In today’s installment, Bob meets his hero Brian Wilson and finally realizes that he was the guy who wrote all those great Beach Boys songs.
For his twentieth birthday, Jeff Foskett was determined to meet Brian Wilson.
It’s nice to be ambitious. I was determined to get hammered on mine. We both succeeded.
Attending UCSB, Jeff drove down to L.A. and combed Bellagio Road looking for a house with the stained glass window from the cover of “Wild Honey”.
After all these years, Irving the Punctuation Monkey still puts periods outside the quotes.Bad Irving!
Moving slowly, he found it and got out of his car and knocked.
That’s a great story, Bob.
Marilyn Wilson answered the door and Brian Wilson invited Jeff inside to jam.
Did the Wilsons offer him coffee or cake? Because if they didn’t, they’d be the worst hosts ever.
After an hour, Jeff left and Brian said to stay in touch.
You mean there’s more to this?
And then what happened?
Given that this was in the middle of one of Brian’s darkest depressions, this shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Everybody thinks you get one big break. Instead, there are a ton of temblors, a ton of dead ends. If you hang in there long enough they might accumulate into something.
Or they might not and you wind up stuck in a dead-end job with an asshole boss. Then you come home to your shrew of a wife and a couple of brats who make fun of you and call you a failure to your face. The only thing that keeps you going is the hope that you may win the office pool if only Miami covers the spread on Sunday.
And Miami never covers the spread when you need them to.
Now before you start MapQuesting and knocking, please know that it’s 2011 and this is a good way to get arrested…
Translation: You can’t sue me if you get picked up for stalking Brian Wilson. I tried to warn you.
So Foskett went back to Santa Barbara and his cover band until one day he heard Mike Love was at the bar with his paramour.
Put away the thesaurus, Bob. Just say, “girlfriend” like normal people.
Getting up his gumption…
I reckon he had plenty of gumption.
…Jeff went out to say hi, implored Mike to come into the back room and see his band play.
“Hey, guys. Let’s cut our set short so I can cockblock Mike Love.”
Mike said no, this was before the no smoking law took effect, he didn’t want to wreck his pipes and get that smell all over his clothes.
But Jeff cornered the waiter and paid for his meal and Mike showed up. And after exchanging numbers, Mike’s manager called Jeff up days later to put together a backup band for Mike’s solo tour. Which was brief.
Let that be the lesson to all aspiring musicians. If you want to get a break, pick up Mike Love’s check. Everybody, say it with me: Fuck Mike Love.
But then Carl Wilson left the Beach Boys temporarily and Foskett was called in, he was a made man, eventually working with Brian and Eugene Landy on Brian’s unreleased second solo album.
He was a made man. As part of his initiation into the Wilson family, he had to stare into Murry’s empty eye socket for three hours without blinking.
And now that Brian is touring again, it’s Foskett that runs the band and plays the leads and sings the high notes. And you might think he’s supporting an oldies act, but Brian Wilson wrote some of the best music ever recorded.
But it’s still an oldies act.
And what struck me was how it was all so different. “I Get Around” sounded nothing like “God Only Knows”. “Surfer Girl” and “California Girls” both might both be about females, but that’s about the only similarity they have.
Wow, a band whose songs don’t all sound alike!
I’m listening to hit after hit stunned that not only did Brian write these, the uninitiated might believe they were recorded by different acts.
After nearly 50 years, the only people not aware of The Beach Boys’ hits are probably about eight years old or younger whose parents have shitty taste in music.
I was invited on the bus.
We all know what that means.
Just me, Jeff and Brian before the show. And I was speechless. What do you say? That you changed my life, that you’re the reason I live in California?
“You’re the reason I moved to California, but I didn’t realize you wrote all those songs!”
And I’d like to tell you Brian was lucid and forthcoming, but he was a bit distant and frozen.
Maybe it was because you were, too.
But Jeff told me he’s always this way before the show. He’s shy. But catch him after and he’s talkative and normal. And I’d doubt Jeff but I’ve seen it myself. Seen Brian after a show at Disney Hall chatting up everybody like it was a high school reunion.
He stands against the wall laughing at the ex-bullies who are bald and fat while still pining for the girl who wouldn’t go to the prom with him?
Oh, wait. That was me.
And it’s kind of mind-blowing that it’s almost fifty years on. Funny how those records are frozen in time, set in amber, yet the people who made them live on, age, change, unlike the recordings.
Somewhere, Oscar Wilde’s ghost is reading this and laughing his ass off.
Sometimes you’re better off not connecting with your high school crush. Sometimes you’re better off leaving the past alone. It’s hard to square the records with the man on stage performing last night.
That’s why you’re confused, Bob. Records are circular, not square-shaped.
But, like that old Kiki Dee song, Brian had the music in him.
Christ, why did you have to bring her into this?
He followed his muse, needed to get it right in an era when musicians were the biggest stars in the world, when everybody tuned in on the transistor to hear the hit parade.
And needing to get it right, combined with psychological scars from his dad and massive amounts of drugs, is why he went bonkers.
In an era where everybody repeats the same track over and over again and almost no one sustains…
There were no one-hit wonders during The Beach Boys’ heyday.
…it’s jaw-dropping to think that not only did one guy write these songs, albeit with attendant lyricists, but he’s still alive, still touring. Deep inside it’s still him.
What’s jaw-dropping is that the story of Brian Wilson is one of the saddest tales in the history of 20th century music. What he went through would have killed lesser men (and did), and yet he’s still able to walk and talk and write and sing, even if he’s not what he once was. How do you always miss the plot?