One of Ace Records’ longest running and most successful compilation series is their Songwriters’ series. It looks back at the careers of some of the most successful songwriters in the history of modern music. This includes Bacharach and David, Goffin and King, Serge Gainsbourg, Dan Penn, Laura Nyro, Randy Newman and Jackie DeShannon. These songwriters have literally written their name into the history books. So has an artist who in June 2015, became the latest inductee into Ace Records’ Songwriters’ series…Brian Wilson. 

Twenty-five cover versions were chosen for Here Today!-The Songs Of Brian Wilson. It was released on CD in June 2015, and was the latest instalment in Ace Records  Songwriters’ series. Brian Wilson was a popular addition to the Songwriters’ series, and by the end of the year, Here Today!-The Songs Of Brian Wilson became Ace Records biggest selling release of 2015. This was something to celebrate.

So to celebrate the success of Here Today!-The Songs Of Brian Wilson, Ace Records decided to release a vinyl edition of the compilation. This however, was no ordinary vinyl edition. Instead, the vinyl edition of Here Today!-The Songs Of Brian Wilson was pressed on 180 gram snowy white vinyl, and features a dozen of the compilation’s highlights. This includes Darian Sahanaja, Bobby Vee, Betty Everett, Carmen Mcrae, Nick Decaro and Kirsty MacColl.  They all pay homage to Brian Wilson, one of music’s greats.

Brian Wilson is seen by some, as the closest thing music has had to a genius. Proponents of this argument cite the Beach Boys 1966 progressive, psychedelic Magnus Opus, Pet Sounds. By then, Brian Wilson was one of the most successful singer, songwriter, and producers of his generation. Already, Brian Wilson had masterminded twenty-four hit singles, including two number one singles for the Beach Boys. It looked like Brian Wilson could do no wrong.

Sadly, Smile, the followup to Pet Sounds was cancelled. Brian Wilson had suffered the first of several nervous breakdowns. As a result of Brian Wilson’s health problems, his influence on the Beach Boys diminished. This just happened to coincide with a decrease in sales of the Beach Boys’ albums.

Following Pet Sounds, the Beach Boys albums were produced by the group. No longer was Brian Wilson the sole producer. Then in 1975, Brian Wilson produced 15 Big Ones, which was released in 1976. When it was released in July 1976, 15 Big Ones reached number eight in the US Billboard 200, and was certified gold. For many, onlookers, it looked as if Brian Wilson was back. However, that wasn’t the case.

By 1975, Brian Wilson had substance abuse problems and his health was failing. His wife Marilyn realised he needed enlisted the help of psychologist and psychotherapist Eugene Landy. He was best known for an unconventional twenty-four hour treatment program. At first, Brian was resistant to the demanding program. However, with the only alternative being admitted to a psychiatric hospital, Brian came round to Euege Landy’s program. Then in 1976, when Euegene Landy tried to double his fees, he was sacked by the Beach Boys manager. 

Six years later, with Brian’s health failing, and the Beach Boys not having released an album for two years, Eugene Landy was hired again. For the next ten years, Brian was treated by Eugene Landy. This didn’t end well.

Part of Eugene Landy’s treatment, was micromanaging his client’s lives. Usually, he did this with team of counsellors, nurses and doctors. However, in Brian’s case, Eugene Landy took a more hands on approach. Not only was he Brian’s therapist, but gradually, became his business adviser and cowrote songs with Brian. Then when Brain released his eponymous debut album Brian Wilson in 1988, Eugene Landy was credited as executive producer. Later, in 1991, Eugene Landy cowrote a memoir about Brian Wilson, Wouldn’t It Be Nice: My Own Story. However, by then people were questioning Eugene Landy’s relationship with Brian.

A year later, and the relationship was over. A restraining order was issued by the court barring Eugene Landy from contacting Brian Wilson ever again. This wasn’t the end of the story. In 1994, the state of California revoked Eugene Landy’s license to practise. There had been accusations of ethical violations and patient misconduct during his years with Brian Wilson. While the relationship ended badly, Brian Wilson was on the comeback trail.

Sadly, Brian Wilson never ever reached the heights of Pet Sounds.  He released another ten solo albums, some of which, were released to critical acclaim. However, compared to Pet Sounds, they never came close. Pet Sounds was Brian Wilson’s finest hour. Incredibly, he was only twenty-four, with his whole life in front of him. Sadly, ill-health, substance abuse and the internal politics of the Beach Boys curtailed Brian Wilson’s career. He was the man who could’ve been King.

While Brian Wilson is still remembered as one of the most important successful singer, songwriter, musician and producers of his generation, to some extent, his critics say that Brian Wilson never fulfilled his early potential. That however, is an accusation that could be levelled at many musicians. However, in Brian Wilson’s case, that’s a bit harsh. If illness hadn’t interrupted his career, he would probably have fulfilled his potential. 

Certainly, Brian Wilson’s music has influenced two generations of music. They’ve continued to cover his songs over the past fifty years. This includes the twelve artists on Here Today!-The Songs Of Brian Wilson. 

Here Today!-The Songs Of Brian Wilson features twelve cover versions of Brian Wilson songs. These songs have been covered by Darian Sahanaja, Bobby Vee, The Tokens, The Castells, Jan and Dean, The Tymes, Keith Green, Peggy March, Betty Everett, Carmen McRae and Kirsty MacColl. Among the twelve tracks are six cover versions of songs from Pet Sounds. That’s fitting as Pet Sounds was Brian Wilson’s Magnus Opus. However, there’s much more to Brian Wilson’s music, as you’ll discover when I tell you about Here Today!-The Songs Of Brian Wilson.

Side One.

There’s no better way to open Do You Have Any Regrets? opens Here Today!-The Songs Of Brian Wilson than with Darian Sahanaja’s of The Wondermints cover of Do You Have Any Regrets? This is a song from Brian’s 1990 album Sweet Insanity. Darian rolls back the years, and gives Do You Have Any Regrets? a sixties makeover. As a result, the song sounds uncannily like the Beach Boys at the peak of their power. That’s no surprise as Darian has worked with Brian Wilson during his comeback, and played an important part in his solo career.

The Castells’ recording career spanned the best part of two decades. It began at Era in 1961, and by 1964 The Castells had signed to Warner Bros. Their Warner Bros’ debut was I Do, which was Brian cowrote with Roger Christian. Brian also arranged and produced I Do, which epitomises everything that’s good about the surf sound.

By 1966, Bobby Vee was no longer enjoying the same commercial success he once had. His single stalled in the lower reaches of the charts. This was disappointing for a singer who had once been one of the biggest names in music. Bobby Vee began to cast his net for songs he might releases as a single. When The Beach Boys’ Magnus Opus Pet Sounds,  Bobby Vee decided to cover Here Today. It was released as a single on Liberty Records, and finds Bobby Vee never straying far from the original. It’s a case of not trying to reinvent the wheel as he pays homage to one of the highlights of Pet Sounds, Here Today. 

Brian Wilson and Russ Teitlemann penned Guess I’m Dumb during the recording of The Beach Boys ninth album Summer Days (And Summer Nights). The song was recorded but never completed, and never made it onto the 1965 album. Later in 1965, Guess I’m Dumb was released as a single by Glen Campbell, but it failed to chart. Soon, other artists were covering Guess I’m Dumb. This included Johnny Wells in 1967. 

His cover was produced by Mike Berry and Peter Raymond. They stay true to Brian Wilson’s production on Glen Campbell’s original version. It seems to have been inspired by Phil Spector. When Johnny Wells cover of Guess I’m Dumb was released in Britain in 1967, it was on the Parlophone label. Guess I’m Dumb becomes  heart-wrenching ballads where emotion, hurt and drama are omnipresent.

Don’t Worry Baby is, without doubt, a Beach Boys’ classic. So anyone who decides to cover Don’t Worry Baby will have their version compared to the original. The Tokens’ cover is akin to a homage to the Beach Boys. Sonically and stylistically, The Tokens’ 1970 cover of Don’t Worry Baby is one of the best, and stays true to the original.

Aren’t You Glad was written by Brian Wilson and his future nemesis Mike Love, and featured on The Beach Boys’ 1967 album Wild Honey. A year later, Peggy March Aren’t You Glad featured on the B-Side of Peggy March’s 1968 single I’ve Been Here Before. It was produced by Hal David, whose influence is apparent throughout the track. Giveaways are the horns and strings, that are reminiscent of his work with Burt Bacharach. They’re the perfect accompaniment for Peggy’s vocal on whats a quite beautiful, dreamy sounding track.

Side Two.

Soul singer Betty Everett is one of many people to cover what’s one of the Brian Wilson’s classic songs, God Only Knows. It originally featured on Pet Sounds, in 1966. Incredibly, Gold Only Knows stalled at number thirty-nine in the US Billboard 100. Nine years later, and Betty Everett covered God Only Knows on her 1975 album Happy Endings. Accompanied by gospel tinged backing vocals, God Only Knows is given soulful makeover that’s quite beautiful.

Just a year after releasing Pet Sounds in 1966, and already artists were queuing up to cover songs from Pet Sounds. This included Carmen McRae, who in 1967 covered I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times and Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulders) on her 1967 album For Once In My Life. Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulders) features on Here Today!-The Songs Of Brian Wilson. It was written by Brian and Tony Asher. However, Carmen McRae gives the song a jazz-tinged sound, that shows a new side to a classic song.

Good Vibrations, which featured on the Beach Boys 1967 album Smiley Smile, gave the Beach Boys a number one single in 1968. Not only was Good Vibrations by far the highlight of the Smiley Smile album, but one of the greatest songs Brian and Mike Love cowrote. Since 1968, Good Vibrations is perceived as one of the greatest singles ever released. Despite the original being a musical masterpiece, Hugo Montenegro covered Good Vibrations in 1969. The song lent its name to his 1969 album Good Vibrations. Without doubt. one of the highlights of the album is Good Vibrations, where Hugh pays homage to what many believe is Brian Wilson’s finest moment.

Nick DeCaro’s 1968 debut single was a cover of Caroline, No. It’s an wistful, piano lead cover of this Brian Wilson and Tony Asher composition. The addition of a sultry saxophone is a masterstroke, and is very different from the Beach Boys’ original on Pet Sounds. Here, Nick brings new life and meaning to another Beach Boys classic.

I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times was another song that Brian and Tony Asher cowrote for Pet Sounds. It’s been covered by many artists over the last fifty years. This includes Louis Philippe with Dean Brodrick. They recorded I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times for their 1991album Rainfall. It’s a moving and heartfelt cover, where the vocal is rueful and wistful, as Dean accepts: “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times.” The result is one of the best covers of this song.

Closing Here Today!-The Songs Of Brian Wilson, is Kirsty MacColl’s cover of You Still Believe In Me, another track from Pet Sounds. Kirsty MacColl, the daughter of folk singer Ewan MacColl, had only released a quartet of singles when she released You Still Believe In Me in 1981. However, You Still Believe In Me was a game-changer. It was the finest single of her nascent career. The best way to describe Kirsty’s cover of You Still Believe In Me is understated and ethereal. This was the perfect tribute to one of Kirsty’s musical heroes.

The twelve songs on the vinyl edition of  Here Today!-The Songs Of Brian Wilson, which was recently released by Ace Records, is a reminder of the quality of songs Brian Wilson wrote in his heyday. He was, without doubt one of the most talented songwriters of his generation. That is indisputable. However, Brian Wilson was much more than a songwriter.

Some people have gone as far as to describe Brian Wilson as the closest thing music has had to a genius. That is taking things to far. In the post Smile’ years, Brian Wilson’s health suffered, and he never reached the same heights. However, Brian Wison was certainly one of the the most talented and successful singer, songwriters, and producers of his generation. Proof, if any is needed, are the twenty-four hit singles, including two number one singles for masterminded the Beach Boys. However, Brian’s finest hour was Pet Sounds, and of course, Good Vibrations, which was recorded at the same time. 

Pet Sound, which was released in 1966 was the Beach Boys’ progressive, psychedelic Magnus Opus. They never bettered Pet Sounds. The Smile project, which was abandoned in 1967, as Brian had the first of several nervous breakdowns, onlookers believe, could’ve come close. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. Smile, the followup to Pet Sounds was cancelled. 

Brian Wilson had suffered the first of several nervous breakdowns. As a result of Brian Wilson’s health problems, his influence on the Beach Boys began to diminish. This just happened to coincide with a decrease in sales of the Beach Boys’ albums.

Over the next twenty-six years, Brian Wilson’s suffered from mental health problems. During that period, he was constantly described as a troubled genius. Sadly, Brian never reached the heights he scaled between 1961 and the release of Pet Sounds in 1966.

With Brian no longer playing such an important part in the Beach Boys, their studio albums never came close to matching the Beach Boys of the sixties. The exceptions were 1976s15 Big Ones which Brian produced, and 1979s L.A. (Light Album). Bother were a return to form from the Beach Boys.

Right through to 1992, when Brian ended his association with Eugene Landy, his health problems meant he curtailed his musical career. Since then, Brian Wilson has released ten further solo albums. Some were released to critical acclaim; while others feature a fleeting glimpse of Brian Wilson’s talents. However, much of the greatest music of Brian Wilson’s career, was the music he released with the Beach Boys, between 1961 and the release of Pet Sounds in 1966. To that, I would add the musical masterpiece that is Good Vibrations, which is the work of a musical visionary.

That visionary is Brian Wilson, who has influenced two generations of musicians, including the artists who pay tribute to him on Here Today!-The Songs Of Brian Wilson. Here Today!-The Songs Of Brian Wilson is a fitting addition to Ace Recods’ Songwriters’ series, and is a fitting and poignant reminder of Brian Wilson at the peak of his powers. 














Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: