Other than those mentioned here and here, I’m trying to be strict with myself about sources used while writing about the upcoming Smile Sessions release. But then this turns up in the post, unsolicited (bizarrely)…and so I’m expected to watch 3 hours of a bunch of talking heads.
THE Best Beach Boys documentary: it’s intelligent, long (190 minutes), and it’s about Brian Wilson’s songwriting and production. So it downplays the Beach Boys (and, if you feel you need to, and close your eyes at the right moments, you don’t need to see them at all), and doesn’t include any 1970s live Beach Boys footage – which makes it uniquely watchable.
Hal Blaine and Carol Kaye talk at length about working with Brian – Carol Kaye on Brian’s weirdness in the studio: “Brian crazy?!? Crazy like a fox!”. It also avoids the sentimentality other films have made out of Brian’s problems, but this just exacerbates the genuine pathos (Hal Blaine on the disc 2 Extras especially). Why didn’t Brian leave the Beach Boys in 1966? Let them fend for themselves, while he made records we can only dream of…?
An older, and quite dignified Bruce Johnston is a real diplomat throughout – but at certain points he is obviously on the defensive (especially about Smiley Smile, Wild Honey and Friends). You can tell, he stops smiling. As much. And then his fanboy enthusiasm (on another Extra) takes 40 years off him, when he talks about meeting the Beatles and playing them Pet Sounds …
A reviewer on Amazon has 10 Reasons why this is the last Brian Wilson documentary you need ever watch
Here are four of them:
1. Veteran SoCal socio-musical historian Domenic Priore, sitting alongside a tiki totem beneath a strategically placed orange branch, more than ably launches our story over a wealth of Eastmancolour’d freeway and beach footage, drawing, as only he can, that all-important connection from Gidget to Dick Dale all the way to teenage Brian’s Hawthorne, California music room.
4. Similarly, Inside The Music of Brian Wilson author Prof. Philip Lambert takes to the piano to juxtapose Phil Spector’s “Be My Baby” with Brian’s equally ingenious “answer” song “Don’t Worry, Baby” …as Phil’s former Wrecking Crewman (and Brian’s drummer of choice) Hal Blaine gets a little Prison Wall of Sound joke in at his ol’ boss’ everlasting expense.6. Why, we even get to hear Winterreise by Franz Schubert and Robert Schumann’s Dichterliebe used in the very same sentence as Pet Sounds !
7. Three Dog Night tripper Danny Hutton, however, has an even better word for all this: “Marijuana!!”
9. Which reminds me: Brian’s most note-worthy by far collaborator Van Dyke Parks is shown in the old Tower Records parking lot off Sunset Strip circa 1976 in an attempt to explain why Mike Love never could get a lyric such as “Over and over the crow flies uncover the cornfield” in to his head, let alone out of his mouth.
This magnificent 190-minute, two-DVD package, and the fine cast of musicians, historians, and Wilson pals and players therein, do a most remarkable job in explaining to us exactly why. It should indeed be considered Required Viewing by all who still love to add good vibes to their days
Here’s a fifth, a brief scene:
Peter Ames Carlin: Again The Beach Boys were on tour and they came home and found these songs that Brian wanted them to sing, that bore ABSOLUTELY no resemblance to anything that seemed like…normal life.
Peter Ames Carlin: Van Dyke Parks wrote these songs that were just oblique, to say the least…
The only real downside to this documentary is that they discuss All Summer Long, and now I’m haunted by the fucking stupid lyrics:
Brian: What does this MEAN?
miniature golf and hondas in the hills when we rode the horse we got some thrills
Mike: Quite frankly Brian, I don’t know WHAT it means. I can’t tell you.
Van Dyke: I’m sorry I’m late Brian – what’s up? What can I do for you?
Mike: (praying) Please, help me out here…
Brian: You know what this is? Adolescent alliteration. Mike, I’m not singing this infantile crap! We’ve gotten a new lyricist…
(An American Family pics from here)