Brian Wilson

Pencil Portrait by Antonio Bosano.

Brian Wilson Pencil Portrait
To see a larger preview, please click the image.

Shopping Basket

The quality of the prints are at a much higher level compared to the image shown on the left.


A3 Pencil Print-Price £45.00-Purchase

A4 Pencil Print-Price £30.00-Purchase

*Limited edition run of 250 prints only*

All Pencil Prints are printed on the finest Bockingford Somerset Velvet 255 gsm paper.

P&P is not included in the above prices.


Last update: 9/10/12

The portly, 71-year-old man with grey hair and a semi luxuriant quiff barks rather than talks, speaking out of the side of his mouth, a legacy of the deafness in his right ear, that allegedly resulted from the umpteen childhood beatings endured at the hands of his father. There is, as everyone who meets him seems to note, something ineffably sad about his eyes, even when he laughs, which he does in a gruff, mirthless shout.

Diagnosed with bipolar schizoaffective disorder, and with a history of breakdowns and reclusivity behind him, it’s a wonder he’s still here, let alone his ongoing participation in headlining sell out tours around the world. Perhaps it’s the drama of the evening, and the demands placed on someone in frail health, that hold a semi-freudian fascination with concert goers? It could of course, be simply the fact that the performer is Brian Wilson, the man who wrote ‘Good Vibrations’ and whose creative vision brought us ‘Pet Sounds’, an album still regularly cited as one of the top five influential masterworks in the history of rock. He’s a flawed musical genius, but a genius nonetheless.

Today, The Beach Boys remain one of the iconic bands of all time and in 2012, released ‘That’s Why God Made The Radio’, their 29th studio album and the first product in decades to feature all of the band’s surviving original members. Produced by Brian Wilson and executive produced by Mike Love, the album’s twelve new songs illustrate the band’s unique and evocative West Coast story with a timeless signature sound. ‘That’s Why God Made The Radio’ debued at No.3 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, the band’s highest-ever album chart debut. I loved the title track, a warm evocative reminder of the long hot British summer of ’76 and the feelgood factor of seeing the band in concert. Unfortunately, despite this renewed commercial success, there remains a distinct lack of bonhomie amongst the surviving members, or perhaps deep down it’s just a combination of sheer practicality, (it’s essentially a septuagenarian band), and a family drama that can rival the best soap operas.

Visiting Britain in 2012 for their ‘Keepin’ the Summer Alive’ tour, the band’s frontman Mike Love (Wilson’s cousin), announced that the group would split after the final date with original members, Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and David Marks, being dropped from the group. The three did not find out they had been dropped until Love and Bruce Johnston released a public statement.

The statement announcing the big shake up read: “The post-50th anniversary configuration will not include Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and David Marks. The 50th Reunion Tour was designed to be a set tour with a beginning and an end to mark a special 50-year milestone for the band.” The exiting Beach Boys would be replaced by the group’s long-time backing band, which included Love’s son Christian, according to the Daily Telegraph. Love added that the decision to drop the three members was financially motivated. “You’ve got to be careful not to get overexposed. There are promoters who are interested [in more shows by the reunited line-up], but they’ve said, ‘Give it a rest for a year’. The Eagles found out the hard way when they went out for a second year and wound up selling tickets for $5.”

Brian Wilson was blindsided.

“I’m disappointed and can’t understand why he (Love) doesn’t want to tour with Al, David and me,” he told CNN. “We are out here having so much fun. After all, we are the real Beach Boys.”

The reunion tour had marked the first time the Boys had toured together in more than two decades yet as of this writing, the September 28 date at Wembley Stadium may prove their ‘live swansong’.

Although the group had had problems in the past, like press negativity and numerous lawsuits, Love had sworn that all the negativity was behind them. “All that stuff is long forgotten,” he told Rolling Stone magazine, the very same rock journal that reported in June 2012 that he had booked shows for his version of the Beach Boys without consulting the other members. It may not be the end despite what we hear, but as far as I’m concerned, it goes to the very heart of the artistic tension that has existed for decades between the two cousins, Love with his acute commercial instincts, and Wilson with a devotion to his compositional craft, no matter what the cost.\

The full letter from Murray Wilson to his son can be located at the following address: all.html\ all.html

Reading it from the perspective of both fatherhood and grandfatherhood, I can no longer view the opinions expressed with a sense of youthful defensiveness. Murray may well have had his share of personal issues, many of which he unfortunately passed on to his sons, yet looking back on what happened to Brian, Dennis and Carl, much of his advice, however “square,” now has a prescient quality to it. The obvious perspective on the troubled Wilson household is a black and white view on events – Murry the tyrannical, creatively frustrated and resentful father, Brian the suffering, talented son keen to assert his independence, yet life is rarely that simple. The Beach Boys’ career was derailed with management squabbles, record label litigation, most notably their early confrontations with the board at Capitol, and artistic cul de sacs at Warners and CBC.

Personally, all three had failed marriages and serious substance abuse problems, the youngest son Dennis, a chronic alcoholic, drowning at sea in 1983. Carl Wilson was diagnosed with lung cancer in early 1997 and died the following year. He outlived his mother Audree by a mere two months, the matriach of the family fully aware that her son’s condition was terminal. By the age of 56, Brian had outlived his brothers, an unthinkable notion two decades earlier when he appeared in the grip of a self destructive mission. Murray, who himself, died prematurely young at the age of 55 with a heart attack, might appear out of step with the times in his impassioned letter, and his attempts to jolt his son back to reality overly dictatorial, but had his fervent wish been granted and the group disbanded, personal events may well have taken a more emotionally rewarding turn for each of the Wilson boys. If the artist does suffer for his art, then the old maxim never applied more tragically then in the tale of the Wilson family.

Recommended listening

The Beach Boys Today! (1965)

Considered by many as the first “serious” Beach Boys album. The pre-cursor to “Pet Sounds”. Recorded at a time when Brian Wilson was beginning to focus all his attention on the music and recording/producing in the studio. The first album to be released after his famous (or infamous) nervous breakdown and after he decided to no longer tour with the group. In my opinion, “Today!” is hands down tied for second best Beach Boys album (tied with “Summer Days!!” and way better than “Pet Sounds”.
The general “concept” of the album is rather simple. One side full of rocking, upbeat, “stereotyped”, Beach Boys songs. The second side comprised of more slower, emotional, “serious” Beach Boys songs/ballads. The flow of the album sounds wonderful in this track configuration. The album’s second side lays all the groundwork and foundation for “Pet Sounds”. Brian Wilson would take these same concepts, and only expand on it further and to the fullest a year later.

Unfortunately on such a “perfect” album, there are once again “flaws”. it’s from, the novelty/filler track. The album concludes with a radio interview of the group talking about playing in Europe. As they discuss Europe we hear the group opening up fast food wrappers/bags. The topic of discussion now shifts as the group makes sure they got their burger orders right. Imagine “Pet Sounds” concluding with this track. This would be even more absurd and confusing as the dogs barking and the train passing by (which doesn’t bother me in the least bit). After that, the only other thing is that the single version of “Help Me Rhonda” (released on “Summer Days!!”) is way far superior than the one that appears here.

None the less, 5/5. A novelty track and early version of a song is not enough to bring any decline of quality to an album that serves so much significant importance to the group.

Pet Sounds (1966)

Raising the bar for vivid orchestration, lyrical ambition, elegant pacing and thematic coherence, ‘Pet Sounds’ both invented, and in some sense perfected, the idea that an album could be more than the sum of its parts. Just as with its successor , The Beatles’ ‘Sgt Pepper,’ few Beach Boys fans would name any of the album titles amongst their top ten recordings, yet asked to name the band’s pivotal long player, almost every one of them would cite ‘Pet Sounds.’

The concept was Brian’s, freshly liberated from life ‘on the road’ and bursting with compositional and arrangement ideas. When Wilson sang, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older?” on the magnificent opener, he wasn’t just imagining a love that could evolve past high school; he was suggesting a new grown-up identity for rock & roll music itself.

Recording with the crème de la crème of session players like bassist Carol Kaye, guitarist Glen Campbell and drummer Hal Blaine, Wilson essentially made ‘Pet Sounds’ without the rest of the band, using them only to flesh out the vocal arrangements. Its luxurious sound conveys a heartbreaking wistfulness, and the deeply personal songs, which he co-wrote primarily with lyricist Tony Asher, bid farewell to the innocent world of the Beach Boys’ fun-in-the-sun hits.

A personal favourite of mine is ‘Don’t talk (put your head on my shoulder),’ Brian’s introspective take on disillusioned love, achingly rendered with a solo vocal performance, suitably adorned with an understated string overdub recorded on April 3, 1966 at Western Studios, H. Bowen David engineering the session.

Unfortunately, no-one was impressed, Capitol Records singularly concerned with likely sales returns from a radical artistic departure and cousin Mike even more forthright. “Who’s gonna hear this shit?” Love enquired of their resident genius, as Wilson played him the new songs he was working on. “The ears of a dog?” But Love’s contempt proved oddly useful: “Ironically,” Wilson observed, “Mike’s barb inspired the album’s title.” Barking dogs, including Wilson’s dog Banana, are prominent amongst the album’s eclectic mix of sounds and instrumentation.

Wilson would ultimately be vindicated by history yet there was little disguising how crushed he was by the initial critical reaction. Had ‘Good Vibrations’ been included in the original running order, events might have taken a different turn.

[Programme for the Beach Boys’ October ’66 UK tour with Lulu.]

Smile (1967)

That’s Why God Made The Radio (2012)

The Beach Boys are all about contradictions. The nicer word would be “juxtapositions,” but let’s just call it what it is. Their carefree early songs about surfing, cars, and girls hid the Wilson brothers’ chaotic upbringing for a time, and were eventually offset by band turmoil and clashing personalities. The term creative differences would be an understatement, no matter how many times a day Mike Love mediated or how many songs they wrote about the Maharishi (a figure who was arguably more contradictory than his most famous disciples). Even when their more introspective later work delved into heavier topics, it was done so through the filter of Brian Wilson’s lush wall of sound and the chipper, full-bodied instrumentation of studio musicians such as The Wrecking Crew. And their music was all the better for it — because contradictions are fascinating, and we’re all guilty of them.

That’s Why God Made The Radio, The Beach Boys’ thirtieth studio album (and first in sixteen years) shows the two sides of the band through a compelling tonal split. Structurally, it’s most similar to 1965′s Today!, characterized by one side of sunny hits and a second of pining ballads. But where the source of that record’s melancholia was strictly romance, Radio‘s dread comes from someplace far more frightening: age.

“Why don’t we feel the way we used to anymore?” asks Al Jardine in “From There To Back Again”, the first song in the album’s closing mini-suite of nostalgia vanished. It dissolves into “Pacific Coast Highway”, which, in under two minutes, captures Wilson at his most emotionally naked (“Sunlight’s fading and there’s not much left to say/ My life, I’m better off alone”). Subtle flourishes of strings and plodding piano drive the song into the darkening horizon before closing track “Summer’s Gone” rises with lonely chimes and the gentle creak of an oboe. “Summer’s gone/ I’m gonna’ sit and watch the waves/ We laugh, we cry/ We live and die and dream about our yesterdays,” sighs Wilson backed by his bandmates, whose harmonies sound surprisingly youthful considering the youngest vocalist is pushing 70. Their eternal pipes are overtaken by the ripple of a wave as the record ends, aptly marrying beach imagery with resignation for what may very well be The Beach Boys’ final statement to the world as a full band. It’s a funeral dirge full of majesty, and it makes the sunnier first two-thirds of the album more tragic, even if that wasn’t their intent. What’s wild is that it was also co-written with New Jersey rocker Jon Bon Jovi, in what will undoubtedly go down as another obscure collaboration in the The Beach Boys’ repertoire.

Other than the opening vocal chant of “Think About The Days” hinting at the downtrodden reflection to come (think a sadder version of “Our Prayer”), the bulk of That’s Why God Made The Radio concerns itself with capturing the harmony, both vocal and communal, that was the boon of The Beach Boys’ earlier work. And it accomplishes this more successfully than any of the group’s albums since 1978. “Isn’t It Time” bounces along with sprightly ukulele and piano as the vocal triumvirate of Wilson, Jardine, and Love trade off verses, whereas the romantic testament “Shelter” anchors the higher registers of Wilson and longtime Beach Boys sideman Jeff Foskett with harpsichord and playful trombone. It’s a far cry from the palatial arrangements of Pet Sounds, but it’s still nice to see the band moving away from the cheesy keyboards and tinny drum machines of albums like Summer In Paradise.

Elsewhere, “Spring Vacation”, “Daybreak Over The Ocean”, and “Beaches In Mind” all merely chronicle good times, whether it be within a relationship or the band itself. At first, it’s easy to dismiss the simple lyrics and overproduction as pure syrup, but think about the darker implications of what’s not being said. When Love sings, “As for the past, it’s all behind us/ Happier now, look where life finds us,” in “Spring Vacation”, we know that’s not completely true, especially given Wilson’s panicked demeanor at recent live performances and the song’s later lyric of “easy money” (not to mention the record’s closing moments). While the surviving original members of The Beach Boys most likely didn’t reunite purely for a paycheck, it’s hard to believe that didn’t play a large factor.

But this optimistic illusion has always been a huge part of who they are. The Beach Boys may not have surfed (save for the late Dennis Wilson), but they sure wrote some great songs about it. They may not have played their own instruments on their latest album as originally promised (except for some inspired riffage from David Marks), but they still feel like a true band. And while That’s Why God Made The Radio may not be in the same league as SMiLE or Pet Sounds, it’s an immensely satisfying and interesting outing from a group long thought to have transformed into a living jukebox. It’s better than it has any right to be, and that’s a wonderful contradiction in itself.

Recommended reading

I just wasn’t made for these times – Brian Wilson and the making of Pet Sounds (Carles L. Granata) 2003

Another one of my cut price purchases, a £3 outlay on a recommended retail price of £9.99 – patience truly has its rewards. I was already familiar with Charles L. Granata for his sterling work on ‘Frank Sinatra – The art of recording’, and his incisive writing is once again ever present in this volume on Wilson’s creative masterpiece.

In ‘I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times’, Granata skilfully deconstructs the album into all its major components, giving the reader a detailed appreciation of how and why ‘Pet Sounds’ is one of the best albums ever recorded. The book remains, ten years after its original publication, an essential companion to the album, revealing the originality of the chordal movements, quixotic instrumentation, and the harmonic sheen of Brian’s vocal inventions.

The text provides an evocative picture of the mid-60s California scene, along with thoughtful insight into the mind of Brian Wilson at the time of writing Pet Sounds, in the years since its release and its subsequent revival.

An insightful scholarly work and essential reading for any Beach Boys fan.


The official site – a starting point and an obvious one.