OPEN LETTER TO BRIAN WILSON
Posted by Andrew Gold on October 11, 2004 at 22:57:18:
I know this is a bit off topic...but i thought you may be interested to read what i wrote to Brian Wilson re: the recent release of SMILE, the long lost masterpiece of the 60's.
Dear Brian (and Van Dyke)-
You and I have met a few times, briefly, but I doubt you'd remember as both times it was very brief. Van Dyke will know me. I am a singer songwriter etc etc..and has some success in the 70's and 80's as an artist (lonely boy, thank you for being a friend, etc) and am still working as an artist, and as a producer, and am a pretty creative guy. I am also a very good friend of Jeff, Nelson and Probyn, Brad Gilderman and Mark Linnet, and in fact, when Jeff and the lads are not playing in your band, they often play in my band when I do 60's homages, especially for Byrds songs. I also did most of the background vocals and scratch vocals for you with Don Was on your "Just Wasn't Made For These Times" special, and you and I even sang together, though not at the same time, on a Ringo album Don and Peter Asher produced. I was also Linda Ronstadt's bandleader/arranger for much of the 70's (along with others in the band...to give them proper credit. I also had a band, WAX, with Graham Gouldman in the 80's (he of "bus stop", "for your love" and 10cc fame.) I even was the voice of Alvin in the chipmunks on a few albums. (For more about me, go to www.andrewgold.com)
From the sixties on, my favorite groups were The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and The Byrds. I also have a strong affinity for high harmony singers such as yourself, Paul M, David Crosby, Art Garfunkel...etc...I come from a very musical background. Mother is Marni Nixon, who did many famous movie voices way back when (Natalie Wood's voice- West Side Story; Audrey Hepburn, My Fair Lady etc...and my Dad, Ernest Gold, won an academy award for his score to Exodus. I am self taught, cannot read music, but could write a symphony...not that it would be as good as any serious composer I love, like Debussy, Chopin, Gershwin or Bach,,,,but just to brag about my musical talent to give the following compliments as much weight as possible.
I just bought and listened to SMILE and I felt a need to send you a message of some sort. It's not just that I loved this new recording and completed at last SMILE (I adore it, more than you may ever know). It's something more, and I will try, as briefly as possible, to impart my intense experience and thoughts about it's place in pop music or any music, really), and why it means so much to the world of music, and I shall partial guess what it probably means to you personally.).
I have been enough of a fan of the Beach Boys, and, of course, you in particular for so many years, I'm quite aware of your life, and actually suffer some of the same type anguish and pain your depressions have made you endure over the years. I am often very happy, and I do not have auditory hallucinations or hear voices (except sometimes my ex-wife and accountant yelling at me, but, alas, those are real... usually, ha), but I do have SOME idea of what you must go through, if may be so ridiculously bold as to say such an audacious thing.
What makes this new recording all the more astounding is that it must have been something that has been a seriously crushing pressure on you for years, both too negative AND too intensely positive, and must have unpleasant memories attached no doubt, as well that period being an astonishing creative period for you, what with Pet Sounds and all preceding it. The Beach Boys not being that supportive of you and poor Van Dyke; The record companies; The myth itself of this long lost album; whatever your marital state was, your fears and worries. Your father. Life must've seemed like a huge mountain before you when you woke up each morning, I imagine. I know the feeling. But it's bad enough feeling weak and scared, alone, yet afraid of people, feelings AND having all the expectations heaped on you everyday...My God.
Judging from the showtime special, the first few days of rehearsing must've been particularly tough. What if it isn't as good as everyone expects? All that stuff and more. Drug memories, confusion and the downside of being creative and bright. All of these things can be tough if you are gifted. Comes with the territory I believe.
Anyway, the album is simply remarkable. Just nothing short of being, I believe, one of the best, like, 3 albums in pop history. And the attention to musical and sonic detail, with your remarkable band is simply the most wonderful surprise in recent memory for me. I bought the album 2 days ago and have heard it now 8 times all the way through. (I must admit, I felt highly jealous and left out, thinking about Jeff and Probyn et all being in your band- I would give up so much to be in your band and play THAT music..( Ask Jeff....he knows how i feel, and what I can do...if you ever need a replacement.
I hope to God you find that doing this album puts to rest some old demons and that you can have more days when you feel carefree and relaxed..that "safe at home feeling" because of summoning the strength and resolve to make this happen. I know exactly what Paul means. The music makes me cry. Even the happy music...For Joy, For Pain, For Life.
Hopefully without sounding too stupid or cloying or anything, I have to say I basically just love you. You have made my and SO many others in the world happy, all the while being tortured by aspects of your life. It's just.....love....in it's purest form to do such a thing...and you may feel, at times, weak...not strong enough, but in fact, all this over achievement, lol....you deserve peace of mind, and if I could wave a magic wand, I would give it to you. Your music is so beautiful. So warm, so interesting, and so...well...musical. You TRULY are like a modern day pop Bach.
That's all I want to say. Simply to thank you from the bottom of heart for the magic you've given us. I've even heard much of this stuff. from various Beach Boy/ Brian fans and all the collector people, sweet though they are...but STILL....the sequencing and recording...the beautiful complexity...the eloquent simplicity...yet, the classical brilliance to it....is beyond compare to anything in the current music scene. I can't even begin to impart the grandeur of how impressed I am, ESPECIALLY in this age, at our ages, and with so many personal and intimate obstacles you must have come across.
You really did it, and I thank you, thank you thank you.
PLEASE, if you ever need an extra guy in your band, or a replacement, think of me. I can sing like you, Mike, Carl...even Al....lol....I can sing high or very low, pretty damn in tune too...and play pretty much any instrument you can throw at me, keys, bass, drums, and guitar. And, I am generally an affable and funny man. So....
THANK you for SMILE. You may now rest on your laurels if you'd like, lol. My sincere congratulations. Please enjoy the rest of your life now! Give your wife a hello. We met at an auction thing in Benedict canyon that Jeff Foskett presided over a few months ago. She was very nice.
PS. Wait, did I tell you I liked the CD? lol
Here's another view of the musical experience that we call "Smile" posted by musician and guitar builder Mike Conklin on November 16th, 2004:
Guess what? I'm obsessing! It's wonderful!
I have, over the years, been casually aquanited with
the legend of Brian
Wilson's "Smile". The lamentation and wailing about
the masterpiece that
never was. The "American Sgt. Pepper". Etc.
I just really didn't get it.
First off, to me the Beach Boys were no Beatles.
There was no comparison.
Sure, they both had this foundation of infectious pop
that propelled them
into the heart and minds of anybody with a sense of
music, but the Beatles
progressed and took pop music to a new art form that
few have managed to
even come close to.
They (the Van Pattens?) said "Well, look to 'Pet
Sounds' as proof that the
Beach Boys (Wilson) were every bit the equal artists".
Frankly, I did and I
still didn't get it. I listened to Pet Sounds a dozen
times or so and it
just didn't sink in.
Then I read about Wilson resurrecting the myth and
sure enough he did.
Well, I HAD to buy it because that's what geeks like
me do. I had to see
what the hub bub was about. I didn't expect much
because of my inability to
catch on to Pet Sounds. And, to be frank, the first
few listens of SMiLE
left me nearly in the same state, but there was enough
hook there to keep me
listening. And then it all sunk in and NOW I can't
get the damn thing out
of my head.
I think SMiLE is a real gift from Wilson to the world.
to agree, for the most part, not that that matters,
but they've been
thinking about it much longer than I have. For me,
I'm not sure if it's the
music alone or the accompanying knowledge of the whole
40 year SMiLE saga.
I mean, if it had been released as just another record
from Brian Wilson,
without the fanfare and myth and lore, would I feel
the same? I truly don't
know, but I do know that it is one of the most
beautiful pieces I've ever
NOW I am obsessed as I find that there have been many
attempts over the past
40 years where fans and/or industry insiders tried to
finish Wilson's work
for him. There is "Smiley Smile", which I have
purchased, the 30 year box
set which has many pieces of the puzzle (which I
likely will purchase) and
now I find that there are volumes of bootlegs.
Complete with the original
artwork designed for the album that never was, etc.
Now, besides wanting to know how this whole thing has
impacted you (if at
all, but I find that hard to imagine) I wanted to know
if you have a good
source for bootlegs and rarities. A good website that
specializes in the
rare and hard to find? I'm particularly interested in
the Vigotone and Luna
Records bootlegs as they seem to be the most
painstakingly compiled. I just
find it fascinating to hear the original versions.
The weird thing is I'm
doing it completely backwards! The true BB fans knew
all of the modular
pieces that were destined for SMiLE, and then they
were able to compare what
SMiLE was to them with Wilson's completed project. I,
on the other hand,
heard SMiLE in the complete, "authorized" version
first and now am digging
in the attic for the pieces that floated around for
nearly 40 years. God, I
love music when it takes hold of you like this!
Artist Too Slim
from Too Slim and the Taildraggers with Mike Conklin who built Too Slim's latest guitar.
***Feel free to drop us a line if you know where we can send Mike to find the bootlegs that will piece his musical puzzle together.