Monday, 20 July 2020

Lovesong: God Only Knows: Brian Wilson:

A while back I was involved in an interesting discussion with a mate (Tim Patrick) regarding Brian Wilson. Tim recently reminded me of the conversation and pointed me towards the unadorned but beautiful version of 'God Only Knows' that that's hosted at the base of this post. So, Tim's question was: has Brian Wilson's mental state cut short his creativity?

It's that eccentricity that led him to the outlandish notions, melodies, arrangements that others could never conceive. It was Brian's brain, the one that created 'Surf's Up', that also put him in the sandpit. There's a childlike, manic naivety that marks many a creative 'genius'. Mozart anyone? Those ecstatic demons surely take fated talents to different places than the rest of us. Our demons have hiding places, or at least boxes that we create for their storage. Even if Brian could banish his demons they still continue to send postcards. Our angels and demons often wear the same shoes; shoes that make us dance or hobble us horribly; dependent upon... God only knows. Imagine the frustration of soaring, elevated, only to find yourself earthbound the next moment. It's a fascinating subject: The Muse. It inevitably takes as much as it gives; often breaks what it builds; reducing building blocks to... sand. And, from my experience, there are a limited number of bricks; only so much water in the well. 

Lucky for us that Wilson was able to capture his best juice as elixir rater than the diluted stuff that most of us muster. Interesting that genius is often associated with youth. Could it be that as we get older we learn how to control and suppress the demons/angels that previously caused havoc, but were an essential element of our creativity? Perhaps experience teaches us to rein in our creativity because the very randomness of the muse's visitations might render us unstable and vulnerable? Perhaps Wilson has disassociated himself from the challenges of creativity with the simple recognition, and acceptance, that he just wasn't made for these times. Maybe that explains the weeping middle aged men at his concerts: a gaggle of gurning geezers recognizing their under-achievements; all to the glorious soundtrack of the ultimate underachiever. So many questions that, for most of us, will remain unanswered. Brian knows there's an answer, one that's seemingly, frustratingly only just out of his reach. However, if the question is: "What could a 'sane' Brian Wilson have achieved?" there is only one answer...


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  3. I'm glad you published this. Some your most insightful & articulate writing. The subject of pursuing The Muse fascinates me. A discussion that could last for hours...

    I don't know that there is a "bottom line" in the enigmatic Life of Brian... I believe he was a man/child blessed with an extraordinary gift of musical creativity. However, he was also extremely hard-working and a perfectionist, transposing those perfect teenage symphonies he heard in his head to final hard-copy musical form.

    If you ever listen to the hours of interviews & studio chatter taped during the Pet Sounds sessions, you are immediately struck by Brian's obvious intelligence and clarity of vision, brilliantly directing dozens of musicians, always focused, mannered and courteous. None of the quirky mental disorders apparent which began to appear in years to come, eventuating in a harrowing slide into drugged-out retreat from reality & the music industry.

    From all I've gathered, it seems the catalyst for his downward spiral and ultimate mental destruction rests primarily in a self-inflicted, reckless abuse of LSD. Wilson himself repeatedly acknowledges the fact in often strange & erratic interviews that "My brain cells got permanently fried from years of taking LSD". Medical experts concur that many of his mental ailments (paranoid schizophrenia, manic depression, auditory hallucinations) relate to brain damage caused by excessive and sustained drug abuse.

    There may be other factors involved... We all love to blame problems on "Daddy issues", in this case tyrannical old Murry, and perhaps there were latent mental disorders lurking in his DNA. But don't you think the individual should bear at least some responsibility? Ultimately, much of the demon-wrestling & physical/mental damage was of Brian's own making/weakness, particularly the extreme self-destructive behavior.

    Has Brian Wilson's mental state cut short his creativity? My conclusion is that it was the years of LSD abuse that CAUSED permanent brain damage, sadly resulting in the diminution of that roaring flame of creative genius into that of a flickering ember... Somewhat recovered & contented, but irreparably damaged, he appears to remain lost inside his own musical universe, pining/grasping for the beauty of a lost muse that inspired him to write his other-worldly "teenage symphonies to God"...