While the Beach Boys have had a huge influence on Rock n’ Roll, the “Surfin U.S.A.” band haven’t gone without their fair share of drama and tensions. After everything he has been through, Brian Wilson is still around to tell his side of the story.
Brian Finally Explains Why
After years of personal issues with fellow band members and the burden of being the only surviving Wilson, Brian has finally answered the question on the lips of every Beach Boys fan: why won’t they ever get back together?
One of the reasons that Brian Wilson has had such an on-and-off relationship with the Beach Boys heavily boils down to his tumultuous relationship with fellow band member Mick Love. Often considered to be one of the most bitter feuds in the history of Rock n’ Roll, things between the two took a turn for the worst back in 1966 when their classic album Pet Sounds was in production. Love, who was a talented singer in his own right, hated the fact that Wilson took over the majority of the vocals.
Divided We Fall
At one point, it became very clear that the band was, ideologically speaking, divided. “The Wilsons were upset that some of us were not trying [substances] with them,” Mike Love said. “There was a division…Brian, Carl and Dennis were into one lifestyle, while myself and Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston were not.” It was also down to creative differences. While Love wanted to continue making songs about surfing and girls, Brian Wilson wanted to change things up. They just didn’t click.
Following the success of Pet Sounds and the breakdown of the following project smile, Brian Wilson was virtually nowhere to be seen by the band. Sadly, a combination of mental health issues and substance abuse forced Brian to step away from his role as producer and songwriter. For the first time since the band formed, the Beach Boys had to operate without Brian in the band. It also seemed that once Brian vanished, so did the band’s commercial momentum.
Brian’s Wife Couldn’t Cope
One person who saw the full extent of Brian’s erratic behavior was his wife at the time, Marilyn. A talented musician in her own right, Marilyn was forced to put her career on hold due to Brian’s growing isolation from society. She pretended that she was undergoing psychotherapy in order to persuade Brian to do the same. However, this was just a temporary fix and Marilyn divorced Brian in 1979 for the sake of their daughters’ wellbeing.
Carl Sang Until The Very End
Despite being the youngest Wilson brother, Carl Wilson was essentially the de-facto leader during the early 70s. Carl was a heavy smoker from the age of 13, which eventually took its toll in early 1997. Although he was diagnosed with lung cancer, Carl carried on performing for the Beach Boys during his chemotherapy. He performed during the entirety of the band’s summer tour. The following year, just two months after his mother passed away, Carl died from the illness.
Gone Too Soon
There is no denying that Dennis Wilson was probably the most dysfunctional of the Beach Boys. Towards the end of his life, Dennis was living on the streets, drinking and taking illicit substances. Although he made a concerted effort to get into rehab, Dennis wasn’t able to fix himself. On December 28, 1983, a drunk Dennis tried retrieving some items he had thrown into the Marina Del Rey three years prior. However, he ended up drowning. He was just 39 years old.
Mike’s Love In All The Wrong Places
One of the potential reasons why Mike Love was so antagonistic to the rest of the Beach Boys was due to an experience he had with band member and cousin Dennis Wilson. Although Dennis tried to involve Mike in his bizarre social circles, things came to a head when Mike made a terrible discovery: his wife was having an affair with Dennis. She would run off with Mike’s cousin for romantic getaways. As a result, the couple divorced. However, there was so much more to this dark chapter…
What made this dark chapter in Mike Love’s life even more bizarre was the nature of his wife’s affair with Dennis Wilson. When they were off having a good time together, they brought in a babysitter for the kids while Mike was also out and about performing with the Beach Boys. They hired a young lady by the name of Susan Atkins. The reason that her name is so familiar is that she was one of the infamous Manson girls…
Dont “Mess” With The Formula!
It was during this time that the Beach Boys descended into their most abstract sound. It was the combination of their experimentation with illicit substances and the swinging sixties culture that they were immersed in. For Love, it was just too much. “Some of the words were so totally offensive to me that I wouldn’t even sing ’em,” he said. It was during Wilson’s next project SMiLE that Love said the now iconic line, “don’t f**k with the formula!”
Things weren’t always so turbulent between the members of the Beach Boys. In fact, when they first burst onto the scene in the early 60s, it was hard to sense any friction in the band, especially since the band consisted mainly of the Wilson brothers. Similar to what made the Bee Gees such a huge success, Brian and his brothers captured the imagination of millions with their beautiful harmonies. It resulted in a sound that had never really been heard before.
Who Wrote It?
Tensions between Brian and Mike Love continued well into the 90s. The latter filed a lawsuit against the former, accusing him of not crediting the musician for writing a staggering 35 of the Beach Boys songs. However, this was just the start of the legal issues. After Carl Wilson’s death, all the band members seemed to be fighting for the right to use the Beach Boys title. In the end, it was Love who triumphed and became the custodian of the band name.
One the biggest causes of Brian Wilson’s troubled life can be traced way back to his childhood. Along with his brothers Carl and Dennis, Brian reportedly had a tough upbringing from his father. “My dad was violent. He was cruel,” Brian wrote. That wasn’t the only problem that the young boy faced. Brian also went deaf in one ear after a local kid hit him in the head with a pipe. Brian’s music career seems even more impressive in light of this information.
Keeping It In The Family
Out of all the women who Dennis Wilson was with during his short life, the one that stood out to him the most was Shawn Marie Love, who he had separated with not too long before the time of his death. However, what many fans don’t realize is that Shawn Marie is actually Mike Love’s illegitimate child. Seeing that Dennis and Mike were first cousins, this meant that he ended up marrying his own relative. In 1982, they had a son called Gage.
Started So Simple
Although the Beach Boys will be best remembered for their eclectic, psychedelic sound, which was fully realized during their Pet Sounds era, they actually started off as a pretty clean looking, no-nonsense band who were only interested in making songs about California, surfing, and girls! This original style suited Mike Love to a tee. However, it was the Wilson brothers who were hellbent on taking the band in a new direction, which didn’t sit well with the other band members.
Daddy’s Gotta Go
It seemed like the Beachy Boys liked to keep everything in the family. The Wilsons even got their dad Murry to be the band’s manager during the early days. However, it wouldn’t take long before they regretted this decision, especially with the disciplined approach that Murry wanted to enforce on the group. He told the band that they couldn’t hang out with women, drink or swear, and would fine them $100 for every transgression. In 1964, Brian had enough, and relieved his father of his duties.
They Recruited Their Neighbor
Another member of the Beach Boys who has an interesting backstory is guitarist David Marks, who wasn’t originally in the band. After the success of the band’s first single “Surfin,” Al Jardine decided to go to dental school. As a result, the band decided that neighbor David would do as a temporary replacement. However, when Al returned from his studies, David decided to quit after falling out with the Wilsons’ father Murry, who was also their manager.
Blondie Was In Two Big Bands
One of the most intriguing band changes for the Beach Boys came in the early 70s when Blondie Chaplin became one of the band’s singers and guitarists. The man from Durban, South Africa, had a fruitful time with the Wilsons before jumping ship to The Rolling Stones in 1997. Blondie worked with Mick Jagger and co. for the good part of 15 years. However, Blondie has recently got involved with Brian Wilson once again, performing in his band since 2013.
Glen Campbell Filled In For Brian
One of the earliest band changes the Beach Boys had was back in 1964 when Brian Wilson had a nervous breakdown. It happened while the band was touring and as a result, the band needed someone to fill in for Brian. After getting in touch with Glen Campbell, he gladly obliged and filled in for a year. Brian was so grateful that he ended up writing a song called “Guess I’m Dumb,” a tribute to Glen.
Break It Up!
One recurring theme throughout the Beach Boys’ story is that they did not always see eye to eye on things. In fact, there has hardly ever been a moment when the band members have been in complete harmony. Things were so bad between members that at one point, Dennis Wilson and Mike Love needed to get a restraining order against each other. They were hardly peachy at the best of times, but things got so far out of hand that they needed to be legally distanced from each other.
Chuck Berry Nearly Sued
Without a shadow of a doubt, one of the Beach Boys’ most successful songs is the iconic “Surfin’ USA.” However, many fans noticed that the hit single sounded very similar to the 1958 hit “Sweet Little Sixteen” by rock n’ roll pioneer Chuck Berry. Even the Beach Boys were aware of this. They reiterated their admiration for the musician and called “Surfin’ USA” a tribute to Berry. Before Chuck had a chance to sue them for plagiarism, the band gave him writing credits for the song.
The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far
When the Beach Boys weren’t in the studio or on the road, they were creating their own families. For example, Brian married Marilyn Rovell of The Honeys. Together, they had two daughters – Wendy and Carnie. Brian’s girls also took after him in the music department and ended up forming a band with John Phillips’ (from Mamas & Papas) daughter Chynna. Wilson-Phillips went on to become one of the more successful bands of the early 90s. Although they broke up in 1993, they have since reunited.
Stamos Is A Beach Boy?!
It might seem like a bizarre factoid, but with all the band changes that the Beach Boys have been through over the years, it’s not that far-fetched – John Stamos has been performing in the band since the 80s! Although the Full House original has never officially been credited as part of the band, Stamos first performed with the Beach Boys in 1985 after gaining some recognition for his role in General Hospital. Since then, Stamos has sporadically reappeared on stage with them.
Brian’s Story Became A Movie
Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys story is so compelling that it was eventually transformed into a full motion picture. Love & Mercy, a title derived from Wilson’s 1988 song, sees Paul Dano and John Cusack play Brian at two different stages of his life. The film heavily revolves around Brian’s deteriorating mental health, alternating between the start of his condition in the 60s and seeing it in full effect during the 80s. The movie received unanimous acclaim.
Pet Sounds Was Made For James Bond?
It’s safe to say that “You Only Live Twice” by Nancy Sinatra is one of the most iconic James Bond Theme songs of all time. However, it was actually the Beach Boys who were originally expected to create the theme for classic Sean Connery-led movie. It was their “Pet Sounds Instrumental” that was strongly considered for the Bond flick. In fact, the song was originally called “Run James Run.” There has been no confirmation either way, but Brian reportedly claimed that “[the producers] turned it down.”
Biggest Show Next To The White House
While most of the biggest concerts of all time had crowds of around half a million people, at one point, the Beach Boys exceeded that number! For a couple of years during the early 80s, the band performed free concerts on July the 4th at the National Mall in Washington DC. Not only was Ronald Reagan a huge fan, but another 750,000 people, who Secretary James G. Watt referred to as the “wrong element” for being fans of the Wilsons, came to watch them perform in 1984.
The Original Beatles
Although the Beach Boys have always been considered the “American Beatles,” many would go as far to say that they were actually the “Original Beatles.” One reason for this is that Brian Wilson and co. released an album first. Their debut album Surfer Girl came out in 1963, a full year before The Beatles’ classic A Hard Day’s Night. England always seems to have one up on the U.S. when it comes to original material. But this time, America wins.
Inspired Each Other
It seemed like some of the best work by both the Beach Boys and the Beatles was made because they inspired each other. Brian Wilson claimed that the band made Pet Sounds after hearing Rubber Soul. “When I heard Rubber Soul, I said, ‘That’s it. That’s all. That all folks.’ I said, ‘I’m going to make an album that’s really good,'” he said. However, The Beatles’ producer George Martin said the following: “Without Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper never would have happened.”
Choose Your Words Wisely
Although they were on opposite sides of the coin, both Brian Wilson and Mike Love both expressed their concerns about some of the language used on Pet Sounds. Years since the release of the record, Mike admitted that there are some lyrics he just can’t sing – specifically, those that glorified substance usage. On the flip side, Brian was originally apprehensive to use the term “God” in the song “God Only Knows,” as he thought that some radio stations would refuse to play it.
Brian Is Deaf?
It’s an amazing phenomenon, but some of the most talented musicians of all time have had sensory deficiencies. Beethoven was deaf and Stevie Wonder is blind. Then there’s Brian Wilson, who, as a child, lost practically all of his hearing in the right ear. It’s quite amazing to think that the master behind albums such as Pet Sounds and songs like “God Only Knows” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” did it all with just one good ear.
Eugene Was A Busy Man
One of the most significant figures in Brian Wilson’s life was his psychotherapist, Dr. Eugene Landy. He was remembered for his unconventional 24-hour therapy for the rock star. However, before acquiring the services of Landy, Brian actually considered consulting Richard Simmons of all people, as he was heavily passionate about health and fitness at the time. Also, Landy had a big hand in another musician’s life, being the manager of George Benson at one point.
Where It All Began
The first time that the Beach Boys were paid to perform in front a live audience was on New Year’s Eve in 1961, at a concert that honored the late great Ritchie Valens. The band had only recorded one single, “Surfin,” and it was the first time that Brian Wilson had to deal with his long-running stage fright issues. “I was so nervous,” Brian said. “I actually made a decision after that show that I wasn’t going to get nervous anymore.”
Wrote “God Only Knows” In 45 Mins
Without a shadow of a doubt, “God Only Know” is one of the Beach Boys’ most iconic songs. However, like many musical masterpieces by other bands (“Bohemian Rapsody” by Queen comes to mind), the song was actually written in an incredibly short space of time – 45 minutes to be precise. “We didn’t spend a lot of time writing it. It came pretty quickly,” co-writer Tony Asher said. “The part that has lyrics really was one of those things that just kinda came out as a whole.”
Smile Calms People Down
It has already been established that the Smile era was the time that the band was beginning to crumble. However, many consider it to be the apex of the Beach Boys career. Carl Wilson claimed that what came out of the Smile sessions was an album that could sooth people, especially those who suffered from addictions to illicit substances. “[The LP] acts as a soothing remedy which relaxes them and helps them to recover completely from their trip,” he said.
Married Five Times
To put it lightly, Dennis Wilson wasn’t the kind to stick around for long. In his short life, the man stayed very true to his rock star persona and ended up being married on five separate occasions to four different women. Not only did he marry the daughter of his cousin Mike Love, but he also tied the knot twice with actress Karen Lamm, who was previously married to Robert Lamm, the keyboardist of band Chicago. Dennis also married Carole Freedman and Barbara Charren.
Pet Sounds Changed Everything
What may have come before or after, there is no denying that the album Pet Sounds was the Beach Boys’ piece de resistance. Although it is widely considered to be one of the greatest albums of all time, it was ultimately the record that made the Beach Boys’ career and tore them apart in equal measures. With songs such as “Good Vibrations,” the Beach Boys were now considered one of the innovators of rock music. However, it came at a heavy cost.
Charles Manson Wrote For The Beach Boys
Dennis Wilson was actually good friends with Charles Manson. In 1968, Dennis introduced Mike Love to the infamous criminal at a dinner party. However, Mike found the meeting very strange and never came back. “I found he had great musical ideas,” Dennis said about Manson. He ended up recording a number of Manson’s songs at Brian Wilson’s home studio. In fact, Manson’s song, titled “Cease to Exist,” eventually transformed into the B-side “Never Learn Not to Love.”
Used To Be Called The Pendletones
It is fascinating to know how bands originally got their names. As far as the Beach Boys were concerned, well, they were not always called the Beach Boys! In fact, they were originally called The Pendletones. This was an homage to their favorite shirts. However, once the band got their first single out there, they became the Beach Boys. Amazingly, it was Russ Reagan, the eventual head of 20th Century Fox who chose the name!
Fast & The Nervous
It might seem like a bizarre little tidbit, especially since the Beach Boys could rely on being driven around throughout their career. However, there was a time when Brian Wilson needed to drive himself around to make things happen. Amazingly, it took the young musician at the time, five attempts before he finally got his driving license. Naturally, being a music lover, Brian constantly got distracted by the car radio and could not stop playing with the dial.
Celebrating 50 Years
In 2012, the seemingly impossible came true when the Beach Boys reunited to celebrate 50 years since they first formed. It seemed that the band had put all of their tensions and years of fighting behind them to give the world what they wanted – more Beach Boys. However, it was soon revealed that Mike Love was going to carry on touring under the name the Beach Boys – without Brian involved. The question is though, are the band going to get back together anytime soon?
Al & Brian Are “Brothers”
One member of the Beach Boys who Brian Wilson has had a consistently good relationship with over the years is Al Jardine. The guitarist recently confessed that Brian is the reason that he still enjoys going on the road. The way that Al sees it, they are basically brothers. “We have a rapport…It just wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t show up. He’d have to restructure the whole show,” he said. “Once you’re established in the music it’s always great.
Brian Still Loves The Road
The reality is that Al Jardine’s enthusiasm for touring was heavily influenced by Brian Wilson. Ultimately, Brian realized that he needs to carry on touring while he still can. For Brian, it is a form of escapism. “What am I gonna do? Sit around and watch TV? No way!” he said in an interview with Rolling Stone. “When I sing onstage, I ain’t . I sound like a 30-year-old! That feels good. I get a little break from being .”
Everyone Else Is Touring Too
Another reason that Brian might have such a deep desire to carry on touring is rooted in his competitive nature. Seeing that the rest of the Beach Boys who are still alive and also on the road, as well as other rock stars, he wants to prove that he can also do it. “I think about Paul touring, Mick and Keith are still touring, so are Mike and Bruce,” he said. It means that diehard Beach Boys fans still get to see every single surviving member perform.
Haven’t Spoken In Years
The only thing that fans are upset about is not being able to see all the Beach Boys perform together. One of the main reasons for this is the turbulent relationship between Brian and Mr. Formula himself, Mike Love. When asked by the Daily Mail if there was someone who he could apologize to, Brian said the following: “It would be nice to repair my relationship with Mike Love. I haven’t spoken to him in [five] years.”
Brian Says No
When all is said and done, Brian has decided that unless big changes are made to restore the band to its former style, with him having his original creative influence, he will not have anything to do with the band moving forward. Brian Wilson has his own band, one in which he can do things his own way, without Mike Love, or anyone else for that matter, telling him what can and can’t be done. “The Beach Boys might get together again – but not with me,” he said.