The Beach Boys
by Lindsey Buckingham
Rolling Stone Magazine RS 946,
April 15, 2004.
The Beach Boys showed the way, and not just to California. Sure,
they may have sold the California Dream to a lot of people, but for
me, it was Brian Wilson showing how far you might have to go in
order to make your own musical dream come true.
In the beginning, I was someone who grew up in California and was a
lover of the early music that he and the Beach Boys made. Later, I
would relate to Brian's struggle as an artist against a machine that
tended toward serving the bottom line. Brian fought hard against the
industry attitude that if it works, run it into the ground. Music
meant much more to him than that. He was trying to do something so
much bigger than that with his teenage symphonies to God. In the
process, he really rocked the boat and changed the world.
When the Beach Boys started, Brian was taking European sensibilities
and infusing them into a Chuck Berry format. Those harmonies were
based on the Four Freshmen, with a little church element added to
it. He put all that on top of Chuck Berry rock & roll, and the
result sounded so fresh. I remember hearing "Surfin' Safari" first
when I was in sixth grade and the way that record jumped out of the
radio. It had the beat, the sense of joy, the explosion rock & roll
gave to a lot of us. But it also had this incredible lift, this
amazing kind of chemical reaction that seemed to happen inside you
when you heard the whole thing.
Pet Sounds is the acknowledged masterpiece, and it's everything it's
said to be, with Brian taking some of the influences he got from
Phil Spector and making something all his own. But even before that
there's Side Two of The Beach Boys Today!, which is really just one
ballad after another and is for me one of the great sides on a rock
album. Those are beautiful numbers -- "Please Let Me Wonder," "Kiss
Me Baby," "She Knows Me Too Well," "In the Back of My Mind" -- that
foreshadow Brian's angst and show where he's starting to expose his
vulnerability. A lot of what you find later on Pet Sounds or Smile,
you could find in a different form early on.
Today it's nice to see that Brian's in a place where he can do what
he wants without the pressure of selling or having to be the support
system for so many others. That's great, because he gave the rest of
us more than his fair share of good vibrations.
Lindsey Buckingham contributed
this article as a written review of Brian Wilson (of The Beach Boys)
for the "50 Greatest Artists of All Time" in Rolling Stone Magazine.