Saturday, September 6, 2008


As some of you already know, I am a dyed-in-the-wool Beach Boys fan, and that extends to Brian Wilson in his post-BB solo career. When I heard he had a new album, called Lucky Old Sun, coming out, I made a beeline to Amazon to pre-order. Then Brian was on Leno Wednesday night to promote it, and what I heard just made me even more eager to hear the whole thing. Well, today my CD arrived, and I popped it into the Tamale (red Grand Caravan) and headed off to do some errands. When I pulled back into the garage, the last song, “Southern California,” was about halfway through. Normally I would have turned off the engine and gone in the house without thinking. But I couldn’t interrupt it; I just sat there in the darkened garage, listening until it finished. And, my friends, there was even the hint of a tear in my eye.

I have to tell you, as much as I enjoy rock and roll in all its various vintage forms – rockabilly, folksy, surfer, girl groups etcetc – nothing over the years has effected me quite the way this album did today. I have clapped and whooped, laughed and shouted, but I’ve never had a reaction like this. Why? Well, I had to do some thinking about that. A recent review in the San Francisco Chronicle called Brian’s new album a “love letter to Los Angeles” – they took the words right from under my fingertips! I’d only add “…and all of Southern California.” But that’s not exactly the reason I was so affected. This album is like an autobiography of Brian’s long and varied musical career, and his equally varied life, with songs and spoken narratives inter-mingled (and don’t nobody go wrinkling none of their respective noses – I’m telling you, it works!) But that’s still not the reason. No, what got me is that the this album has the feel of a man, an artist – one of the most influential and lauded of his era – coming at last to a high place that affords him a view, a look back form a perspective that youth doesn’t offer. Do I think it sounded like a swan song? No, I wouldn’t say that. It sounded like the thing I suspect most people do when they get past a certain age (Brian is 65). This album feels to me like a summation, a stock-taking, a pause, and a moment of gratitude. It’s all in there, a musical scrapbook for the ear, but it’s not a simple rehash of his old styles and material. It’s fresh and vigorous and very much in the present, for all its nostalgic touches.

Brian Wilson is a few years older than me; I’m from the mid-West Rust Belt. We grew up in very different lives together, but we’ve been with each other every step of the way. Mind you, I’m not the kind of fan who joins clubs, memorizes birthdays and other personal trivia; I only know what most everyone else interested in the music gets by osmosis just from watching TV and reading the paper. I’ve never been to California, never even got to a Beach Boys concert. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel a relationship. This is my music, and Brian Wilson is my main music man. We’ve both taken stock, and now we’re growing old together. And I feel very lucky to have this beautiful album beside me.

If you’re a baby boomer music fan, a Beach Boys fan, or a Brian Wilson fan, I think you will appreciate this album, too. Here’s a link case you want to check it out further.

Album cover from