Director: Don Was
Lighting Director: David Devlin
Sound Editor: Bruce Greenspan
Brian Wilson (vocals, piano), Jim Keltner (drums), James Hutchinson (bass), Benmont Tench (piano & organ), Mark Goldenberg, Waddy Wachtal (guitar), David McMurray (saxophone & flute)
Sweet Pea Atkinson, Sir Harry Bowens, Donald Ray Mitchell, Jeff Pescetto, Andrew Gold, Kip Lennon (vocals conducted by Jeff Pescetto & Andrew Gold)
Plus Wendy & Carnie Wilson (background vocals on Do It Again)
I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times is a documentary about the life of Brian Wilson, the musical mastermind and songwriter for the Beach Boys. The film examines the ups and downs of Wilson’s life, including the early years of the Beach Boys, his years of substance abuse, and his long road to recovery. The film was directed by music producer Don Was, who also worked on the soundtrack for Backbeat, a film about the early days of the Beatles.
Sample IMDB review:
Glimpse into the life of a musical genius., 12 April 2007
A made-for-TV documentary centering on Brian Wilson, founder and heart and soul of one of America’s foremost musical groups. Sunshine, surfing, fast cars and California girls…subjects of some of the most cheerful songs written by Brian for his group the Beach Boys. The Beach Boy sound in the mid 1960’s was unique, honest, refreshing and relished by the young at heart from coast to coast and around the world. Brian’s life has been undeniably remarkable as it has been troubled and tormented; with seclusion in his bedroom for lengths at a time and his scrambled mental health and discord of his brothers and cousin, who continued the Beach Boy machine with or without its genius. Helping us understand a little bit more about Brian’s influence are his daughters Carnie and Wendy, his ex-wife Marilyn; as well as tributes from such luminaries as John Cale, David Crosby, Danny Hutton, Tom Petty and Graham Nash. Well worth watching: even for the non-fan.
Brian Wilson: (with his now-wife Melinda Ledbetter) There’s a very distinguished writer named Arthur Koestler, and, after a lot of careful research and study and all that in his life
he discovered that the human mind is broken up into three categories: first is Humour, second is science, which he calls Discovery, and the third is Art.
Now, the one thing that really blew me out about that book was that the first rule of ego is humour – in other words, when people get together, they’re more apt to want to be funny, out of INSTINCT and EGO, than they are artistic or scientific…you know, like, intellectual.
Van Dyke Parks: Just as Pet Sounds came to print, he began work on his next project, called Smile. Smile was a record to expore in even greater detail the modular aspects of songwriting. He wanted to explore the inocence of youth, maybe the innocence that America had just lost, following the assasination of John Kennedy, and our entanglement in a war that a generation rebelled against. Brian decided to go back and explore that innocence of childhood. And Wonderful is a song out of that effort.
Brian: I remember Van Dyke saying ‘gee I like this sandbox’, we wrote in a sandbox, and I said ‘yeah it gives you the feeling of the beach, it feels good on your feet to sit in the sand’.
Van Dyke Parks: I must say, I DID go into the sandbox – BEFORE I discovered that the dogs had also made their special effort, in the same place – and that’s when I drew the line. We got the song finished!
Band and Brian play Smile version of Wonderful.
Van Dyke Parks: So I got in the studio with this conjuror, and realised that this was way ahead of our time – this was the most advanced musical experimentation in the popular music industry at the time. This was clearly a year before Sgt Pepper. There was nothing like this.
David Anderle: The Beach Boys as a band were in England at the time, they were having a great time there, throwing The Beatles out of the number one spot. When they got back, and Brian started playing them the music he had done for the Smile album, and they started to question Brian about the lyric content – ‘we’ve just become the number one band, why are we changing the formula?’ – and suddenly everything that been a year and a half, 2 years of complete positive vibes, now became very negative vibes.
Van Dyke Parks: The friction was so great that, as he was just achieving the apex of his creative arc, he abandoned the project, I think in the interests of…social harmony? And Smile was left unfinished, for that reason.
Carl Wilson: I think Brian was not able to finish the Smile project due to the seriousness of his emotional problems, which was, I think, very much irritated and brought forward by the drugtaking.
David Anderle: [Smile] wasn’t done mainly because he had to put their voices on it – he had to get them to sing those Van Dyke Parks lyrics, and it wasn’t easy for Carl, and Mike and the boys to sing some of those – strange lyrics.
Carl: I know there’s been a lot written, and maybe said about Michael not liking the Smile music…I think his main problem, as I recall, was that the lyrics were not relateable…
…they were SO artistic, and to him they were airy-fairy…just too abstract. Personally, I loved it.
Brian: I had a GREAT problem with The Beach Boys, I wanted to do my kind of music, and they wanted to do their kind of music – so it was inner turmoil, struggle, it was a tug-of-war…I felt like I was getting pulled to pieces…like a teetor-totter, a see-saw..I was getting pulled all around – and I just about fell to pieces.
Danny Hutton: In the business he wasn’t hot. You’re allowed to be crazy or different in the business if you’re hot and you’re eccentric – and as soon as you’re NOT hot, well you’re just kinda nuts.
Marilyn Wilson (Brian’s ex-wife): He had a real hard time with the guys, after Pet Sounds and after Smile, because he felt guilty that he got all the attention, he was the one who was called the genius, and he felt the guys really resented that, and I think they did. I think it was very hard for them to understand ‘why is Brian Wilson singled out?’. But anyone with a brain would know why.
Lenny Waronker: It was like he was on the outskirts of the band in a way, the other guys were trying to have some sort of control. I think that they were going through a very difficult time, and he made an appearance, and was trying, but clearly wasn’t in control. And those of us who know about him know that he had to have TOTAL control. So it was a little alarming when we saw that the control aspect wasn’t there.
Marilyn: He would slowly just stay in the bedroom, and let the guys record in the studio, since The Beach Boys paid for the studio, and it became more and more he would stay in bed – let them do their thing.
And it was very tough for him because he thought that they all hated him…I think it was like ‘OK you assholes, you think you can do as good as me or whatever – go ahead – YOU do it. You think it’s so easy? You do it’.
David Anderle: I felt he had to be suffering from not being able to put the Smile record out – having gone to the point of glory and not making it across the line…
Marilyn: …and I don’t think ever really came back. I don’t think he ever had the need…he was just torn down, he really was. They slowly tore him down. I hate to say it, but they did.
Audree Wilson: I think he stayed in bed for 2 years, every day all day…you know his dad did that? His dad used to stay in bed – all day. He would have his secretary come in and he would dictate letters from his bed…I never understood that. It looked like a terrible way to live…and he never gave me a reason.
Marilyn: (about Til I Die) everything he wrote about seemed to be about him, and about dying, he didn’t want to live, and yet it’s kind of innocent…god, how lucky you can be to express what you feel and have it come out as music!
Brian: (about Til I Die) The true inner nature of our voices came out to play, you know…maybe once in a blue moon your soul might come out and play, just express itself. It can’t be rushed. You can’t tell a child to rush. Nature is nature. it’s a slow process, but now and then it does happen.
Brian: Well I had a lot of devils after me – I was trying to sing my heart out for the devil…an unfortunate kind of a mental situation…but I did have problems then. And I think Til I Die is an outgrowth of my fear of getting…’devilled’.
Carnie Wilson: I knew from 5 years’ old that he wasn’t a normal father, we didn’t live in a normal household…my memories of him are him wandering from room to room…THINKING about SOMETHING – I always wanted to know what he was thinking, you know? Who knows what he was thinking in his head – I remember one day he (LAUGHS) he wrote a song about a cigarette! He said ‘I’m gonna go write a song about a cigarette!’ and I said ‘OK..’. And literally, 3 minutes later I walked into the room, the song was done, he was playing on the piano, something about how he was going to flush the butt in the toilet.
Wendy Wilson: Where other people might take a run to release some stress, he would go to the piano and write a 5 minute song.
Carnie: We got used to it – we got used what the whole environment was. It was very musical – there was always a piano going. Either Rhapsody In Blue was playing, or…Be My Baby – I mean, I woke up every morning to Boom boom-boom pow! Boom boom-boom pow! (LAUGHS) – every day! (EMPHATICALLY) Every day.
Brian: I dropped out somewhere in the mid-70s. And the chief reason why I dropped out was I had experimented with too many drugs, and the drugs, that I took, REALLY messed my brain up, really FOULED my mind up – my thinking process was somewhere else.
That and the fact that I had a lot of depression with The Beach Boys – I couldn’t talk to The Beach Boys, nobody would relate to me. So this went on for quite a while, but on and off I’d go and record. But basically, one and off for 10 years I did ‘bedroom scenes’ – under my sheets, watching television…
time for supper now
day’s been hard and I’m so tired I feel like eating now
smell the kitchen now
hear the maid whistle a tune my thoughts are fleeting now
still I dream of it
of that happy day when I can say I’ve fallen in love
and it haunts me so
like a dream that’s somehow linked to all the stars above…
Van Dyke plays and Brian sings Orange Crate Art:
Audrey Wilson: He’s sort of like he used to be…he’s…I think he has periods of…he’s very introspective. But he’s…fun.
Brian: Danny Hutton and his group have a song called My Impersonal Life, and it has a lyric that says ‘be still and everything is all right’, and I like that! That’s what I need! I’m never still, always in turmoil – hoping somebody will save me, someone will come along and save my life, or my day…that the world won’t blow up, the universe won’t explode, and we won’t ever have each other again…I have my fears – but I think we’re more – I said ‘we’. Like I’m a group or something! – WE’RE on the brink of something. I know.
i’m thinking about a-this whole world
late at night I think about the love of this whole world
lots of different people everywhere
and when I go anywhere I see love I see love I see love
…i’m convinced of it
the hypnosis of our minds can take us far away
it’s so easy now
you see someone up there high in heaven’s here to stay
still I dream of it
of that happy day when I can say I’ve fallen in love
and it haunts me so
like a dream that’s somehow linked to all the stars above
da da da da da da da da
This is another low-quality rip from a low quality VHS video, taped when broadcast by the BBC in 1995.
I don’t think I’ve watched it since (no working video machine til recently), and Brian’s lucid and forthright explication of Arthur Koestler’s The Act of Creation was a real shocker – had no recollection of it whatsoever.
The band is great, but the vocals are better: all the performances are a glimpse of what Brian Wilson’s vocal arrangements could sound like with singers other than The Beach Boys; the soundtrack album is ‘used and new’ from a quid on Amazon.co.uk.
This film was a serious attempt to rescue Brian Wilson’s artistic reputation from The Beach Boys’ continual misrepresentation, as a…dunno…whatever Beach Boys Inc. feels that he is – an embarressing adjunct to an otherwise successful franchise? The 1998 Beach Boys’ documentary Endless Harmony (and its dramatised counterpart The Beach Boys – An American Family) somehow feels like an attempt to offer ‘balance’ against some of what is said here about The Boys…
I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times is currently available as a ‘double feature’ (Region 1) DVD here; its companion is The Beach Boys – An American Band – so lucky purchasers get some extra, bonus ‘balance’ – and all on the same disc!