david anderle’s won-won-wonderfully weird portrait of brian wilson

Es­ti­mated reading time is 9 min­utes.

THINGS WERE GETTING WEIRD in Brian Wilson’s world when he met David An­derle. By the third quarter of 1966, many sig­nif­i­cant changes had taken place in his life and his sur­round­ings. PET SOUNDS and Good Vi­bra­tions and the SMiLE ses­sions that everyone in Los An­geles seemed to know about had brought a very dif­ferent kind of at­ten­tion to Brian that pre­vious Beach Boys records had not. It also brought many new and im­por­tant people into Bri­an’s life, in­cluding David Anderle.

While the Beach Boys had al­ways pro­jected a very simple, boy-next-door image, Bri­an’s new music gave off much more am­bi­tious, artistic vibes. Bri­an’s new music at­tracted people who were far more bo­hemian and in­tel­lec­tual than the group’s normal hangers-on.

They were also a much more am­bi­tious, artistic, and hipper lot.

More cool.

And much, much more far out.


In 1966, Bri­an’s new music at­tracted people who were far more in­tel­lec­tual and “hipper” than the Beach Boys’ usual hangers-on.


And with the hip and the cool came the drugs—lots of drugs: mostly pot and hash with some psy­che­delics (mostly LSD). The new drugs that turned you on and tuned you in and made you wanna drop out of the hum­drum­ness (sic) of con­sen­sual re­ality and ex­plore and ex­pe­ri­ence new things.

The drugs of “the Six­ties.” 1

Good Vi­bra­tions was avant-garde and psy­che­delic and ef­fort­lessly cap­tured the op­ti­mism and sense of freedom of The Six­ties. His new work and his new am­bi­tions had him dubbed a ge­nius and it at­tracted a very dif­ferent kind of person to his life. 

One of whom was the bril­liant, ar­tic­u­late, hip, and flip Van Dyke Parks. When he and Wilson met, things hap­pened: Parks be­came Wilson’s mu­sical col­lab­o­rator and the leg­endary SMiLE was undertaken.

Along with Parks came his man­ager, David An­derle, who also bonded with Brian. An­derle had a good head for busi­ness and had been made West Coast talent di­rector for MGM Records. In 1965, An­derle saw the Mothers of In­ven­tion for the first time and tried to get them signed to the label, but met con­sid­er­able re­sis­tance. An­derle con­vinced pro­ducer Tom Wilson to sign the Mothers to MGM’s Verve im­print and pro­duce their album first album.

So An­derle came to the Beach Boys with fairly im­pec­cably hip cre­den­tials. He was also an as­piring artist, a painter. Both of these skills played a part in his re­la­tion­ship with Wilson.


BrianWilson 1967 DavidAnderle Painting 1000

Here is the ever-likable Brian Wilson in one of his many bright, floral print shirts in early 1967. This could be the shirt that showed up in David An­der­le’s painting.

Bombarded with newness

When David dis­cov­ered the scope of Wilson’s tal­ents, drives, and am­bi­tions, he sug­gested that Brian and the Beach Boys have their own record com­pany to con­trol all these plans. And so Brother Records was founded in Oc­tober 1966.

The ini­tial share­holders were the six Beach Boys: brothers Brian Wilson, Carl Wilson, and Dennis Wilson, and Mike Love, Al Jar­dine, and Bruce John­ston. David An­derle was the com­pa­ny’s busi­ness man­ager, along with being Bri­an’s friend and confidante.

An­derle ex­plained that these new people and the new de­mands of cre­ating hip music and run­ning a record com­pany were very dif­fi­cult for Brian:

“Brian was bom­barded with new­ness. And he was on his own. The guys were not around when this was hap­pening. He def­i­nitely was han­dling it all by himself.

When some­thing like this hap­pens, you have to start trusting people.

You ei­ther trust someone around you or trust no one.

You ei­ther be­come para­noid or you can trust people.

I think for a long pe­riod of time, Brian trusted a lot of us. Then it went from that to—from what I could tell—paranoia. Where he didn’t even trust us any­more.” 2

Brian de­vel­oped new in­ter­ests and ap­par­ently placed his trust in what David Leaf called “un­common, oc­cult places.” One of Wilson’s new pre­oc­cu­pa­tions was a be­lief in nu­merology: a “be­lief in the di­vine, mys­tical re­la­tion­ship be­tween a number and one or more co­in­ciding events. It is also the study of the nu­mer­ical value of the let­ters in words, names, and ideas.” 3


BW Smile Anderle painting

David An­der­le’s won-won-wonderful painting of Brian Wilson.

The whole room went on an acid trip

An­derle was also a fine artist, and he painted a gor­geous por­trait of Brian and called him over to the tiny apart­ment David shared with his wife Sh­eryll to see it. It did not go as David expected:

“Brian glared at the painting. David looked at Sh­eryll, and Sh­eryll looked at David, and the whole room went on an acid trip. Brian hadn’t said a word. He walked up in­cred­ibly close and stared at the face in the por­trait for what might have been an hour.

No one spoke.

It was a mo­ment without time.

At last Brian turned around. He said it had cap­tured his soul. The In­dian thing. He said he loved the painting, that he wanted it.

But that strange eerie vibe was going on so strong.

He was caught com­pletely off-guard by Bri­an’s re­ac­tion. He had ex­pected him to say that he liked it or that he didn’t like it. He had ex­pected the ob­vious and gotten the supernatural.


You ei­ther trust someone around you or trust no one. Brian de­vel­oped new in­ter­ests and ap­par­ently placed his trust in ‘un­common’ places.


Brian began to count the ob­jects David had placed in the back­ground as dec­o­ra­tive re­lief. They were all the same as Bri­an’s num­bers in nu­merology, a dis­ci­pline big with Brian at the time.

He had big charts on his walls. Now the paint­ing’s num­bers, cre­ated un­con­sciously by David, were mir­roring the big things in Bri­an’s history.

The num­bers in the painting freaked David as much as they did Brian. Somehow they made it through that night.” 4

Shortly after, An­derle was shut out of Bri­an’s life in a heart­breaking fi­nale when Brian re­fused to leave his room while David pleaded with Brian to come out and see him. David An­derle left Brian and the Beach Boys and Brother Records be­cause it was im­pos­sible to run things without input from Brian.


Anderle: Cover of Stephen Gaskins book AMAZING DOPE TALES.

“The ques­tion is not one of un­der­standing tran­scen­dence, it’s of tran­scending, it’s ex­pe­ri­encing tran­scen­dence.” (Stephen Gaskin)

On psychedelic sensitivity

Brian Wilson in­sists that his in­ter­ac­tions with LSD and other psy­che­delics could be counted on one hand (three is the oft-stated number). That is, three trips in the mid-’60s and his psy­che­delic salad days were over! But the sto­ries about him then don’t sound like someone who took acid thrice and let it be.

Like this story with An­der­le’s painting: when you’re doing LOTS of acid over a pe­riod of time, um . . . things seem to develop/grow in­side that man­i­fest them­selves outside.

You get, um, like sen­si­tive aware alert to pat­terns, to coincidences—which rarely seem random and un­at­tached to other events.

It all be­comes so . . . one.


When you’re doing lots of LSD, things de­velop in­side that man­i­fest them­selves out­side, and the con­nec­tions be­tween those things are rarely random.


It’s dif­fi­cult to write about forty years later—especially given my anti-woo-woo, skep­tical na­ture. But when I picked up Stephen Gask­in’s Amazing Dope Tales (The Book Pub­lishing Com­pany, 1980, he gets down to it in the introduction:

“We got very sen­si­tive from trip­ping that much and working to clear our cir­cuits that much” and “When we were first tele­pathic, we were al­ways trying to prove it.”

I forgot about that: when psy­che­deli­cized, the con­nec­tions be­tween things—even nu­mer­ical connections—rarely seem merely random. 5

And you know this. 

It’s all meaningful.

Like the cracks in the side­walk telling you to watch your back.

Or the number of ob­jects in a painting telling you . . . to watch something.

Brian wouldn’t be the first person to have lost friends lovers part­ners be­cause he was doing too much acid and began ex­pe­ri­encing “per­fectly cou­pled noth­ings” (Gask­in’s phrase) that re­quired changes.

In The Six­ties, powers were summoned.

Some re­sponded.

Some­times we weren’t up to dealing with them.


BW Smile SmileyCover


The title of this ar­ticle is a ref­er­ence to the song “Won­derful,” by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks. It was a part of the orig­inal Smile project that was re­con­sid­ered, rere­corded, and re­leased on the Smiley Smile album in mid-1967. the lyrics are de­light­fully dif­fi­cult to in­ter­pret (punc­tu­a­tion all mine):

She be­longs there, left with her liberty—
never known as a non-believer—
she laughs and stays in the won-won-wonderful.
She knew how to gather the forest when
God reached softly and moved her body
One golden locket, quite young,
nd loving her mother and father.
Far­ther down the path was a mystery:
through the re­cess, the chalk, and numbers,
a boy bumped into her won-won-won-wonderful.


Photo of David Anderle in his art studio.

David Anderle

David An­derle had a fan­tastic back-and-forth with Pual Williams that was first pub­lished in three parts in three is­sues of Craw­daddy mag­a­zine in 1968. They, in turn, were re­pub­lished as a key part of Paul’s book Outlaw Blues (Dutton, 1969).

In an ar­ticle on the Beach Boys in Rolling Stone in 1971, An­derle was the first person to al­lege that Mike Love leg­en­darily told Brian, “Don’t fuck with the for­mula.” Whether or not such a line was ever spoken seems ir­rel­e­vant as it is now part and parcel of the Brian Wilson / Beach Boys legend.

David An­derle moved onto var­ious roles in the music in­dustry, in­cluding pro­ducer. Over the years, he worked with many im­por­tant tal­ents, in­cluding Blues Trav­eler, Judy Collins, Rita Coolidge, Sh­eryl Crow, Chris De Burgh, the Doors, Amy Grant, Love, the Mothers of In­ven­tion, Aaron Neville, and the Ozark Moun­tain Dare­devils. (An­derle in­ter­acted with these and other artists in both busi­ness and cre­ative capacities.)

He was also music su­per­visor on sev­eral movies, in­cluding The Break­fast Club, Pretty in Pink, Scrooged, and ar­guably Robin Williams’s finest mo­ment in a movie, Good Morning, Vietnam.

David An­derle even­tu­ally re­tired, left the con­cerns of man­aging the af­fairs of others to others, and picked up his brushes and paints and never looked back.

David An­derle died on Sep­tember 2, 2014, at the age of 1977.



1   For me, the years that we refer to as “The Six­ties” started on Feb­ruary 9, 1964, when the Bea­tles her­alded the dawning of the Age of Aquarius with their (still) amazing ap­pear­ance on Ed Sul­li­van’s Sunday night tele­vi­sion show. The Six­ties ended on No­vember 7, 1972, when Richard Nixon was re-elected Pres­i­dent of the United States. (A lot of the spirit of The Six­ties has car­ried on.)

2   This quote was taken from David Leaf’s book The Beach Boys And The Cal­i­fornia Myth (Courage Book, 1985, pages 114-115), which was also the main source for much of the in­for­ma­tion on Brian and David in this article.

3   Nu­merology is “often as­so­ci­ated with the para­normal, along­side as­trology and sim­ilar div­ina­tory arts. The term nu­merol­o­gist can be used for those who place faith in nu­mer­ical pat­terns and draw pseudo-scientific in­fer­ences from them, even if those people do not prac­tice tra­di­tional nu­merology.” (Wikipedia)

4   “David wanted to sell the painting if he could be­cause he was starving; he wanted to sell it to Mar­ilyn or someone else who would give it to Brian, but he couldn’t manage to arrange that. What the hell, he de­cided to give it to Brian him­self. Brian, though, began talking of having prints made in­stead so that David could keep the pic­ture. Brian was very rev­erent about people who could paint. He re­ally be­lieved they could cap­ture your soul.

David could feel a cer­tain dis­tance starting to ap­pear. It could have been the busi­ness thing he was pro­jecting, but some­thing def­i­nitely changed after the night Brian saw the painting. Some­thing had been vi­o­lated. The pic­ture had come too close. David had fucked up. He had scared Brian.” (Tom Nolan, The Beach Boys: A Cal­i­fornia Saga from the Oc­tober 28, 1971, issue of Rolling Stone.)

5   The 1999 Ronin Pub­lishing edi­tion of Amazing Dope Tales is rather easy to find. And I for­give who­ever gave this mar­velous little book its gaw­dawful title!


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