by Robert Wilkinson
There are few musicians who are true geniuses, and in an interesting twist of fate, two were born back to back on June 20 and 21. Today we celebrate the first of the two, the amazing Brian Wilson.
If you don't know who he was, Brian Wilson (June 20, 1942) was THE composer, arranger, and early bass player for the Beach Boys who gave us the California sound of the 60s - "Shut Down," "Surfin' USA," "In My Room," "Surfer Girl," "I Get Around," "Don't Worry Baby," "California Girls," "Good Vibrations," "God Only Knows," and about a hundred other songs that millions surfed to, made love to, and listened to during and after school throughout the 60s. Their soaring intricate harmonies and catchy melodies made the Beach Boys one of the preeminent groups of the 60s, even long after they ceased to sing about hot rods, surfing, and girls, girls, girls.
The Beach Boys were one of the only American acts to top the Beatles on the pop charts consistently during the most prolific period of both bands. With each album the Beach Boys released, Brian set the standard that John Lennon and Paul McCartney tried to top, album after album.
Thinking of the Beatles trying to out-do anyone is pretty astounding in itself! While a combination of Brian's dad's physical abuse and a bit too much LSD did Brian in for many years, he's back on the top of his game and doing his thing again. He completed "Smile" to world raves and is now getting the global respect he so richly deserves.
Today I'll give you a few of his early best! They are mostly early music videos from the 60s and so not live, or lip synched performances in a studio. Still, the first batch are very much live studio performances and not lip synched, with the b/w performances from 1964 when they were hot as firecrackers on the American charts!
Here's an amazingly beautiful gem that Brian wrote and sang for the "Beach Boys Today" album. "Please Let Me Wonder." Here's a better version of the Shindig performance linked below of "Please Let Me Wonder." (clipped before they cut into "Help Me Rhonda.")
Here's a very early and obscure tune that Brian wrote and sang lead. For your enjoyment, since most have never heard of this gem, the original studio version from the "Surfin' USA" album, "Farmer's Daughter"
From the UK television show in 1964, "Ready Steady Go" a live performance of "I Get Around" and "When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)"
From 1965, a medley of hits from Shindig! Enjoy "Fun, Fun, Fun," "Long Tall Texan," "Please Let Me Wonder," and "Help Me, Rhonda"
From the Jack Benny Show, the Beach Boys doing a live performance of "California Girls"
A remarkable live version of my personal favorite, and one of my top 10 songs of all time, featuring the truly angelic voice of Carl Wilson, "God Only Knows" A love song I've bowed to for over 40 years. I also found an amazing clip of the Beach Boys doing "God Only Knows," "Sloop John B," and "Wouldn't it be Nice" a cappella set to stills. As it's described, these harmonies are phenomenal!
Though Brian wasn't touring with them in this era, the Beach Boys still cranked out an amazing sound! Here's a great live performance from 1969 featuring Carl's voice, "I Can Hear Music."
Here's a rare treat! The Ronettes had a hit with "I Can Hear Music" in 1966. Here's Ronnie Spector and Brian Wilson live in 2000 doing "I Can Hear Music"
Here’s a great live performance of a song that Brian said was the best collaboration he ever had with Mike Love. Though not composed in their early years, it's a classic return to the surfing sound of the Beach Boys! "Do It Again."
From 1969 in France, a complete concert!
Back to videos set to stills or lip synched:
The flip side of "I Get Around," the awesome "Don't Worry Baby"“God Only Knows”
A rare gem! The original studio version of the title track from the 1971 album "Surf's Up," "Surf's Up"
Though this was long after Brian no longer toured with the group, and wasn't written by him, I figured I'd include the music video for their last #1 hit, "Kokomo" Here a live version of "Kokomo" by the latter day Beach Boys with John Stamos.
A real gem of a live concert! Here’s over an hour of all five original Beach Boys with Bruce Johnston, a very rare treat since Brian hadn’t been touring in a loooooonnnng time! For your enjoyment, “Good Timin' - Live at Knebworth 1980”
This clip is also from Knebworth 1980, but in case you don't want to sit through the entire show, here's Carl's angelic voice with the rest doing harmonies performing the remarkable "Good Vibrations" Here's the original studio version of "Good Vibrations"
Here's a great live performance by the Beach Boys in the Capitol Studios in advance of their 50th anniversary tour last year. They really still have that sound! Have fun seeing them doing their signature amazing harmonies in "Do It Again."
Here’s Brian and his new band playing “Pet Sounds” live!
We'll close today's tribute with something live from 2004, all 52 minutes of Brian’s finally completed masterpiece “Smile”
If you don't view any other video in this article, as a punctuation point for those who think Brian is somehow not one of the greatest composers of the 20th century, check this out. It's the original concept for "Heroes and Villains" as only Brian could perform and arrange it. It's the maestro at his best, and breathtaking in its elaborate orchestration and production, all courtesy of our birthday boy. For your admiration and appreciation, the original arrangement of "Heroes and Villains." Simply spectacular!!!
For those who love animation, here's the award winning animated video from the "Smile Sessions" of the first composition by Brian and Van Dyke Parks, "Heroes and Villains"
Thanks for all the great tunes and harmonies throughout the years, Brian, and may you live long enough to enjoy all you've done for the world's culture and more! "And we'll have fun, fun, fun as we don't worry baby 'cause we have the warmth of the sun groovin' with a SMiLE....."
© Copyright 2013 Robert Wilkinson