The Brian Wilson Debate at City Pages

Categories: Imported

Brianwilson1111.jpg:

Below is a recent email exchange at City Pages on the subject of covering Brian Wilson, who has just released a complete version of SMiLE, maybe the most celebrated unreleased record in rock&roll (listen to it here). The former Beach Boy kicks off his new tour in Minneapolis Thursday, Sept. 30 at the Orpheum, and is the subject (uh oh) of a Matthew Wilder piece in Wednesday's paper.

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From: Jim Walsh

Sent: Tue 9/21/2004 10:45 AM

To: Peter Scholtes; Lindsey Thomas; Bridgette Reinsmoen; Paul Demko; Melissa Maerz; Dylan Hicks; Kate Silver; G. R. Anderson; Britt Robson

Subject: Re: Alist suggestions

I can do PJ Harvey, Brian Wilson, Chuck Prophet and/or Visqueen...

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From: Dylan Hicks

Sent: Tuesday, September 21, 2004 11:02 AM

I'm pretty sure I have Brian Wilson's latest solo album around my office. It's terrible, worse than the last solo album ("Imagination'") and thus the worst thing he's ever done. Also keep in mind, whoever writes the A-list, that the guy can no longer reliably sing in tune.

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From: G. R. Anderson

Sent: Tuesday, September 21, 2004 11:04 AM

Does anybody consider the ongoing Brian Wilson revival to be exploitive, overwrought, silly and simply depressing? I do. I mean, "redoing" Smiley Smile, and then building a tour around it? With a guy that is a near-vegetable 80 percent of the time? Sheesh. I'm not convinced Brian is even aware of what he's been "doing" the last five years or so.

Not that we shouldn't A-list it, however. Freak shows with exceptional backing bands are pretty much our domain. But then, we should A-list the Beach Boys at Mystic Lake as well.

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From: Melissa Maerz

Sent: Tuesday, September 21, 2004 11:11 AM

I don't agree. Are there even any original members left in the "Beach Boys" who play at Mystic Lake? I don't like Wilson's new solo album, but I think Smile is probably the only reason I would go to see Wilson on tour: Even if the show is not "good," it's bound to be fascinating. Plus, I'm tired of hearing it on a cassette tape that someone taped from someone else who taped it from five other degrees of separation. Won't it be cool to hear it without the tape hiss?

In any case, Matt Wilder is going to write about the album at length for us, so I'm sure he'll have something fiery to say about it!

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From: Dylan Hicks

Sent: Tuesday, September 21, 2004 11:20 AM

Mike Love and Al Jardine are still in the current Beach Boys, as far as I know. Plus Bruce Johnston, who wrote some of their better early '70s tunes. Without Carl, though, I don't think of the current line-up as being legit. I would expect some of the solo portion to be good. The self-titled solo album form '88 is very good. "Love and Mercy" and "Melt Away" stand with his best Beach Boys tunes. I also like the "Orange Crate Art" album with Van Dyke Parks, and he might do some of that, since it would fit in nicely with the "Smile" material.

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From: Kate Silver

Sent Tue 9/21/2004 12:09 PM

What about John Stamos?

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From: G.R. Anderson

Sent: Tuesday, September 21, 2004 12:10 PM

Oh, he *was* in the group up until not that long ago, I swear. Too funny. I think of him as the successor to Blondie Champlin, except without the singing part.

And, hey, cheesy production aside, I'd rate "Kokomo" as a fine piece of songwriting.

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From: Dylan Hicks

Sent: Tuesday, September 21, 2004 11:15 AM

By the way, I'm a believer. In the early '90s, I put out (one issue only) of a Beach Boys fanzine.

Smile11111.jpg:

Smiley Smile1111.jpg:

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From: Lindsey Thomas

Sent: Tue 9/21/2004 11:11 AM

SMiLE and Smiley Smile are two different albums (granted, they share some tracks). I've heard SMiLE and really enjoyed it. His voice isn't as strong as it used to be but it's better than I was expecting. Anyway, I'm not looking forward to the non-SMiLE half of the Orpheum show but I've already got my tickets.

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From: G. R. Anderson

Sent: Tuesday, September 21, 2004 11:26 AM

Smile, right. Not Smiley Smile. My fault. But even so, I'd say the record is merely an interesting artifact that was rightfully abandoned. (Hell, it's not even as good as Dennis Wilson's "Pacific Ocean Blue.")

And, for the record, Mike Love and Bruce Johnston count as Beach Boys in my book. And the material will be better. The cheese factor will be high, but will be rivaled by the Brian Wilson show, in a different sense.

God only knows how much I hate Mike Love, but even Brian admits that his lyrics made some of their seminal hits. And Dylan's right, Brian can't sing anymore. (And the piano is a prop.)

I say all of this as someone who loves, to this day, Love and Mercy, and even got goosebumps at the first Brian comeback show.

If McCartney did a tour around the rerelease of Let It Be, would we A-list it? I wonder.

-Eugene Landy

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From: Dylan Hicks

Sent: Tue 9/21/2004 11:31 AM

We A-listed McCartney the last time he came through. We certainly would if he were playing at a theater!

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From: G.R. Anderson

Sent: Tuesday, September 21, 2004 11:45 AM

Yeah, I remember. I also remember having to push for that listing. And, I wasn't saying we wouldn't, I was literally wondering. One guy is a good songwriter and smart producer with flashes of brilliance who somehow got hip with the indie crowd. (Despite his inability to write lyrics.) The other is simply the greatest living songwriter of the 20th Century.

But maybe that's beside the point. I assume we've listed Brian every time he's come through town. I guess the essence of my question is: Does this deserve it again? I'm clearly in the minority, and the staff crank. So, have at it, whomever.

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From G.R. Anderson

Sent: Tuesday, September 21, 2004 11:45 AM

And, coincidentally, a friend sent this to me yesterday (see? I'm as deep into the Brian mystique as anyone, in some cases):

Brian Wilson on the Mike Douglas show. I've seen the video of his performance on the show in 1976, but here's a full 15-min audio-only clip, including a fast-talking coherent Brian talking about drugs, meditation and more:

http://www.brianwilson.com/media/audio/mike_douglas/md.ram

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From: Peter Scholtes

Sent: Tuesday, September 21, 2004 11:31 AM

Anyone mind if I publish this correspondence on my blog?

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From: Bridgette Reinsmoen

Sent: Tuesday, September 21, 2004 3:14 PM

It is entertaining. But no one needs to write the A-List because Melissa has assigned a piece on Wilson. Plus we ran a fall arts blurb.

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From: Dylan Hicks

Sent: Tuesday, September 21, 2004 3:22 PM

And we're devoting the following week's cover to a collectively written concert review. Idea for non-controversial A-list ref: Brian Wilson is a noted pop musician from Los Angeles.

Also, anyone who hasn't yet seen my new hunched Dr. Pepper walk is welcome to stop by my office.

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From: Peter Scholtes

Sent: Monday, September 27, 2004 1:10 PM

If no one objects (note: I'll make it clear Bridgette is the A-list editor and decisions are ultimately up to her), I'm going to post the whole Brian Wilson email exchange on my blog ASAP.

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From: Dylan Hicks

Sent: Monday, September 27, 2004 1:16 PM

Fine with me. But please delete the final note regarding my Dr. Pepper dance.


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