Brian Wilson Was Always Made For These Times

Beach Boys’ resident genius released the soundtrack of his life in 1995

Brian Wilson 1995 (Art: Ron Hart)

Brian Wilson always seemed to be looking over his shoulder, in both a figurative way and in a creative mode as well.

His earliest influences were drawn from the harmony groups that immediately preceded him, and as time went on, he would look back, both towards the great composers that influenced him early on and at those who poised immediate competition, particularly the Beatles and Rubber Soul. Despite being acknowledged as one of the greatest musical masterminds of all time, he was inherently shy and insecure, battered by drugs and the manipulation of certain individuals he was surrounded with. 

Consequently, some of Wilson’s most memorable songs were those in which he expressed his innermost trials, tribulations, and his inability to deal with stardom and the demands of those who bullied him into submission. The world at large had little insight into these factors that fueled him, for better or for worse, and the mindset that circumvented his sanity. Instead they saw only saw only a man child who made amazing music, but never seemed anchored in a reality others could relate to.

Brian Wilson I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times, Warner Bros. 1995

In the mid ‘90s, Don Was conceived a documentary that he hoped would clear the air and bring renewed appreciation to the man and his music. The soundtrack that accompanied it evolved as  Wilson’s second solo album, following his eponymous debut released a full seven years before. While encapsulating his best songs within the realm of a single album would clearly prove impossible, there’s no questioning the fact that the eleven tracks it did contain, all rerecorded by an ace studio band (Wilson on vocals and piano, Waddy Wachtel and Mark Goldenberg on guitar, bassist James “Hutch” Hutchinson, drummer Jim Keltner, Belmont Tench of. piano and organ, David McMurray on sax and all star choir of backing vocalists)  still proved impressive. While one might argue the merits of recasting the original works sans his fellow Beach Boys — Wilson himself was supposedly dubious about the prospect— the effort served the material well. Was, who poured out his admiration for Wilson in the liner notes, did an admirable job of maintaining the original melodic intents, if not the intimate embrace that the original Beach Boys’ versions provided. The only exception came in the form of Wilson’s solo read of “Still I Dream of It,” an iffy proposition that sounds sketchy at best.

On the other hand, how could anyone quibble with the inclusion of such essential songs as “Caroline, No,” “Love and Mercy,” “Do It Again,” “The Warmth of the Sun,” and ’Til I Die?” Little is lost in translation, making it I Wasn’t Made for These Times at very least a great collection and compendium, flush with the longing, innocence and optimism that remains the most enduring essence of his legacy.

Suffice it to say I Wasn’t Made for These Times boasts a set of songs that resonate for all time.

 

 

Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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