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Archive for October, 2012

From The Guardian, Friday 26 October 2012 – Courtney Love planning Kurt Cobain musical, says manager:

Courtney Love is allegedly planning a musical based on her relationship with Kurt Cobain. Although the project is only at an embryonic stage, the singer’s co-manager said they hope to turn the story into a stage musical or feature film.

Love and Cobain were together for only a few years: they started dating in 1991, married and had a child in 1992, before Cobain killed himself in 1994. But Love has maintained her role as the steward of Cobain’s memory, suing video-game makers, criticising his bandmates and accusing the Muppets of “raping” her husband with a rendition of Smells Like Teen Spirit.

From an episode of Family Guy, first broadcast 13 June, 2000:

Peter Griffin (in a cue for a typical off-topic digression): What if Kurt Cobain had quit?

Backstage:

Record Company Guy: Great concert Kurt! The label’s excited about your seventh album…

Kurt Cobain: Thanks! Oh, you remember my cousin wife, Mike Courtney Love?

Record Company Guy: Who?

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[updated 30 October 2012]

It’s now October 2012.

The Beach Boys, as a corporate trademark, has just ended the latest renewal of that brand’s currency, with their 50 Big Ones tour/reunion album/greatest hits Celebration.

It’s a kind of ignominious conclusion – in part because it is inconclusive: there is currently a low-level public antagonism, between a) The Beach Boys™ (ie. Mike Love, his lackey Bruce Johnston plus some other guys) and b) Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, David Marks and Brian’s band –  ‘the real Beach Boys’.

(Brian or Mike, Mike or Brian – it’s time to take sides…again)

Mike’s ‘unreal’ Beach Boys are returning to ‘the fairgrounds’.

In the UK, the idea of live music at fairgrounds is kind of odd – we have ghost trains and shit, but not popular music combos. The Beach Boys’ Crazy Summer by Andrew Romano (from Newsweek in May this year) has a quote from  ‘a member of Wilson’s band’:

“When my friends hear I’m touring with the Beach Boys, they’re like, ‘Oh, so you’re doing fairgrounds and stuff?’” he says. “And I’m like, ‘No, we’re with Brian Wilson.’ But, you know, when we performed Pet Sounds and Smile, that was art. That was Brian. Now we are kind of at the fairgrounds.”

I was unclear of the insignificance of US funfairs as a musical venue until I saw this episode of American Dad:

Reginald (‘a homeless man the CIA tricked into participating in one of their mind-swapping experiments, swapping his brain with that of a koala’) tries to befriend Hailey, and offers to take her out:

Reggie: C’mon, it’s been a whole week! You still mad at Reggie? Look, how about a peace offering? You like music? You like Shaggy? ‘Shaggy!’ (an impersonation of Shaggy’s vocal style)
Hailey: No.
Reggie: Yes you do, everybody likes Shaggy – that’s why he’s playing the fairgrounds!

I get it now.

Observers of the band’s ‘California Saga’, and their collective willingness to air their ‘dirty laundry’ in public – plus the various lawsuits that Mike Love has directed at Brian Wilson and Al Jardine over the past few decades – seems to have prompted two opposing responses to this new acrimony.

That this ‘dirty laundry’ is mostly Mike’s lawsuits seems to be missed by commentators – but then, as he is The Beach Boys™, of course the rest of the band are tarred by association. Or in court being sued.

And, like ‘the real Beach Boys’ and The Beach Boy™, there are opposing points of view about this public antagonism:

One camp vigorously defends Mike’s own point of view. Their opinions, the veracity of which they are utterly assured of, appear on fan messageboards, or in online comments offering ‘corrections’.

(Camp A)

Another sees Brian Wilson, once again, as victim of Mike Love’s machinations. This camp has the support of, um, every news story that has reported on this, and of any disinterested person who knows anything at all about the band’s history.

(Camp B, outnumbering Camp A by 10 to 1)

Which version is correct? What is ‘true’? What isn’t?

How did all of this start?

1959.

June:

Mike Love graduates from Dorsey High in Los Angeles…and begins working for his father’s sheet metal business. In the evenings he works the night shift at a nearby gas station. It’s at this time that Brian and Carl join Mike in a performance at a high school talent show.

(From Keith Badman’s The Beach Boys – The Definitive Diary)

(Mike Love c.1960)

October:  for a school essay entitled My Philosophy, Brian Wilson wrote

I don’t want to settle with a mediocre life, but make a name for myself in my life’s work, which I hope will be music

(From here)

December:

(pics from Peter Ames Carlin’s Catch A Wave)

1967.

Less than eight years later – if Beach Boys hagiography is to be believed – Brian Wilson had a massive drugs-related nervous breakdown, and was never the same again, personally or professionally.

Many more years have passed since. Decades.

2012.

In September 2012, The Beach Boys Wrap 50 Years as Questions Arise About Their 51st:

The Beach Boys gathered at the Grammy Museum Sept. 18 to celebrate their 50th anniversary with a platinum award presentation, a museum fund-raising meet-and-greet with donors and an acoustic performance that followed a half-hour Q&A.

And, in the Grammy Museum Beach Boys exhibit, alongside

one of Dennis Wilson’s surfboards – a Hermosa model similar the one used on the covers of “Surfin’ Safari” and “Surfer Girl” – concert posters from and clothing from tours of the ’60s

is My Philosophy, the essay Wilson wrote while in high school.

53 ‘big ones’ later, here we are.

The passage of time (and a concomitant negation of time) has become key to The Beach Boys sense of self. Ever since the Endless Summer compilation redefined their music as a branded-nostalgia in 1974, a monomaniacal ‘beach/summer/sun/fun/lookatallthegirls’ mantra has defined what the name ‘The Beach Boys’ means.

Arguments for Brian Wilson as ‘a 20th century avant garde pop genius’ are often unpersuasive. Sean O’Hagan of The High Llamas, in an abortive Beach Boys album project from the 90s, described Brian Wilson as such to Joe Thomas (The Beach Boys’ 2011 producer). Thomas’ response?

Avant garde? Not the Brian Wilson I know.

Apart from the  1966/67 period, the rest of the band’s career has been retrospectively-rebranded, as either a simplistic nostalgia, or via a general misperception of what kind of composer Brian Wilson was and is.

15 Big Ones (being their lifespan as a band, plus the number of ‘big’ tracks contained within that small album) has become the model of Beach Boys Inc.’s own timeline since, alongside its platitudinous self-celebration as a ‘lovingly irrelevant’ anachronism.

Earlier this month, Mike Love declared that

The great thing about getting older is that you get a chance to tell the people in your life who matter what they mean to you. Throughout the course of the tour, Brian said some really kind things to me about how my early songs gave him the freedom to go deeper musically. His words meant so much to me and I returned the praise every chance I could.

Putting aside the notion that Brian Wilson, ‘throughout the course of the tour’ has perpetually praised Mike’s own ‘early songs’ (specifically?), which then gave Brian ‘the freedom to go deeper musically’ (do lawyers write this stuff for Mike?), it’s hard to believe that, for Mike Love, getting older is ‘great’…better that time stands still:

the most rewarding part about getting back together was standing in the studio, listening to playbacks of the new album and hearing all of our voices together. And Brian said it best: “Wow, it sounds like 1965 all over again.”

Bizarrely, in June this year, it was Mike himself who said ‘it’s 1965 all over again.’ Somehow the attribution for this observation has shifted…

The Beach Boys’ own history, as presented and re-presented by the band themselves, via commissioned films, documentaries, ‘celebrations’, only seems to acknowledge the passing of time. But the aspiration of pop music and its practitioners to remain young, ageless, obviously cannot win against the ravages of time. Try as they might:

(Mike Love, 2011. Is this man getting younger?!?)

But ‘time’, in pop music history, seems to move forward, while remaining in a permanent post-60s stasis – the presence of 1966/67, and what followed it, perpetually informs music critique, music journalism and ‘rock history’.

For the CEO of Beach Boys Inc., however, better to forget it was ever 1967…

So Smile was abandoned in May 1967.

What happened next?

Well, one version says:

Carl Wilson: Brian ran into all kinds of problems on Smile, he just couldn’t find the right direction to finish it, and then after all that hard work the album was abandoned. Brian withdrew from public life completely. We were supposed to headline the Monterey Pop Festival, but at the last minute Brian backed out. Monterey was a turning point in rock and roll, overnight the whole scene changed, and we felt as if we’d been passed by.

Poor poor Beach Boys (from here).

Another version:

Mike: Some of the fans like that kind of stuff from Smile, but I associate with it too directly, I’m too subjective about it. At one time, in the early- to mid-60s, Brian was very dynamic, resourceful, creative, disciplined in the studio. He was now shattered, afraid, paranoid, in his room, wouldn’t come out, couldn’t do anything.

Al Jardine: He spent more time upstairs in the bedroom.

Poor poor Brian (from here).

And furthermore:

Mike Love: I didn’t resonate well with what was going on at that time – he was writing these songs under the influence of various substances, and it didn’t make any sense to me!

Poor poor Mike. Etc.

That The Beach Boy’ own album Smiley Smile was an amateur-stoner substitute for the pin-sharp focus (anyone wanna argue otherwise?) of Brian Wilson’s own work for Smile, and that Brian’s presence during Smiley Smile‘s recording was purely to facilitate musical and technical aspects (that the Boys could barely approximate) doesn’t seem to click with Smiley Smile apologists. The band themselves were not particularly able:

Mike: We were stoned out of our heads . We were laughing our asses off when we recorded that stuff.
Carl: Yeah, a little hash.

(from David Felton’s The Healing Of Brother Brian, 1976, reprinted in Back To The Beach, p.142)

The hash resonated well with Mike then…but, whereas Brian’s own drug use produced ‘incomprehensible’ music that still fascinates into the next century, the band’s own indulgences produced one of the most half-assed, half-realised drug albums of the 1960s.

Oh well. What’s done is done. You can’t go back in time and fix it. But there is The Smile Sessions.

Smile‘s history, and its mediation into 2011 (via the promotional drive for The Smile Sessions), still holds that Brian’s problems with drugs ended the album. That ‘red herring‘ is addressed here, kind of.

However, looking at an itemised post-Smile chronology, it’s not clear exactly when Brian Wilson fitted his ‘drug breakdown’ into his busy schedule.

Of course there were many other factors at work that contributed to Smile‘s collapse – Domenic Priore said in 1995 that,

simply put, Smile was not released in its time (early 1967) due to legal complications between Capitol Records and The Beach Boys

(from When Two Great Saints Meet [about Brian, Van Dyke and Orange Crate Art], reprinted in Kingsley Abbott’s Back To The Beach)

However, even after the Smile album as scheduled was cancelled, Capitol briefly considered the release of an abbreviated version (which would have included tracks such as Do You Like Worms, Cabin Essence and of course Surf’s Up), and this would overlap with Smiley Smile‘s tracklist. The label thought it feasible (even if their motivations were purely to recoup).

Why didn’t this happen? Who knows.

It would take a revisionist archaeology (and an immunity from lawsuits) to uncover everything that put a stop to Smile. Extant documentation (and at times scant documentation – it’s what’s missing that can seem the more telling) corroborates, but sometimes contradicts the multiplicity of explanations for Smile‘s non-completion.

But, much more importantly: what caused the subsequent cessation of Brian Wilson’s own creative work?

A documentation of anybody’s day-to-day life feels almost habitual these days. If Smile were happening now, we would all be following TheBeachBoysOfficial twitter feed and facebook updates; the BWSmile feed might offer a contradictory version (would BW unfriend TBBO?).

But for events that occurred over 40 years ago, that there is any available documentation at all is in itself unlikely. The Beach Boys’ own negation of Smile should have successfully kept evidence of the album’s near-completion likewise unavailable – but there it is, across a number of different published timelines. None could claim to be ‘definitive’, and are only as useful as any author’s research and sources. But there has been an enormous amount of Beach Boys archeological research – into tape archives, record label internal memos, print and press – and none of it seems to have been done by the band themselves, or even encouraged by them.

Pop music history is driven by endless narratives, and most of these are supported by an imbalanced mix of ‘fact’ and received opinion. I cannot argue that anything I have written, about a history and a narrative which happened while I was a small child, on the other side of the world, can be any more reliable.

And even with annotations and a commentary, while a selective chronology may offer questions maybe unanswered (or even unasked), any reading of the events that followed Smile can obviously be considered in a number of different ways.

So what is actually ‘true’?

If anyone were presented with any aspect of their own life, laid out as a timetabled series of events, would any of it have verismilitude, seem familiar? Fortunately, most of us have not had our every move and public utterance tallied and plotted, as if stalked by a biographer (unless of course you’re on Facebook) – but, being in the public eye, living in public, and with observers and commentators keen to look for patterns and proofs…this must be difficult indeed.

If you crave ‘fame’, this is what you would have to live with. If you don‘t crave fame per se, but gain it (as Brian Wilson did), you still have to live with it. Better to retreat if you want any privacy at all.

What follows this is a post-Smile Beach Boys timeline; some notes and comments follow each year.

The selection of these sequential events depends absolutely upon Keith Badman’s The Beach Boys Definitive Diary; Brad Elliott’s Friends Era Chronology (p.123-126 of The Dumb Angel Gazette #3) from 1989; Peter Ames Carlin’s Catch A Wave; Craig Slowinski and Alan Boyd’s Smile Sessionography (on pages 20-23 of The Sessions book; pages are not numbered) and any other book, article, history or chronology that corroborates (or contradicts) that these things happened (or didn’t), at this time, and in this place.

This chronology of ‘significant events’ that occurred after May 1967 borrows from authors and sources who have done actual research (you know, looking further than wikipedia, or even leaving the computer completely); publication of their respective research gives it legitimacy, and thus reliability. I have taken information from their work to support my own points.

But I wasn’t there – and mostly neither were Keith Badman, Brad Elliott, Pete Ames Carlin…and, while Badman’s Definitive Diary is ‘definitive’, using his research in delineating exactly when, where, how, and by whom Brian Wilson’s post-Smile ambitions were thwarted ultimately just becomes wearing…

Not every detail or event is of consequence, and day-by-day specifics post-1969 kind of blur into each other; finding ‘significant details’ becomes more difficult as details become less significant. Brian Wilson’s documented life (outside of small efforts in his work) becomes visibly entrenched into the patterns it would follow for years to come.

And, like any kind of habitual behaviour, Brian’s life probably became what it was through reiteration, rather than the byproduct of any kind of choice.

Final entry is round about 1974, where my own interest fizzles out – coincident with the death of any creative currency left within The Beach Boys themselves: their Endless Summer – as a cabaret band destined for the fairgrounds – begins here.

A tentative (but hopefully self-revealing) ‘conclusion’ will be volunteered.

Critique, commentary and corrections will obviously be welcomed – but, as mentioned previously, ‘you’re wrong’, ‘I know better’ and ‘you’re a dick’ all remain, alas, as invalid here as in any other, you know, adult discourse.

30 October 2012 Update

All of the above was designed to preface a longer post that is still in process.

The title, a reliable Beach Boys timeline?, has a question mark at the end. This a common device in written English, and is often used to denote ambiguity.

In the above preamble, the legitimacy and veracity of sources used for this projected (and selective) timeline are outlined, as well as a comment or two about their respective reliability.

Was its title too subtle? Maybe.

If you’ve come here from a Beach Boys’ online discussion forum which linked to the above post ( October 29), it might be worth considering this post in context, rather than in isolation…but, as one small part of a year-long, 100,000 word+ personal exorcism, it may in itself seem meaningless.

As with an earlier intervention in May this year, this link prompted an immediate dismissal:

Aaahhh… I was with him right up to the point where he stated that Badman did original research and that by being published his claims had legitimacy and reliability. That’s where it all went “thud”. for me.

It went “thud” here:

This chronology of ‘significant events’ that occurred after May 1967 borrows from authors and sources who have done actual research (you know, looking further than wikipedia, or even leaving the computer completely); publication of their respective research gives it legitimacy, and thus reliability. I have taken information from their work to support my own points.

It’s a shame that the person “who was right with me” didn’t read any further past that point, as they might have seen the proviso that followed:

But I wasn’t there – and mostly neither were Keith Badman, Brad Elliott, Pete Ames Carlin…and, while Badman’s Definitive Diary is ‘definitive’, using his research in delineating exactly when, where, how, and by whom Brian Wilson’s post-Smile ambitions were thwarted ultimately just becomes wearing…

The notion of  ‘actual research (you know, looking further than wikipedia, or even leaving the computer completely)‘ was intended to reflect upon the sheer fucking laziness of a dependence upon online sources. It’s a common problem; schoolchildren these days often lose marks for that kind of intellectual lassitude.

That ‘publication of their respective research gives it legitimacy, and thus reliability‘ was likewise phrased with a certain…facetiousness? ‘Definitive’, framed in quotation marks, was intended to cast doubt upon its purported ‘definitive’ nature. This is another device that is quite common in written English. Any ‘definitive diary’ collated by non-involved parties is by nature a palimpsest.

Again, too nuanced? It would seem so; maybe I should be annotating my own stuff…

But, you see, the key part – the point, if you will – was that I wasn’t there; and neither were the authors of the research cited, whether in their own work or, as in the case of Keith Badman’s The Beach Boys Definitive Diary, a collation of other sources. I gather that the latter approach is still recognised by academia; pop music’s online fan world may have bettered academia’s limitations. I must have missed that paradigm shift. Ah well, one lives, one learns.

This point wasn’t obvious? Fair enough. But, while my stylistic affectations may have fallen flat, my argument still stands.

And, as far as I can tell, my critic wasn’t there either.

What is in any way ‘reliable’ about any of this? With Beach Boys Corp. continually rewriting and representing its own histories, we’re graced with the ‘everything you know is wrong’ revisionism of one Mr. Mike Love:

I have seen where he has said that I didn’t like the SMiLE album. Others have said that it didn’t come out because I was against it. First of all, it was not my decision nor was I asked or involved in the decision  to shelve the album.

To Brian, I would say that the tracks, the instrumental parts of The SMiLE Sessions, are some of the most amazing recordings…

(from The Smile Sessions sleevenotes, 2011)

And from The astonishing genius of Brian Wilson (24 June 2011):

Love seems to have unexpectedly overcome his animosity to Smile, declaring that a forthcoming box set of the Beach Boys’ original sessions for the album features “cousin Brian at his creative peak… I’m unaware of anything that comes close in popular music.”

Van Dyke Parks responds:

“I’m just incredulous. I can’t believe that he’s an enthusiast. I wouldn’t condemn him if it took him some time to come to that conclusion. I’ll just say that they have an expression in Texas that goes along with such a delayed reaction and that is: he’s a little slow out of the shoot. All hat and no cowboy,” he says, before dissolving into laughter again

and he was there…

It’s a world turned upside-down.

The whole Beach Boys Corp. version of events is a fiction in flux. And a poor one at that: plot holes everywhere. The most anyone can work with is the aforementioned published sources – unless there are previously-undisclosed time travel technologies at work informing more reliable sources.

Is this, in itself, not completely fucking obvious?

Maybe it isn’t…

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