By Naughty Mickie
I was thrilled earlier this year to be given the opportunity to interview
Brian Wilson. You may recognize him as a lead songwriter, lead singer and
bassist for the Beach Boys, but age 64 finds him with a lot more under his
belt as he has made his mark also as a producer, composer and arranger.
Wilson's early influences included the Four Freshmen and Chuck Berry. A
perfectionist in the studio, he was one of the first to uses an
eight-channel multi track tape recorder, but did not care for stereophonic
sound. Like Phil Spector, whom he considered a mentor, he preferred to work
in monaural. This was not due to his partial deafness, but rather because he
felt stereo sounded incomplete if the listener wasn't directly between the
Wilson formed the Beach Boys in the early '60s with brothers Carl and
Dennis, cousin Mike Love and school friend Al Jardine (briefly replaced by
David Marks) Originally they were called the Pendletones, but were renamed
by Russ Regan, who promoted their first single, "Surfin'." The band didn't
learn of the name change until they saw the single's label.
In 1965 Wilson wanted to devote himself to writing new material and felt he
could not do that and play live as well, so Glen Campbell took his place in
the Beach Boys for three months. Campbell left to pursue a solo career and
Bruce Johnston stepped in. Wilson wrote hits for the Beach Boys from 1962-67
and produced records for other artists, such as Glen Campbell and the Honeys
and co-wrote for Jan and Dean.
The Beach Boys and the Beatles were rivals, but later the Beatles cited
Wilson's work as a major influence. Wilson and Paul McCartney also became
friends. McCartney has been cited often stating that Wilson's "God Only
Knows" is the greatest song ever written. Wilson's "Pet Sounds" (which
McCartney claims inspired "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band") has been
named the one of the best pop albums ever recorded by many polls and placed
second on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
From 1968-1970 Wilson began relinquishing Beach Boys production duties to
Carl and his writing slowed to a near stop. And in 1975 his wife and family
joined with therapist Eugene Landy to help him out of his funk (he had
stayed mainly in his bedroom for five years) and become productive again. By
1982, his health and mental state were precarious again and Landy stepped in
to help and by 1985, he joined the Beach Boys on stage in Live Aid and
recorded a new album, "The Beach Boys," with them. He then stopped working
with them regularly.
In 1988 Wilson went solo and released, "Brian Wilson," plus the memoir,
"Wouldn't It Be Nice- My Own Story." He married Melinda Ledbetter in 1995
and adopted girls Daria and Delanie and in 2004 son Dylan. Has two daughters
from first marriage to Marilyn Rovell - Carnie Wilson and Wendy Wilson- he
released "The Wilsons" with them in 1997.
Wilson took part in a charity drive to aid Hurricane Katrina victims in
Sept. 2005 and performed for Live 8 concert in Germany in July 2005. For
Hurricane Katrina, a system was arranged that fans who donated $100 or more
would receive a personal phone call from Wilson. He has also lent his
talents to participate in Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit Concert, the
school aids children with severe speech and physical impairments participate
fully in community activities, and the 12th Annual Music Festival for Mental
Health at Staglin Family Vineyard. Wilson helps Adopt-A-Minefield and the
Carl Wilson Foundation for cancer research as well.
In 2006, he kicked off a tour to celebrate the 40th anniversary of "Pet
Sounds" backed by 12-member band, including Al Jardine. That same year,
Wilson was inducted into UK Music Hall of Fame.This year found him planning
to debut "That Lucky Old Sun (A Narrative)," a piece with four rounds
interspersed with spoken word, at Royal Festival Hall, London, England. He
has also been on tour performing newer material, as well as tunes from his
classic "Smile" and "Pet Sounds."
DB: What music are you listening to today?
BW: I still listen to Paul McCartney and the Beatles, I don't listen to
DB: Do you listen to anything else?
BW: I listen to Paul McCartney and myself, I listen to my own music.
DB: You are considered a rock icon, how would you characterize your
contribution to music?
BW: I contributed a lot of good harmonies, good vocals, good songs, good
production, I thought I did all four of those really well.
DB: Is there anyone you would like to play or collaborate with that you
BW: No. I've collaborated with (Paul) McCartney, (Tony) Asher, Bernie
Taupin, Van Dyke Parks, Mike Love. I've collaborated with a lot of people.
DB: Do you still have emerging artists or producers ask you for advice?
BW: Not for advice, but for autographs.
DB: What do you dislike most about the music industry?
BW: The most I miss about it is the '60s and '70s. There's no soul, there's
no feeling to the music these days. There's virtually no soul.
DB: Are you working on any new music?
BW: I'm currently writing a new narrative concept with a theme song and
some individual records, like eight or ten records. We're going to take that
to London in September.
BW: Most of my writing is done in the morning and at night. I feel more
creative in the morning and the night time than I do in the middle of the
day. When I'm sleeping sometimes I'll hear a melody in my head and I'll wake
up and go to the piano and put it on my tape recorder so I don't forget it.
DB: Which do you write first, the music or the lyrics?
BW: The music always comes first, then the words will come out.
DB: Tell me about your charity work.
BW: We get involved in three or four charities a year, various different
charities. We did a charity up north in the vineyard country, we did a
charity with preschool with Neil Young and then we raised money for the
Katrina disaster. We raised $250,000 last year.
DB: Do you encourage others to participate in charity?
BW: No I don't. I don't encourage other artists, they should encourage
DB: To what do you attribute your staying power in the industry?
BW: I have a lot of guts. It takes guts to carry on when you don't feel as
spectacular mentally as you could, but I feel good. Actually, I'm doing very
well to be honest.
DB: Why do you think your music remains popular?
BW: Because it had good harmonies and good vocals and good songs.
DB: What was your reaction to the National Association of Recording
Merchandisers and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame placing "Pet Sounds" on the
"Definitive 200" list?
BW: I'm very proud of "Pet Sounds," I think it's one of the great albums of
all times. It's always enjoyable to listen to even 40 years later. And I'm
proud to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
DB: What kinds of hobbies do you have when you're not busy with your music?
BW: My hobbies are exercise and going out to eat with my family and going
to parties and stuff like that. I walk anywhere from two to five miles a day
in a park. I walk around the peripheries on a sidewalk path around the park.
Two times around is a mile.
DB: What are your plans for the future?
BW: We're going to premiere that "Lucky Old Sun (A Narrative)" concept to
the London audiences and see if they give it a standing ovation or not like
they did with "Smile." Wouldn't that be something?