Brian’s Hidden Beauties CXXVIII: Fantasy Is Reality/Bells Of Madness

July 30th, 2015


Another quite convoluted song history comes along with today’s hidden beauty. Even the title Fantasy Is Reality/Bells Of Madness betrays the many parties involved. Released in 1994 on a Rob Wasserman album of collaborations, it was written by Sam Phillips, Wasserman and Brian, and sung by Carnie Wilson.  The combination of Brian and his daughter also reflected something of a reunion after the Landy years - a year later Brian married Melinda.

The song is often cited as the highlight of the album, and stands alone as a beautiful, poignant track, especially the Bells Of Madness section which may be more Sam Phillips input. The Fantasy Is Reality is a bit of a Shortenin’ Bread rewrite, but it does all hang together, and some credit must go to Brian, even as an inspiration.

Brian’s Hidden Beauties CXXVII: The Spirit Of Rock & Roll

July 25th, 2015

Image result for "brian wilson" "the spirit of rock and roll"

The Spirit Of Rock & Roll has one of the most convoluted histories of any Brian Wilson track. Originally performed by the Beach Boys , including Brian at a 25th anniversary show in 1986, it was then recorded by Brian for his second solo album, Sweet Insanity, which remains unreleased. Brian’s solo recording of the song included a version featuring a certain Bob Dylan! The song remained an “unofficial” item until 2006, when it was released on the Hallmark Beach Boys collection Songs From Here & Back, ostensibly a Beach Boys recording, but actually done by Brian and his band!

So what of the song, which treads a nostalgic line of early rock and roll in the same vein as Do You Remember? and the unreleased Slightly American Music. It’s a fairly straightforward melodic rock song, but with the sort of soaring melody that does bear the hallmark of Brian Wilson. It’s certainly an obscure, fascinating and worthwhile beauty.

Guess You Have To Hear This

July 19th, 2015

Image result for pageant material Kacey Musgraves made herself known to Brian Wilson fans as co-writer and singer on Guess You Had To Be There from Brian’s latest album. The track is a bit of a grower, and the fact that Musgraves was something of a country “rebel” made her worth checking out.

So I have to admit that her new and quite successful album Pageant Material is something of a guilty pleasure. There are some barn-dance stompers like the single Biscuits and Good Ol’ Boys Club which are fun but lightweight. But the real meat here is a series of mid-tempo and slower tracks such as Fine, High Time, Late To The Party, Miserable, Die Fun and especially Somebody To Love which approach the musical and lyrical depth and resonance of Brian Wilson’s best work.

Pluto, Better Than Disney

July 17th, 2015

Pluto by LORRI and Ralph, 13 July 2015.jpg Pluto is too far to see-ee-ee

So sang Brian Wilson on his heavenly exploration song, Solar System. It is certainly too far to see with the naked eye, or even a pretty decent telescope. But now the mysteries of this distant world are being revealed by the space probe, New Horizons, downloading pictures slower than an old dial-up modem, but already revealing a fascinating world.

It may not be an official planet any more, but Pluto certainly shows there are many wonders remaining to be found in the Solar System, especially if there are over 200 dwarf planets orbiting the sun.

Why Isn’t There Enough Love And Mercy For Brian?

July 12th, 2015

Full size image As Love And Mercy heads to the end of it’s USA run (just as it starts it’s UK one), and the main part of Brian’s North American tour comes to and end, it’s a good time to reassess where the “summer of Brian” has taken us. While this article may be too much on the pessimistic side, given the good reviews and reasonable box office, it still gives a lot of pause for thought -why has the love for Brian Wilson not taken off, in the same way as the Johnny Cash or Ray Charles, or even John Nash of A Beautiful Mind.

Maybe it will still come -the movie will get Oscar love, Pet Sounds 50th anniversary will be a big thing. It will surely come when Brian passes , but that is far too late for Brian to feel the worldwide love and mercy he deserves.

So why is the worldwide Brian love not happening? Is it the negative association with the Beach Boys music being superficial and outdated? Is it the mistakes hinted in the article made by those involved in his promotion and publicity? Is it that the world simply does not appreciate truly beautiful music?

It may be a bit of all of those and other things. As a passionate Brian Wilson fan it is frustrating that, despite all the success and redemption of the past years, he is not more appreciated than he is. But as in Brian’s music -we need to look for solace in disappointment. And maybe that solace is that for those who have had found Brian’s brilliance, knowing and listening to the music, finding new treasures is enough.

Flying A Kite For Quality

July 9th, 2015

The red kite is regarded as one of the most beautiful birds of prey, and this is surely the inspiration for the title of Sarah Cracknell’s second full-length solo album, released 18 years after the first. It’s a beautiful, organic record, somewhat less electronic than her first, but with enough edge to suggest this is not just a hummingbird record.

The Saint Etienne chanteuse  has already demonstrated her own songwriting capability, not least on the astonishing Ready Or Not from her first solo record, and revived for their recent movie and shows. While nothing from the new record is quite of that standard, there is a much more even quality of songs, with my personal highlights being Underneath The Stars and I Close My Eyes. Brian Wilson has been cited as an inspiration for the album, and it should satisfy Brian Wilson/Beach Boys fans.

Summer Heights

July 5th, 2015

Reviewing the Beach Boys albums exactly 50 years after their release gives an additional appreciation of the genius of Brian Wilson and the prolific nature of the band at the height of their commercial success and critical acclaim in 1965. It feels just like yesterday that I reviewed Today and indeed it was just four months ago. Whereas major artists take an average of four years to release their music these days, the Beach Boys released two quality albums in a space of four months.

Today is the 50th anniversary of Summer Days (and Summer Nights!), released the day after USA independence day and featuring only the Wilson brothers and Mike Love on the cover -Al apparently had the ‘flu.  Summer Days can be seen as the Beach Boys classic “pop” album. While t Today was noted for its innovative use of the studio and “confessional” lyrics, Summer Days can be seen as a more up-tempo effort that is best known for the two massive hits, Help Me Rhonda and California Girls. Although much of the first part of the album is fairly lightweight and pop-oriented, this section does include the excellent Beatles pastiche Girls Don’t Tell Me..

The second part of the album does include two further milestones on the route to Pet Sounds, the lush instrumental Summer Means New Love and the ornate and lyrically deep Let Him Run Wild. And Your Dream Comes True is also a beautiful a-capella closer that captures the magic of summer and the mid-60s Beach Boys. If it is a bit of a holding operation- remember we are only two records away from Pet Sounds,  it still shows Brian and the Beach Boys as masters of the pop scene .

Brian’s Hidden Beauties CXXVI: When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)

July 2nd, 2015

As we move into the second half of the year, and Brian Wilson’s recent birthday, a song reflecting the passing of time would seem to be very appropriate to feature here.  (When I Grow Up) To Be A Man was, of course, a single A-side and USA top 10 hit, so it’s presence in the Hidden Beauty archive could be questioned. Then again, it hasn’t always been regarded in the top tier of Beach Boys hits, and has only recently had a live revival in both Brian and Mike’s shows. And this is my column, so into the hidden beauties it goes.

For a track recorded in the summer of 1964 , this remains a fantastically progressive song, both musically and lyrically. In an era of hedonism, thinking realistically about the future and the responsibilities of adulthood was a novel concept, and the slightly muted chart performance could well reflect that. Listening to it now, the roll-call of passing years is somewhat poignant, especially with the writer and the band well past those numbers. It may have been something of a hit, but it is also hidden, multi-layered beauty.

23 Songs For Today

June 28th, 2015

1) This Beautiful Day – Brian Wilson

2) Sail Away- Brian Wilson

3) Tell Me Why-Brian Wilson

4) Love And Mercy- Brian Wilson

5) One Kind Of Love- Brian Wilson

6) The Last Song- Brian Wilson

7) You Can Do Magic- America

8) Private Universe- Crowded House

9) I Feel Possessed – Crowded House

10) Blue Velvet- Bobby Vinton

11) Foot Of Pride- Bob Dylan

12) Stay With Me- Bob Dylan

13) Straight To Hell- Clash

14) Ferry Across The Mersey – Gerry And The Pacemakers

15) Peter Lacey- Wayward Song

16) It’s a Hard To Be A Saint In The City- Bruce Springsteen

17) Bleecker Street- Simon And Garfunkel

18) Keep The Customer Satisfied – Simon And Garfunkel

19) I Am A Rock- Simon And Garfunkel

20)  Sandrevan Lullaby/Lifestyles- Rodriguez

21)  Give A Little Love – Pacific Express

22) Let Your Free Flag- Sunchymes

23)  Where Have You Gone- Surf School Dropouts




No Tour No Cry

June 24th, 2015

The big Brian Wilson news today is the cancellation/postponement of  the arena UK tour scheduled for September, which will disappoint those who have made hotel and other arrangements to attend. The reason given was commitments relating to Love And Mercy being successful and requiring extra commitments. However, poor ticket sales and the exertion of an overseas tour have also been suggested as contributing factors.

Further news was that next year will see a Pet Sounds 50th anniversary tour and this will be Brian’s last tour in Europe. The Pet Sounds tour certainly seems to be fitting and appropriate, but even more telling is the last tour announcement – meaning that the retirement talk is not just idle chatter. Of course, this doesn’t mean an end to North American touring or music making, but it certainly indicates some sort of winding down. And who can deny that privilege to a man of 73 who has given so much.