Maybe beauty is your thing. Maybe family dynamics fascinate you. Or maybe it’s mental illness or addiction or eccentricity. Maybe you’re interested in the intersection of commerce and art, or the rise (and fall) of the American music industry, or simply post-WWII America in general. Maybe irony is your strong suit, or maybe it’s heart-on-your-sleeve earnestness. Maybe you’re sensitive and emotional, maybe you’re more cerebral. Maybe you like softer music, or maybe something more aggressive. Maybe you’re into Top 40, maybe you prefer indie obscurity. Or maybe it’s classical that you enjoy, either choral or instrumental. Maybe you’ve got an abiding passion for facial hair. Maybe sex is what has the most, um, appeal. Or maybe, hopefully, it’s love and mercy and hope and the reality of God. Maybe it’s all of these things at once.
No matter who you are or where you’re coming from, you will find some entry point to the world of The Beach Boys. This is because The Beach Boys, for whatever reason, come as close to running the full gamut of human experience and emotion as any pop group possibly could. Their story (and music!) contains all the ups and downs, left-turns and nervous breakdowns, reinventions and regressions, banality and weirdness of life itself.
Of course, no hour-long breakout session could possibly do the band justice. But one can certainly try! Indeed, at our Charlottesville Conference next month (9/28-29), and in honor of their 50th anniversary, I doing just that in a session called “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Beach Boys.” And if that’s not incentive enough, here’s an excerpt of an absurdly candid interview with Brian Wilson from 1988 that captures some of the conflict:
We go out there and we work together. When I’m working with the Beach Boys, I’m not comfortable just sitting there thinking, I’m talking to myself saying, “What am I doing up here? I don’t even feel comfortable playing with these guys. And I say to myself I like it though. What am I doing playing with these guys? And then I turn round and say I love playing with the Beach Boys. It goes back and forth, you know what I mean?
If you could change something to make your relationship with that band better, what would it be?
…Oh God, what would I change? That’s a lot to lay on me. Overall, that’s too overall for me. I can’t answer that question.
What would it take to work in a studio situation with them again?
I think maybe it would take some self-control and some logic and sanity. And some understanding. Maybe a little understanding.
What was the working relationship like for the last studio album?
…It was fairly alright except that I was confronted with something that I didn’t like: being with the Beach Boys. That’s what I didn’t like. But at the same time I love being with them.
And here’s an interview from 1976, in which a clearly high Brian credits his willpower for helping him kick the drugs:
Finally, as a bonus, lest you think there’s no theological value here, a sermon I still can’t believe I preached: