“Brian wanted to hear every track all the way through,” Brent remembered. “He never asked to fast forward, he never asked to skip, and when you’re watching the film you can really see him taking it in. He looks over at Jason, nods his head and just says ‘good’. He’s really listening with that Brian Wilson ear and you can see the pride. It’s a beautiful moment.”
One thing is clear: it’s all about the music for Brian. On the cusp of his eightieth birthday, the legend still plays every day and even continues to come out with new songs. The star never looked more confident in the film than when he was in command of a studio. The musicians around him seemed to be in awe, as the talent behind God Only Knows carefully instructs them through his latest recording.
One presence that loomed over the Beach Boys for decades came from across the pond. As Brent well knows, it is impossible to talk about the greatest bands of the 60s without discussing The Beatles. “I think they certainly inspired each other,” the director said. “Brian heard Rubber Soul and it gave him the inspiration to make a whole album of, not just kind of throwaway songs, but great songs.”
Pet Sounds, which is considered The Beach Boys’ greatest album, arrived in 1966 one year after The Beatles released Rubber Soul. Songs like Wouldn’t It Be Nice and God Only Knows were a far cry from the California, suffer boy aesthetic that had been working so well for the band, but Brian knew he had to step up to compete.
Unfortunately for The Beach Boys, the Liverpudlian powerhouse continued to gather momentum with their release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967, while even Brent has admitted that Brian’s attempt to one-up them with unfinished album Smile “would end up being his undoing”.
The director pointed out that, while songwriting talents John and Paul had each other, as well as seminal record producer George Martin, Brian was the sole creative genius in the family. The troubled star held The Beach Boys together and managed to release Pet Sounds in spite of resistance from Capitol Records, his family and his bandmates.
As the interview came to a close, Brent summed up this time in Brian’s life perfectly. “Part of Brian’s story was that he was just kind of alone and creating this beautiful music,” he said. “And I wish he’d had his own John, Paul or George Martin. Just somebody that could have told him, ‘Man, this is going to be incredible’.”
Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road is now available on Digital Download, Blu-ray and DVD.