Posts Tagged ‘Brian Wilson’

In Lewis Shiner’s ‘Glimpses,’ an alcoholic stereo repairman rescues legendary rock music that never was

November 29, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 29, 2015

In 1993, a science fiction writer from Texas named Lewis Shiner published his fourth novel, Glimpses. I read part of it but never finished, for reasons that remain unclear. Perhaps I lost interest; perhaps I never got my hands on the novel itself but instead had an excerpt published in a science fiction magazine.

At any rate, this summer, I saw Love and Mercy, the biopic about the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, and it reminded me of Glimpses, or of whatever part of it that I’d read. I’d seen a copy of the book in a Raleigh second-hand store, so on my next visit there, I picked it up. (I also grabbed a copy of Frontera, Shiner’s first book, from 1984, which I will write about sometime in the next few months.)

Glimpses is a heavily autobiographical novel, according to the autobiographical essay on Shiner’s website. The story opens in late 1989, shortly after the narrator’s father has died in a diving accident off the Mexican island of Cozumel. Ray Shackleford is a 37-year-old stereo repairman trapped in a loveless marriage to a teacher; he is semi-functional despite having a major alcohol dependency. A college dropout and an only child, Shackleford has always loved music and never got along with his father.

But this otherwise ordinary man discovers an extraordinary talent. He’s at work, trying to finish mourning his dad, an anthropology professor who had only recently retired from a globe-hopping career, and trying to stop mooning over Alex, his high-school girlfriend, when something strange happens as Let It Be plays in the background of his workshop:

There’s magic, see, and there’s science. Science is what I learned at DeVry and it bought me this nice two story house off 290 in East Austin. Magic says if maybe the Beatles could have hacked it then maybe Alex and me could have hacked it.

If the Beatles had hacked it, “The Long and Winding Road” would have sounded a lot different. Paul always hated what [producer Phil] Spector did to it, wanted it to be a simple piano ballad. John might have written a new middle eight for it, something with an edge to cut the syrupy romanticism. George could have played some of the string parts on the guitar, and Ringo could have punched the thing up, given it more of a push.

It could have happened. Say Paul had realized the movie was a stupid idea. Say they’d given up on recording at Apple and gone back to Abbey Road where they belonged, let George Martin actually produce instead of sitting around listening to them bicker. I’d seen enough pictures of the studio. I could see it in my head.…

Read the rest of this entry »

‘Love and Mercy’ unevenly charts the personal struggles of the Beach Boys’ musical genius

July 10, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 10, 2015

Love and Mercy is the uneven new biopic about Brian Wilson, the brilliant but troubled musician who helped propel the Beach Boys to the heights of stardom in the 1960s.

The story unfolds on two tracks, not unlike Woman in Gold, another recent movie based on real events. In the 1960s and 1970s, Wilson, played by Paul Dano, wrangles with his occasionally baffled brothers, cousin and other bandmates about the direction of the band, which has already hit it big. He also fights with his manipulative father, Murry Wilson (Bill Camp). Murry, who is separated from Brian’s mother, openly berates his sons for having fired him as the Beach Boys’ manager, and he denigrates Brian’s musical experimentation. Brian, torn by these stresses, begins dabbling with hallucinogenic drugs and starts losing control of his life.

These scenes are intercut with a separate storyline — it seems to be set in the late 1980s — in which we see Wilson after he’s bottomed out due to mental illness and substance abuse. The main story here involves Wilson’s tentative romance with car saleswoman Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks). Ledbetter is baffled by the extent to which Wilson has surrendered control of his life to a manipulative father figure — in this case, a malevolent psychiatrist named Gene Landy (Paul Giamatti).

Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: