on brian wilson and SMiLE (a convoluted conversation part 2)

Es­ti­mated reading time is 18 min­utes.

THIS ARTICLE ADDRESSES BRIAN WILSON and the in­spi­ra­tion for his leg­endary SMiLE album. It bears the un­wieldy title of “On Brian Wilson And SMiLE (A Con­vo­luted Con­ver­sa­tion Part 2),” be­cause it is the second of a three-part ar­ticle. Please find Part 1, which is an in­tro­duc­tion to Arthur Koestler, and read it be­fore con­tin­uing with this article.


 Convoluted Conversation Part 2: cover of original Beach Boys SMILE album 1966-1967.

This is the cover for Capitol DT-2580, the Beach Boys SMILE. It was sched­uled or re­lease in Au­gust or Sep­tember 1966. Not only was the album not ready for re­lease at that time, but the fea­tured single Good Vi­bra­tions wasn’t ready! Nonethe­less, slicks for the jacket were printed and then de­stroyed. A few have sur­vived and are valu­able, but be­ware: coun­ter­feits exist.

Convoluted conversation part 2

This is the first part(s) of the con­ver­sa­tion be­tween Bill To­belman and Neal Umphred. It gets the “part 2” above from being the second part of a three-part ar­ticle about Bill and me. You will find my state­ments (NU) in serif type­face (like the rest of this ar­ticle) while Bill’s com­ments (BT) are in san serif type­face (like the font in this par­en­thet­ical phrase) and indented.

NU: When did you be­come aware of SMiLE?

BT: I read David Leaf’s book The Beach Boys And The Cal­i­fornia Myth when I was at col­lege in the early ’80s, but nothing re­ally clicked. When my wife was preg­nant in 1990, I bought Domenic Pri­ore’s Look! Listen! Vi­brate! Smile! at Col­i­seum Books in mid-town Man­hattan and it be­came, in my wife’s words, “the bible.”

What re­ally got to me was Pri­ore’s intro about how cool the un­re­leased music re­port­edly was. He laid out how SMiLE fit into Bri­an’s artistic as­cent, pointing out that when one track from the SMiLE-era got re­leased, Good Vi­bra­tions, it was the biggest smash ever!

NU: Yes, but Good Vi­bra­tions was con­ceived, written, and par­tially recorded during the PET SOUNDS ses­sions. Brian even con­sid­ered giving it away to an­other artist or group! Only after enough people made him re­alize what he had cre­ated did he begin to de­vote time to fin­ishing the single, ap­par­ently prior to even con­tem­plating SMiLE.

While I also as­sume that it would have been on any SMiLE album that would have come out in 1967, Good Vi­bra­tions does not sound or feel any­thing like any of the other SMiLE tracks. I think of it as being a project of its own—like the man without a country, it’s a single without an album.

This is the second of three parts in a con­vo­luted con­ver­sa­tion about Brian Wilson and SMiLE and Arthur Koestler and Zen and things.

Oh, and Leaf’s book re­mains my fa­vorite bi­og­raphy of Brian. Did you know that David sub­mitted the book as Brian Wilson And The Cal­i­fornia Myth (1978)? The pub­lishers didn’t think that enough people would know who Brian Wilson was, so they made the title change.

And Look! Listen! Vi­brate! Smile! (1990) is the ul­ti­mate fan-dream: a scrap­book turned into an ac­tual, pub­lished book! It’s a fun and ed­u­ca­tional read that will prob­ably never get old.


Convoluted Conversation Part 2: cover of Domenic Priore's LOOK! LISTEN! VIBRATE! SMILE!! book.

Domenic Pri­ore’s Look! Listen! VIBRATE! SMiLE! was es­sen­tially a pro­fes­sion­ally bound scrap­book, with oo­dles and oo­dles of photos and ad­ver­tise­ments and clipped ar­ti­cles and blurbs about Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys’ ac­tiv­i­ties sur­rounding their new record­ings in 1966-67.

Look listen vibrate smile

BT: Priore’s point about Good Vi­bra­tions il­lus­trates Wilson’s artistic path and the po­ten­tial of SMiLE. To me, Good Vi­bra­tions can be thought of in nu­merous ways, but it all boils down to two ver­sions. The PET SOUNDS ver­sion has the Tony Asher lyrics, and the in­stru­mental track that was recorded in a single take.

The ver­sion re­leased as a single has the Mike Love lyrics—Brian asked Van Dyke Parks if he’d take over for Love but Parks declined—and the track was done in sec­tions and later pieced to­gether in a fashion closer to SMiLE than PET SOUNDS.

It’s in­ter­esting to note that be­fore Brian un­der­took the vast ma­jority of the work on the Good Vi­bra­tions 45, he was in the studio trying out He­roes And Vil­lains. This, along with the way the single was pieced to­gether, seems to tie Good Vi­bra­tions a little closer to SMiLE than PET SOUNDS.

I’ll admit, Love’s boy/girl lyrics fit in more with PET SOUNDS than they do SMiLE. Heck, even Tony Asher’s PET SOUNDS-era lyrics for Good Vi­bra­tions are more far-out than Love’s lyrics! What does that tell you?

NU: Good points and your ar­gu­ment works for me as a de­mar­ca­tion be­tween a PET SOUNDS ver­sion of Good Vi­bra­tions versus a SMiLE ver­sion (the single). I agree with Bill on the lyrics, but since my fav­erave record of all time is Hound Dog, I have to con­fess that I love lyrics that don’t get in the way of some­thing bigger. So, for me, Mike Love’s lyrics for Good Vi­bra­tions are damn near perfect!

BT: That’s in­ter­esting about David Leaf changing the title of his book. The late Jules Siegel did the same thing with the title of his Cheetah mag­a­zine ar­ticle when he orig­i­nally put it on­line. It went from “The Re­li­gious Con­ver­sion of Brian Wilson” to “The Re­li­gious Con­ver­sion of the Beach Boys.” 1


Convoluted Conversation Part 2: cover of October 1967 CHEETAH magazine.

The new kid on the block Cheetah (début issue cover-dated Oc­tober 1967) pub­lished Jules Siegel’s ar­ticle on Brian Wilson that The Sat­urday Evening Post had com­mis­sioned and then re­jected be­cause it was too lauda­tory of the West Coast whizkid!

From Zen to Koestler

NU: Well, David was given no choice, as the pub­lisher dic­tated the change. And I can un­der­stand their thinking. I haven’t spoken with David in ages, so I wonder if he sees their ar­gu­ment that “Beach Boys” in the title had a greater com­mer­cial al­lure back then than “Brian Wilson,” who was far from a house­hold name! So, what mo­ti­vated you to make a site de­voted to SMiLE?

BT: I had ideas about the album that were dif­ferent from any­thing else ever said about SMiLE. It seems like once you’re on the right track, or even close to the right track, things start to all come to­gether and start to make sense.

And once the ball starts rolling, it keeps picking up new things that add to its mo­mentum. Keeping all the new dis­cov­eries to my­self wasn’t very ther­a­peutic. Keeping a se­cret about how great SMiLE is isn’t easy.

Having a web­site al­lowed me to present find­ings as they came along and gave me an outlet for my ob­ses­sion. And, sup­pos­edly, My Ob­ses­sion from the BETWEEN THE BUTTONS album—which was recorded at the same time as the SMiLE sessions—is Bri­an’s fa­vorite Rolling Stones song! 2

NU: When I first stum­bled over your site, you were working on the idea that SMiLE was not un­like a Zen koan. You have since dis­cov­ered new sources that you be­lieve more im­por­tant to un­der­standing Brian and SMiLE, but I re­ally liked the Zen ap­proach. Did you keep copies of the old Zen-based site?

“I think of the Koestler-influenced ap­proach to SMiLE as a modern form of en­light­en­ment transmission.”

BT: The ear­liest ver­sions of the web­site are long gone but the basic Zen-interpretation stuff is still on­line. The first ver­sion of the site con­trasted im­ages in­spired by the Old West with Zen-flavored images.

SMiLE artist Frank Holmes liked this di­rec­tion and later on, when he wrote about two points of view com­bined as in a dream, I could see why he liked the orig­inal di­rec­tion of the website’s art.

I think of the Arthur Koestler-influenced ap­proach to SMiLE as a modern form of en­light­en­ment trans­mis­sion if you will. Koestler knew his ideas and thought processes were com­pa­rable to Zen; proof of this can be found in an end-note in The Act Of Cre­ation.

He’d pre­vi­ously written about Zen in The Lotus And The Robot. So I would say that the new ma­te­rial and ideas on the web­site are very much in the spirit of the site’s orig­inal material.

One problem I have is that both Brian and Van Dyke have told in­ter­viewers that there is no Zen in­flu­ence on SMiLE. My new Koestler-influenced ap­proach shows that Brian’s and Van Dyke’s state­ments are tech­ni­cally cor­rect but only by a hair.

If Brian was in­flu­enced by The Act Of Cre­ation in the mid-’60s—which it ap­pears that he was (see the 2011 in­ter­view linked below)—and Koestler was in­flu­enced by Zen—which it ap­pears that he was—then Brian was in­di­rectly in­flu­enced by Zen through his as­sim­i­la­tion of Koestler’s ideas. And so was Parks in­di­rectly in­flu­enced by Zen through his as­sim­i­la­tion of Bri­an’s ideas.



“You know, any sane ma­gi­cian would never re­veal his method of deception—and I don’t think that any sen­sible mu­si­cian would ei­ther.” – Van Dyke Parks

The promise of the SMiLE era

BT: The idea that SMiLE was to bring about spir­i­tual en­light­en­ment is pretty far-out, and prob­ably my theory’s biggest hurdle, but the promise of the SMiLE era can ac­com­mo­date the idea. We’re told things along the lines that “Brian knew no bound­aries or limits,” “he was working on an­other level of con­scious­ness,” and “any­thing was deemed pos­sible through sheer force of creativity.”

I don’t know anyone per­son­ally who be­lieves that music, art, film, po­etry, story, or even events could bring about “spir­i­tual en­light­en­ment” be­lieves that that is “far out” if “far out” is in­tended to be pe­jo­ra­tive. It may be residual Sixties-itis (and that has nothing to do with my years), but in the ’60s, so many things seemed pos­sible that didn’t be­fore and haven’t since.

I say that with a sense of awe at the won­der­ment that a small but po­tent per­centage of the human race felt then. I also say that with a sense of wonder at the con­tempt that a large per­centage of the human racewho were never a part of ithold that won­der­ment today. They didn’t get it then, they don’t get it now.

And Arthur Koestler’s new ideas were the un­known reason be­hind the glowing promise of the era. In a 2011 in­ter­view, Brian stated that his fa­vorite book was The Act Of Cre­ation (1964) and that Arthur Koestler had “said things that hadn’t been said in print.”

Any act of cre­ation re­quires ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion on the part of the cre­ator or re-creator. We can see this across Koestler’s spec­trum of cre­ativity. The person who gets a joke has to make the hu­morous con­nec­tions by them­selves. The sci­en­tist that ex­claims “Eu­reka!” has made a dis­covery on his or her own, and the aes­thetic ex­pe­ri­ence can only be truly had on a per­sonal level.

This is why SMiLE is unexplained—to ex­plain it would take away its power.

“Brian knew no bound­aries or limits [and] was working on an­other level of con­scious­ness [where] any­thing was deemed pos­sible through sheer force of creativity.”

NU: So, tell me more about Koestler and Brian and SMiLE.

BT: Brian’s fa­vorite book was The Act Of Cre­ation. Wilson also read meta­phys­ical books, but Koestler had the biggest in­flu­ence on him. It was a bold work of orig­inal thought that at­tempted to spell out the process be­hind all orig­inal cre­ation. The dy­namics of Koestler’s cre­ative process and the out­comes of the said process could even be thought com­pa­rable to as­pects of the spir­i­tual LSD experience.

NU: You shouldn’t say this, as you cannot know it to be so. I and others would have to argue that nothing ever put on paper is re­motely “com­pa­rable” to a “spir­i­tual experience.”

BT: But if what’s put on paper the­o­rizes that any state of mind is pos­sible by fol­lowing the pre­scribed for­mula: in theory it’s pos­sible. Here are a few lines from Koestler’s sum­mary of art’s aes­thetic experience:

“The aes­thetic ex­pe­ri­ence aroused by a work of art is de­rived from a se­ries of biso­cia­tive processes which happen vir­tu­ally at once and cannot be ren­dered in verbal lan­guage without suf­fering im­pov­er­ish­ment and dis­tor­tion. Per­cep­tion is loaded with un­con­scious in­fer­ences, from the vi­sual con­stan­cies, through spa­tial pro­jec­tion, em­pathy, and synesthesia.”


Convoluted Conversation Part 2: Frank Holmes's illustration for WONDERFUL.

This is one of Frank Holmes’s il­lus­tra­tion for the ob­tuse lyrics to Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks’ songs. This is ti­tled “Won­derful.”

A spiritual LSD experience

NU: Koestler’s “theory” ad­dresses the cre­ative act; you are ap­plying it to the “spir­i­tual LSD ex­pe­ri­ence,” which is not the same thing. Bill, I am just trying to keep you from making inane state­ments. If you want to make this state­ment and be able to argue it, do LSD a hun­dred times. Of course, then you would not make the above statement!

BT: I’m glad you brought this up. What re­ally mat­ters here is not what I think or what you think. We’re not dis­cussing our piece of art. It’s Brian and com­pa­ny’s art. I have a web­site that at­tempts to ex­plain, as best I can, what that art is about. Every­thing there can be traced back to trying to figure out where Bri­an’s head was at in 1966.

Wilson has been la­beled as in­no­cent and naïve. Tony Asher hinted that Brian was taken in by ‘marsh­mallow mys­tics.’ 3

Some of Bri­an’s state­ments about Arthur Koestler and The Act Of Cre­ation are dif­fi­cult to sub­stan­tiate. For ex­ample, in the Don Was film, Brian states that Koestler’s po­si­tion is that the first rule of ego is the de­sire to be funny, humor. This po­si­tion is dif­fi­cult to find in The Act Of Cre­ation but it can be in­ferred through the book if one is willing to bend over back­ward to make the point.

The point I’d like to make is that there is some pro­jec­tion going on here. To a de­gree, The Act Of Cre­ation is the Rorschach test and Brian is seeing what he wants to see in Koestler. In 1966, I be­lieve Brian saw Koestler’s cre­ative theory as a way to make an album ca­pable of bringing about the spir­i­tual experience.

If one wants to see LSD-like out­comes in Koestler’s ideas and state­ments bad enough, I be­lieve they can find what they’re looking for in The Act Of Cre­ation.

So when I make the claim that the dy­namics of Koestler’s cre­ative process and the out­comes of said process could even be thought com­pa­rable to as­pects of the spir­i­tual LSD experience—that’s where I’m coming from. I guess I could word the sen­tence better. My main hope is that I’m starting to make a little sense.


BW Smile BWphoto 1

“The Act Of Cre­ation is about the logic of laughter. I think a sense of humor is im­por­tant to un­der­standing what kind of person someone is. Studying meta­physics was also cru­cial, but Koestler’s book re­ally was the big one for me.” – Brian Wilson

Koestler’s principles and SMiLE

Here we dis­cuss Bill’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Bri­an’s use of Arthur’s prin­ci­ples in making SMiLE while ar­guing with Neal.

BT: It is my belief/opinion that Brian Wilson, Van Dyke Parks, and Frank Holmes used Arthur Koestler’s prin­ci­ples to create SMiLE. This would create an album with the po­ten­tial to bring about the spir­i­tual experience.

So for in­stance, let’s take Neal’s quote: “My ini­tial ex­pe­ri­ence with LSD in 1971 had left me stunned by my total in­ability to re­late or con­nect what had hap­pened to me to any­thing in Western cul­ture.” What Koestler would pro­pose for such a person to cre­atively ex­press this ar­tis­ti­cally is that they ac­cess the vi­sual and scan their un­con­scious for re­lat­able forms, such as mem­o­ries, to rep­re­sent and convey the experience.

The con­sumer of the work would re­verse the process, re­lying on the un­con­scious to work in the op­po­site di­rec­tion searching for the matching origin of the re­lat­able forms: the artist’s orig­inal mind.

The con­sumer of the art, in this case, would be much like Neal; moving from a world of re­lat­able forms to one be­yond all pre­vious con­cep­tion. In other words, Koestler’s theory has promise as a way to transmit enlightenment.

At the root of the theory is what Koestler termed “biso­ci­a­tion” which is the putting to­gether (as­so­ci­a­tion) of two dis­sim­ilar things, thought planes, points of view, frames of ref­er­ence, as­so­cia­tive con­texts, etc., to create some­thing orig­inal which elicits a re­sponse across the cre­ative spec­trum span­ning from laughter, to dis­covery, to art.

The mondo di­a­logue form of the Zen koan is a per­fect il­lus­tra­tion of two dis­sim­ilar thought planes coming to­gether. It’s biso­cia­tive. For example:

Q:  What is the es­sen­tial prin­ciple of Buddhism?
A:  The cy­press tree in the courtyard.

The koan is es­sen­tially a doc­u­ment of the en­light­ened mind. When a koan re­sults sudden en­light­en­ment that mind has been achieved.


Convoluted Conversation Part 2: splash page for Fred Schrier's comix strip A ZEN FABLE.

Fred Schri­er’s A Zen Fable is one of my fav­er­avest strips from the Golden Age of Un­der­ground Comix (late ’60s and early ’70s and then it was over with, just like the San Fran­cisco Psy­che­delic Poster Re­nais­sance). This has nothing re­ally nothing to do with this con­ver­sa­tion on Brian and SMiLE but it gives me an ex­cuse to point you to my other web­site where I reprint all four pages of this amazing comic strip!

A document or a riddle?

NU: First, a koan is NOT a doc­u­ment of any­thing. Second, the state­ment “When a koan re­sults in sudden en­light­en­ment, that state of con­scious­ness has been achieved” makes NO sense.

BT:Kung-an in Chi­nese is pro­nounced in Japan ko-an; lit­er­ally, it means a public doc­u­ment.” Found it in a foot­note from a D.T. Suzuki essay from The Zen Koan As A Means Of At­taining En­light­en­ment (1994).

NU: Um, I un­der­stand a koan is a riddle-like ques­tion with no ra­tional an­swer. Its pur­pose is to by­pass the stu­dent’s normal ra­tional thought-process and thereby trigger insight.

Merriam-Webster de­fines koan as “a paradox to be med­i­tated upon that is used to train Zen Bud­dhist monks to abandon ul­ti­mate de­pen­dence on reason and to force them into gaining sudden in­tu­itive en­light­en­ment.” So, you want to re­state this?

BT: Neal, I’d like to re­spond to you. The book The Zen Koan by Mirra and Sasaki (1965) de­f­i­n­i­tion is dif­ferent from Merriam-Webster’s definition.

“The koan is not a co­nun­drum to be solved by a nimble wit. It is not a verbal psy­chi­atric de­vice for shocking the dis­in­te­grated ego of a stu­dent into some kind of sta­bility. Nor, in my opinion, is it ever a para­dox­ical state­ment ex­cept to those who view it from out­side. When the koan is re­solved it is re­al­ized to be a simple and clear state­ment made from the state of con­scious­ness which it has helped to awaken.”

This de­f­i­n­i­tion jibes with the way I present things here, Koestler, as well as the com­ments of the three SMiLE cre­ators.


Convoluted Conversation Part 2: Frank Holmes's illustration for CABINESSENCE.

This is one of Frank Holmes’s il­lus­tra­tion for the ob­tuse lyrics to Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks’ songs. This is ti­tled “Un­cover The Cornfield.”

A paradox that cannot be solved

NU: Other sources say that a koan is a para­dox­ical ques­tion, state­ment, riddle, or even an anec­dote used in Zen Bud­dhism to pro­voke doubt in a stu­dent. It is in­tended to demon­strate the in­ad­e­quacy of log­ical rea­soning and thereby pro­voke enlightenment.

“In the Rinzai school of Zen, a stu­dent is given a par­tic­ular koan to solve in his zazen (seated med­i­ta­tion) prac­tice. Most koans in­volve a paradox that cannot be solved by reason or in­tel­lect. The res­o­lu­tion forces the stu­dent into a dif­ferent level of con­scious­ness or com­pre­hen­sion.” (About.com)

“A Zen koan is a short story or sen­tence that ini­tially seems para­dox­ical in na­ture.
 It is a learning tool in­tended to alter our per­cep­tion of re­ality. No­body can an­swer a koan for you.
 It may take years for your mind to see what a koan is telling you—a sudden un­ex­pected flash of in­sight will occur. Some in­ter­pre­ta­tions you may come across are rather mis­leading: es­o­teric, con­vo­luted re­li­gious ex­pla­na­tions that as­sume an un­der­standing of Bud­dhist pre­cepts.

 They go against the child-like sim­plicity and im­me­diacy of Zen.” (Phi­los­ophy Study)

BT: The reason that I prefer the Sasaki de­f­i­n­i­tion of koan to the ones you cited (that I have no prob­lems with) is that Sasaki is viewing things from the in­side rather than out­side. This presents a more ac­cu­rate view of things SMiLE-wise.

NU: I don’t get that at all. But the koan only has value and meaning to the out­sider, who needs it to get in­side. Once in­side, it hardly mat­ters how the koan is per­ceived. So I could argue that the in­sid­er’s view is ir­rel­e­vant to the conversation.

I know this may be a bit of an ex­ten­sion, but one with which we are all too fa­miliar: it re­minds me of the people who are as­signed the task of writing man­uals for soft­ware: by the time they know enough to be able to write the book, they have for­gotten what it’s like to not know what they know, and they have for­gotten how to give mean­ingful directions.

BT: It presents the cre­ator’s point of view rather than the point of view of those looking at it from the out­side. SMiLE can be viewed as a log­ical mess; a paradox to say the least. I think it’s safe to say that this is a common view. Mike Love said—I’m para­phrasing here—that SMiLE leads you down little paths only to find roadblocks.

NU: Mike Love may know nothing about much of any­thing spir­i­tual ex­cept its form. (But I can say that about al­most anyone, in­cluding my­self.) Re­thinking Mike’s state­ment, it’s rather clever but would be more ac­cu­rate and useful if we sub­sti­tute “puz­zles” for “road­blocks,” the latter sounding too final, the last thing that SMiLE seems to be.

BT: If you know of any log­ical takes on SMiLE please let me know of them. I find that people tend to blame drugs or mental ill­ness to ex­plain away the log­ical in­con­sis­ten­cies of SMiLE.

NU: Oh, I am per­fectly com­fort­able with there being “log­ical in­con­sis­ten­cies” with any­thing creative—unless, of course, the artist means it to be log­ical and fails. I love SMiLE, love Parks’ lyrics (Colum­nated ruins domino, ho!), and even love the in­tel­lec­tual looney­tunes and non-logical quality of SMILEY SMiLE.


Convoluted Conversation Part 2: cover of Beach Boys' original SMILEY SMILE on 1967.

By the time the Beach Boys’ first album of 1967 was is­sued in Sep­tember, all of the magic of Good Vi­bra­tions and the promise of amazing, ground­breaking music that sev­eral jour­nal­ists had been lost. SMILEY SMiLE was de­scribed by Carl Wilson as a “bunt in­stead of a grand slam.” In­ter­preting that base­ball metaphor, a grand slam is only pos­sible with the bases loaded, ergo he means that with the bases loaded Brian bunted, scoring a soli­tary run. Given the re­cep­tion that the album re­ceived, that may be a gen­erous assessment. 

More convoluted conversation

The first part of this ar­ticle pro­vides some back­ground on Arthur Koestler. The second and third parts are es­sen­tially a lengthy gabfest-with-arguing be­tween Bill and my­self. We dis­cuss SMiLE at length and argue over its in­spi­ra­tion, mo­ti­va­tion, and un­der­pin­nings. A basic un­der­standing of Koestler is re­quired to un­der­stand this con­ver­sa­tion, so don’t skip this first part! Here are the three parts with links:

On Brian Wilson And SMiLE (A Con­vo­luted Con­ver­sa­tion Part 1)
On Brian Wilson And SMiLE (A Con­vo­luted Con­ver­sa­tion Part 2)
On Brian Wilson And SMiLE (A Con­vo­luted Con­ver­sa­tion Part 3)

I love the in­tel­lec­tual looney­tunes quality of the Beach Boys’ SMILEY SMILE album. Click To Tweet

BrianWilson LoveMercy movie poster 1000

FEATURED IMAGE: The image at the top of this page is lifted from the poster for the movie Love & Mercy. I had to crop it and play with the colors to make it dif­ferent from the other two parts of the three-part ar­ticle “On Brian Wilson And SMiLE (A Con­vo­luted Conversation).”

If you’ve read this far and you haven’t seen it yet, stop what­ever you’re doing and see this movie! Bravo! to Paul Dano as the young Brian (and he gets to be in one of the best trip­ping scenes in a movie), John Cu­sack as the older Brian, and Paul Gi­a­matti as Eu­gene Landy.

And Brava! to Eliz­a­beth Banks as Melinda Ledbetter—she is the heart and soul of the movie.



1   Jules Siegel was com­mis­sioned by The Sat­urday Evening Post mag­a­zine to ba­si­cally tor­pedo the growing rep­u­ta­tion of Brian Wilson as a “ge­nius.”

Far from writing a neg­a­tive piece, Siegel left con­verted and wrote an ar­ticle that could have helped Wilson and the Beach Boys greatly had it been pub­lished by the widely cir­cu­lated and highly re­garded Post.

It was not; al­though it was picked up by the far less pres­ti­gious, far less read Cheetah mag­a­zine (Oc­tober 1967 issue) as “Goodbye Surfing, Hello God! – The Re­li­gious Con­ver­sion Of The Beach Boys.”

2   Bri­an’s sup­posed in­fat­u­a­tion with this track has al­ways struck me as one of his put-ons. But who knows, hennah?

3   By “marsh­mallow mys­tics” PET SOUNDS lyri­cist Asher was re­fer­ring to such then hip au­thors as An­toine de Saint-Exupéry, Kahlil Gibran, Kr­ish­na­murti, and even Herman Hesse.


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