Saturday, January 24, 2009


I can't say that I remember exactly what I was doing back in 1983 when I learned that Beach Boy Dennis Wilson had died - not like I do with the Kennedy and King assassinations, and when John Lennon was killed - but I do remember the feeling of shock, and loss. I mean, he was only 39. I never knew much about the private lives of the Beach Boys. I didn't read the music mags or seek out any of the gossip rags. My appreciation was strictly for the music back then, but that all changed with time. A person would have to be a total hermit not to pick up BB trivia along the way, and I've researched the band for both my music trivia books. Yet somehow, I never managed to discover that Dennis had recorded a solo album, and a very well-respected one at that. It wasn't until I got my hands on the January 8, 2009 issue of Rolling Stone, wherein Dennis Wilson's 1977 release heads the list of Rolling Stone's picks for the 10 Best Reissues of the Year. I think I put the magazine down immediately and went straight to and ordered a copy of Pacific Ocean Blue.

The album is described in RS as Dennis' "personal masterpiece" - his own Pet Sounds. Dennis was kind of the diamond-in-the-rough, the Beach Boys' best kept secret, a rare talent, and a person most likely, by many accounts including his own, to live fast and die young. I'm just beginning to delve into the gems on this album, but I'm liking it a lot. It seems to me that Dennis Wilson was an original, with much more talent than he was possibly given credit for, and, for all the talent, he sometimes got in his own way by living on the edge, a little scattered, without the discipline to work the business. In that sense he kind of reminds me of Tim Buckley (who also died far too young) although Denny's rugged vocals are very different from Buckley's soaring tenor. The Pacific Ocean Blue reissue contains all the original tracks, plus some material from his follow-up album, the unfinished Bambu - rather like his own lost Smile, if you want to stretch out the comparisons to the breaking point. But brother Brian finally did put Smile together, while with Denny's untimely death, all we will ever have is his small output, and this wonderful reissue.

Here's a video of a cut, Thoughts of You, from YT memberIsobelRivers. I hope it doesn't get removed before you get a chance to listen to it!

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