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.
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.
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
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.
“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.
Sometimes we weren’t up to dealing with them.
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):
never known as a non-believer—
she laughs and stays in the won-won-wonderful.
God reached softly and moved her body
One golden locket, quite young,
and loving her mother and father.
through the recess, the chalk, and numbers,
a boy bumped into her won-won-won-wonderful.
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!