I repost my annual tribute to one of the worst dads ever...
Most people familiar with the Beach Boys, are aware that Murry Wilson, (father of Brian, Carl, and Dennis, and uncle to Mike Love), was something right out of central casting; petty-tyrant division.
A factory worker who had a minor hit with a novelty song, (“Two Step, Side Step”), he never gave up his dream of making it big in music. He encouraged all of his children to play instruments and sing, and as they began to perform, poured his energies into promoting and producing his talented progeny.
Wilson was an alcoholic, who frequently belittled, humiliated, and often hit his children. Brian suffered permanent hearing loss in one ear from a 2 x 4 that Murry clocked him with. (You hear Brian allude to that on the recording.)
Wilson had a glass eye, as the the result of an industrial accident. When the Wilson children were little, he would take it out, and make them stare into the empty socket.
As the Beach Boys fame grew, Wilson kept believing he was critical to their success. At some point, Brian set up a phony mixing board in the studio, so Murry could think he was doing something, twiddling those dials. Meanwhile, an engineer located elsewhere would do the real work.
Eventually, the group fired him. Over their objections, he sold the publishing rights to their music for a fraction of their worth. He died of a heart attack at age 55, (the age I think he was born looking), and is buried in an unmarked grave in Inglewood, California.
This audio was recorded on Jan. 8, 1965, when Murry, already drunk, comes into the studio as the group is cutting, “Help Me, Rhonda”. Things go downhill from there.
A couple things strike me about it — how collected Brian is, (though he paid a huge mental-price for it later), and just how pathetic Murry is — going from threats to bathos and back, three times in the same sentence. No one deserves a parent like that.
Lastly, and it’s right at the beginning of the longer version, you hear just how amazing the Beach Boys sound. It was everything Murry wanted to be and to have, and wasn’t and didn’t.
A seriously all-star lineup of friends came to lend support. Laura Cantrell, Amy Allison, Jimmy Ryan and the Del Lords, among them.
I’ve written about the first two previously, but the Del Lords – man.. I used to blast Frontier Days on my dad’s old mono record player — before I even had a proper stereo.
I once heard a live show of theirs on the radio – and twenty years later, I still remember their cover of “Tallahassee Lassie”. On Tuesday night, they kicked ass. I forgot how fucking good they are, how much I love that sound. If Crazy Horse came from the LES (and had laid off the heroin), they’d sound like this.
Like Big Star’s music, it was great, joy-making, and a little sad. I was lucky enough to be able to contribute (very) little to the making of it, and became friends (a little), with the movie’s producer.
Readers of the blog know my feelings about Big Star, and was so glad to see this thing happen, and unlike anything that happened during the life of the benighted band, it was at the festival’s largest venue, and its first sell-out.
Big Star’s story is like that of the Titanic. A hundred sub-plots, each one worthy of its own movie. I’m sure everyone wanted to see all the footage that was shot, but that will have to wait for the Blu-Ray.
At the end of the screening, John Fry (founder/owner of Ardent Studios, where Big Star recorded), and Jody Stephens, Big Star’s drummer, and sole surviving original member spoke briefly. They seemed like the nicest guys in the world, and it made me very happy that they got to see first-hand, an inkling of how many people’s lives they’ve touched, made better, healed.