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Know When To Fold ‘Em: The Beach Boys should have fired Brian Wilson after Pet Sounds

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Bands fire leaders. It’s a fact of the rock’n’roll life. It’s not the end of the world, and though it’s true that not every band survives, at that point, Brian Wilson was pretty much not working for the band. He wasn’t in the live band. His songs weren’t very good. He was too busy getting high. Let’s face it, in 1967, Brian Wilson was toast – much like a similar minded boy-wonder, Syd Barrett. Watching interviews with Pink Floyd, all members – including the megalomaniac Roger Waters – all concede that they felt lost without their former visionary. Fortunately, they got over it; they matured, and in so doing, became something even greater.

Could The Beach Boys have survived without Brian? Listening to albums like Friends and Sunflower and various singles, the answer is a difficult to admit, but resounding, “yes”.

And who knows? This firing could have been just what Brian needed to get his mind back in touch with reality. He had talented people around him. He could have shed the albatross that he refused to acknowledge (giving up as he did was a de facto firing, truth be told), pulled himself together with the help of Van Dyke Parks and Danny Hutton and the talented people who wanted to work with him; he could have had a nice career alongside Warren Zevon and Randy Newman. But instead, he chose self-destruction. What could have been …

Disagree with my observations, but I am sure we can agree that Brian Wilson’s story is one of needless waste, and that the “what could have been” in lieu of his undeniable talents – what a damn unnecessary waste.

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