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Summary

They say there are no second acts in American lives, and third acts are almost unheard of. That's part of what makes Brian Wilson's story so astonishing. As cofounder of the Beach Boys in the 1960s, Wilson created some of the most groundbreaking and timeless popular music ever recorded. With intricate harmonies, symphonic structures, and wide-eyed lyrics that explored life's most transcendent joys and deepest sorrows, songs like 'In My Room', 'God Only Knows' and 'Good Vibrations' forever expanded the possibilities of pop songwriting.

Derailed in the 1970s by mental illness, drug use, and the shifting fortunes of the band, Wilson came back again and again over the next few decades, surviving and - finally - thriving. Now, for the first time, he weighs in on the sources of his creative inspiration and on his struggles, the exhilarating highs and the debilitating lows.

I Am Brian Wilson reveals as never before the man who fought his way back to stability and creative relevance, who became a mesmerizing live artist, who forced himself to reckon with his own complex legacy and completed 'Smile', the legendary unfinished Beach Boys record that had become synonymous with both his genius and its destabilization.

Today Brian Wilson is older, calmer, filled with perspective and forgiveness. Whether he's talking about his childhood, his bandmates, or his own inner demons, Wilson's story, told in his own voice and in his own way, unforgettably illuminates the man behind the music, working through the turbulence and discord to achieve, at last, a new harmony.

©2016 Brian Wilson (P)2016 Audible, Inc.

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  • Colin
  • WATFORD, United Kingdom
  • 15-12-16

An Extraordinary and Compelling Book...

The year is 2013, on a grey London evening, and Brian Wilson is sitting alone in the auditorium of the Royal Festival Hall, enjoying a quiet moment to himself before the doors are opened to the public, and the evenings performance gets under way. As he sits quietly, Brian reminisces on the many events, people and experiences he has known that brought him to this evening’s show.

This really is an extraordinary book, as Brian’s memories drift across the years, in whatever order they enter his head, and he revisits old friends, gigs, songs and associates, both good and bad. It makes for a very engaging and compelling experience for the listener, and feels almost like having a private conversation with the man.

Brian has had more than his share of demons, and he pulls no punches as he recalls the pressures of being the principal songwriter for a world-famous pop group. The constant need to develop new material whilst simultaneously touring and performing to support the existing catalogue and keep the band profile current. Then there were tensions within the band, especially with his father Murray Wilson who acted as both manager and producer for the band during their initial stages of success, and which eventually led to Murray’s dismissal. Something had to give, and on a flight from Dallas to LA Brian finally snapped and announced that, whilst he would continue to write new songs, he would not tour with the band any longer.

This arrangement actually worked well for a while, with Brian free to stay at home and write songs about the beach and endless Californian summer, whilst the rest of the band hit the road for an almost non-stop touring schedule around the world. But as time went by Brian became increasingly insular and distant, and that’s when the voices started. First of all it was the imagined voices of his brothers and band-mates complaining about the quality of his new songs, then he could hear his father telling him he was weak for not being with his brothers on the road, both of which were complete figments of his over-active imagination. But then, following an experiment with LSD, came the Other Voices; the threatening, vicious whisperings telling Brian he was worthless, that he should quit writing as he was washed up, and how the voices would kill him in his sleep if he didn’t obey.

This led eventually to the infamous Eugene Landy, the therapist who was assigned to help Brian with his demons, but who only succeeded in creating new and bigger ones, all the while draining Brian’s bank account, until the Wilson family finally intervened and put an end to the nightmare.

A special mention needs to be made of the narrator Fred Berman, who does an absolutely first-class job here. His delivery is clear and precise, and keeps the listener engaged and interested throughout.

I should probably confess that I am a huge Beach Boys fan, with ‘Surf’s Up’ being probably my favourite song of all time, and so I approached this book with more than a degree of anticipation.

I was not disappointed. A remarkable and highly recommended title.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Thanks, Brian!

I’ve read a few Beach Boys related books, including Brian’s Wouldn’t it be Nice which has Dr Landy all over it. But this book, this book is wonderful. Well narrated in a way that supports the story, this reflection of Brian’s life and times is a real tear-jerk in places. Brian has all the traits of a true hero: humility, love, compassion, vision. By the end of the book, I wanted to give him a big hug!

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Beautifully Honest

This book is as close as anyone could get to sitting in a room with Brian Wilson talking openly about his incredible life. There is a naivety about his story, the way he tells it, that is simple yet profoundly honest. He addresses his life long struggle with ‘the voices in his head’ and mental illness. His relationship with a loving yet abusive father mirrored by his relationship with his unloving and abusive therapist. He describes his creative process and talks about the great songs and albums. The narrator is easy to listen to and overall this is a must listen or read for any Brian Wilson fan or music fan. Five stars.

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Old stories retold and performed well

A very decent 'autobiography' very well performed. before listening was not sure if BW had much input to the book. Plenty of Wilson in here though.

Very well read too- almost felt like Brian himself reading it at points.

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Much more than I bargained for.

Honest but scatological story of a bone fide genius.

Whilst primarily known as a producer, Brian Wilson has suffered tremendously due to his mental illness and doesn't shy away from it and seems too have reached a marvellous perspective.

Loved the book.