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Dennis Wilson We Just Want To Be A Good Group

This article (originally published circa 1966) can be found in Domenic Priore's excellent Look Listen Vibrate Smile book.

JD: I understand "Good Vibrations" was a long time in the works. What part did you play in the making of it?

Dennis: People say it took a lot longer than it really did. Actually, it took about four months, but we didn't record every day and we didn't put in 90 hours. We went in one day and we recorded the sound track and we didn't like it. So we did it over again in sections. The sound track was in different sections and we wrote it as we were recording it. As we finished one part, we were inspired to do another. It just kept building and building.

Do you actually write music?

Yes, we all write, but Brian does 90% of it.

You actually write notes?

Everything. Write and arrange.

Did you do it right from the beginning of the Beach Boys?

We did everything.

You're still recording your new album, aren't you?

Yeah, Smile. It's going to be great. We're 50% done with it.

How will some of those things compare with "Good Vibrations"?

Much better, comparing it to Pet Sounds, which I think it was a good album, an honest album. But it's 100% better than that. I think it's good anyway. You'll have to wait till it comes out and see for yourself. Musically it's new. It has a lot of refreshing sounds.

Will there be horns on it?

Yes. We don't play the horns, of course. We got other musicians. We don't feel there's anything wrong with calling in other musicians as long as it makes the song sound right.

What are some of the other percussion instruments you've played besides drums?

Vibes, piano, organ. I played organ on "Good Vibrations" in the section where it slows down. A musician played the theremin on the record, but Mike plays it on stage.

The Beach Boys even produced everything from the beginning, didn't they? How did you manage to work that?

Yes, everything. We just wouldn't record unless we could do it all ourselves.

Did you experiment with recording in the beginning?

Yeah, we played around a little. As you record you learn. In the beginning we couldn't afford to experiment. Studio time is very expensive. We did most of our experimenting at home.

How would you say the Beach Boys have progressed musically?

As life progresses, so people learn. We've made the biggest advances in writing. You can't record unless you have a song. As life goes on, you learn a lot. It's the same thing here with the boys and Brian. He writes about his experiences in life. That's all you can write about. You can't write about things you don't know. That's what we're doing with Smile. We have some great ideas in it.

Will there be any humorous things in it?

There will be things that'll make people laugh, but they're good songs. They have beautiful backgrounds.

Do you have any problem performing "Good Vibrations" on stage?

No. We don't have the horns, the cellos and other instruments, but it comes off like the record because we're emphasising the rhythm, drums, bass and organ.

How do you protect your sanity from the undesirable aspects of the music business?

It's easy. We're so busy with our music we don't have time to get hung up with the big scenes. All we wanna do is make good music and be a good group. We don't have a lot of people around and we stick pretty much to ourselves. When we come home, we stay in our homes. Today is the first time I've been in town for a long time. I came down to buy some vegetables and stopped in to say hi to Derek Taylor. We live up in the hills but no one know where. We bought homes up there and we did a lot of remodeling.

Did you notice any difference in British and American kids?

None at all except they sound different when they talk. They all react the same and they do the same things.

Did it surprise you at all that you are so popular in England?

We heard a lot about it before we went over - obviously, or we wouldn't have gone over. We were surprised when we got there because we didn't think it would be that big. Derek Taylor helped us out a lot on that.

How have you progressed as a drummer?

Well, I've been playing for quite a while, but certainly not as long as a lot of other drummers. If you play certain songs over and over, you're bound to become a good drummer. But I don't play the same songs over and over. In our live shows I can do as well as any other drummer. I've progressed mostly in creative aspects writing music that really feels.

Do you write drum parts?

Or course, you have to.

That wasn't done in rock n' roll at one time.

No, it wasn't. Groups weren't into that. You have to write today or it won't work out. You can throw a lot of things into a melody, but it has to be on paper.

Do you listen to any jazz drummers?

Yes I do. I like Gene Krupa's style. I like a lot of drummers, but I think my favorite is Hal Blaine, a West Coast session drummer. He plays a lot of rock n' roll dates and he plays with us sometimes. He plays a lot of percussion things like tambourines and maracas which are terribly important if they're played right. If you listen carefully to "Let's Go Away For Awhile," and some of the other songs, you can tell that they're in there.

What would happen if a rock n' roll drummer played jazz patterns?

If you listen closely to the Pet Sounds album, you'll hear me playing jazz patterns. Some of the things definitely aren't rock n' roll.

Do you think the Beach Boys have changed rock n' roll rhythm?

Yes. People who play some of our tunes say that - especially on moving bass lines, for instance. Brian introduced good bass things. I think there are some good drum things - feels.

How do you feel about your surfing days? Does it embarrass you at all?

That was a clean-cut, wonderful, healthy sport. It still is. Obviously, people who called our stuff "surfing music" didn't know anything about music. You tell me what surf music is and we'll make a million dollars on it. Because no one has ever had surfing music. There is no such thing. Music is music, period.

At that time you liked Chuck Berry a lot.

Oh yes, of course. We still dig Chuck Berry. He's done a lot. He's made a lot of people millions of dollars. The Memphis feel has been in 90% of Motown records. If it wasn't for Chuck Berry, there wouldn't be a Motown sound.

Do you prefer being on the road or at home?

At home, of course, with my wife and kid. But I liked traveling immediately. We started traveling when we were young. I was 17. It's a hell of an experience for a young kid to travel around the world. It was frightening but it was fun. Now it's boring.