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Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson, along with Mike Love and Al Jardine - better known as the Beach Boys, rocketed out of a working-class Los Angeles suburb in the early sixties, and their sun-and-surf sound captured the imagination of kids across the world. In a few short years, they rode the wave all the way to the top, standing with the Beatles as one of the world's biggest bands. Despite their utopian visions, infectious hooks, and stunning harmonies, the Beach Boys were beset by drug abuse, jealousy, and ...
Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson, along with Mike Love and Al Jardine - better known as the Beach Boys, rocketed out of a working-class Los Angeles suburb in the early sixties, and their sun-and-surf sound captured the imagination of kids across the world. In a few short years, they rode the wave all the way to the top, standing with the Beatles as one of the world's biggest bands. Despite their utopian visions, infectious hooks, and stunning harmonies, the Beach Boys were beset by drug abuse, jealousy, and terrifying mental illness. In "Catch a Wave", Peter Ames Carlin pulls back the curtain on Brian Wilson, one of popular music's most revered luminaries, as well as its biggest mystery. Drawing on hundreds of interviews and never-before heard studio recordings, Carlin follows the Beach Boys from their earliest days through Brian's deepening emotional problems to his triumphant re-emergence with the release of Smile, the legendarily unreleased album he had originally shelved.
Posted March 20, 2007
As a second time around Beach Boys fan (like the author, I first 'discovered' their music for myself when American Grafitti and the Endless Summer album came out in the mid-70s), I thoroughly enjoyed their laid back fun in the summer songs. Their music was, for the most part, simple, not heavy, and there didn't seem to be any hidden subversive messages to their music. The author did a tremendous amount of analyzing some of these songs, which I think might be interesting perhaps to Beach Boys fanatics, but, with few exceptions, I don't think their songs were intended to be picked apart so intensely. A lot of classic Beach Boys music was fluff--but it seems he was bent on making it into something far more deep and agonizingly painful. Listening to Beach Boys music for the sheer fun pleasure it gives you--to jump around, sing, laugh, and have a good time--that's what they were about. I guess I'm more in Mike Love's corner when it comes to that part of things. And it was a welcome change to listen to this 'fluff' when so much of modern music in the 70s had begun to focus on the morose. This was a talented group of guys--every one of them. However, what I still can't seem to get sold on in this book--is the image of Brian Wilson as the great musical genius. Talented? Absolutely! But too much of the hype about this man seems to have been pushed along by a stream of pity (which to his credit gets touched on a bit by the author) for the mental anguish he suffered. Adding insult to injury, like in so many celebrity biographies, there also seems to be little to no blame placed on Brian Wilson himself for adding to his own problems. Yes, his father was a brute, but other people deal with those issue in adulthood more maturely. His drug and alcohol abuse seems constantly explained away as something he was forced into because of the many controlling people in his life. Perhaps if there was more written about the specifics of Wilson's mental illness, but you are never sure how much was caused by his own drug and alcohol abuse. One minute he is described as extremely depressed, insecure, and fearful, and then with the flip of a switch, he is completely normal in behavior. I can at least understand why his bandmates tended to get exasperated with him. I respect the fact that it must have been tough to catalogue Brian Wilson's long career and the many events that were going on in his bandmates lives at the same time, and still not have it turn into a 10,000 page book--so with that in mind, this was well researched and certainly worth reading. However, I just wish I wasn't left feeling with such disappointment that Brian Wilson, for all the progress he made, still doesn't seem to have it that much together. (Then again, that's how real life is.)
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