Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Brian Wilson

The Beach Boys were, obviously, more the music of my parents' generation than my own. In fact, it's fair to say that until the age of 13/14, I was only very dimly aware of them, having been raised on a musical diet of Motown, musicals and MOR pop. Then my Mum married for the second time and her new husband, who'd been a semi-pro musician, moved in, bringing country music, the Beach Boys and a whole collection of guitars with him. To the harmony-obsessed teenager I was, the Beach Boys were a revelation. There was one Greatest Hits album I'd listen to for hours on end, trying - and usually failing - to sing the different vocal lines, feeling the tingle I still get today from some of those soaring chords. Because those arrangements are sheer genius, make no mistake. A sort of crossover between 1950s glee club and the falsetto singing of some of the great Motown vocal groups, it's impossible to sing them as written and NOT sound like the Beach Boys. That's before we even get to the songs - beautiful, strange tunes recounting a world of ice-cream parlours, surfing and T-birds that had already long since disappeared - and indeed had never really made it to my side of the Atlantic. Yet those songs had an immeasurable influence on all the music that followed them. That's why I was so keen to see Brian Wilson at Le Grand Rex last night. In a way, he's like the ultimate musical reference. I can see why some might be disappointed. As BenoƮt said, it WAS like watching a Beach Boys tribute band only with Brian Wilson. The average age of the audience and, indeed, the band was about 55-60. But to hear "God Only Knows," "In My Room," and "Good Vibrations" sung by the man who wrote them was more enough to transport me to a better place. Sublime.

4 comments:

ViVi said...

I adore the Beach Boys as well. I can still hear my father singing the intro to Barbara Ann - that always brings a smile! I understand that some people might have been disappointed but "only Brian Wilson" is still quite a lot! It sounds like the concert was wonderful!

Starman said...

Back in the day when I, too, was playing with a band, we covered several of their songs. Was Brian alone, or did he have another group to back him?

ackamaracus said...

I interviewed Brian Wilson in California about ten years ago. He was charming but very very sleepy. Recently married to a woman more than half his age, he was recovering from a very tiring life as a rock icon. I heard him on France Inter the other day, lucid and bright, modest and awake. I'm sorry to have missed the concert and was fascinated to hear that he reckons "smile" is a better album than "pet songs". Any comment?
I'm very fond of rhubarb yoghurt. Do make it yourself?

rhino75 said...

Brian was enough for me, ViVi, you're right and I had a great time! Starman, he came with a pretty hefty band, eight-piece I'd say from memory, lots of keyboards and guitars. And they all sang backup too. There was even a female backing vocalist! Ackamaracus, welcome!! You INTERVIEWED Brian? I need to know more...but wait a second, do I sound like someone who makes homemade yoghurt? That implies levels of genteel domesticity that are off my radar - Activia or NOTHING should be my motto!!