Mojo (UK)



In an exclusive extract from his moving new memoir, the Beach Boy reflects on rock bottom, Eugene Landy and the healing powers of music.

I’m thinking of a picture. it’s a picture of a picture, actually – me in the early ’70s, lying in bed, looking at the cover photo of the Beach Boys’ Sunflower album, which came out in 1970. the album’s photo of the band – of me; my brothers, Dennis and carl; my cousin mike Love; al Jardine; and Bruce Johnston. it’s the whole band, but not just the band. my daughter Wendy is there, too. mike’s kids hayleigh and christian are there. carl’s son Jonah is there. al’s son matt is there. i was all in white: white shirt, white pants, white shoes. i was looking down, partly because Wendy was in my lap, wearing pink. i was in pretty good shape at that time. my weight was good. i look calm. maybe not happy, but sitting right in the middle of everything. Sunflower was the first record the Beach Boys made for Brother/reprise records, after recording for capitol records for a decade. photograph­s can be misleading, and the cover photo of Sunflower sure is. i was the centre of the band in the photo, but by the time that record came out, i wasn’t at the centre of the band any more. some people will say

that I pulled away from the centre. Some people will say that I was pushed away. Maybe it was a little bit of both. I’m not sure. What I’m sure of is that all the guys in the band had different ideas about what kind of music to release, how to go on-stage and perform our songs, when we should repeat ourselves and when we should try new things. Because Sunflower was our first Reprise record, I wanted to go all the way with being new. I even had the idea that we should change the

group’s name to The Beach, because we weren’t boys any

more. I told the rest of the guys that but they didn’t like the idea. Not only wasn’t I completely in control of the group, but I wasn’t completely in control of myself. How do you know when a problem starts? Did it start in 1964 on an airplane to

Houston, when I freaked out and decided that I couldn’t tour with the band any more? Did it start in the ’40s when my

father Murry whacked me because he didn’t like how I was acting? Did it start in the ’70s with drugs or long before that with the beginnings of mental illness that no one knew how to handle? What did it matter when it started? What mattered was that for a while it wouldn’t end. I was scared at the time Sunflower came out. I felt like the band was slipping away from me. I felt like I was slipping away from myself.

ICOuLDN’T Have kNOWN THaT aLMOST 50 YeaRS later I’d be in a mostly stable and happy place, still dealing with those things but having learned so much about how to do it. I also couldn’t have known that before things would get better, they would get worse. a few years after Sunflower it was much worse. I was worse. My body was filled with drugs and alcohol, and my brain was filled with bad ideas. The bad ideas came from the rest of it and caused it, too. Back then, like I said, mental illness wasn’t treated in a straightfo­rward way. People wouldn’t even admit that it existed. There was shame in saying what it was and strange ideas about how to deal with it. Back then, I wasn’t going anywhere most days, and when I was in the house I didn’t even move around much. I felt stuck because I was depressed, and that caused me to gain weight, and then I felt stuck because I had gained weight. I got up to over 300 pounds. I wasn’t going onstage with the group. I could write songs, but I did it less and less. I needed help desperatel­y, and people close to me were desperate to get it for me. and so the doctor came. My wife at the time, Marilyn, called for him. It was right around the united States Bicentenni­al and everything was red, white, and blue like the Sunflower album cover. It felt like Independen­ce Day all year. But Dr Landy didn’t believe in independen­ce. He wanted me to get the weight off and develop healthier habits, and the way he decided to do that was to put himself in the middle of everything in my life. He called it 24-hour therapy. When friends came to see me, Dr Landy interviewe­d them to make sure they passed his inspection. When I was allowed to see friends, it was never on my own. Dr Landy always sent someone to monitor me, sometimes more than one guy. It would be a lie to say that he didn’t get results. He took the 300 pounds and brought them down to about

185, which is the weight I should have been. I was a foot- ball quarterbac­k in high school and that was what I weighed back then. I hadn’t appeared with the band on-stage in about a decade, except for a few shows. Dr Landy’s stay with me was pretty brief in 1976. He got some results, but then he went too far. He was getting too involved, and then I found out what he was charging. I confronted him about it. I was pretty angry. I threw a punch and he threw one back and that was the end of it – that time, at least. Things were better when he left. We put out some pretty good records, 15 Big Ones and Love You in 1977. But then there were bad years again. The worst of them, 1978, was one of the worst years of my life. I went into a mental hospital in San Diego and then called Marilyn and asked for a divorce. I couldn’t control my thoughts and I couldn’t control my body. It wasn’t the first time I had felt like that, but in some ways it was the worst because of what I did to deal with it. I drank Bali Hai wine and did cocaine and smoked cigarettes and my weight went higher than ever; at one point I tipped the scales at 311 pounds. There were so many costs. One of them was the music. Record labels kept asking us for new albums. Maybe “asking” is a polite word. They expected them, and didn’t expect anything but yes for an answer. So we ended up making records, but they were records that showed how the band was being pulled in many different directions at once, albums like M.I.U. Album in 1978, L.A. (Light Album) in 1979, and Keepin’ The Summer Alive in 1980. Most fans of the band don’t like those records. Some fans don’t even know

about them. I didn’t do much on those albums. I wasn’t in any shape to do much. The same was true on-stage. In March of 1979, a day or so after I got out of the mental hospital, I flew into New York for a concert at Radio City Music Hall. I was about as unprepared as possible in every way. I lasted for one song, California Girls, and then split to the side of the stage. There’s one show I remember from 1982. It was at the Westbury Music Theatre in New York, and there was a stage that circled around like a lazy Susan. We were playing Do It

Again and all of a sudden I started laughing. I couldn’t stop. I had cigarettes on top of the piano and I managed to grab them. We took intermissi­on, and then I came back and perched on the corner of the stage as it rotated and I smoked. I was laughing, but nothing was funny. I was coughing, and I couldn’t come up for air. A few weeks later I was given a letter that told me I was out of money and fired from the band. The first part wasn’t true. The second part was, in a way. Everyone’s patience for the Bali Hai and the drugs and the cigarettes and the giggling had come to an end.

THIs TImE IT WAs THE BEAcH Boys WHo called Dr Landy. It was a group decision, except for Dennis. I don’t think they knew what else to do. At first Landy took me right to Hawaii. When we were there, he started me on an exercise regime, no more drugs, no nothing. I had to kick it all. It took me about a week, but I did it. That week cleaned me up, but it was hard. I was rolling around in bed. I was screaming, clutching at the sheets. I never felt so fucked up. When Dr Landy came back, he had the same idea as the first time around, which was that the people near me were part of the problem. That meant that everyone had to go. caroline, my girlfriend at the time, was one of the people who had to go, even though she was doing nothing wrong. It was sad. But soon I was pumped so full of what Dr Landy was giving me that my memories of her just faded away. The first time through, Dr Landy had succeeded a little bit. His method was never perfect, but it gave me relief. The second time through, there was no relief. Relief would have been a kind of freedom,

and he didn’t believe in freedom. He gave me more and more pills and called them vitamins. He sent girls to keep me company. He played games with me where he put his hand on my leg to see if I had feelings for anyone. He had barbecues at my house, but instead of inviting my friends or family, he invited his family and other doctors. He made big plans, like going back to Hawaii and then to London, but then the plans disappeare­d without explanatio­n. He let me have a margarita every once in a while. He screamed so loud it made me cry. Finally Gene left. There were lots of reasons why he left. But the final straw was when I started seeing Melinda and she got enough looks into my life to see what Gene was doing, and that even if he had helped me once, he wasn’t helping me any more. Thanks to Melinda calling my mom and brother and helping them get the goods on Landy, Carl and his lawyers started working on freeing me from the situation and I started feeling more courage. When Gene finally left that second time, it felt like a tremendous weight was gone from my shoulders. My steps were easier. Still, there were days when I was too depressed to do anything. I couldn’t go to a restaurant or to the movies. I could deal with it by getting angry, but I wasn’t sure what was making me angry. I could throw a can in the air or kick something, but that didn’t solve the problem really. I slowly got back to being me. It took me a while. After all, it was nine years of bullshit.

Or WAS IT 30 yeArS oF BuLLshit? I don’t know how far back to draw the line that led to Landy, but I do know one point the line passed through. That was in 1964, at Christmast­ime. I was with the band on an airplane going to Houston to play a show at the Music Hall there. Just a few days before, we had returned to Los Angeles from Tulsa, where we played their new arena. In the airport I started to feel like I was slipping away a bit. At first I thought it was about my marriage. Just a few weeks before, I had married Marilyn. I was a young husband, only 22, and she was an even younger wife, just 16. I was happy we were married, but I was worried, too. My thoughts about love and romance were all confused. How do you ever know if you’re the right person for someone or if someone is the right person for you? A few months before, we were all hanging out and I noticed her talking to my cousin Mike Love in a way that I thought was a little too friendly. That night I couldn’t stop thinking about it. “Do you like him?” I asked. “Sure,” she said. “He’s a great guy.” “No. I mean do you like him?” “That’s ridiculous,” she said. “Is it? Be honest with me.” She tried to calm me down and eventually did, but the thought was still there at the airport. But that was only a small piece of a bigger puzzle that was falling apart faster than I could put it together. The band was huge. We were more than famous. When we hit Number 1 in Sweden with Surfin’ Safari back in 1962, we laughed about it. Number 1 in Sweden. But Surfin’ Safari also went Top 20 in the uS, and then it seemed like there were Top 10 hits all the time: Surfin’ uSA, Surfer Girl, Be True To your School, Fun, Fun, Fun. It was hard to get any higher than that because of The Beatles. They were on ed Sullivan in February of 1964, and in April they had all five of the top spots in Billboard. That week we were at 13 with Fun, Fun, Fun. In May we released I Get Around, and that went into the Top 20 when songs by The Dixie Cups (Chapel of Love), Mary Wells (My Guy), and The Beatles (Can’t Buy Me Love), still, were at the top. Then in July something changed on the chart. The top song wasn’t by The Dixie Cups or Mary Wells or The Beatles. It was by us. I Get Around was Number 1, right above My Boy Lollipop. It made me happy, but it made me dizzy also. When I started, I just wanted to make music with my brothers and my friends and leave the business to my dad, who was managing us. We were a family band in every way. But that year we got big, things changed. It was scary for me. We got going really fast. I was kind

of a dumb little guy. I didn’t really acknowledg­e we were famous. Every now and then I would, but I was so busy cutting records, writing songs, and going on tour that I didn’t have a chance to sit down and think about it. So instead there was just this exciting feeling that was sort of sickening. We were climbing, but what was up there when you went even higher? And what if you fell? That made me ner vous and afraid, and I closed my eyes and tried to feel brave.

ThAT DEcEmbEr, AT ThE gATE In ThE AIrporT before we flew off to houston, nothing was working and my braver y was gone. “I don’t want to go on that plane,” I told the band. “I don’t know how else we’re going to get to houston,” mike said. “I can’t be on it. I won’t be on it.” I called my mother and told her to come pick me up. She laughed a little and told me not to worry. but that worked about as well as closing my eyes. We boarded. The plane went faster and faster down the runway, lifted off, and started climbing. What was up there when we went higher? I heard the other guys talking. Dennis said something about a girl he was supposed to call back. carl said something about the harmonies on I get Around. Then my thoughts swarmed and I blacked out. To me I blacked out. To everyone else it looked like I was screaming and holding my head and falling down in the aisle. When we got to houston we went straight to the hotel. In my room I quieted down, which didn’t mean that I calmed down. mike and carl visited me. I stared straight at the window like it was a wall. I had so much going on inside my head, but I couldn’t make sense of any of it. The next day I flew right back home to california while the rest of the guys went and finished the dates. glen campbell replaced me the next night in Dallas, and then they went on to omaha, Des moines, Indianapol­is, and Louisville. When they came back to LA, I called a band meeting. “I’m not going to play with the band any more,” I announced. “You’re quitting?” carl said. “no. I just mean that I’m not going to play on-stage. I want to stay home and write songs.” The guys didn’t believe it at first, but I said it enough times for them to eventually believe me. glen pinch-hit for me a little while longer, but soon he wanted to do his own solo trip, so the band hired bruce Johnston. bruce was a staff producer at columbia records who had played in a group called The rip chords. he had a similar falsetto to mine. I stayed at home and wrote. At first it was great. I had some songs I was working on that I thought would really stretch what music could do. Those songs turned into The Beach Boys Today! and Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!), and then they turned into Pet Sounds, and then Pet Sounds turned into SMiLE, and then SMiLE turned into nothing. Along the way the pressure started to pile up again and the blackouts happened again. The voices in my head happened, too, more and more often. I was trying to make this amazing music, and the band was rehearsing all the time, and I couldn’t handle the pressure. I didn’t know who to talk to. I didn’t really tell the other guys in the band. I might have said a word or two, but I could tell from the way they were listening that they didn’t really understand. once I told my dad and he narrowed his eyes and said, “Don’t be a pussy. Don’t be a baby. get in there and write some good songs.” And that’s what I did. I wrote some good songs. but through the whole thing, I was sinking.

WhEn Dr LAnDY LEfT, hE LEfT mE To mY frEEdom. I can’t say that I knew what to do with it right away. I had been on a routine for a while, and being off the routine was relaxing in lots of ways. I was kind of in a holding pattern, but not a bad one. I hung out with melinda mostly. We would go to lunch and drive around. We would go to hollywood boulevard and the movies almost every night. melinda used to laugh because I would spend hundreds of dollars on souvenirs like I was a tourist or a junk-aholic. We listened to the radio sometimes. K-Earth 101. It’s an oldies station in Los Angeles with a huge broadcasti­ng range. music circled me as an idea. one of the first people I called when Landy left was Andy paley. Andy had a great history in pop music. he worked with lots of people and worked with me on my first solo record. If Landy was the bad part, Andy was the good part. When I started to get that feeling again about making music, I called him. “Let’s write some new tracks,” he said. We wrote a song called Soul Searchin’. We wrote a song called Desert Drive. We wrote a song called You’re Still A mystery. We wrote them with The beach boys in mind because Don Was, the producer and bassist, wanted to do a beach boys record. That didn’t pan out because carl didn’t like the songs – I don’t know why. Then Sean o’hagan, from the band The high Llamas, was going to do it. That didn’t happen either. The whole project just weirded out. Anyway, when we were writing, we didn’t use a big profession­al studio, and usually we didn’t even use the 4-track in my house. We just sang and played and recorded on a boom box. When songs got better and they were ready to be picked off the tree, then we booked studio time for me. I would call friends like Danny hutton, who sang with Three Dog night, and he would come in and help flesh things out. It felt the way it sometimes did in the old days, and that was freedom. but it was hard to imagine doing any of it alone. I needed Andy there with me, or at least someone I trusted who would keep me encouraged. I was scared as hell to go and make new music. It was always a combinatio­n of scared and excited for me. Sometimes I would play the new music for Dr marmer. Steve marmer – he was the doctor I went to after Landy left, and he was one of the people who helped me get my balance back. They say there are three things that matter when you are dealing with mental illness: finding the right support network, finding the right medication, and finding the right doctor. Dr marmer was definitely the right doctor. Dr Landy had bullied me about music. he had bullied me about everything. Dr marmer talked to me about it. If I said I was thinking about music, he told me that he thought it was a good idea. If I played him a new song or part of one, he was supportive. And even though sometimes we talked about my thoughts and feelings, sometimes we just talked about music. Later on, Dr marmer came to see a show of mine and he was so happy. he couldn’t believe that the on-stage me was the same me in his office. he couldn’t believe that I could be in command that way. The truth is that I will never really be comfortabl­e up there, but I know how to tough it out and get through it. And whether I’m comfortabl­e or not, it’s a place where I can be what I am.

 ??  ?? Catching the first wave: Brian cutting the Surfin’ Safari album with early Beach Boy David Marks, 1962; (below) 1988 solo LP; 1964’s Number 1 hit single; his father, Murry Wilson.
Catching the first wave: Brian cutting the Surfin’ Safari album with early Beach Boy David Marks, 1962; (below) 1988 solo LP; 1964’s Number 1 hit single; his father, Murry Wilson.
 ??  ?? Getting around: The Beach Boys in 1966 (from left) Brian and Carl Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Dennis Wilson; hit 45s; (below left) Brian and Marilyn; (far left) 1970’s Sunflower LP; Bali Hai wine and 1977’s 15 Big Ones. Heroes and villains: (from...
Getting around: The Beach Boys in 1966 (from left) Brian and Carl Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Dennis Wilson; hit 45s; (below left) Brian and Marilyn; (far left) 1970’s Sunflower LP; Bali Hai wine and 1977’s 15 Big Ones. Heroes and villains: (from...
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 ??  ?? I Am Brian Wilson, by Brian Wilson with Ben Greenman, is out now, published by Coronet.
I Am Brian Wilson, by Brian Wilson with Ben Greenman, is out now, published by Coronet.

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