Ever since that Gaines book and Smile-mania took root, the true greatness of The Beach Boys has taken a backseat to the assumption that the sounds a tripping, psychologically damaged Brian heard in his head were greater than the sounds he and his bandmates, cowriters, and studio musicians actually executed through Pet Sounds. I’m aware that tastes are tastes, and all that jazz, but is the proof in the grooves of the aborted Smile sessions, or are you locked into identifying with your own amazing, unreachable aspirations?
When my hot mute cavewoman and I start digging around in the Cave of the Forgotten Zone and find a beat-up copy of Endless Summer and a record player, under the skeptical eye of some hipster Dr. Zaius, you just wait until the needle drops on “Help Me Rhonda” or “Don’t Worry Baby” or “California Girls” or any of those other songs that Mike Love and the boys could rally behind. “Would a severely tortured artist make such human music?” There must have been more to Brian Wilson in his prime than the blank spaces we’ve filled in since his breakdown. The modern myth of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys begins with Brian reaching for the sun, just moments away from his long free fall and mildly moving landing, when the fact is that the full climb to the heavens is where the glory resides. The rest of the story is a pretty much a total drag.