Love & Mercy premieres Friday with an in-depth look at the Beach Boys Brian Wilson.  Actually–two looks: Paul Dano plays the Wilson of the 60’s that’s about to lose himself thanks to LSD and John Cusack plays the shattered Wilson of the 80’s. The Beach Boys began as a teenage collection of three brothers, one cousin and a high school buddy catching a ride on the surfing music wave but became so much more…and then so much less.

Five Songs that capture the band’s highs and lows…:

“I Get Around”– the perfect marriage of Mike Love on the verses and Brian Wilson on the choruses.  The energy whips you through 2 minutes and 12 seconds of making every light and changing lanes at just the right time.  You’re left wanting to hear the same song–again and again.  No wonder this was the group’s first #1 hit.

“In My Room”– fantastic harmonies about being isolated.  Brian paints a fantastic picture of isolation.  Despite having a tight circle of family and friends…he often felt the need for solitude and the eventual alienation it resulted in  He often knew he was out of step (“I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” from Pet Sounds)…and here he shuts the door for his own comfort.

“When I Grow Up to Be a Man”– instead of driving fast cars or catching faster waves, the no-longer teenagers focus on “what’s next”.  How will they adjust to the demands of adulthood?  No answers are offered, only more questions (“will my kids be proud or think their old man’s really a square?”).  Brian wrote background vocals that from the second verse on count up “14,15…” through the rest of the song, reaching “30, 31…” in the fade-out.  If only we could get back to “30, 31…”

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice”– it wasn’t a #1 hit like “Good Vibrations”…nor was it revered like “God Only Knows”.  But the first track of Pet Sounds set the bar high for the group’s most-famous LP…who else could get away with the lyric “happy times together we’d be spending”?  The Beach Boys at their best were all about possibilities—and this song has Brian on the threshold of happiness.  Even if he never got there, the idea that he could—was pretty nice.

“Kokomo”– hey.  Jefferson Airplane/Starship has their “We Built this City”.  Reduced to a nostalgia act and minus Brian (still under the spell of Eugene Landy) and middle Wilson brother Dennis (the drummer drowned in December 1983), Mike Love combined with a who’s who of 60’s acts (Mamas and the Papas John Phillips, Byrds producer Terry Melcher and “Going to San Francisco” singer Scott McKenzie) to write an insipid tune.  “Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya–Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama”.  They even had Full House actor John Stamos playing bongos in the video.  Instead of rightfully vanishing, the tune stuck and was in the movie “Cocktail”.  Reached number 1.  Brian didn’t sing on the song– although he did contribute vocals to the Spanish-language version.  Even better…

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