Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall and Redemption of the "Beach Boys'" Brian Wilson (Anglais) Relié – 16 juin 2006
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On the pro side, I thought this was a very well-written book that carries the reader along quickly and enjoyably. Carlin has taken a clear-headed approach and avoids getting mired in the grotesque stories of Murray Wilson's alleged abuse (though he doesn't stray from discussions of Murray either). Further, although I suspect Mike Love might disagree, I think he gives the reader a fair amount of insight in to the frustrations that the other members of the band may have experienced in dealing with Brian after he stopped touring (and especially from Pet Sounds on) and how that impacted their relationships.
However, on the con side: I think the book really doesn't spend nearly enough time detailing the "Fall, and Redemption" of Brian. Though he mentions some incidents on airplanes in the early/mid 1960s, the bizarre behavior in the decades thereafter, and some of the behavior of "Dr." Landy, I don't feel like it was detailed enough for me to get much insight into what caused the breakdowns and fall (and what the fall really entailed) and whether the redemption was truly a redemption (his descriptions of a waxy Brian performing make me question whether he has returned to health).
Further, although I appreciate Carlin's skeptical eye regarding past Beach Boys biographies, interviews and other writings, I feel like the book is somewhat too reliant on them and that there are too few new revelations in the reporting.
I recognize that it is difficult to encapsulate an approximately 45 year career and 60 year life into 300 pages, but I feel like the net result was less meaty than I had hoped.
Pity rich pop star Brian Wilson. First he was bullied and humiliated by his father, the repulsive Murray Wilson. Later he was bullied and harrassed by Mike Love. Years after that he was taken prisoner by a deranged psychiatrist who bullied him 24 hours a day. What all these people wanted was - more hit songs! More! Another million seller! Now!
The exhilaration of making hit record after hit record quickly became a relentless treadmill. Brian was the sole creative force in the group. By the age of 22 he was composer, lead singer, bass player, arranger and producer. After two years of that he had his first breakdown and quit touring. The wave crested in 1965 when everything was working out - they'd fired Murray as manager, Brian stayed home and wrote more hits and the group toured. But then he began to change. Within three years there was "Pet Sounds", the still astonishing single "Good Vibrations", and then the disaster of "Smile", Brian's increasing psychological problems, and by 1968 the Beach Boys were pulling crowds of 200, hopelessly out of fashion. The 1960s was a very fast decade.
During the next 20 years (!) Brian was not a functioning human being. His colossal intake of drugs and food was in inverse proportion to his tiny output of songs. The whole sorry saga makes for gruesome reading. "As Carnie remembers, her father began most of his days with a dozen eggs and an entire loaf of bread" and for dinner "he'd eat his entire steak in two bites". From the late 60s to the mid-80s the other Beach Boys were perpetually dancing around trying to get Brian to lay more golden eggs for them. They tried anything they could think of, including tough love (pretending to fire him from the group). They ended up hiring a 24-hour-a-day showbiz psychiatrist to rescue him, Dr Eugene Landy. And before you could say "medical ethics" Brian had started writing songs again but they were credited to "Wilson/Landy". So the Beach Boys sued the psychiatrist.
The grim story does have a kind of happy ending though - after trudging through this (always well-written and readable) catalogue of unhappiness we arrive at the year 2001 when Brian, now married to Melinda Ledbetter (who sounds like one of the few really nice people in the whole book), finally - 34 years later! - finishes "Smile" and even performs it live on stage to universal acclaim. As you finish the book you think "Enough - I don't ever want to read another word about these horrible people or about poor tormented Brian - I just want to listen to their beautiful music". And in some ways I'm sorry I did read this book. It's strange to admire the Beach Boys' great mass of brilliant music so much but to dislike them all as human beings, except Brian of course. You don't dislike him, but you do pity him. I don't believe the author intended to perform hatchet jobs on all these people, he just let the awful facts speak for themselves. And now I'm hoping the remaining Beach Boys won't sue me for this review.
Carlin provides plenty of new material to satisfy those of us who already own (ahem) every book on the subject of Brian Wilson. If you're just starting to read about the BBs, Brian Wilson, or the Wilson-free Group Currently d/b/a the Beach Boys, this is a good place to start.