Saturday, April 18, 2009

Surfs Up

There are not many happy endings when it comes to Rock'N'Roll and drugs. Sometimes it ends in death, other times a lifetime wasted. So it makes my heart very happy to note that Brian Wilson somehow managed to come through many years of mental anguish to be able to again make great music. Even after his well documented crash during the making of Smile in 1966-67, he managed to squeeze out many brilliant songs during what I consider to be the Beach Boys Indian Summer. Break Away, the BB last single on Capitol Records in 1969 is a prime example, so is This Whole World from the sadly neglected Sunflower in 1970. Brian has an ear for chords and harmony unlike almost any one else in the pop universe. I am also a big fan of Sail On Sailor (1973) and almost all of the Love You album (1977) was really a Brian Wilson album with guest vocals by the band.

After that, his muse went mostly silent. At the time I imagined he would end up like the great Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd, spending his later years in and out of therapy. But low and behold, he came out with a touring band (aka the Wondermints) for a live recreation of Pet Sounds in 2002. I bought the DVD and it blew my socks off. The sound was a perfect recreation of his 1966 mastpiece. Proof positive that he was always the prime ingredient in the Beach Boys. Then a few years later, out of the blue, he put out a fabulous finished version of Smile. Though I prefer some of the original BB versions released from the Capitol Records vaults a few years ago, it was wonderful to know that he was able to get himself together and bring closure to what must have been a very painful memory for him.

Here is one of his finest works, the unbearably sad and beautiful Til I Die from Surfs Up (1971).