Almost Famous

Inspired, in part, by the fact that today (as in the day this is being written) is the quintessential American holiday, I went out and bought (as shopping is one of our civic virtues) a copy of a disc that came out this week, The Beach Boys Classics Selected by Brian Wilson. It was once said that Marcel Duchamp anticipated all of the notable art movements of the 20th century. I submit that Brian Wilson anticipated most of the forms and modes of rock music from the Sixties on. As this is Independence Day, let me proclaim: Sergeant Pepper is overrated.

Cameron Crowe has said that before starting a movie—and let’s face it: of his generation, Crowe is the quintessential American director—he gives the primary players a copy of Pet Sounds. It helps provide the context. The context that is of our lives. Even if we’ve never been to California. If music is as much about feeling as melody, about emotion and rhythm, then what Brian Wilson spun is something that is both fine and strong, proactive and evocative. Doubt it? Listen to “Don’t Worry Baby” or “God Only Knows.” Period.

It’s often noted that “Good Vibrations” is the work that contributed levels of complexity to rock in a manner that is often imitated but never truly executed, carefully listen to the levels and structures of, yes, “California Girls” and “Caroline, No” and it becomes clear that Wilson was working that strata well before “Vibrations” hit the airwaves.

At the pop concert held in London last month marking the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, Brian Wilson was, in effect, the representative of the United States. He more than held up his end vis-à-vis the likes of McCartney and Clapton, Tom Jones and Brian May. Indeed, he did so well, that King George III was undoubtedly massively agitated in his crypt.

A national treasure.

8 thoughts on “Almost Famous”

  1. Huzzah. I haven’t heard the live recording yet, but “Pet Sounds” is one of the crowning achievements of the rock era, and anyone interested who’s not well-versed in the Beach Boys should also check out the songs “Heroes and Villains” and the gorgeous “Surf’s Up.” In fact, there was a comp. called “Good Vibrations: the Best of the Beach Boys” that featured a lot of late 60’s early 70’s songs you don’t hear often, which is a shame. I’ll take “Sail on Sailor” and “Do It Again” over “Little Douce Coupe” any day.

  2. My favorite Beach Boys inspiried moment is the scene in “Roger and Me” where the recently laid off GM worker recounts his last drive home from work and flipping to a station playing “Wouldn’t it be nice” and trying to find the positive in his situation… and failing.

  3. I think it’s funny that no one can mention Pet Sounds without slagging the Beatles. Pet Sounds is like the Philadelphia of rock music, and someone is always trying to prove it is better than its bigger brother, New York City.I love Pet Sounds, don’t get me wrong. One last question… Did any of the Beach Boys actually play the music on Pet Sounds?

  4. No. The Beach Boys didn’t play much on any of their albums. The Wrecking Crew was the greatest collection of session musicians in LA and Brian Wilson directed and produced them while the other Boys were out on tour. When they came back from touring, they would lay down their vocals.

  5. Does ANYONE know the song in the beginning of the movie “Almost Famous” where William and Penny go to the “Hyatt House” and Stillwater is in the room playing and singing a certain song, I have NO idea what it is, but I’d like to know. Thanx!

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