Book Review: Rock & Roll Books

I Am Brian Wilson / Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy

Rock & Roll Books

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 Wilson

by Brian Wilson, with Ben Greenman
Da Capo Press, 320 pp., $26.99

Good Vibrations: My Life As A Beach Boy

by Mike Love, with James S. Hirsch
Blue Rider Press, 448 pp., $28
READ MORE
More Brian Wilson
Phases & Stages
Brian Wilson
Reimagines Gershwin (Record Review)

Greg Beets, Sept. 24, 2010

Phases & Stages
Brian Wilson
That Lucky Old Sun (Record Review)

Doug Freeman, Sept. 12, 2008

More Mike Love
Pet Sounds
Pet Sounds
Fifteen Minutes With Brian Wilson

Greg Beets, July 21, 2000

More Music Reviews
All Over the Map, True Heroes of Texas Music
All Over the Map, True Heroes of Texas Music

Kevin Curtin, June 16, 2017

Cornyation: San Antonio's Outrageous Fiesta Tradition
Cornyation: San Antonio's Outrageous Fiesta Tradition

Alejandra Ramirez, June 16, 2017

More by Neph Basedow
Top 10 National Albums of 2016
Top 10 National Albums of 2016
Our favorite picks from across the country

Dec. 30, 2016

Critics Poll
Critics Poll

Dec. 30, 2016

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Gift Guide 2016, Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, Mike Love

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)