Category Archives: Brian Wilson

Hot Air

Head Sounds

I don’t know if I’ve ever made a movie recommendation in these precincts. If not, here’s the first: Go see the Brian Wilson biopic, Love & Mercy.

Both Paul Dano and John Cusack portray Wilson’s descent into and return from debilitating craziness about as well as any actor could. A lot of people have been saying that Cusack’s take on Wilson is inferior to Dano’s. I don’t buy it. Cusack, who plays Wilson from the 1980s, has all the tics and quirks down. (Dano plays Wilson as he records the Pet Sounds album in 1966.) You might watch Cusack-as-Wilson and say the actor’s rendition is sort of…, oh, I don’t know, empty. Well, that’s only because Brian Wilson — post-LSD, post-breakdown, under the thumb of a mad shrink — was nothing more than a shell of a human being.

Wilson

Brian Douglas Wilson

Even today, supposedly back to normal and “cured” of his own madness, Wilson has the look of a man who’s witnessed the atomic blast that destroyed his hometown and is now trance-walking through life, waiting for the next airburst. Panic disorder, auditory hallucinations, paranoia — they’re as devastating to an individual as the explosion of a W88 warhead is to a population.

As a dramatic study of psychiatric illness, L&M is superb. It’s even better as the reimagined tableau of a genius turning his entire existence into a musical instrument in the service of producing “the greatest album ever made.”

That’s what Brian Wilson was trying to do when he was conjuring Pet Sounds. You can make the argument that he succeeded and I wouldn’t object.

God Only Knows

That said, here’s the last in my series of songs dedicated to The Loved One during her birthday week. If you do go to see Love & Mercy, you’ll learn who once said this was, “[T]he greatest song ever written.” You’ll be surprised.

One more thing: If you love music and want a glimpse into the making of a classic, watch this two-part vid [Part 1, Part 2] on the making of GOK in the studio. Then watch/listen to the final cut below.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“All politics is local.” — Thomas P. (Tip) O’Neill

HAIL TO THE CHIEF

Admit it, the first time you heard or read the words Mitch Daniels and president this morning, your heart skipped a beat.

Once you caught your breath and realized he’s only going to become the big boss at Purdue University after his gubernatorial term concludes, you might have thought, Good, now we won’t have to worry about him running for Prez of the USA in 2016.

Ladies And Gentlemen, The President Of…

Not so fast, kiddies.

I direct you to your history books. A fellow named Dwight Eisenhower took the gig as president of Columbia University after he’d helped whack the Nazis in World War II. He held the job for a year, during which it was clear he was far more interested in using the post as a platform to position himself as a statesman than he was in running the university. Next thing people knew, he was being dragged into the 1952 Republican National Convention, saying Aw, shucks, and running for the White House.

Part of Ike’s reasoning for taking the Columbia job was, as he put it, to advance the cause of education in a democracy.

Follow me here, now. Mitch Daniels has taken his lumps as the governor who oversaw massive budget cuts for Indiana schools. Daniels’ rep as a benefactor of public schooling was shot all to hell.

Now, mirabile dictu, he’s going to lead one of the state’s two most high profile educational institutions after he leaves Indianapolis.

Sounds to me like a very nice strategy for a guy who wants to repair his image. In fact, he might hope to become known as a respected educator by the year 2016.

PLAYTIME

Click.

SMILE FOR BRIAN

Happy 70th birthday to Brian Wilson.

Brian Wilson

The leader of the Beach Boys was one of the musical geniuses of 20th Century America. The BB album “Pet Sounds” has been lauded as one of the five best discs in the history of the rock era.

The harmonies he arranged throughout the Beach Boys’ run verged on the spiritual at times.

If the very idea of Beach Boys’ music makes you smirk, I suggest you give some of their cuts a listen once again. Try to hear them as music rather than as cheesy cultural artifacts of the 60s. You’ll be surprised.

More Than This

THE CONSCIENCE OF A NATION

The Bloomington City Council is thinking of making a statement about a policy that’s anything but local once again.

Our elected municipal leaders want to make sure the world knows they disapprove of the US Supreme Court Citizens United ruling that essentially gave corporations and big organizations the same free speech rights as individuals. You know, the corporate personhood idea that the Reagan/Bush/Bush court so lovingly bestowed upon us.

Some Of Our Best Friends Are Corporations

It reminds me of the letter the council sent to Arizona Governor Jan Brewer a couple of years ago when she was fixing to sign that state’s draconian immigration bill.

My guess is Gov. Brewer tossed the letter into the circular file.

I mean, honestly, did our councilors really hope that Brewer might read the letter, take her glasses off, stare out her office window, and muse on the moral implications of the bill? Did they expect her to whisper to herself, “Golly gee, these people really make sense”?

Now That I Think About It…

Now the Council wants to proclaim itself in favor of a constitutional amendment to un-declare corporations as people.

My only hope is they didn’t spend too much time debating the point.

(And, just to clarify my position, the Citizens United decision was among the dumbest-assed things the US Supreme Court has done in decades.)

GOD ONLY KNOWS

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