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.
I got to see Brian perform at the Greek Theater in LA in October 2013 along with Al Jardine, and they were magnificent! The intricate lush vocal harmonies were out of this world. He was followed by Jeff Beck, who played some phenomenal guitar sonic tapestries with a band who were incredible on their own. It also was an exceptional performance! For the closer, Brian, Al, and the band came out to join Jeff and his band in a Beach Boy medley extravaganza. I'll never hear "Barbara Ann" the same way ever again, given Jeff Beck's screaming lead!!
Today I'll give you some of his 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 the Beach Boys were hot as firecrackers on the American charts!"Long Tall Texan"
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.")
Live on television in 1962, with original member David Marks on dual leads with Carl, “Surfin’ Safari”
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 Ed Sullivan in 1964, a live performance of “Wendy”
Here’s an amazing live harmonization by the Beach Boys on the Red Skelton Hour of Brian’s iconic teenage musing, “In My Room”
Last year, I had a medley of hits from a 1965 Shindig appearance. This year the entire clip is nowhere to be found, but instead I found a bunch of single clips from multiple Shindig appearances in 1964-65. For your enjoyment, from the Shindig Christmas Special in 1964, the Beach Boys giving us"Dance Dance, Dance” "Johnny B. Goode” "Monster Mash” and “Papa Oom Mow Mow" "Little Saint Nick"
We now move into an April 1965 appearance on Shindig, where they perform"Do You Wanna Dance?”
And on a slightly later Shindig in 1965,"Fun, Fun, Fun" "Please Let Me Wonder" "Help Me, Rhonda" "Their Hearts Were Full of Spring"
From the Jack Benny Show when it was still shot in b/w, Jack and a gag commercial that leads into the Beach Boys performing “Barbara Ann”
From the Jack Benny Show in 1965 in color, the Beach Boys doing a “live” lip-synched performance where Brian’s not looking so good. For your enjoyment, Brian’s tribute to “the cutest girls in the world!” "California Girls"
Here they’re lip-synching one of Brian’s most beautiful tunes on American Bandstand, the incredible “Don’t Worry Baby”
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 an absolutely fantastic offering of "I Can Hear Music"
Here’s a great live performance in Germany 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"
Written to honor the memory of JFK after his assassination, “Warmth of the Sun”
From “Pet Sounds,” "Wouldn't It Be Nice"
From later in 2002, Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney live set to stills performing the song Macca says is his favorite, “God Only Knows”
Live at the Palace in 2002, a very live performance by Brian and his new touring band giving us a great medley of “California Girls,” “Warmth of the Sun,” and “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"
This is how good Brian is! Brian Wilson honored at the Kennedy Center 2008
We’ll now close today’s tribute with 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!
And for our encore, the best of the best! From 2004, all 52 minutes of an amazing live performance of Brian’s long awaited 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"
If you want to know more, here’s a 1 hour 49 minute documentary titled “Beautiful Dreamer – Brian Wilson and the Story of SMiLE”
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 in our little deuce coupe and we don't worry baby, 'cause god only knows we have the warmth of the sun and good vibrations as we dance, dance, dance with a SMiLE....."
© Copyright 2014 Robert Wilkinson