Music Legend Brian Wilson Keeps Good Vibrations Going
As residents of Southern California, we’ve never had room to complain about a thing. The weather is consistently warm and temperate, the people are beautiful and interesting, and the ocean is but a short drive away. For a time, the only thing truly missing was a voice; an anthem of sounds that we could call our own. Fortunately enough, a band of five friends (three of which were brothers) embarked on discovering & bringing that trademark voice of Southern California to the world. Those five young men became known as The Beach Boys.
Formed in 1961 in Hawthorne, California (a Los Angeles suburb within five miles of the Pacific Coast) The Beach Boys began to create their sound in the home of brothers Carl, Dennis, and Brian Wilson, along with cousin Mike Love and high school friend Al Jardine. While each band member wielded influence, it was Brian Wilson, the gifted mastermind of the group, who created & composed the gentle, textural vocal harmonies that became The Beach Boys’ signature sound. It later became a signature sound of Brian Wilson’s own solo career.
Over the span of 10 years following their inception, The Beach Boys recorded classic hits such as “Surfer Girl,” “God Only Knows,” and the everlasting “Good Vibrations.” The group went on to become one of the most influential bands of 20th century Americana and helped define the lives of not just a region, but a generation.
Fast-forward 40 years to the present. In between now and then, much has changed, but the music Brian created has remained timeless. For a time, Brian battled personal demons of drug use and depression that wrought challenges too few could truly understand. It wasn’t until the mid 1990′s that Brian began to rediscover his creative spark once more.
Today, Brian Wilson is still making waves (no pun intended) with longtime fans and newer, younger listeners. In September of 2008, he released his most recent album “That Lucky Old Sun.” Last week, in support of the album and an upcoming DVD release, Wilson (and his talented band) played a one-night stint at The Wiltern in Los Angeles, covering the hits and playing “That Lucky Old Sun” in its entirety.
The first set began with what most audience members had been anticipating: the classic songs of The Beach Boys played as they were meant to be, in true live fashion. Present were everyone’s favorites, like “Wouldn’t it Be Nice” “California Girls” and “Caroline No.” From the sound emitted on stage, one would’ve believed that The Beach Boys never ceased to exist. Brian himself was in true form, both physically and spiritually, waving his hands through each song as if to conjure harmonies like a wizard would conjure an enchantment.
The second set consisted entirely of “That Lucky Old Sun.” Before playing, Wilson expressed a bit of reluctance, stating “This is the first time we’re playing this whole thing live…not something I’m used to, but we hope you like it.” Amazingly, his new material could not have been truer to the themes his original 1960′s era compositions. From the smiles and nods of concert-goers, it was apparent: Wilson’s new material was very real and touching. Almost every song was intermittently accompanied by an animation above the stage, with spoken poetic lyrics during each animated clip. Much of the material evokes Wilson’s emotional connection with Southern California and more specifically, Los Angeles. With songs such as “California Role” and “Forever My Surfer Girl,” Wilson and his band brought back the wonderful and fanciful ideas that brought the audience to reminisce about youthful, exuberant summers of finding love & happiness. First love, he sang in “Forever My Surfer Girl,” “is the moment, you can’t repeat, but you’ll always own it, the gift she gave to me, her timeless melody, forever she’ll be my surfer girl.”
Perhaps Brian Wilson hit his theoretical climax during the last song of the album, “Southern California” as he sang, “I had this dream, singing with my brothers… surfers in the West, the sun ran into the sea; as we headed home; we drove into a movie; love songs, pretty girls; didn’t want it to end; tried to slow down the motion; so it could move us again.” It became clear to me right then and there, the reason for listening was to wish that the by-gone, carefree era would never end; and while all good things must eventually end, Wilson’s eternally sun-kissed lullabies would persist and move us, again.
Below: Brian Wilson talks about his newest album