Interpretations of six “Pet Sounds” compositions are among the highlights of this celebration of Brian Wilson’s songwriting genius.
It’s hard to believe 12 years have passed since “Pet Projects: The Brian Wilson Productions”, one of the first releases in our much-admired Producers series. Not before time, Wilson now joins such greats as Randy Newman, Laura Nyro, Goffin & King, Dan Penn, Bacharach & David, Jackie DeShannon and Serge Gainsbourg in our high-profile Songwriters series.
The record industry mindset of the early 60s was to maximise output from any successful group, and Wilson often worked with co-writers in order to meet the demand for Beach Boys product. His earliest writing partners were Gary Usher and Mike Love, both of whom provided a streetwise confidence that to some extent eluded him. The songs he wrote with Usher, Love and others such as Roger Christian and Jan Berry extolled the hedonistic joys of Californian teenage life with such verve that it was taken up all over the world. He wrote mainly for the Beach Boys but also for others and for the teen film industry, providing summer lifestyle numbers for a seemingly insatiable market, but once he stopped performing live with the Beach Boys in late 1964, his songwriting moved into deeper, richer, more adult themes. While he invariably wrote the music, it’s often assumed his co-writers provided the lyrics, but it was never as clear-cut as that. A case in point is his work with Tony Asher for “Pet Sounds”, which arose from intimate chats about the personal relationship issues that underpin the album. Here we offer fine examples from all these stages and beyond, illustrating Wilson’s greatness as both a collaborative and individual songwriter.
The collection opens with ‘Do You Have Any Regrets?’ by Darian Sahanaja of the Wondermints, a rare composition from Wilson’s unissued “Sweet Insanity” album of the early 90s. While Wilson’s version was a rather frantic latin-styled piece, Sahanaja’s recording is a homage to the 1965-era Beach Boys. Along with collectable tracks by Johnny Wells, Basil Swift, the Castells, Joey & the Continentals, Keith Green and Peggy March, Sahanaja’s luxuriant cover makes its legit CD debut here. Other highlights include superb interpretations of songs from “Pet Sounds” by Kirsty MacColl, Carmen McRae, Nick DeCaro, Betty Everett, Bobby Vee and Louis Philippe. Those who own a copy of MacColl’s harmony-drenched ‘You Still Believe In Me’ single might have noticed a message etched into the run-off groove: God Bless Brian, a sentiment seconded by all lovers of great music.
Kingsley Abbott, Mick Patrick and Harvey Williams