Pieces Of Me – Brian Wilson’s Biggest Influences

As part of the magazine’s regular Pieces Of Me page, Beach Boys legend Brian Wilson reveals his major influences.

My first album
‘FOUR Freshmen And 5 Trombones’ by The Four Freshmen
“How ’bout that! I was 14. They had a demonstration booth where you could listen to it in the store, and I found The Four Freshmen. My mother said, ‘Do you really wanna hear this?’ and I said, ‘Sure!’ So I went in this little booth, and I played it and fell in love with it. And I bought it. I loved the sound of the trombones. Wonderful songs – ‘I Remember You’, ‘Mam’selle’…”

The first song I fell in love with
‘Rock Around The Clock’ by Bill Haley & The Comets
“That was the first one I really got into. My cousin called me up and he played it for me over the phone and I said, ‘Wow! I love this record!’ It was a thrill. It was quite a record. [Sings] “One, two, three o’clock, four o’clock rock!” It was a great record.”

My favourite lyric
‘Be My Baby’ by The Ronettes,
“The lyrics for that are fantastic. “Be my little baby” – it’s the way he describes everything. It starts and you just go, ‘What the hell?! That’s pretty cool!’ I really like lyrics in general – I listen first for them, and then I listen to the melody and the chorus.”

The first song I learnt to play was
‘You Stepped Out Of A Dream’ by The Four Freshmen
“I was overwhelmed! I couldn’t believe it. I was 18 when I learnt that, it was on keyboard. That’s also a great, great lyric. He goes,“You stepped out of a dream, you are too wonderful to be what you seem/Could there be lips like yours, could there be eyes honest and truly”. Yeah!”

My favourite place
The music room at my house
“The walls are draped in purple drapes, so it’s pretty cool. It’s like Elvis’ old place, it’s cool, man.”

My favourite possession
My Yamaha Synthesizer
“It inspires melody! I wrote 18 songs in one month on that synthesizer. That was about five years ago – we used 12 of them on ‘That Lucky Old Sun’ and there are another six left over. Who knows what’s gonna happen to them now. I wouldn’t know. I don’t have any idea.”

My favourite book
The Act Of Creation by Arthur Koestler
“It came out in 1964. He said things that hadn’t been said in print (the book investigates human imagination and creativity in the arts and sciences – Literature Ed). I don’t like to read now – I don’t read nothin’! Why not? My eyes are crummy, so I can’t read that comfortably.”

My favourite movie
The Bucket List
“That was a good one. Death is inevitable, I guess! It’s got Jack Nicholson in it.”

Recently I’ve been inspired by
George Gershwin
“The album [‘Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin’] came out last year, and we wanted to present each song exactly the way George would want. So we did each song in the hope that people nowadays would like Gershwin. My job was to get people to like Gershwin’s music. It’s a beautiful album and I love it. We played it for the Gershwin family and they flipped! I got a little nervous beforehand.”

This article originally appeared in the July 16th issue of NME

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