Rock Docs III

film 1 of 4

Brian Wilson, Songwriter, 1962-69

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 17, 2015

There’s an awful lot of media about Brian Wilson. This looks like it’s going to be something new. Let’s approach this familiar tale from a musicological, music-theoretical angle! There’s a bit of that for a while, plus some kind of refreshingly detailed early-days stuff. The Four Freshman material is very helpful, partly because they do more than just name drop. Instead we get some extended footage, and some analytical follow through. I appreciate that! The same goes with the Phil Spector parts. It would have been really easy to fall back on platitudes there, so kudos to them. Most, best, David Marks’ early BB contributions, kind of surprisingly, are pretty considerable. We get no bitterness from him, no self-justification or self-exaltation. Just some stuff we didn’t know, a really vivid account from the ground floor.

But after that good early material we soon revert to the familiar story, the reassuring legend, the received wisdom. It’s quite a tale every time, exhilarating and distressing and devastating and all. But the resurrected Smile and Lucky Old Sun have eclipsed all that, and even if they hadn’t, leave the poor guy alone. The same may even go for Mike Love. I wonder if Hal Blaine and Carol Kaye get tired of talking about this, or having their abundant careers reduced to playing on the Beach Boys records? Three Dog Night was a real band, and a very important one, but Danny Hutton’s contributions to this film are a bit dispiriting. Do they reflect on a dispiriting post Dog existence? Or on the fact that show business in general is rotten?

De-facto Brian replacement Bruce Johnson seems like a sweet-natured, life-long supportive guy. Professors, even when they write books about Brian Wilson, often talk in quite a professorly manner. Still, always, God Only Knows is some miracle of a song.