1. Veteran SoCal socio-musical historian Domenic Priore more than ably launches our story over a wealth of Eastman-colored freeway and beach footage, drawing, as only he can, that all-important connection from Gidget to Dick Dale all the way to teenage Wilson’s Hawthorne, Calif., music room.
2. We see some very cool vintage Four Freshmen footage, and the undeniable influence that quartet’s equally cool jazz vocal stylings had on Wilson and his Beach Boys, explained to us by none other than First Lady of the Wilsonian Bass Guitar, Carol Kaye.
3. Next, back-to-back clips of Chuck Berry serenading “Sweet Little Sixteen” at The TAMI Show and the young Beach Boys themselves belting out their just-released “Surfin’ USA” illustrate, as thousands of words over the years have til now failed to, why Berry’s name is the one listed as composer of the latter hit.
4. Similarly, Inside the Music of Brian Wilson author Prof. Philip Lambert takes to the piano to juxtapose Phil Spector‘s “Be My Baby” with Wilson’s equally ingenious “answer” song “Don’t Worry, Baby” … as Spector’s former Wrecking Crew-man Hal Blaine gets a little Prison Wall of Sound joke in at his ol’ boss’ everlasting expense.
5. We get to hear lots of fly-on-the-acoustic-tile recording studio chatter, stretching all the way back to the making of that very first Beach Boy record, “Surfin’.” Not to mention a terrifying example of father/manager/producer [sic!] Murry “I’m a Genius, Too” Wilson putting the psychological screws into his son’s brain at the infamous “Help Me, Rhonda” vocal session (which ended at least one person’s career).
6. Why, we even get to hear Winterreise by Franz Schubert and Robert Schumann‘s Dichterliebe used in the very same sentence as Pet Sounds!
7. Three Dog Night tripper Danny Hutton, however, has an even better word for this all: “Marijuana!”
8. Original Beach Boy David Marks talks about all the treble Capitol Records liked to put on the band’s Fender guitars, while current Beach Boy Bruce Johnston talks about all the trouble Capitol Records liked to put Brian Wilson through whenever he dared stray from his original musical sun-n-fun formula.
9. Which reminds me: Wilson’s most noteworthy-by-far collaborator, Van Dyke Parks, is shown attempting to explain why Mike Love never could get a lyric such as “Over and over the crow flies uncover the cornfield” into his head, let alone out of his mouth.
10. And we end with lifelong Beach Boy friend, confidante and concert promoter Fred Vail still, 40 years later, shedding a righteous tear recalling how he failed to get the band’s “Add Some Music to Your Day” single added to a powerful East Coast radio station playlist back in the daze because, he was told, “The Beach Boys aren’t hip anymore.”
Needless to say, said program director —not to mention his station (and Top 40 radio in general) — is long, long gone, Vail for one survives to tell this and many other poignant Beach Boys tales and, of this there can be no doubt, Brian Wilson’s magical melodies are poised to enter their second half-century of faithful, never disappointing service to one and all.
This magnificent 190-minute, two-DVD package, and the fine cast of musicians, historians and Wilson pals and players therein, do a most remarkable job in explaining to us exactly why. Brian Wilson: Songwriter 1962—1969 should indeed be considered required viewing by all who still love to add good vibes to their days.
— Musician/writer Gary Pig Gold is the co-founder of the To M’Lou Music label.