Magazine article The Spectator

Acclaim, Money and Love

Magazine article The Spectator

Acclaim, Money and Love

Article excerpt

If the old men of the British rock aristocracy were sentient last week, they should have been paying attention to an extraordinary event at the Royal Festival Hall in London. There they would have seen (and some of them doubtless did) the way to combine the three things aging rock singers most desire yet so rarely receive at the same time: the fawning approval of rock critics, the unbridled adoration of fans and the rapid disappearance of tickets at 50 quid a pop. Acclaim, money and love in one easily digestible pill - why, it might even be better than drugs.

The person sweeping up the plaudits was Brian Wilson, an overweight man of 59 with a singing voice that might make you cringe at a karaoke night, a history of drug abuse and mental illness, and a legend as pop's lost genius. Wilson was the songwriter and producer of the Beach Boys, who famously suffered a complete breakdown in 1967 while recording Smile, the album that was hailed before its release as the best pop record ever made. The only problem being that it was never released -- never even completed, for that matter. All we know of Smile are the fragments that were issued in the late Sixties and early Seventies - the marvellous single Good Vibrations, the songs that were resuscitated as the highpoints of subsequent Beach Boys records, such as Surf's Up and Heroes and Villains - and some scraps of music that were released a decade or so ago on a box set of Beach Boys recordings.

Before his breakdown, Wilson was considered to be one step ahead of the Beatles. After, it was hard enough to stay one step ahead of the nursing home. Though he continued to work, intermittently, he never again came close to recreating the coruscating beauty of the music recorded for Smile and its predecessor, Pet Sounds, which itself is routinely voted the best pop album ever made in critics' polls. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.