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Brian Wilson’s Resurrection

Youthful adolescence and early adulthood of the 60’s and 70’s was soaked in the zenith of intelligent pop music. The names of those performers are iconic now and their tunes so resonant they catapult us into a nostalgic spell hearing first notes. Janis Joplin, The Beatles, the Stones, Jefferson Airplane, Simon and Garfunkel, the Beach Boys.
I suppose each age likes to flatter themselves they were nurtured in a golden age. But the music of that era has had true staying power, power to tune in an idealistic generation [who have since been coopted by consumerist lust].
To sit at the feet of Brian Wilson is worshipping one of the holiest of those songmaking gods. A true shaper of the hallmarks of the times, Wilson was the genius tunesmith of the Beach Boys. In their day, that group battled for the prime real estate between the ears of my generation with the Beatles, Stones, etc. The story of his life after that creative peak has an unfortunately familiar arc.
The groups all had enormous merit. The Beach Boys could evoke a California we cold-bound inhabitants of less blessed climes desperately desired. The surf beaches, sun-bleached blonds, muscle cars on coastal roads, free and easy short sleeved life all year – who wouldn’t want all that?
Then came the real halcyon of songcraft. The Beatles sounded the challenge in 1965 with Rubber Soul. Serious, meaningful writing. An almost chamber music intensity to the ballads. A deep integrity – music that intelligent parents even respected! McCartney/ Lennon. Norwegian Wood. Michelle. In My Life.
Brian Wilson was of equal genius. All fall 1965, stories of odd processions of musicians trailing into a pop studio in LA. Then Pet Sounds was given to the world.
Gorgeous, pristine music, tunes jewel-like in intensity and perfection. God Only Knows, perhaps the best of a generation, meeting the challenge of the British Invasion. I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times, I Know There’s an Answer, the more familiar sounding Sloop John B.
Confusing and confounding their usual audience. Where were the hot cars, the straw haired girls, the warm beaches? But this had potency, way beyond the former fluff.
Wilson was a Mozartean composer. He was torn apart realizing the strength of musical vision coming through him. He dragged his group into 4 part harmony. And unfortunately, the stress of trying to bring his audience with him to this new land got to him. He sought solace in the drugged pit of the times. His growing debilitatation put him under the regrettable stewardship of Dr. Eugene Landy, a psychotherapist of doubtful value who held him in seclusion for several years, until rescue by his now wife Melinda.
The rise [the young band and particularly, a lovingly detailed creation of Pet Sounds] and fall [into mental reduction and dependence] is superbly documented in the 2014 movie Love and Mercy. The film – – has been termed among the best musical bio-pics.

The Brian Wilson band just toured Alberta. So it was possible to be in the presence [reduced, yes] of one of great creators and shapers of our collective time. An 11 piece ensemble of the highest calibre filled the Jubilees with his tunes and his constant collaborator, Al Jardine, was onstage support.
He needed it. To hear him perform manfully from his perch behind the piano center stage is to mourn a lost genius, here in body, but gone in the resplendent creative fullness that once produced “Good Vibrations”. He can no longer soar into that distinctive falsetto tenor – but Matt Jardine does creditable service picking us up and taking us there.
The evening was an evocation of a lost time by one of its true drivers, a return by an original, a pale shadow cast by genius [not that the show wasn’t extremely worthwhile]. And the centrepiece was the entirety of Pet Sounds – stunningly redone.
The mystery of these nostalgic performances? How will they close? The curtain call, fittingly, was “Good Vibrations” – the earliest pop music I know of to feature the eerie then nascent sound of synthesizers – a Theramin, played by a body moving in a space between two sensors.
And then the lad himself, alone in the spotlight, to give us Love and Mercy, which will perhaps be his epitaph.
A rise, a crescendo, a fall, a coda. A redemptive story for these times, echoing one of long ago that still casts an Easter spell over this world.

Doug Bouey
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

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Doug Bouey, President
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

Calgary, AB // Phone: 403.777.1144


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