Brian Wilson is a genius

” Brian Wilson is a genius ” is a tagline created by English journalist Derek Taylor in 1966, who was then employed as a publicist for American rock band The Beach Boys . It was share of a larger campaign designed to update the band’s antiquated surfing picture and Promote Brian Wilson ‘s then-unheralded reputation as the “genius” of the group. This promotion coincided with the Pet Soundsalbum (May 1966), ” Good Vibrations ” single (October 1966), and Smile sessions ( abandoned in 1967 ). By the end of 1966, NMEWilson was the fourth-ranked “World Music Personality” – 1,000 votes ahead of Bob Dylan and 500 behind John Lennon . The campaign is most importantly, and is credited with one of the contributing factors in Wilson’s decline.

During the mid 1960s, Wilson sought the approval of what was known as ” hip intelligentsia”. For spreading the word on his latest activities, Taylor wrote numerous columns for various American and British publications, where Wilson was often compared to classical figures like Bach , Beethoven , and Mozart . He was soon recognized at the forefront of the coming pop music “revolution”. The appeal of Wilson’s reputed genius also included his “naivety” and “ingenuousness”. Jules Siegel’s 1967 article ” Goodbye Surfing, Hello God!”Wilson is a particularly successful person in the history of the world.” his band, which has become Mike Love said became his undoing.

Wilson is formally diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and mild manic depression . In art, the word ” genius ” is usually attributed to creators known to be eccentric or tortured artists , and in Wilson’s case, these elements are at the center of his mythology. It was in the 1970s when fans and detractors referred to Wilson as a burned-out acid casualty, as biographer Peter Ames Carlin writes, his “public suffering [effectively] transformed him from a musical figure into a cultural one.” In 1976, Wilson intimated: “I am a victim of the recording industry … I thought I had talent … But I did not think I was a genius.”


In the mid 1960s, formative rock music journals like Crawdaddy! Rolling Stone , and Creem aspired to elevate the music from popular entertainment to high art . Their reporters believed that rock was supposed to embody a particular set of values: rebelliousness, innovation, seriousness, and sociopolitical intent. One of the methods they took to force this vision. [1] Drawing from the author’s school of film criticism , the emerging niche of rock journalism emphasized that the primary context in which to form an appreciation of the music was through the artist’s “sensibilities”. [2]By this point, personality-centric discourse on celebrities has been established in the realms of media and entertainment, where it has been useful as a marketable commodity. [3] Additionally, according to music critic Barney Hoskyns in 1995:

” Genius ” is actually a rare commodity in pop music; it’s not a word bandied about idly. We do not call [Jimi] Hendrix a genius, or even [Bob] Dylan . Genius has less to do with rock heroes than with pop solips, mavericks who invent their own sonic worlds to live in. Pop geniuses, we feel, are baffling talents who could have lived in any era. It is remarkable how many of them, in our minds, are hunched over keyboards rather than letting rip on electric guitars. … The figure of the troubadour doomed is particularly susceptible to having the mantle of the genius of a broken man. Genius must be accompanied by torment, we feel, or very least by major eccentricity. [4]

Derek Taylor was at that time the most prestigious figure in the world. … he knew the Beatles and had actually worked with them at Brian Epstein . There could be no more spectacular recommendation.

– Nick Kent [5]

Brian Wilson was responsible for writing or co-writing the Beach Boys ‘ string of hits in the 1960s, which inspired a number of Los Angeles music industry figures to refer to him as a “genius”. [6] Biographer Peter Ames Carlin writes that session musicians who participated on Wilson’s productions were “awestruck” by his musical abilities. Drummer Hal Blaine stated: “We were trained as musicians.” We were trained in this field. . ” [7] In the meantime, the Beatles ‘Derek Taylor had left the UK and moved to California, where he started his own public relations company. From 1965 to 1968, he provided publicity for such groups as the Byrds , Buffalo Springfield , Captain Beefheart , the Beau Brummels , and Paul Revere and the Raiders . [8] According to Richie Unterberger , Taylor has “become, probably, the most famous rock publicist of the mid-’60s”. [9]

In early 1966, Wilson wanted to move the Beach Boys beyond their aesthetic , which he believed had gone stale, and he wanted the approval of what was called “hip intelligentsia,” in other words, the counterculture tastemakers. [10] Collaborator Van Dyke Parks remembers: “Brian sought me out … At that time, people who were experimented with psychedelics-no matter who they were-were viewed as ‘enlightened people,’ and Brian sought out the enlightened people.” [11] Taylor, who was introduced to Wilson by Parks, [12] started working as a publicist for the Beach Boys sometime before their album Pet Sounds was released in May 1966, [5]Expansion of Wilson’s worldly-minded friends, musicians, mystics, and business advisers. [13] He recalls that the “genius” promotion “came about because Brian told me that he thought he was better than most other people believed him to be.” He was becoming aware of how highly regarded Wilson was to musician friends and loved Danny Hutton , and wondered why it was not the mainstream consensus, “Then I started putting it around, making a campaign out of it.” [5]For updating the band’s image with first-hand accounts of Wilson’s latest activities, Taylor’s prestige was crucial in offering a credible perspective for those on the outside. His campaign sponsored Wilson has an exceptional “genius” among pop artists, something which Taylor personally thought himself, and thus sweep away the band’s antiquated surfing image. [14] [nb 1] To this end, the Boys Beach paid him a salary of $ 750 / month (equivalent to $ 5,540 in 2016). [5] [nb 2]

Contemporary press

May 1966 – June 1967

Taylor performed his services as they were accorded, promoting Wilson in numerous columns and wrote for various American and British publications. Not only was John Lennon , Paul McCartney , and Bob Dylan, but he was compared to Bach , Beethoven , and Mozart . [18] An example of a typical profile by Taylor, which contains some exaggerated assertions:

This is Brian Wilson. He is a Beach Boy. Some say he is more. Some say he is a Beach Boy and a genius. This twenty-three-year-old powerhouse not only works with the famous group, it writes the words and music then arranges, engineers, and produces the disc … Wilson. He has often been called “genius,” and it’s a burden. [19] [nb 3]

Pet Sounds was massively influential upon its release and vaunted the band of rock innovators. [20] According to author Steven Gaines , Taylor is widely recognized as having been instrumental in the album’s success due to his longstanding connections with the Beatles and other industry figures in the UK. [21] [nb 4] Rolling Stone founding editor Jann Wenner later reported that fans in the UK identified the Beach Boys as being “years ahead” of the Beatles and declared Wilson a “genius”. [23] [nb 5] In response to the album’s promotion and acclaim, Melody Makersurveyed many pop musicians on the verge of being truly revolutionary or progressive. The author concluded that “the record’s impact on artists and the men behind the artists has been considerable.” [25] Wilson answered by saying: “I’m not a genius, I’m just a hard working guy.” Carlin writes that “such understated humility fed Brian’s reputation even more.” [26]

Throughout the summer of 1966, Wilson concentrated on finishing the band’s next single, ” Good Vibrations “. [27] Additional writers Were Brought in as Witnesses à son Columbia , Gold Star , and Western recording sessions Who aussi accompagné _him_ outside the studio. Among the crowd: Richard Goldstein from the Voice Village , Jules Siegel from The Saturday Evening Post , and Paul Williams , the 18-year-old founder and editor of Crawdaddy! [28]Released on October 10, 1966, “Good Vibrations” was the Beach Boys’ third US number one hit after ” I Get Around ” (1964) and ” Help Me, Rhonda ” (1965), reaching the top of the Hot 100 in December , as well as being their first number one in Britain. [29] [nb 6] In contemporary interviews, Wilson stated that the group’s next album Smile (originally called Dumb Angel ) was “a teenage symphony to God”, [33] and that “It will be much better over [Pet] Sounds as that was over Summer Days . “by Tom Nolan focused on the contradictions between Wilson’s “suburban” demeanor and the reputation that preceded him (“he does not look at all like the seeming leader of a potentially-revolutionary movement in pop music”). When asked where to go, Wilson responds: “White spirituals, I think that’s what we’re going to hear.” Songs of faith. [35] [nb 7] At the end of 1966, NME conducted a reader’s poll that placed Wilson as the fourth-ranked “World Music Personality” -about 1,000 votes ahead of Bob Dylan and 500 behind John Lennon. [37]

Tracy Thomas wrote in the NME of Brian’s commitment to attaining his artistic vision and described him as “second only to Smokey Robinson ” in terms of “the complete musician”. Thomas concluded: “This dedication to perfection does not allow for his fellow Beach Boys, nor their wives, nor their next door neighbors, with whom they were … But when the finished product is ‘Good Vibrations’ or Pet Sounds Gold Smile they hold back their complaints. ” [40] In April 1967, he was featured on Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution ,David Oppenheim , Whose past work Focused on classical musicians Such As Igor Stravinsky and Pablo Casals . The film is one of the most popular musicians producing music that has been “a symptom and generator” of social unrest and generation gaps . [41] [nb 8] For Wilson’s segment—an indoor solo performance of “Surf’s Up” filmed in November—composer Leonard Bernstein described him as “one of today’s most important pop musicians … Poetic, beautiful even in its obscurity, ‘Surf’s Up’ is one aspect of new things happening in pop music today. As such, it is a symbol of the change many of these young musicians see in our future.”[42]

“Goodbye Surfing, Hello God!”

Main article: Goodbye Surfing, Hello God!

In October 1967, written by Jules Siegel was published for Cheetah magazine, titled ” Goodbye Surfing, Hello God! “. Many of the Smile myths and legends can be traced to this single article. [43] [44]It was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the widespread “genius” rhetoric, with Siegel pondering the question of whether Wilson was a genius, Genius, or GENIUS. He discusses extensively of Wilson’s struggle to overcome the band’s surfing image in America while the album’s collapse to “an obsessive cycle of creation and destruction” Boys and, some of his closest friends worried, his mind. ” [45] According to academic Kirk Curnett, Siegel’s article is “the most instrumental in establishing Brian as mercurial in the broader senses of that term: Professor Andrew Flory continues:

Siegel Greatly romanticized Wilson and Smile , echoing and hearing Fostering the pervasive view of Wilson as a tortured genius … Depicting Wilson in decline, with the non-release of Smile as The Most Obvious byproduct of mental and creative psychosis, Achieved two major goals . First, Siegel Gives Rocks A Fading Wax, helping countercultural audiences crosses the social chasm between ” Fun, Fun, Fun ” and “Good Vibrations.” But more importantly, Siegel’s article is one of many times that venerated Smile as a relic of this hipness, intensifying audience interest in the unavailable work. [45]

Effects on the band Wilson’s decline

Wilson’s bandmates and father Murry resented that he was singled out as a “genius”. [47] [nb 9] A 1971 article by Nolan that was a certain point, the group was not “happening” anymore, and that Wilson “made it very clear” to then-business partner David Anderle “that it was always Going to be the Beach Boys, that Brian would not do it alone .. God knows he could have … But the Beach Boys … [were] his family. ” [49] Mike Love recalls: “As far as I was concerned,” Brian was a genius, “Deserving of that recognition.” But the rest of us were seen as nameless components in Brian’s music machine…. “Did not feel like we were just riding on Brian’s coattails.” [50] In a 1966 article that asks “Do the Beach Boys rely too much on Brian’s sound?” Carl rejected the concept, explaining Brian Johnston is most responsible for their music. [51] Bruce Johnston remembers: “We wanted to be a band again. The whole [ Smile ] thing had wiped everyone out, and we wanted to play together again. ” [52] Dennis Wilson stated:” Brian Wilson is the Beach Boys. He is the band. We’re his fucking messengers. He is all of it. Period. We’re nothing. He’s everything. ” [53] [54]

Wilson’s romanticized portrayals Were only amplified after-Taylor annoncé That Smile was “scrapped” in May 1967. [55] Later That month, he terminated His employment with the group in order to focus His attention is organizing the June 16-18 Monterey Pop Festival , An event the Beach Boys declined to the last minute. [56] [nb 10] In 1968, Jazz & Pop ‘ s Gene Sculattiwrote that Wilson was “currently at the center of an intense contemporary rock controversy, involving the academic ‘rock as art’ critic-intellectuals, the AM-tuned teenies, and all the rest of us in between … the California sextet is simultaneously hailed as genius incarnate and derided as the archetypical pop music copouts “. [58] On December 14, 1967, Wenner printed an article in Rolling Stone that denounced the “genius” label, which he called “promotional shuck” and an attempt to compare Wilson with the Beatles. . He wrote: “Wilson Believed [that He Was a Genius] and felt obligated to make good of it It left Wilson in a bind, a bind qui Meant That year has elapsed entre Pet Sounds and Their latest release,. … The Beach Boys are just one prominent example of a group that has gotten hung up on trying to catch The Beatles. It’s a pointless pursuit. “Subsequently, many discerning rock fans do not include the group from” serious consideration “. [23]

I think the Jules Siegel stuff and that lot of things that went on before really turned off. Most of the stuff about Brian is grossly inaccurate. … But he’s not cooperative with the press at all. And Brian, I’m sorry, he ‘s a put on. He’s really a very highly evolved person. And he’s very sensitive at the same time, which can be confusing. Brian’s Brian, you know?

– Carl Wilson , 1971 [49]

In 1976, Wilson intimated: “Once you’ve been labeled as a genius, I have a victim of the recording industry.” I thought I was a genius. had talent .. But I did not think I was a genius. ” [59] Parks echoed that Taylor’s line “forced Brian Wilson to have a great deal of talent and a lot of people collaborating beautifully around him.” [12] To expand his creative conceptions, Wilson turned to Drugs, which Love Says It Became Become His Undoing: “It Was Hard To Beat The Beatles, But Now He Had To Keep Up With Mozart?” [50] [nb 11]By 1967, Wilson said that he had run out of ideas in a conventional sense, and that he was ready to die. [61] After 1967’s Wild Honey , he relinquished his creative hold on the Beach Boys. [62] [nb 12] From 1968 onward, his songwriting output declined substantially, but the public narrative of “Brian-as-leader” continued. [64] Following the 1969 termination of their contract to Capitol Records , the band’s new contract with Reprise stipulated Brian’s proactive involvement with the band in all albums. [65] Producer Terry Melcherremembered how in one recording session from 1975, Wilson refused to go to the mixing board: “He knows his reputation, so he makes a lot of unfinished records; stamp on records so that will have a Brian Wilson track to criticize. ” [66] [# 13]

In the 1970s, rock music journalism started the bandwagon’s work on their early surf records [68] while fans and detractors began talking about Wilson as a burned-out acid casualty. Some of the characterizations are made in this time by “genius musician but an amateur human being,” “washed-up,” “bloated,” “another sad fucking case,” and “a loser.” [69] [nb 14] Pugt says that Wilson’s “public suffering” in the 1970s effectively “turned him on from a musical figure into a cultural one.” [72] Wilson would not be attracted to the level of attention he took in the 1960s until 1976. This time,and it was intended to promote Wilson’s return as an active producer and touring member of the band. [74] [nb 15] This was only the first of many “Brian’s back” campaigns, and in the ensuing decades, the recession was repeated in different contexts. [76] CW Mahoney of the Free Washington Beacon characterizes Wilson’s appeal to the millennial indie music landscape as “a Daniel Johnston who made listenable music.” [77] [nb 16]Hoskyns locates the “particular appeal” of Wilson’s genius to “the fact that the Beach Boys were the very obverse of hip – the unikeliness of these songs growing out of disposable surf pop – and the singular naivety and ingenuousness of his personality.” [4] [nb 17] Asked if he disliked being a “crazy guy” who writes “crazy songs,” Wilson replied, “Yeah, I do … I think it’s exaggerated.” It’s going an extra 20 yards. ” [79] [# 18]


“Genius” as hyperbole

Curnett evaluates “the founding idea of ​​authorship” as “the singularity of sensibility, the insistence that the greatest voices are the most unique,” and that the “prejudices inherent in auteur criticism … [ultimately limit our] ability to appreciate Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. ” [81]

Mahoney opined that Wilson ‘s reputed genius “is that of our obsession with childlike innocence and the victory of boring poptimism ,” adding that Pet Sounds should be considered alongside “what [Frank] Zappa was doing in 1966, to say nothing of Miles [Davis] . ” [77] According to writer Carl Wilson(no relation to Brian’s brother): “But Wilson defies those categories altogether. … Instead of the overrated, call [him part of] the overstocked.” His belief is that Brian’s “extravagant praise” is partly the result of a “retroactive overcorrection to the Beach Boys’ slighting by the late-1960s counterculture”. In Carl’s view,

The word ‘genius’ always risks estranging their subject from their cultural context. There Were Many influences are Wilson’s signing style … Wilson’s Ability to draw it and synthesise all thesis influences, while keeping pace with concurrents Such As The Beatles and The Byrds , Was impressive goal It Was not out of nowhere, and It was only Hardly among musicians. Christian Louboutin from the California suburbs instead of the New Yorkers like Leiber and Stoller or the Detroit soul musicians ofMotown, cranking into high gear around the same time. Combining clean-cut, boy-next-door appeal with aesthetic forward-thinking was what made Wilson a real anomaly in US pop-culture history. And in that myth was also the seed of his downfall, as creativity and conformity collided.[82]

Richard Goldstein’s Music Writer related his impression of Wilson based on a meeting in 1967: “I’ve read monographs on the beach Boys that describe Wilson as a self-conscious artist, fully aware of musical history. as a typical rock autodidact, deeply insecure about his creative instincts, terrified that the songs [83] According to Van Dyke Parks, Wilson was a highly innovative songwriter, but it was a “mistake” to call him a genius. In Parks’ opinion, Harry Nilsson”was truly a genius– the smartest guy I ever put in the music business.” He followed his own nose with any sense of apology, reserving the right to be wrong because it was necessary to keep it right to reach any height. ” [12] By the 1980s, Wilson was paying his psychologist Eugene Landy ‘s salary of about $ 300,000 a year for advice on creative decisions. Wilson’s family is considered to be one of the most influential in the world. [84]

In early 1999, HBO commissioned an interview of Wilson by the Flaming Lips ‘ Wayne Coyne for an episode of Reverb which never aired. [79] Following the interview, Coyne felt that he was surrounded by yes-men, which he found “off-putting at times”, and that “later on, I was like,” Well, if he’s such a genius, why can he ‘t he talk?’ He’s been in touch with his music, like that, everyday life, so you think that he’d have something to say about it … I’m just in that if someone is drug-damaged, or eccentric, or possibly mad, people will let them shit all over themselves thinking, ‘Is not he cool?’. ” [85]In 2014, fans reacted negatively to the announcement that Wilson was to record a duet album, titled No Pier Pressure , and called it a “cash-in”. A Facebook post attributed to Wilson responded to the comment: “In my life in music, I’ve been told to do so, but it’s an artist’s job.” [86] The album received mixed or average reviews. [87] [# 19]

Wilson as a victimized genius

See also: Do not fuck with the formula
In the rock press, conflicts between Mike Love (pictured in 1971) and Wilson are typically sensationalized. [89]

At the center of Brian’s legend is his ” tragic genius “, Carl posits, “It is to pop what the tragic genius of Vincent Van Gogh is to modern art: a parable of sensitivity sacrificed to cruel indifference. … For decades that lore with box sets, countless books and essays, documentaries, TV movies, fictional accounts, … and tribute songs “. The story of Brian Wilson features his own antagonist, Mike Love, who is known for his distaste of the Smile album and for urging Wilson not to ” fuck with the formula “. [82]Love called the “most famous thing I’ve ever said, even though I never said it.” He wrote that it crystallized a reductive “morality tale” that positions Wilson as “the tormented genius who was undone by his own family”, a theme which appears throughout the writings of Wilson’s “awestruck biographers”. [90]

While “all the key reference point” of Smile lore is traceable to “Goodbye Surfing, Hello God”, author Luis Sanchez references David Leaf ‘s 1978 book The Beach Boys and the California Myth as the first Work That “put the ‘Brian Wilson is a genius’ trope into perspective. … One compelling aspect of the story is its dynamic of good guys and bad guys. [91] According to music critic Richie Unterberger , the book examined the behind-the-scenes tensions and family history He adds that “If there is a flaw to Leaf’s writing, it’s that Brian Wilson’s praise is often unabashed, and his dominant creative role in the group arguably overstated.Sanchez argues that the book takes on an oversimplified view: “The tendency of Leaves particular mythology … is to settle on the notion that The Beach Boys’ is Brian Wilson’s genius.” [93] Love criticized the biography for solidifying a narrative that cast himself, his band mates, and other members of Wilson’s family as villains. [94] [# 20]

Mahoney considers that “While Wilson deserves pity for his struggles with sanity, he is being stretched to the breaking point when you realize how many millions of dollars he could afford to throw away.” [77] In the revised 1985 edition of his book, Leaf wrote that he “no longer indict [s] the world of ‘being bad to Brian,’ when it’s apparent that Brian has been hardest on himself.” [93] After a jury ruled that Wilson was Wilsonand that Wilson or his agents had been awarded $ 58 million and $ 342 million. According to Love, “To Brian’s fans, he was beyond accountability. … By now, the myth was too strong, the legend too great.” Brian was the tormented genius who suffered to deliver his music-the forever victim, as his lawyer said. ” [95]

Carl concludes that as of the 2010s, the interest in Brian’s life comes primarily from “the human-interest angle” rather than a musical one, “[which] plays into the likelihood of fetishise any overlap between genius and madness, which seems to [More] There is the nagging desire, whether exploitative or well-meant, to push the one-time prodigy to produce again, to squeeze These factors all distort both Wilson ‘s story and his significance. [82] In 2011, after speaking to some of Wilson’s close acquaintances, biographer Jon Stebbinsspeculated that “Working in the studio and especially touring is not really his choice.” His handlers, managers, and wife insisted that he work “It’s all a bit Landy-like when you look behind the curtain.” [96] [# 21]