Brian Wilson comes to Asheville’s Thomas Wolfe Auditorium Thursday, August 18th at 8pm celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Pet Sounds with special guests Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin. Tickets go on sale Friday, March 4th at 10am and will be available through the USCC Box Office, charge by phone at 1-800-745-3000, or order online.
2016 PET SOUNDS 50th ANNIVERSARY WORLD TOUR
Thomas Wolfe Auditorium
Thursday, August 18, 2016
“I would have the musicians keep playing over and over again till the sound made sense. I worked overtime on that; I worked hours to get it right. If the sound didn’t make any sense, then I wouldn’t know what to do — I’d be lost! It’s instinct that tells me. I have an instinct for music, or a feeling about it, and I’ll have my feelings guide my hands.”
He is one of popular music’s most deeply revered figures, the main creative force behind some of the most cherished recordings in rock history. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to call Brian Wilson one of the most influential composers of the last century. Wilson’s remarkable journey began in a modest Hawthorne, California home that was filled with music. His mom and dad both played piano, and as a young “boy soprano,” Brian’s vocal gift was immediately evident. He had also started singing harmonies…literally “in their room”…with his two younger brothers (Dennis and Carl). As a teen in the 1950s, he became obsessed with the harmonic blend of groups like the Four Freshmen, and then, in the early 1960s, inspired to combine multi-part vocal harmony with the rock rhythms of Chuck Berry, Brian found his place in the musical sun. He was barely out of his teens when he began to create some of the most beloved records ever… nine consecutive “gold” albums that featured such classics as “Surfer Girl,” “In My Room,” “I Get Around,” “Don’t Worry Baby,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” “Help Me Rhonda” and “California Girls”…just to name a handful of the more than two dozen Top 40 hits Brian co-wrote, arranged, produced and performed on with his family band, the Beach Boys.
By 1966, though, glorious harmonies, ingenious hooks and four years of virtually uninterrupted creative growth and commercial success was no longer enough to satisfy Wilson, and as his artistic horizons expanded dramatically, he produced three records in that landmark year that forever changed the course of popular music.
The first was Pet Sounds; the emotional autobiography of its 23-year old “auteur,” it is considered by many to be one of the greatest albums ever made. In the process of bringing it to life, its composer, arranger and producer (that is, Mr. Wilson) rewrote all the rules of what a record could be; as one observer noted, its release was “Independence Day” for rock ‘n’ roll. Primarily working with a new collaborator (lyricist and songwriter Tony Asher), the album featured a dozen originals (including two astounding instrumentals); Pet Sounds was a musical canvas as boundless as Brian’s heart. (Ironically, when you hear the lost innocence in the wail of “Caroline No,” you realize that Pet Sounds not only heals our broken heart but Brian’s too.)
In 1988, Wilson finally released his first solo album, which featured “Love and Mercy,” the beautiful “message” song that often ends his concerts, vintage compositions (e.g. “Melt Away,” “There’s So Many,” “Baby Let Your Hair Grow Long”) as well as his first extended piece since the SMiLE era, a “modular” suite called “Rio Grande”.
In 1990, the reissue of Wilson’s glorious 1960s Beach Boys productions was highlighted by the debut of Pet Sounds on CD, earning that album the recognition that had often eluded it, bringing a new generation to the music and pushing it to gold and then platinum status. 1993’s “Good Vibrations” 5-CD collection (which included the first official release of outtakes from the SMiLE sessions) was a stunning career overview and 1997’s The Pet Sounds Sessions box set earned Wilson a Grammy nomination, his first since “Good Vibrations.” Those retrospectives fueled a major reassessment of Wilson’s artistic contribution.
In the summer of 2000, Wilson began a series of “dreams come true” events when he kicked off his acclaimed Pet Sounds symphonic tour, taking that studio creation to concert halls around the world (from the Hollywood Bowl to London’s Royal Festival Hall to the Sydney Opera House), giving audiences the opportunity to experience Wilson’s production masterpiece as a living, breathing work of art. Those shows received more than a few reviews calling it “the best concert ever”. With good reason. Few had believed that Pet Sounds would ever be performed live, let alone with its creator infusing compositions like “Don’t Talk” and “Caroline No” with the kind of passionate performances that on some nights actually exceeded the record.
Welcomed back to the world of music (through such honors as induction into the “Songwriters Hall of Fame”), Wilson was feted in 2001 at “An All Star Tribute” at Radio City Music Hall. Sir Elton John, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Carly Simon, David Crosby, Vince Gill, Jimmy Webb and Sir George Martin were some of the greats who assembled to honor Brian on that rainy March night. In addition to a generous sampling of Wilson’s Beach Boys song catalogue, the evening included a start-to-finish performance of the entire Pet Sounds album by the assembled cast.
The following year, Wilson was the only American rocker at the Queen’s Jubilee, sharing the backyard stage at Buckingham Palace with, among so many others, Sir Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton. These events led to a series of appearances at charity concerts (Brian joined Sir Paul for a landmine benefit; Mr. Clapton took to the stage with Brian at a concert that raised money for cancer research) and studio collaborations that were featured on Wilson’s third solo album, 2004’s Gettin’ In Over My Head.
Yet, throughout all of this, Brian never lost sight of the music that had become “the holy grail” of pop—SMiLE. Inspired by the Radio City tribute, where he performed “Heroes & Villains” for the first time in decades, Wilson began to add SMiLE songs to his live sets. Then, in 2003, the day after receiving the UK’s prestigious Ivor Novello Award for Lifetime Achievement, Wilson announced the impossible. Against all odds and in the face of enormous expectation, Wilson and Van Dyke Parks reunited and with the able assistance of key band member Darian Sahanaja, set out do a version of SMiLE.
If you’ve seen Brian in concert, you’ve already witnessed the magic and the celebration. If you’ve heard his records, you know why he’s been called the Mozart of Rock, the Gershwin of his generation. In a culture where trends change overnight, Wilson has gone the distance. It’s been said that if music is math, then Wilson just might be Einstein. But no comparisons are really necessary; he’s Brian Wilson, an American composer, arranger and producer whose work has proved to be as powerful as faith, as timeless as love and as heartfelt as mercy.