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The Sound of California Craze Goes Live with Brian Wilson

Thursday, November 19: 4:20 p.m.
Posted by Carl Harp

Brian Wilson Beach Boys live concert Cincinnati, Ohio, set list November 2015

Brian Wilson has long been an inspiration to his contemporaries and hopeful songwriters around the globe. Much of the popular music that has followed in his creative wake owes a debt to the much-mythologized (and biopic friendly) frontman.  

“Brian Wilson is a genius,” says two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Graham Nash in a video featured in the Rock Hall's Touching the Flame exhibit. “Pet Sounds was a journey from start to finish, and I think that was recognized by John (Lennon) and Paul (McCartney) when they started Sgt. Pepper's… The idea of turning a long-playing record into an actual mental journey was brilliant. Brian Wilson started it, and John and Paul really finished it off.”

But decades later, how would that translate live? Was Brian Wilson a charismatic live performer able to carry the interest of a crowd or better suited to his own devices in the studio? Would any former Beach Boys bandmates reunite with Wilson? I had questions, and on Saturday, November 14, Brian Wilson brought his “No Pier Pressure” tour to the Taft Theatre in Cincinnati, Ohio, giving me answers.

Brian Wilson and Al Jardine Beach Boys live concert Taft Theater Cincinnati Ohio November 2015

The setlist mostly featured Beach Boys songs penned by the eldest Wilson ...

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What Beach Boys Music is Brian Wilson Most Proud Of?

Thursday, June 25: 10:15 a.m.
Posted by Rock Hall

The Beach Boys Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees California Girls 60s

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.

Though ...

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Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: "God Only Knows"

Friday, May 16: 4:51 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall

Inspired by the Beatles' Rubber Soul album, Brian Wilson responded with Pet Sounds, the Beach Boys' masterpiece. And like many other prescient works through the ages, it puzzled the public.

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 ...

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Elton John: From the Classics to the Contemporary

Tuesday, March 25: 4:25 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Released in 1970, Elton John's second album contained one of his biggest hits, "Your Song."

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 ...

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