This article originally appeared in Rolling Stone, March 10, 1977.
LOS ANGELES - Brian Wilson answers questions in quick, clipped bursts, somewhat like a record stuck in a groove. Today, the questions are about the Beach Boys' recently released album, The Beach Boys Love You. Brian, who produced and wrote or cowrote all 14 songs on the album, calls it "more creative, more original, lyrically much more interesting" than the group's last release, 15 Big Ones, which was half new material and half interpretations of classic rock n' roll oldies.
"I worked specifically at getting the lyrics right, so that the lyrics would be interesting enough to listen to." Brian repeated the words playing in the background: "Like, 'I love to pick you up because you're still a baby to me' - you know, things like that. Interesting."
On first listening, the album doesn't quite live up to Brian's judgment. It seems, like much of the group's recent efforts, little more than a collection of the Beach Boys' perenially naive lyrics, encased in jingles. For instance, one number, "Johnny Carson," offers: "Johnny Carson is the man we admire/Johnny Carson, he's a real live wire." Interesting.
While the album played, Brian paced across the green carpet of his living room, smoking True menthols and mouthing the words to himself. His eyes still dart about, but he looks thinner and healthier than he did during his celebrated period of seclusion.
"Ten years ago, I had resolved I wasn't going to tour, that I was much better off, I assumed, at home," Brian said, "in an environment where I could create music. Then, the guys in the group said, 'Hey Brian, would you help us? We think your presence on the road would improve the quality of the show and help sell tickets.' Another reason was that my psychiatrist wished I would do something to keep me from sitting on my ass, to keep me from going insane."
Brian is no longer under the care of his psychiatrist, Dr. Eugene Landy. "He withdrew from my case a month ago," Wilson said. "My cousins, Stan and Steve [Love] are working with me now." Landy's intense therapy program has often been credited with making Brian more active in the past year than in the whole preceding decade. 15 Big Ones marked his return to producing the Beach Boys' albums, and he's made a number of live concert appearances. Brian even made a solo, albeit embarrassing, TV appearance on NBC's Saturday Night. Picking up on a well-known bit of Brian's legend, Saturday Night presented him and his piano on a bed of sand.
"The sand box was just an incident in time," Brian said, "when I was taking drugs and though I'd trip out a little bit and escape into a super reality in my house, a little fantasy thing that would keep me out of pain. I could sit and put my feet in the goddamn sand and just sit there alone and pound at the piano. It was almost nowheresville. You could call it being nowhere.
"Now my escape is going to the gymnasium. There's nothing better to do with your time than go to the gym. I'm going to start lifting weights. I want to be toned."
Mike Love, the Beach Boys' flamboyant front man, is currently in Switzerland studying meditation, so touring is out for the time being. In the meanwhile, Brian plans to busy himself with another album. "I believe in giving people what they deserve," he said. "People deserve a little bit - let's face it, life is hard and records don't hurt anybody. Everybody deserves what we have and we have a lot of music and we fucking think, 'Share it. Fucking heck, share it. Don't hold it into yourself.' It's just that if you give to people, you'll be rewarded someday."