This month, the harrowing story of the deeply troubled life and wildly creative musical mind of Brian Wilson comes to the silver screen, in Love & Mercy. An ambitious undertaking, the film is directed by Bill Pohlad who tidily splits the entire narrative arc into two distinct epochs: the musically fertile period in the 60s that produced Pet Sounds (with Wilson played by Paul Dano) and the fraught psychosis of the 80s-era rebound (with John Cusack as Wilson).
It's a fascinating glimpse into a well-documented life, and the troubled man who gave rise to among the most memorable and celebrated rock and roll of the past 50 years. So musically speaking, what is Brian Wilson most proud of?
The leader of the Boys has cited the opening bars of "California Girls" as his proudest achievement: "['California Girls'] is something I’m very proud of in a sense because it represents the Beach Boys' really greatest record production we’ve ever made."
Released the summer of 1965, the track's intro is stately, almost lethargic, as it blends muted horns and keyboards before slipping into perky-pop song mode. It was also reportedly conceived during among Wilson's first acid trips.
While hardly a commercial failure-it hit Top Ten and spawned two Top Ten singles-it performed poorly by Beach Boy standards, failing to sell gold. Coming immediately after the carefree (and more popular) Beach Boys' Party, Pet Sounds was all the more confusing.
"God Only Knows" exemplifies Pet Sounds in its confessional tone and sensitive arrangement. Tony Asher wrote the lyrics, as he did for most of the album. Wilson was nervous about what he considered the unprecedented use of the word god in a pop song title. (Apart from quasi- patriotic kitsch like Johnny Burnette's 1961 hit "God, Country And My Baby", was Wilson unaware of a regional hit nearly as touching as his own, only a decade earlier- the Capris' "God Only Knows").
As on the rest of the album, none of the Beach Boys play instruments; Brother Carl Wilson's vocal is virtuostic. In the U.S., "God Only Knows" dented the Top 40 as the B-side of a bouncier Pet Sounds track, "Wouldn't It Be ...
Born Reginald Dwight in Middlesex, England, the future Elton John discovered his destiny early, tinkering with the piano as a tot of three. Teenager Reg won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music and studied there five years before signing on with Long John Baldry's band Bluesology in the mid 60s. Taking his name from Baldry and bandmate Elton Dean, Elton John left Baldry and teamed up with the man who would become his longtime writing partner, lyricist Bernie Taupin.
The sweetly sentimental "Your Song," John's 1970 breakthrough hit, was far from his first single. The 1968 dud "I've Been Loving You" was an ill-conceived attempt to capitalize on the popularity of big ballad singers like Engelbert Humperdinck and Tom Jones; 1969's "Lady Samantha" didn't score either, but found John on the verge of discovering his artistic voice, and was covered by Three Dog Night. Since "Your Song," it's been full speed ahead, of course.
During a career spanning five decades, the Rocket Man has released more than 30 albums, and is one of the top-selling artists of all time, with more than 300 million records sold worldwide.
Sir Elton continues to influence ...