top of page


(Brian Wilson, on stage)

There was no surprise and no shortage of sadness last week when the family of Brian Wilson – the genius songwriter/producer of various incarnations of The Beach Boys, as well as a very late in life solo career – announced that he had dementia and would be placed into conservatorship.

The announcement, posted to his website, said: “Following the passing of Brian’s beloved wife Melinda, after careful consideration and consultation among Brian, his seven children, [housekeeper] Gloria Ramos and Brian’s doctors (and consistent with family processes put in place by Brian and Melinda), we are confirming that longtime Wilson family representatives LeeAnn Hard and Jean Sievers will serve as Brian’s co-conservators”.

His wife and long-time support and carer, Melinda, who died in January, had been his conservator for nearly 30 years and was credited with firstly rescuing Wilson from the after effects of an extremely damaging relationship with controlling psychologist Eugene Landy, and then bringing him back to both studio and live music.

While not everyone saw this as a positive, including speculation about just how much input in and knowledge of Wilson had in the goings on, this return had some of the greatest highlights – as you can read in this recounting of a 2002 show in a spectacular comeback tour - and then it began to raise serious questions the longer we watched.

Which is where Wind Back Wednesday lands now, in 2016 and a belated (really late to be honest) realisation after a number of thrilling tours and then some that worried and even scared fans who wondered not just what and who was driving this bus – because it didn’t look it was Brian – exactly what we were doing and what we were encouraging or enabling.




Opera House, March 29, 2016

IT’S TIME FOR this to stop.

Time for us to put away our lifelong love affair with Brian Wilson, and the May/September romance of the past 16 years of his “resurrection” which has offered some of the greatest nights of music I’ve experienced – his 2002 Pet Sounds shows and the 2004 Smile shows.

Time for this band of often brilliant musicians to move on, freshen up, rediscover their own muses and leave this music they know all too well alone for a while. Especially Pet Sounds, the album play-through which took up the second set this night.

Time for Al Jardine and - not on this tour but the 2012 Beach Boys tour confirmed it’s appropriate - Bruce Johnston to kick back with satisfaction of careers well done. (And for Mike Love to give up and go away, but let’s not start that argument again here.)

Time especially for Wilson to rest on not just a decade or so of genius from 1962, and pockets of excellence since – his 2008 opus, Lucky Old Sun, was a surprising reward - but the love and respect and, indeed, adoration of fans who once thought we’d never see him and now have drunk deeply from a well of great pop music.

It’s time because this was a show of barely acceptable quality, worn down by familiarity, fatigue and age. The band, most of whom have been on this journey for 16 years and have proved their quality over and over again, were off their once high mark, both musically and - near fatally for Wilson songs - vocally. They lacked energy and precision, with tempos just off, harmonies not always pristine and several songs either dribbling away or given inappropriate big bang endings as if to dazzle away the faults.

Jardine, who had sounded the best of the originals on that 2012 tour, was weak and indecisive; ‘70s Beach Boy, Blondie Chaplin, was shockingly poor vocally, though still more than capable on guitar and Lou Reed impersonation; and Jardine’s son Matt, who was taking the high parts Wilson once handled but no longer can manage, was fine but he wasn’t in the same league as the man he’d replaced, the fabulous Jeff Foskett.

Some of this could be put down to what I assume were sound/foldback issues on stage. Some could also be put down to song choices which were typically eccentric. If you can use that term for rubbish such as Honkin’ Down The Highway and the questionable Funky Pretty, which was a Chaplin victim, when something brilliant like Cabinessence or Marcella could have filled the hole.

But even putting aside sound and band and unnecessary returns of veterans, Wilson himself has continued his vocal slide even as he looks more engaged and switched on than the semi-catatonic figure of 2002. Maybe it was a cold; maybe it is just that that 73-year-old voice can’t cash the cheques his music has written. But what was once touching in songs such as God Only Knows, You Still Believe In Me and Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder) now is painful and unfair. To him and to us.

It’s been great. We’ve been incredibly fortunate to have experienced it. But time, gentlemen.



bottom of page