Audio: Brian Wilson from 1988 Interview

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Never-heard-before recording from Brian’s Dr. Landy era, and the release of his first solo album

A short snippet of audio of Brian Wilson from 1988 interview by Paul Zollo, after the release of his first solo album, `Brian Wilson.’

From the archives, this is a short passage of Brian Wilson talking, never before heard, when I interviewed him in 1988. This was during the time when he was under the supervision – and more – of Dr. Eugene Landy, who worked with Brian to get him in shape, off drugs and back to songwriting, Landy went too far in this mission, to the extent of co-writing songs with Brian, and being abusive.

Yet Brian did lose a lot of weight, and wrote all the songs and recorded what was his first solo album, Brian Wilson, with the single “Love and Mercy.”

I was told I could interview Brian if I interviewed Landy, too, which I did.

[Asked how he was qualified to write songs with one of pop music’s few geniuses, Landy said, “Well, I am a doctor, and as a doctor I know how to learn anything.” Oh. He lost his license soon after this.]

It was the summer of 1988. Brian looked good though it was clear he was still struggling. I interviewed him there in the cluttered surroundings of Landy’s West L.A. office, as one of Landy’s assistants also sat in and recorded the entire inteview.

Brian laid down on the couch for our whole talk, as I sat in Landy’s chair and asked him questions like a psychiatrist. Brian did not look at me during our talk, but spoke directly up to the ceiling. It’s been more than thirty years since this talk, during which I have interviewed many songwriters and artists each year. Never have I had one interview like this one since. My most recent interviews with Brian have been at his home, and also at the restaurant he goes to every day. With both of us sitting up, looking at each other.

During this talk he’d alternate between dour silence and happy, almost manic, talking. Which you can hear on this recording. It sounds like he’s on coke or something, suddenly, yet he was not. Though I do not know what medications Landy had given him.

This little passage was chosen because it is when his tone shifted, after I mentioned that this album was one of the strongest things he’d done.

He then said, “Well, I’ve got a lot of plans – I can’t tell you. But it’s about making music for the people.” From there he got more excited, which is where this passage begins, as transcribed below.

As in subsequent interviews, he’s always been somewhat flabbergasted when told that people have been so helped by his music. At the end of this little bit, I mentioned how one of my friends told me her sister was going through a tough patch, and so she brought Brian’s new album to her and played “Love and Mercy.” And it really helped. She loved it, and it helped pull her through.

I did not include that in the article, so I forgot about it. Brian could sense it was true, yet still had to question it. In this recording you can hear him pause, and as I continue, he goes “Really?” And then laughs a lot. And then more. Few things seemed harder for him to accept, this man who brought so much musical sunshine into the lives of millions, than the thought this his music was healing and inspirational to so many.

Brian Wilson. Photo by Paul Zollo/American Songwriter


BRIAN WILSON: First of all I want people to understand that I’m here to create for them. To create music for people. So that they know I’m a source of love and they can depend on my name.

When they say the name “Burt Bacharach,” right away [snaps fingers], it triggers off love, melodies and harmonies and beautiful records and incredible songs that he wrote with Hal David. That’s a source of love right there, Burt Bacharach. His name is. He might not be in that frame of mind today. But his name is always in that frame of mind, know what I mean?

That’s why when you’re sitting in your hotel room and somebody from another city around the world is getting off on your music, you know, while you’re bumming it somewhere, do you know what I mean? It’s a well-taken thing. It’s taken very well by me. I appreciate it.

The very thought of entertaining and writing songs for people, I feel turned on by it, I can’t help it. It turns me on. I just cannot help myself.

Well, you have that gift. A friend of mine told me that her sister was feeling very bad, and she came over with “Love and Mercy” and played it for her, and it made her feel much better–

Really?! [Looks astounded]

Yeah. And your album is giving a lot of people that good spirit —

Yeah? No kidding. [Laughs] Wow! [Laughs] That’s great!

Brian Wilson, “Love & Mercy.”
This is the song that came out at the time of our talk, the first single from his first solo album, “Brian Wilson.” And this is how Brian looked then, newly clean-shaven and slender.
The summer of 1988.

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