Say It's Your Birthday: Brian Wilson

Following a week which has already witnessed the birthday

of Paul McCartney, the one-two punch of the today's Beach Boys' Brian Wilson

and tomorrow's Kink's Ray Davies makes, I think, the christening of this week's

birthday column the '60s nostalgia memorial week highly appropriate. The gawky,

shy, psychologically and physically abused Brian Wilson was born today in

Hawthorne, CA; precluding Wilson cousin Mike Love Wilson was the older member

of the family. The Beach Boys--‹arguably along with The Beatles, the Rolling

Stones, and Dylan--‹were one of the most influential and long-lasting

bands to

come out of the '60s pop explosion. From the get-go, the Beach Boys were the

pioneers in what was known as the 'California style"--‹laid back, endlessly

optimistic pop tunes that invoked endless summers, tan surfers, and beautiful

women. For a while the Wilson's abusive father managed the band to a string of

hit albums that would solidify the bands surf 'n' sun attitude despite the fact

that no-one in the band surfed. Between 1962 and 1965, the band would have a

virtually unparalleled track record on the pop charts: "Surfin' Safari" (#14,

1962), "Surfin' U.S.A." (#3, 1963), "Surfer Girl" (#7, 1963), "I Get Around"

(#1, 1964), "Fun, Fun, Fun" (#5, 1964), "Help Me Rhonda" (#1, 1965),

"California Girls" (#3, 1965). Relying on the Wilson's angelic harmonies and

Brian's uncanny gift for writing pop melodies, The Beach Boys seemed destined

for greatness. Early in 1965, Brian Wilson, always the most reclusive member of

the band, left, and although what many consider to be the band's greatest

work

(Pet Sounds, featuring "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and "God Only Knows") was

released after his release, it sold poorly. Pet Sounds virtually

ended Wilson's, and the Beach Boys, career (although the Beach Boys, minus

Wilson, continue to tour as a nostalgia act). While Wilson's ambitions were

soaring, so was his ever-increasing alienation from other people; his drug

intake was also on the rise during this period. Despite some efforts at

collaborations with Van Dyke Parks at this time, Wilson's career, both with the

Beach Boys and as a musician, was grinding to a halt. Over the next twenty

years, Wilson would occasionally join his band-mates, but he increasingly

became known, and this is putting it nicely, as an enigmatic recluse. Over the

last several years, Wilson has had some promising returns to music, notably

dueting with his daughter Carrie on Rob Wasserman's Trios album and

recording a set with Van Parks last year. Often overlooked, the Beach Boys,

especially during their first, stupendous years, had an enormous influence on

pop music. Brian Wilson was one of the first musicians to imply that there was

an inherent worthiness, even sacredness, in a great pop melody. Draping in

lyrics proclaiming the lure of good vibrations and the omniscient sex-appeal of

California women, Brian Wilson produced some of the highest rock has known, and

wrote some of the most melodically pure pop songs of all time. Also born today,

eighties' superstars Cyndi Lauper and Lionel Richie. --Seth Mnookin