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Removing himself from his own past

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Still from ‘Beverly Hills Teens,’ 1980s

Our buddy Andrew Romano on Brian Wilson, in Newsweek:

He’s also a sphinx: stone-faced, inscrutable, cracked here and there. After five or six full-band passes at “That’s Why God Made the Radio,” Wilson changes the line “feel the music in the air” to “feel the Mu-ZAK in the air.” The group’s videographer laughs. “That’s classic,” he says. I’ve heard Wilson can be so passive that his aggression is almost imperceptible. Is that what’s happening here? Is Wilson mocking the glossy new Beach Boys single? Or is he just being silly? Later, when the band decides to re-do “Good Vibrations,” Brian objects. “I think we should move on,” he says. But then, without warning, he begins to sing the song again, by himself. The band fidgets. “Brian Wilson unplugged, ladies and gentlemen,” Love says. Finally, after a half a verse, Wilson’s musical director intervenes. “Hold on, Brian,” he says. “No one’s with you.” It feels like something I shouldn’t be seeing…

After Smile, Brian supplies the Beach Boys with the occasional song, usually two or three per album. They are always intriguing, but they are not like his old songs: not as ambitious, not as cohesive. Brian isn’t in charge anymore; in fact, he’s no longer sure he wants to be a Beach Boy. When the record label visits his house, he paints his face green. He gives away all of his gold records, “removing himself,” as a friend will later put it, “from his own past.”

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