Brian Had Fun,
Fun, Fun Til The Critics Took His T Bird Away
Reflections on Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys
By John Saleeby
Congratulations Brian Wilson on being the last surviving Wilson brother! Yes, your father beat the kids but you have beat the odds. But enough of that Springsteen belly achin' about your Old Man, how about how the critics screwed you over in the late seventies? Them and their Lou Reed! I got your Moby right here, buddy. I got a big bald Moby for yuz right here!
Yeah, everybody knows about Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, the teen genius who created some of the greatest pop music ever and then went completely out of his mind. Now, I know the very first thing that popped into your head when I mentioned Brian creating some of the greatest pop music ever - "Pet Sounds". God, that makes me crazy. Not crazy enough to live in the same pair of pajamas for a couple of years, but it still gets my goat (Which is what you'll smell like after living in the same pair of pajamas for a couple of years). This is what I have to say about "Pet Sounds" - "Schmet Schmounds"! There! I learned that in my high school debating team. And don't tell me that foolishness about it being such an important album because it inspired the Beatles to make "Sargeant Pepper" cause I got "Schmargeant Schmepper" right here in my pocket and I ain't afraid to use it. Nooo, the brilliant music I'm talking about is all the really great stuff The Beach Boys did before Brian stopped touring with the band, like "Fun Fun Fun", "Surfin' Safari", "Little Deuce Coupe", "Catch A Wave", all that stuff (Notice how I hit you with all those titles all at once so you won't have the weisenheimmer stamina to hit me back with "Schmun Schmun Schmun", "Schmurfin' Schmafari", schmetcetera? I am the Schmaster!) You want to hear the music of Brian Wilson at his best? Just pick up the "Endliss Summer" greatest hits collection and leave "Pet Sounds" to the PBS types who are only gonna decide to become jazz aficionados any day now anyway. The Beach Boys don't need "Pet Sounds" to justify themselves anymore than The Beatles need "Sargeant Pepper" or Steely Dan should have to suffer through three hours of Jon Stewart, The Blue Man Group, and Eminem just to get a lousy Grammy.
After "Pet Sounds" flopped and Brian failed to complete that other record nobody can seem to stop talking about, The Beach Boys continued touring without him and he collapsed into the miserable cartoon we've all been giggling at ever since - The Big Fat Recluse Zonked Out On Drugs Who Never Got Out Of Bed - Kinda like Elvis only with a beard and less of a sex drive (Probably grew the beard to create the illusion of manliness, I wrote before realizing that I have grown a beard in the past month. Uh oh.) and according to the critics he has been incapable of creating anything worthwhile ever since. Well, what do those losers know about anything? Them and their David Byrne. Anyone who says History is written by the Winners has obviously never read The Rolling Stone Illustrated History Of Rock And Roll. Ted Nugent a "jack off"? You're lucky I left my bow and arrows out in the glove compartment, you little . . . Cause a couple of weeks ago I was in the record store where I found two Beach Boys albums, "15 Big Ones" and "Love You", together on one CD and bought it real quick before a couple of Britney fans could come in and catch me making an Old Fart Purchase (I'm very careful about that ever since I went into the Tower Records store in Greenwich Village and asked the black girls behind the counter if they had a copy of "Ogden's Nut Gone Flake" by The Small Faces. My goodness.). One of those "Just To Complete The Collection" purchases we make more to waste money than for any genuine listening pleasure, kinda like any Springsteen album before and after "Born To Run" or that Doors album with Jim Morrison on it, cause I already knew from what the critics had to say that these were the two most embarrassing records Brian Wilson ever produced, ultimate proof that the poor guy had completely lost it. Yikes! I was expecting to hear Brian break down crying right in the middle of songs while Carl and Dennis encourage him "Come on, Brian! You can do it! Try it one more time and we'll get you some cheeseburgers and a pizza! Come in! What's that smell?"
"15 Big Ones" and "Love You" were the product of The Beach Boys' big "Brian's Back!!!" publicity campaign of 1976-77 designed to revive public interest in the band (Even though The Beach Boys were always a big live attraction - Who could resist the raw sexuality and magnetic charisma of Al Jardine? - the albums they produced without Brian were . . . I dunno, has anyone ever actually listened to any of those things?) by dragging Brian out of his bedroom to write and produce in the studio and actually perform live onstage for the first time since the sixties. "So get ready, America! Brian Wilson, the Super Maestro Of Pop Music who brought you 'Pet Sounds' - Well, actually he brought it to the store and you looked at the cover, put it back on the rack, and bought a Bob Newhart album instead - is finally back in the studio with Dennis, Carl, Mike, Al, and maybe that geek Bruce to bring back the magic of 'PET SOUNDS'!!! Uh, by all means, feel free to go to the record store and actually buy 'Pet Sounds' to get ready, okay? Huh? Huh? Please? It's on sale! Did you know that when The Beatles heard it they . . . Okay, we're sorry."
So I get back home to The Crypt Of Crap with my brand new "15 Big Ones-Love You" CD, put it on, crank up my Iraqi Army Surplus Kerosene Powered PC to check my e mail, and about halfway through a letter from Forbis telling me an Interesting Motherfuckers column about Timothy McVeigh is not a very good idea it suddenly dawns on me "This is is some really great music!!". I listened to all twenty nine tracks on the CD and then I listened to em again. And then I listened to eam again and I'ved lost track of how many times I've listened to em after that cause it's the only CD I ever play any more it is so good.
I'm too lazy to carry on like some jabbering rock critic - If I was gonna do that I would have written "rockrit" there instead of "rock critic" and thrown in something about that "street cred" thing they're always worrying about - so I'll just tell youse to pick up the "15 Big Ones - Love You" CD instead of that solo album by that Pavement guy we are all more or less being commanded to buy. Buy "Ogden's Nut Gone Flake" before you buy that thing. At least the gals at Tower Records will get a good laugh out of it. But why did the critics hate these records so much when they are actually so terrific? Easy - There's nothing "Pet Sounds" about em. "Or even more offensive, there's nothing "Sargeant Pepper" about them. Twenty nine songs and not a single "experimental", "revolutionary", "progressive", "innovative", "candy ass", moment to be found! Just a buncha fun rock and roll tunes about Girls, Cars, Kids, God, and Johnny Carson! It's like all Brian was trying to do was show everybody a good time! Jesus, didn't this idiot read those Time and Newsweek cover stories about Bruce Springsteen?
So, that was the end of Brian's Big Comeback. "Sorry, Brian, we had an editorial meeting and we already decided this is going to be The Year Of The New Wave Punk Sound. You shoulda come back when the only thiing going on was ZZ Top and Kiss!" After years of sitting all alone scared to death of the whole idea of making records and getting up in front of an audience the poor guy finally worked up the courage to get up and put everything he had into making the very best music he could and What Happened? Exactly what he had been afraid of the whole time - The whole world told him he was a worthless sack of shit and he could take his crappy music and shove it up his big fat old ass. Negative reviews, fine. But Negative Reinforcement? This is a job for Doctor Landy! The Beach Boys were presented as crass oppurtunists for putting this helpless blob under more pressure than he could handle and became an Oldies Act while Brian went back into hibernation. So thanks a lot, Super Cool Hipster Rock Critics Of The Late Seventies - We could have had a dozen albums as cool as "Love You" since then, but nooooooooooooo!
And now some guy who used to be a rock critic in the seventies has made a big Hollywood movie about rock critics in the seventies called "Almost Famous" and we're all supposed to run to the mall and pay eight bucks to see the goddam thing? Screw that, the American public can relate to a movie about a brain eating cannibal better than a movie about those assholes.
Oh, and one more thing - "Schmood Schmibrations"!
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John Saleeby wrote for The National Lampoon while he was in high school, was a stand up comic in New York, and has contributed to the net humor zines Schmuck.com, Campaign Central, and the legendary American Jerk. He's on medication now so he's probably a little nicer now than he was when you met him earlier.
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