Brian Damage

Brian Wilson returned to the Royal Festival Hall this week, scene of his much-lauded Pet Sounds and Smile triumphs, for the world premiere of his latest opus, That Lucky Old Sun.

Some observations:

1. A man can survive on good will for only so long: the venue was nowhere near full, and this was opening night.

2. The new piece is genuinely absorbing, easily the best work he’s produced for forty years.

3. If you think about it, this isn’t much of a compliment. In reality, he’s not come up with much of any worth since clambering out of the sandpit and into bed.

4. I’d be surprised if he actually had much to do with it. For a man who needs a teleprompter to remember the words of Surfing USA and appears as if he might require help tying his shoelaces, it’s a bit much to expect another ‘teenage symphony to God’ to drop from the sky. That the band-leader insists on introducing our hero as “the man who wrote everything you’ve heard this evening” only serves to reinforce the suspicion that he probably didn’t.

5. He surrounds himself with people who know exactly what they’re doing and, more usefully, exactly what he should be doing. His backing band contain members of Wondermints, a Los Angeles-based power-pop outfit more than capable of compensating for Brian’s shortcomings. From their 1995 debut album comes the following track, Tracy Hide.

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Can you see where I’m going with this?


  1. Can I see where you’re going? No. I’m stuck in a sandpit with a Fireman’s helmet over my eyes :(

  2. Yes! – No!

    Actually, no.


  3. C’mon, chaps – pay attention to the Fras’ . . . if you played the /audio/ before commenting you’d IMMEDIATELY cotton on to the gist. Or not. Maybe.


  4. Sounds exactly like the last time I saw him. He sits behind that keyboard barely able to move, let alone play anything just smiling at the audience. It made me feel sad.
    He had giant tape on the floor with arrows that said YES and NO so he could figure out how to walk off the stage. This is why I said NO to free tix!!

  5. I do tend to agree with you. I went to see Wilson ‘do’ Pet Sounds and it was a triumph. Howevre this is more because The Wondermints are so bloody good (and so like The Beach Boys), than Wilson doing anything othet than singing via a prompter. I think the guy WAS a genius but like many before him he is now living on past achievements. Which is a shame.

  6. Please! Have some respect for one of the finest songwriters in existance. Who cares whether he just sits behind the piano. Who cares if he seems slower which funnily enough he would after the amount of chemicals that have travelled through his body.

    The Wondermints may be great but they are only singing Wilson’s songs. Go and listen to the following songs: “Til I Die” ( If you haven’t got it, buy it!) “God Only Knows” and “In My Room.” Then hang your heads in shame. Brian Wilson can do what he likes. He is a genius!

    • Oh come on. He *was* a genius. All those songs are brilliant, but the most recent of them is 36 years old. Now he’s a sad, broken old man wheeled out for the purposes of karaoke and nostalgia. And I’m not saying he can’t do what he likes, but that he obviously needs help doing it, and that’s fine by me.