I’ve had some interesting and encouraging comments to these thirty-nine or so posts, initially prompted by the impending release of The Beach Boys’ The Smile Sessions in November 2011. You can read all previous posts here.
I discussed some comments so far back in October.
A week later I got a more extensive comment, in response to an earlier post:
That book [Wouldn’t It Be Nice, Brian Wilson’s unreliable ‘memoirs’] is a complete fake. I don’t know why you spent so much time analyzing it. I don’t know why you repeated a bunch of conspiracy-type questions that only ignorant fans ask, refute them, but then turn around and place so much credibility in a book that Wilson himself has denied ever even reading, much less helping to write. I don’t believe your post has done anything to set the record straight (here).
and I thought these were interesting observations about the overall methodology at work here. I replied, but didn’t get a followup. Which was a shame, because its author set me thinking about a few different things, and, to a certain extent, influenced what was written subsequently.
I didn’t know that I had repeated a bunch of conspiracy-type questions (that only ignorant fans ask); the difficulty with any question on any topic these days, is that, somewhere inside the internet, every question may already have been asked – and you might find that question, but not necessarily its answer. And conversely, you may find an answer to a question never known to exist. I stay away from fan messageboards; apologies if, in that blinkered ignorance, I have covered old ground.
Another commenter (whose response somehow slipped into the spam folder) says
Look at this tremendous internet. If you decide you haven’t so much toured this task still, you’re the one omitted substantially
Unsure about the explication (I’ve ‘toured the task’, but what have I omitted? Myself?) – but yeah, good point.
Look at this tremendous internet. Take the Beach Boys fan universe as a microcosm of this digital Library Of Babel: regardless of how much ‘original research’ some guy on the interweb might try to do (in order to find some snippets of real, actual human truth in the multiplicity of myths that is The Beach Boys story, and as part of the much larger ‘rock history’ mythos), sources are limited (books, films, and of course recordings). The ever-expanding macrocosm of new information (on any topic) that the internet has become in the past 15 years or so makes ‘research’ a lot more problematic. Which is why so many internet-era researchers use wikipedia – it’s reliable.
I personally prefer books and other printed matter. They’ve usually been mediated by an editor – and there’s not some fucker rewriting them as you read.
Reliability and veracity are real issues in the internet world. Likewise (and back to its microcosm) the Beach Boys fan world. This recent update at Mike Love’s wiki page seems a fascinating insight into the Beach Boys – but it’s utterly unverifiable. If true (ie. is as written), it confirms a great deal. Depressingly.
And there is likewise a change in the notion of attribution of ideas – which can be read as they develop, in near-realtime, on any subject worthy of discussion: knitting, The Beach Boys, the secret rulers of the world…it’s all out there, being discussed, waiting to be found.
And so, apologies if anybody’s observations might have been reflected here without attribution – when I did read Beach Boys boards, I was only really looking for verifiable fact.
Repeating questions, only to then refute them, is thus a useful method of self-interrogation; it presupposes that someone else might have already considered the point in question. And, whatever I might ‘know’, someone else almost certainly knows more.
But then to turn around and place so much credibility in a book (Wouldn’t It Be Nice: My Own Story) that Wilson himself has denied ever even reading, much less helping to write? This is tricky. Brian Wilson has said quite a few seemingly-contradictory things about Smile – but, post-Landy medication, the gaps he now has in his own memory must really trouble him.
And, while Brian’s version of events (as filtered through Todd Gold and Dr. Eugene Landy) is at points unreliable, how much more trustworthy are Mike Love’s own recollections? Mike’s friend John Stamos must have checked some factual details with Mike when producing The Beach Boys – An American Family – yet this became a heavily-revisionist version of The Beach Boys’ history. Wouldn’t It Be Nice is a reference book in comparison.
I said in response to my annoyed commenter:
I wasn’t there. I don’t know. It’s all a bunch of conflicting narratives. If you can help me out here, please do. Were you there? And could you elaborate further on these ‘conspiracy-type questions’?
That was in October 2011, and I’ve been caught up in these conflicting narratives ever since. I was writing under the assumption that, by November, with the release of a 5CD Smile Sessions box set, there wouldn’t be much else left to say.
But, rather than finding a typeset and super-glossy Look! Listen! Vibrate! Smile! inside the Smile box, discovering instead that these conflicting narratives had (presumably) been filtered through the offices of Mike Love’s attorneys (and that texts and contributors were also presumably cut, edited and mediated) was, shall we say, a disappointment?
Finding that The Smile Sessions‘ promotional campaign (radio and press interviews) centred around the drugs killing Smile, and that Van Dyke Parks had little space for comment (and none in the Sessions book itself, bar one unrelated quotation) was likewise disappointing.
But not a surprise; The Pet Sounds Sessions box set (released November 1997) was originally scheduled for the album’s 30 Year Anniversary (released May 1966), but was delayed 18 months so, that Mike Love could write an Introduction to this,
(5″ x 4″ approx., 126 pages, mostly text)
one of two books in the box set. It opens with a narrative way more speculative than Brian’s ‘fake book’, wherein Mike ‘remembers’ naming the album Pet Sounds (on p.23 in the same book, Carl says ‘I’m not sure who came up with the title. I think it was Brian’). Brian may not remember a lot of what he did in the 1960s – but Mike sure as hell must.
The other Pet Sounds Sessions book apologises:
(the other Pet Sounds Sessions book, p.13)
The inclusion of 55 minutes of Mike Love’s Hang On To You Ego/I Know There’s An Answer false starts and fuck ups on The Alternate Pet Sounds Vol.1 (a 4CD box, Vol. 2 is another 4CDs), released in 1998, does suggest some legal and editorial excisions in the Pet Sounds Sessions box.
Are these conspiracy-type questions?
And, if the Pet Sounds sessions needed that much mediation from Mike (in order to ‘put the record straight’), imagine how many lawyers were involved in The Smile Sessions? This might explain why its accompanying book (12″ x 12″ approx., 60 pages, flawless sessionography, plus reprinted lyrics) has, at best, 12 pages of (larger-print) text, and lacks any analysis beyond what has been long-known. Imagine the negotiations, the deals made, to facilitate its release!
The other factor that kept these posts coming, months beyond the self-imposed deadline of the 1st of November 2011, and ‘the two weeks I have left‘ (‘I’ll end it all with a picture of the postman handing over The Smile Sessions!’), was – SHOCK and SURPRISE – a Beach Boys 50 Year Celebration Anniversary Reunion Tour And Album Entitled Celebration (Because This Is A Term Mike Love Likes And Uses A Lot).
With The Smile Sessions just released, surely this kind of announcement would deflect attention away from Smile, and towards the newly-reformed band? Seemed like a poor marketing strategy to me.
The reunion itself wasn’t even an inevitability – on 29th September 2011,
Singer insists he will not reunite with former bandmates for planned world tour next year
…”There’s been talk that I was going to join the Mike Love group but it’s not true.” Although Wilson said in May he was considering rejoining the group, he is currently committed to solo projects such as his new album of Disney songs.
In the end, it may come down to the size of the cheque. Wilson has not commented on claims by Love and session drummer Eddie Bayers that he is working on new Beach Boys material. “I don’t really like working with the guys,” he said, “but it all depends on how we feel and how much money’s involved. Money’s not the only reason I made records, but it does hold a place in our lives.”
But then it was on. What changed? It cannot surely just have been money. Can it?
Pleading with The Beach Boys by proxy was, alas, to no avail: January’s Don’t Do It Again post went unheeded, and mostly unread. In February The Beach Boys brought Good Vibrations to an otherwise dour and downbeat Grammys (someone died, everyone was sad – some insightful analysis from Diamanda Galas on the cause of that distraction here).
There were a couple of responses to Don’t Do It Again, however. Here, someone else makes the mistake of trying to see The Beach Boys in human terms – you know, as people, rather than ‘legends’? What was said is worthy of quoting verbatim in a later post.
The other comment says
While I appreciate your in-depth investigation of this reunion thing, I have to say that it’s a big mistake to take any quote involved with the Beach Boys at face value. These quotes are made for publicity, not history.
So all this deceit and duplicity is acceptable? What am I supposed to believe? Who is telling the truth? And, more to the point, who is not telling the truth? And why?
Man, this is all so confusing!
I don’t believe your post has done anything to set the record straight.
I don’t believe that I am in any position to set the record straight.
As it was meant to be My First 25 Years, observations were intended to be personal. The internet is full of people going on about stuff; this is just some more stuff. Some details have been quibbled over, and one key text is still under debate; but I’d hoped that, despite digressions (there have been many, including a break for a cartoon), some central threads remain visible. But if not, well so what?
Another comment (also inexplicably spam-filtered) says
Thank you, I’ve just been searching for information about this subject for ages and yours is the best I’ve discovered till now. But, what about the conclusion? Are you sure about the source?
so at least one person has a grip on where this is going…but their doubts are justified. Alas, my only source for any overall ‘conclusion’ (as this all comes to a close; four five more posts after this and I think I’m done) is everything that precedes it.
(And many thanks to Enrique for audio sources)