Book Review: Rock & Roll Books
I Am Brian Wilson / Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy
Reviewed by Neph Basedow, Fri., Dec. 9, 2016
Brian Wilson commences his new memoir by tallying, real-time, the many voices in his head: Phil Spector's ("Scary … Always reminding me that he came first.") and especially his abusive father ("What's the matter, buddy? Got any guts?"). The singer's second autobiography then combats that upheaval with music, the Californian's lifeline.
"Music is the solution," he writes. "Music is in my soul."
Unceremonious tidbits palliate weightier chapters, including many Beatles mentions and Wilson's childhood wish of becoming a Major League Baseball player. Echoing his band's 1963 loner anthem "In My Room," the father of seven plumbs his admittedly poor memory from a dedicated lounge chair, glued nightly to Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. While he recounts years of abuse by his former therapist, the Love & Mercy subject seemingly harbors little resentment, though the injuries clearly stunted his emotional development. His writing reads more like a child's than that of a 74-year-old genius singer-composer.
Mike Love, meanwhile, comes out swinging. The Beach Boys co-founder dropped his own recollections one month prior to his cousin's. The "Kokomo" singer, who has effectively led the group since the late Seventies, appears the more reliable of the two narrators given Wilson's psychedelic damage. Despite his dedication to meditation, however, Love's bones to pick are plentiful. Primarily, he alleges being cheated out of songwriting royalties that Wilson received instead.
Good Vibrations' ego-on-parade ultimately trumps I Am Brian Wilson. The former communicates more than Wilson's surface-level emotions and reliance on rudimentary descriptors like "sad" attached to supremely grim tales, even if he depicts mental illness candidly. Both books were ghostwritten by New York Times bestselling authors, consistent with Pet Sounds' lyrics turning up predominantly penned by neither Beach Boy.
I Am Brian Wilsonby Brian Wilson, with Ben Greenman
Da Capo Press, 320 pp., $26.99
Good Vibrations: My Life As A Beach Boyby Mike Love, with James S. Hirsch
Blue Rider Press, 448 pp., $28