Brian Wilson At The Canyon Club

For his twentieth birthday, Jeff Foskett was determined to meet Brian Wilson.

Attending UCSB, Jeff drove down to L.A. and combed Bellagio Road looking for a house with the stained glass window from the cover of "Wild Honey".

Moving slowly, he found it and got out of his car and knocked.

Marilyn Wilson answered the door and Brian Wilson invited Jeff inside to jam. After an hour, Jeff left and Brian said to stay in touch.

And then what happened?


Everybody thinks you get one big break. Instead, there are a ton of temblors, a ton of dead ends. If you hang in there long enough they might accumulate into something.

Now before you start MapQuesting and knocking, please know that it’s 2011 and this is a good way to get arrested, and that in 1976 the Beach Boys were at a nadir, although their touring revenue had accelerated, Brian was not yet "back". That was a promotional scheme cooked up later in the year, with the great special featuring Aykroyd and Belushi knocking on this same door and imploring Brian to go surfing now, everybody’s learning how.

Fans are not fair weather. And fame might be forever, but too often people point you out and laugh behind your back, snickering that in retrospect what you were known for wasn’t that great.

So Foskett went back to Santa Barbara and his cover band until one day he heard Mike Love was at the bar with his paramour. Getting up his gumption, Jeff went out to say hi, implored Mike to come into the back room and see his band play. Mike said no, this was before the no smoking law took effect, he didn’t want to wreck his pipes and get that smell all over his clothes.

But Jeff cornered the waiter and paid for his meal and Mike showed up. And after exchanging numbers, Mike’s manager called Jeff up days later to put together a backup band for Mike’s solo tour. Which was brief. But then Carl Wilson left the Beach Boys temporarily and Foskett was called in, he was a made man, eventually working with Brian and Eugene Landy on Brian’s unreleased second solo album.

And now that Brian is touring again, it’s Foskett that runs the band and plays the leads and sings the high notes. And you might think he’s supporting an oldies act, but Brian Wilson wrote some of the best music ever recorded. And last night they played it.

And what struck me was how it was all so different. "I Get Around" sounded nothing like "God Only Knows". "Surfer Girl" and "California Girls" both might both be about females, but that’s about the only similarity they have. I’m listening to hit after hit stunned that not only did Brian write these, the uninitiated might believe they were recorded by different acts.

And yes, Brian’s voice is ragged. And yes, the show is on teleprompter. But unlike Dennis and Carl, Brian’s still here.

I was invited on the bus. Just me, Jeff and Brian before the show. And I was speechless. What do you say? That you changed my life, that you’re the reason I live in California?

And I’d like to tell you Brian was lucid and forthcoming, but he was a bit distant and frozen. But Jeff told me he’s always this way before the show. He’s shy. But catch him after and he’s talkative and normal. And I’d doubt Jeff but I’ve seen it myself. Seen Brian after a show at Disney Hall chatting up everybody like it was a high school reunion.

And they played a ton of hits.

But it was the album tracks that thrilled me.

Like "Catch A Wave". And "Salt Lake City", from "Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!)"

And it’s kind of mind-blowing that it’s almost fifty years on. Funny how those records are frozen in time, set in amber, yet the people who made them live on, age, change, unlike the recordings.

Sometimes you’re better off not connecting with your high school crush. Sometimes you’re better off leaving the past alone. It’s hard to square the records with the man on stage performing last night.

But, like that old Kiki Dee song, Brian had the music in him. He followed his muse, needed to get it right in an era when musicians were the biggest stars in the world, when everybody tuned in on the transistor to hear the hit parade.

In an era where everybody repeats the same track over and over again and almost no one sustains, it’s jaw-dropping to think that not only did one guy write these songs, albeit with attendant lyricists, but he’s still alive, still touring. Deep inside it’s still him.

And when you hear these songs, deep inside, it’s still you.

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