he is essentially a combination of GEORGE GERSHWIN, JOHN LENNON / PAUL MCCARTNEY and PHIL SPECTOR rolled into one person.
watching the BRITISH documentary DENNIS WILSON: THE REAL BEACH BOY (BBC, 2010), i realize now that what BRIAN WILSON lacked initially was a direction. he got that from his younger brother DENNIS who during his youth was involved with the emerging SURFING scene of the early 1960s in nearby MANHATTAN BEACH. he also drove cars, fast ones. couple those interests with his strong jawline, imposing physique and all-AMERICAN good looks and he was essentially the SOUTHERN CALIFORNIAN embodiment of the AMERICAN DREAM his brother so feverishly and convincingly wrote about. he certainly had his finger on the zeitgeist well into the late 1960s, even inadvertently admitting the wayward drifting songwriter CHARLES MANSON he befriended into his home (and recording one of his unaccredited songs) before his famous later murderous, drug-fueled madness the defined the end of an era.
DENNIS is an interesting and unique figure within THE BEACH BOYS in large part due to his being able to carve out a legacy separate from the group with his celebrated solo album PACIFIC OCEAN BLUE (CARIBOU, 1977), the only released during his lifetime. it is still a startling achievement in comparison to his famous discography for the maturity and complexity of his arrangements as well as the soulfulness of his voice. i am originally from ORANGE COUNTY and i basically grew up on THE BEACH BOYS, and to hear this record was an unexpected joy.
its also hard to listen to it and realize that this was his final hurrah as he descended into an interior world of ALCOHOLISM and DRUG ABUSE that ultimately resulted in a state of mind that led to his accidental drowning before turning 40. for a guy that lived a full life (complete with five marriages, financial freedom and the heights of fame and fortune), it feels like an incomplete story. its heartbreaking, especially hearing the later tapes after his voice started to deteriorate.
it feels a lot like the doomed narrative of HARRY NILSSON. just heart-wrenching.
i should add that this is a strong documentary withnotable interviewees such as BRIAN WILSON, TAYLOR HAWKINS (FOO FIGHTERS) and various recording engineers, roadies, backing musicians and former bandmates who all thoughtfully and lovingly recounted his life's story: the good, the bad and the ugly. again, such a sad, tragic story that is hard to make sense of.