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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