Brian Wilson speaks
Taking a rare afternoon off from his tour, Brian Wilson spoke briefly with Creative Loafing by phone from a road stop in Toronto. He seemed to be in a very cheerful mood throughout, although his answers were often quite brisk; and despite the years, his voice still had all the familiar softness which characterized it back during the Beach Boys' heyday.
CL: When you created Pet Sounds in the studio over 30 years ago, did you ever expect something like this would occur — a live re-creation of it, on an international tour?
Brian Wilson: No, there was no way I could ever have expected it.
You're working again with Van Dyke Parks, who collaborated with you on the legendary Smilesessions. What's been his involvement in this present tour?
He arranged the overture.
Are there any songs that present a particular vocal challenge to you?
"Wouldn't It Be Nice" is hard — that's the hardest one, kind of a rough one to do.
You used a theremin on "I Just Wasn't Made for These Times" ...
Yeah, that was the first time I ever used one. We have one on the tour — one of the members of my band plays it, an actual theremin. They're pretty hard to come by.
What instruments are you playing on the tour?
I play bass on two or three songs, but the rest of the time I just sit at the keyboard.
The liner notes to the re-issued Pet Sounds mention that in February 1966, "Good Vibrations" was listed as part of the planned album, but you withheld it and later spent six months preparing it as a single ...
No, that song wasn't written until August 1966 — I spent six weeks on the single.
The Beach Boys' version of "Sloop John B." on Pet Sounds differs drastically in vocal style from earlier, traditional folk versions ...
I know — I wanted to adapt it to our talents. We had some pretty good singers!
"God Only Knows" has been described by Paul McCartney as the most beautiful love song ever written. What do you think is the best love song ever?
"Be My Baby" is the best song ever written ... the best love song ever written.
The album-closing "Caroline No" concludes with the sounds of a train and barking dogs. Are you re-creating that?
Yeah, we play a train sound effect as soon as the song ends. It sounds like it's going right across the stage! We use the original sound, with the dogs.
Were those dogs your own pets?
Yeah, Banana and Louie — a Beagle and a Weimaraner — both beautiful dogs. Today I have five dogs — three Yorkshire terriers, a Maltese and big black poodle. We used to have cats, but we got rid of them.
Knowing what you now know, if you could go back to the mid-'60s and start over again on recording Pet Sounds, is there anything you'd do differently?
No, not really .... Oh, I'd put "Love and Mercy" on it, but it's too late for that now.
What other material are you performing on the tour, aside from Pet Sounds?
Beach Boys songs, Brian Wilson songs — a whole batch of songs.
What did you think of recent TV mini-series based on the career of the Beach Boys?
I didn't like it. It wasn't that factual, and the guy who played me wasn't right. I hated it.
If you could live the entire '60s all over again, is there anything you'd do differently?
Not a thing — not one thing different!