The Beach Boys Interview
Writer Domenic Priore has put together a unique book on one of America's most famous rock 'n roll groups - The Beach Boys. Titled "Look! Listen! Vibrate! Smile!" it focuses on a year in the life of the group. That year was 1966-1967.
Q - Of all the groups you could've written about, why did
you choose The Beach Boys?
A - I found this Smile album particularly interesting because of its power and its unreleased state. Its progressive power I'd say.
Q - Did you ever read the Steven Gaines book on The Beach
Boys, "Heroes and Villains"?
A - Yeah, sure.
Q - What'd you think about that book?
A - Well, I thought two things about it. There was very little concern with the music in it and if he was writing a scandal rag, I think he still played it safe by Beach Boys terms. In other words, what's in that book, is mild compared to what the real situation is.
Q - Why has no one written the definitive inside story of
the Beach Boys? Is it because everyone in the group is still alive?
A - No. No one could have told the true situation in the Beach Boys better than David Leaf did in his book, which was called "The Beach Boys And The California Myth". That was released in 1978. That book talks about the music and the real problem as far as I'm concerned is the way they have treated Brian Wilson. That's basically the root of it. David gets to the root of the problem in his book without being scandalous. They treat Brian like a carnival bear. Luckily, Brian is sort of protected from that in a way now, even if it's by different strange means.
Q - Did you get any cooperation from any of the members when
you were putting this book together?
A – Well, yes. But the only one that matters, as far as I'm concerned, is Brian Wilson. During the course of doing my book, I was privy to listening to tapes, as a matter of fact, I visited Brian in the studio when he was working on Rio Grande. At that visitation, I was allowed to listen to a tape of the unreleased version of "Heroes and Villains", which by now is very, very legendary. And so, here I was a fan of The Beach Boys, sitting there watching Brian produce a brand new masterpiece and getting to listen to his unheard masterpiece from 1967. It was a very eerie situation. Twilight Zone, you might say.
Q - How is Brian Wilson's health these days?
A - Brian Wilson has been through at least a couple of nervous breakdowns in his life. He's got a very nervous condition. But, also, at the same time, he's an artist who's in a very elite place. You gotta consider that right behind Elvis Presley, the Beach Boys have sold more singles than anybody, including The Beatles. And, Brian Wilson was the author of all these songs. Brian Wilson had 4 or 5 other guys in the group who were after a piece of the action. So he doesn’t really like to reveal his true self, and he does play a lot of games to keep people away, as a protective, defensive measure.
Q - How long did it take you to put this project together?
A - About 9 months.
Q - After 25 plus years, why has the interest in The Beach
Boys remained so strong?
A - I think The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and Bob Dylan, out of all the people in the 60's, will always have the highest visibility. The music of those four artists is just going to continue on. They pretty much represent what the 60's were all about. I'm certain there are other factions that will last as well, like Motown, but I think The Beach Boys, The Stones, The Beatles and Bob Dylan will always represent the 60's to people.
Q - I assume you've seen The Beach Boys in concert many times.
A - I've been to a lot of concerts in the past. First time I saw The Beach Boys was in 1963. They played a dance across the street from my house at a basketball gym. I was only 3 years old. I lived across the street from a park. I got to see a "Love In with Big Brother And The Holding Co.". As far as The Beach Boy's concerts, I haven't gone to see them in the 80"s, because they're getting progressively worse.
Q - It is painful to watch a group when the singing is off-key
and the harmonics aren't there. You would think a group would know when to
call it a day.
A - The concerts have become more of an event than musical situation. They make a big revenue and draw big audiences. Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys are definite separate entities. I think that's the way things really stand today. Brian Wilson created The Beach Boys. One Hundred Per Cent of what The Beach Boys play are Brian Wilson songs. Brian Wilson has been thwarted by the group and this nostalgic attitude for many years now. Finally, he's been relieved of the weight of The Beach Boys he's been carrying around, now that he's got a really good solo record. That's pretty much the most exciting thing any Beach Boy’s fan could be raving about.
Q – Does anybody know why Brian Wilson went off the
A – This is where my book comes in. My book covers the period from 1966-1967, which was the artistic peak of The Beach Boys. It was a time when Brian Wilson had just put out “Pet Sounds” which was a complete blockbuster progressive album that everybody in the music industry was very influenced by. He followed that up with “Good Vibrations”. The music that Brian Wilson was making at that time was threatening the status quo of what The Beach Boys represented to Capitol Records, and the other members of the group. Brian’s artistic direction was being recognized by the public and by the music industry as being on top. The Beach Boys and Capitol Records were gun shy of that artistic direction, and they did not support Brian Wilson who had basically given them everything. He gave the group their ticket to ride. And then they decided they would no longer support him once they felt they had a safe caret. The Beach Boys longer supported him as an artist, and he threw in the towel. That’s basically what’s covered in my book.