Heroes And Villains
"HEROES AND VILLAINS: the true story of the Beach Boys", by Steven Gaines. £10.95
This is the definitive book on the subject for those who wish to know the following: how Murry Wilson lost his eye; that Brian and Carl both regularly wet the bed until they were 13 or 14; that Brian liked to drink vanilla coke and eat "fries drenched in ketchup"; that Dennis once painted his penis green and wandered round a tour hotel with it hanging out of his jeans; that Brian once dug a grave for himself in his back garden; that his shrink Eugene Landy was costing $57,000 a month in 1983; the place where Dennis tried and faded to dry out just before his death; and so on.
In a sense, anyone obsessive enough to want to buy a book about the Beach Boys in 1987 probably does want to know all these things. I haven't minded hearing about them: but I might like to have heard a little about the music, too.
The strange thing is that despite a mass of interviews, as exhaustive as any ever assembled on a pop group, the musical secrets of the Beach Boys are as elusive as ever.
On the process of songwriting, the distinctive nature of Brian's musical abilities, or the way those giant sessions were run, Gaines has nothing to say at all, except to repeat the hoary old yams about fires in the studio and sessionmen in plastic firemen's helmets.
In truth, his enthusiasm for the music is limited in the extreme. Who wants to read a Beach Boys book by a man who seems incapable of hearing the difference between, say, "Wild Honey" and "Friends"? Or between "The Beach Boys Love You" and "The MIU Album"?
Gaines's chamber-of-horrors approach will not make one jot of difference to the way I feel about the music, nor, for that matter, about the group. Indeed it only deepens the mystery: so ordinary/so extraordinary. Why? There is a real story here, but Mr Gaines is not the man to tell it.
Review by John Morrish
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