Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Sagacity's Folly by Peter Reum

There is no comfort in wisdom
Said the mother to her sons
Selecting a path true to follow
Losing too many friends hard-won

What wisdom brings to friendship
Turns over the status quo
Leaving relationships long treasured
Laying tarnished in soot tinged snow

When a treasured friend
Elects to stealthily be gone
Wisdom gained is questioned
Regrets emerged  hang on

Did all that questioning become
Harmful to my soul
Knowledge stored away for comfort
No longer helps to feel whole

Intelligence is a curse and never is a gift
When it becomes causation for a rift
Solomon always said sagacity begun
Makes nothing really new under the sun

Divinity given made wisdom trump warmth
Bringing sad feelings painfully coming forth
The gift given and once thought unique
Gone I from humanity to sitting on a peak

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Beach Boys Love Me ???? by Peter Reum

Recently, I had the chance to purchase the Japanese SHM cd edition of The Beach Boys Love You. Before you ask, I am not a person who has dog ears and can perceive major differences between certain high fidelity cds. But, on headphones, it is clearly obvious that this is an extraordinarily clear edition of this Beach Boys album. I recommend it to the folks who are buying the Acoustic Sounds cds solely because that company is not issuing certain cds in their fine collection of Beach Boys shm/sacd cds issued this year and last.

Brian reads the late lamented Pet Sounds Magazine at the Love You Debut Press Party June 20, 1977

That said, part of what I really want to write about is the pleasure that I had in giving this much maligned and/or strongly loved album a listen after many years of not hearing it. I remember hanging out at the old Capitol Records Parking Lot record meet sitting and talking with folks from all over the USA, and some foreign countries as well. What became obvious after 5 or 6 of these types of conversations about the Beach Boys' latest album was that people did not know what to think of it.

Several Beach Boys friends of mine, most prominently my friend Don Spears from Northern California, hated the album so much that they sold their collections. Brian had, in their estimation,  cut this album quickly and carelessly with little regard for the past perfection he had approached records that he had produced. These folks had known the Brian that took pains to ensure that the records he produced sounded the best they could when he shared his art with the world. Other folks simply did not know whether to like the Love You lp or to call it a "practice (therapeutic) record." Thanks to Dr. Landy, the world had been made unnecessarily and acutely aware of Brian's mental health issues, and after 15 Big Ones were expecting a return to Brian's old production style. Reviews of Beach Boys Love You were generally positive, with Robert Christgau raving about it, and Rolling Stone giving it 4 stars after the 2.5 stars they had given 15 Big Ones.

Brian and Dr. Landy 1976

Sadly, the Beach Boys themselves poisoned the relationship with Reprise Records by signing a contract with CBS shortly after Love You was released. Reprise, who were somewhat inclined to offer Brother Records another contract, wrote off the Beach Boy Love You album, thereby causing it to die on the vine. Complicating the whole scene were internal struggles for control of the band, with both sides courting Brian Wilson's vote as to the direction Brother Records would take in the future. The whole mess exploded on the pages of Rolling Stone Magazine, when a writer witnessed a loud shouting match backstage between members of the band after  a 1977 free concert in New York City. Dennis Wilson turned to the writer and said "well, you've just witnessed the break up of The Beach Boys." Dennis and Carl were going through divorces, and Brian was somewhat estranged from his then wife and their children.

Out of all of this pain and all of this conflict emerged The Beach Boys Love You. The 14 songs on the album were all written or co-written by Brian, and he played many of the instruments himself while cutting basic tracks. Like the unreleased Adult Child album, the Love You album was a strong reflection of the things that caught Brian's attention in that era. Sadly, It's Over Now, Its Trying to Say (Baseball), and Still I Dream of It were not included on Beach Boys Love You. Cut at Brother Studio with Earle Mankey engineering, Love You offers a window into Brian's interests and mindset at that time. Despite his mental health being acutely compromised, Brian stepped up and tried to record an album like the "old days." A famous quote from Brian at the time of recording Love You was "Earle, where's the fire? I don't feel the fire I had when I was making those records that were hits."

The flavor of Love You is that it is a personal album statement from Brian, perhaps the most forthright statement in sound he ever cut. Let Us Go On This Way is a prayer from Brian, hoping that the slowly building rift between him and his first wife, Marilyn Wilson, could be mended. Roller Skating Child is his idea of what a young child would do for fun. Mona is a Phil Spector flavored picture of how Brian might approach a woman if he were single again.  The farting synthesizers are charming because they are used in such an unusual style, more sophisticated than before Love You...

Brian Wilson 1976 15th Anniversary Concert

The album's best songs favorably compare with any of Brian's ballads from the Sixties. Brian was feeling isolated and lonely while writing Beach Boys Love You. There is a theme of separateness and alienation which runs through several of the songs therein. That people didn't know about Brian's state of mind while recording Love You was quite understandable. Although Brian's struggle with his mental health was well known inside the record business, the public at large did not pick up on his struggles until Eugene Landy made several public disclosures, supposedly with Brian's written consent, during his first period of working with Brian and his family. Whether this is true or not is immaterial.  Any physician, psychologist, social worker, counselor, or
psychiatrist will tell families of patients and patients themselves that violation of confidentiality is forbidden, whether the family or patient signs a release or not. That Brian's illness was a matter of public knowledge as part of a promotional campaign for two Beach Boys albums was an unpardonable action by Dr. Landy.

It took Paul Kastner, the editor of Crawdaddy Magazine in an excellent editorial in 1977, to tell the truth and sort out the shuck and jive, and to remind everyone around Brian, especially people like Dr. Landy, that treating Brian as a carnival sideshow freak was  unethical, exploititive, disingenuous, and plainly speaking, CRUEL. 

That Brian would be angry about how he was "managed" during the 15 Big Ones album and Love You was as plain and logical as the nose on his face. Remember the interviews where he asked interviewers if they "had any uppers?" Brian's ability to express his reactions to overly controlling personalities. Brian has always had a strong survival instinct which always emerges when he feels cornered, as does any person who was physically and emotionally abused. If one listens to the feelings Brian expressed in what most people thought were "childishly innocent and wacky" lyrics, his anger, grief, and guilt over his life circumstances is plainly evident. 

Brian's mixed feelings about his own behavior led to songs which were snapshots in time.  Songs like Roller Skating Child, I Wanna Pick You Up, and Solar System have almost a conversational tone with Carnie and Wendy, with instrumental  arrangements that sound similar to childrens' records. If one listens carefully, there are subtle lyrical efforts to reach out to Marilyn Wilson in a variety of ways throughout Beach Boys Love You. Subsequent songs from late 1976 and early 1977 also had strong emotional statements from the Love You period, turning up on  the MIU Album, or remaining unreleased until boxed sets included them. Brian's "if Mars had life on it, you might find my wife on it" from Solar System sounds funny and wacky,  but it also sounds like a passive aggressive jab at Marilyn as well. Probable feelings of fear of abandonment surface on Let's Put Our Hearts Together ("let's leave each other never"). Fear of being abandoned for another man show up in I'll Bet He's Nice. Airplane is somewhat of a nostalgic memory of coming off the road and feeling safe in his home and being with his significant other. His dialogues with the women in his life surface in his unreleased Marilyn Rovell, his versions of the Spector-produced songs Just Once In My Life and You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling, and his grief centered demo for My Diane. The lead vocal on that song was passed to Dennis Wilson, thus deflecting the spotlight from Brian himself. Another song written during the Love You period, It's Like Heaven, has a couplet with feelings of frustration and fear  of being abandoned ("but you're afraid to walk with me through  the storm") again coming out.

Brian also expressed guilt about his feelings for trysts outside his marital relationship in I'll Bet He's Nice. His feelings in The Night Was So Young are apparently about a woman who provided love, safety, and support when things at home were turbulent. From Adult Child, loneliness emerges in Still I Dream of It. It's Over Now is a song that expresses Brian's feelings about his marriage ending. If Brian ever hoped he could turn around the feelings he and his wife then had, this song clearly lays out his feelings about his marriage ending . Love Is a Woman is a reminder by Brian to his future  self about what is the proper 
method to treat women can be.

It seems to me that Brian clearly and capably showed his friends what his world felt like in this much misunderstood and criticized album. The people who provided the support for Brian for so many years were going or gone. Beach Boys Love You is a highly personal picture of how Brian Wilson felt during the years when his mental illness  brought hopelessness, grief and profound loneliness in a bleak period of his life. The only uptempo tune that sounded fun was Honkin' Down the Highway. Brian allowed himself to imagine how having "a little date with an angel" would be.

There is an old adage that awakening the mother bear inside your wife about the safety of your children with her is the quickest way to harden her heart and lose her love. The years following his divorce and loss of daily contact with his two daughters put Brian in a tailspin that exacerbated the severity of his mental health. His behavior  during the period from 1978 to 1983 when Landy came back showed a man whose heart was broken and internal rudder was missing. In this sense, perhaps Beach Boys Love You could be considered an album whose creator was headed into a profoundly seriously dangerous direction. Love You was the canary in Brian's coal mine, and can be viewed as such.

There are periods in my own life where I felt like a boat captain in a storm of self-created trouble, headed for a reef  that I could not avoid. This is also the impression that I had from Brian's albums as the late Seventies turned into the early Eighties. Friends of mine who were close to Brian  kept me in the loop regarding his health and well-being. The worst was yet to come. 

But The Beach Boys Love You remains the last album that Brian wrote, produced, and that gave listeners a peek into Brian's world until his first solo album. Huge unanticipated changes were yet to come which gave Brian his Second Life and the stability, fatherhood, and complete control of his music without interference from  record companies, various svengalis, and others who "watered" his creativity with the goal of exploitation. The fable of the goose that laid golden eggs comes to mind...selfish people who wanted more and more golden eggs eventually killed that goose, thinking they would find a bevy off eggs. All they had left was a dead goose.

The Beach Boys Love You is an album at once innocent but also immensely personally reflective as well.  As a dear friend of mine once said "Peter, in 100 years only Brian"s music will matter. No one will care about the drama of Brian's personal life." It is in that spirit that I celebrate The Beach Boys Love You.

Copyright 2016 by Peter Reum- All rights reserved