Last year's movie Love & Mercy succeeded where biopics about musicians normally fail. It showed the creative process of making music. In painstaking detail, it demonstrated how in 1966, Brian Wilson produced The Beach Boys masterpiece Pet Sounds. "The movie was very accurate and well portrayed." Wilson told New Times, right down to the bizarre location of the piano where he and Mike Love got the idea for "Good Vibrations". "I liked to capture the feeling of being at the beach when I made music. I had a lot of money in the bank so I put a piano in a giant sandbox in my living room."
Beyond the zany '60's far-outness, the movie showed the mental breakdown and helplessness Wilson suffered; this kept him reclusive for decades. On the telephone, though, Wilson was very lucid, extremely polite, and much more humble than a musical genius has any right to be. "It's still quite a thrill any time I hear a Beach Boys song come on the radio." he said.
After the '60's the world didn't get its fair share of Wilson, but the 74-year-old has been making up for lost time in the 21st century. In 2004, he finally released the classic lost album Smile. "When we premiered the record in London, it was unbelievable. People were laughing and crying."
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Wilson also has been steadily touring. His latest expedition which gets to Hard Rock Live September 14 is celebrating Pet Sounds' 50th anniversary. The first legs of the tour had an insane setlist of 36 songs. "We do about 20 Beach Boys classics. We do the whole Pet Sounds album and duplicated it so it sounds exactly like the album. Then we do a good encore."
Surprisingly the man who has shaped Western civilization's idea of what the beach is with songs like "Surfin' USA" , says he hardly ever gets to the beach. Where, then, does he get inspiration and stamina to play these long shows? "When I'm home in LA, I'm either at home or at a deli five minutes from my home where I have all my meals. Or I'll take walks in the park to get my legs under me."
The movie brought back a lot of good and bad memories. With all the fame, all the adulation, all the #1 records, Wilson says there was one that stood out as his favorite Beach Boys moment. "When I first heard Carl (his brother) sing "God Only Knows", that was my favorite."
Brian Wilson Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary Tour
8 p.m. Wednesday, September 14, at Hard Rock Live, 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood; 866-502-7529; seminolehardrockhollywood.com. Tickets cost $40 to $80 plus fees via ticketmaster.com.