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Brian Wilson (Reissue)
Brian Wilson (1988) R2 79960 Warner Archives/Rhino

“Love is the theme of my whole album,” said Brian Wilson a dozen years ago, adding the hope that his first solo album would “bring back love to the record industry.” It did then, and with this long-awaited reissue of 1988’s Brian Wilson, it will again.

So, welcome back to Brian Wilson’s musical “love,” a record that is, in my opinion, his best overall work of the past 30 years.
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Click here to read:
"A Conversation With
Brian Wilson."

Click here to read:
The Making Of The Album
The timing of this CD couldn’t be better. In 2000, as Brian’s personal and artistic rebirth rolls along nicely, as his fans look hopefully toward the future, anxious to hear great new recorded music from him and eager to experience more of the exhilarating live magic of his first-ever solo tours, it seems like the perfect moment to revisit this often-overlooked yet beloved old friend – a critically acclaimed record that has been largely unavailable for way too long.

When Brian Wilson was initially shipped to store in July, 1988, it immediately became a career landmark, not just for its sheer quality but also for the mere fact that it was finished. At the time, his only solo output had been a single released 22 years earlier (1966’s “Caroline, No”). A solo album from Brian was so long overdue – his career so filled with mythic might-have-beens – that fans could have been excused for thinking there would never be a Brian Wilson album. We were wrong. //The first step toward this long-delayed dream arrived in January 1987. Delighted by Brian’s a cappella performance of “On Broadway” (at Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) and encouraged by staff producer Andy Paley, Sire Records founder/president Seymour Stein decided to make Brian Wilson a Sire artist. The result, this album, is a work in innate sweetness that is infused with the artist’s spiritual strength and the power of heartfelt, naked emotion. It is a disc that contains a half-dozen bona fide classic compositions that will be able to stand the test of time alongside Brian’s beloved Beach Boys work.

That is why I and many other longtime fans feel so strongly about this album – why for us (and we hope for you) this sonically upgraded version of the original track listing (as well as over a dozen bonus cuts) is one of the most exciting Wilson-related reissues in recent years. For those of us who early and happily bought it in ’88, this CD will remind us of why we’ve always loved the record. And the bonus tracks will give us a glimpse into the extended musical journey Brian Wilson and company took to get this music from his piano to finished product. More importantly, recent fans of Brian’s (perhaps from Capitol’s Good Vibrations and The Pet Sounds Sessions box sets or 1990s releases like Orange Crate Art and Imagination), who missed the original version of this album, will finally get the chance to hear this vital and important work.

In the 1960s it was said the “Brian Wilson is a genius.” In the 1980s this album confirmed that spiritual genius will always continue its inexorable, triumphant march to artistic beauty.


Love And Mercy
Brian Wilson: “I was in my piano room, playing (Burt Bachrach and Hal David’s) “What The World Needs Now,” and I just went into my own song…worked very hard to get out what was in my heart on that one … it’s a personal message from me to people.”

With “Love And Mercy,” Brian explains that “we accomplished what we set out to do, which is to bring some spiritual love to people. We wanted people to be covered with love, because there’s no guarantee of somebody waking up in the morning with any love. It goes away, like a bad dream. It disappears. Mercy would be a deep word than love. I would think love is a gentle thing and mercy would be more desperate, ultimately more desperately needed, thing in life. Mercy – a little break here and there for somebody who’s having trouble.” On tour in 1999 Brian began ending his concerts with a very moving version of “Love And Mercy.” His tender introduction/benediction prior to the song and evocative, spiritual lead vocal made it a standout performance in each concert and consistently one of the emotional highlights of the night. In concert it’s sung with a healing tone: “The live version is very intimate,” Brian admits. “When I perform it now, it feels happy… ‘Love And Mercy’ is probably the most spiritual song I’ve ever written.”

Walkin’ The Line
Brian Wilson (in 1988): “I was remembering an old bass line I had written, a left hand. And I said to myself, ‘I want to record a song that has bass sounds like a ‘60s record but has an ‘80s feeling, an ‘80s vibration to it. I always felt good about that left hand, a good vibration about it. So I took that old bass line I had never finished and incorporated it into a new sound. It was all in remembering the feeling, the spirit, when I wrote the bass line a long time ago.”

Brian spent a great time of time in 1986 with his old friend and collaborator Gary Usher (“In My Room”), cutting new songs at Usher’s home studio. This was a period during which Brian had the extended opportunity to rediscover the joy of recording music. “Walkin’ The Line” was the only song from the Wilson/Usher tapes that made the album.

“Walkin’ The Line” is a good song about my life ... how I live every day. Brian remembered recently. “At the time I wrote this I was on thin ice.” In fact, in ’88 he said, “I’m always walking over thin ice, could fall through at any minute. I tread lightly on everything I do, ‘Walk The Line’ so to speak. Not all the time, but it is one of my subtheme songs of my whole life, [but] it’s not a serious song.”

Melt Away
In 1988 Brian said this track and “Love And Mercy” were “the two philosophical songs on the album…my true feelings. [‘Melt Away’ is] about the identity crisis I have in my life – the way I see myself and the ‘me’ that everybody thinks I am.” Brian described “Melt Away” as “a spiritual sound. How many different ways can you say ‘Merry Christmas’? But if you try, you can find a new way to do it…a new way to say, ‘You make my blues fade away.’”

For me, “Melt Away” will always be “the one.” I can still remember where I was when I first heard it (in Andy Paley’s car behind Ground Control studio in Santa Monica), and literally, after Brian had sung one note, somehow feeling, knowing, saying, “This is an incredible song.” (It’s possible that the cut I heard that night is the bonus track on this collection, and like the “Walkin’ The Line” demo, the alternate take has slightly different lyrics than the released version.)

“Melt Away” was, in part, inspired by a conversation that took place in late 1986. I overheard an old friend urging Brian to pick up his Fender bass, to “do it the way you used to do.” Perhaps as a result of that conversation, Brian did just that, and he began writing very creative bass lines, which is one of the reasons why this song and the next one are so reminiscent of his arrangements from 1965 and 1966.

Perhaps the best composition on the record, this track, like Brian’s McCartney favorite, “Let It Be,” is built to go the distance. Brian agrees that it’s “Brian Wilson at his best.”

Baby Let Your Hair Grow Long
Brian Wilson: “At first, when I wrote the melody, I thought maybe it should be a love song…most of the lyrics were romantic, but then I put in a couple of sexual lines.” Brian also felt the tune was “a pep talk, but not to myself. ‘You’ve got to try a little more’ means you’ve got to get your head a little more into success.” In 1988 he acknowledged that this track “could have been on Pet Sounds, because it’s a classic piece of art that I worked on for many months, changing it and molding it, shaping it and reshaping it, and fine-tuning it to get the sound I like.”

In a sense, this song provides a sequel to Tony Asher’s “Caroline, No” lyric (“Where did your long hair go?”). As Brian maintained, “Long hair exemplifies beauty in a girl.” So the song is saying, “Make yourself beautiful again.” In fact, his favorite part of the song is when he sings the title hook, “Baby let your hair grow long.”

Little Children
Brian Wilson: “I wanted people to realize that little kids are really cool .. there’s no responsibility when you’re a kid, and I admire the freedom from responsibility that kids have. I’m jealous of it … That track was done as an attempt to make people feel younger.”

One For The Boys
Brian had originally titled this (much more subtly) as “There We Were.” “It was meant for The Beach Boys,” he explains. The title, but not a note, was changed in what became his emotional a cappella tribute to his old band.

It’s possible that Brian’s greatest love might be to write, arrange, and sing background vocals, and this track is an example of the relative east with which he can create multipart harmonies.

There’s So Many
Brian Wilson: “A real love song. [It] has more love appeal than anything else on the album. It’s like a dive into a voice sound, into an arrangement. The line ‘The planets are spinning around’ just came into my head. It’s a subtle inference that astrology affects our lives.

“There’s gotta be 15 or 16 voices on there, I really thickened it up, made it real thick and fat … probably the most spiritual part of the whole album. Just had a vibration to it. It was like, ‘Whew,’ I didn’t know where it was coming from. I listened to it, and I felt what!?”

In 1983 Brian cut a demo of this song (along with “Little Children” “The First Time” [aka “You”], and “Black Widow”) at the Lucky Dog studio in Venice. The alternate version on this CD has essentially the same lyric and ending as that ’83 demo. What makes this one of the best-realized recordings on the album is that the final production retains the song’s original spirit, with the key addition of the multipart harmony tag (“The planets are spinning around”). Twice repeated (with a pleasing harmonic change) in a period of 15 seconds, it takes the listener from one end of the solar system to the other, instantly establishing this strong ballad as one of the highlights of the album.

Night Time
Brian Wilson: “One of my favorites on the record … I like the part that drones … I’m a nocturnal person; it’s more peaceful … The process of twilight, dusk turning into total darkness, has always fascinated me. All of my life, I’ve always been a night person, never did like the daytime, which signifies work time.”

Let It Shine
Brian remembers that Jeff Lynne had most of the song written before they met, and that Brian’s main compositional composition was writing the “Let It Shine” vocal round that opens the track. For the a cappella opening section (repeated near the end of the song), Brian stacked excellent harmonies. The cut also features what is perhaps his sweetest lead vocal on the album.

Brian was concerned that the track was too sterile at first, but as he and Lynne worked in the studio, he began to like the song more. Recently Brian noted, “Jeff brought out the goodness in me. And vice versa.” Indeed. A flawless performance.

Meet Me In My Dreams Tonight
“Andy Paley and I wrote that one,” Brian recalls, “It’s a very special tune. It’s about a dream lover, a similar idea to the Bobby Darin song. It’s about a guy and a girl who love each other on a certain level that’s higher than real life. A fantasy song … We wanted to get the sound like ‘Sweet Talkin’ Guy,” that kind of ‘60s feeling in a record in the ‘80s.”

Rio Grande
Then-Warner Bros. Records president Lenny Waronker believed a key to the artistic success of this album would be for Brian to show he could still produce work similar to that of his “Good Vibrations”/Smile era, when he was at an innovative peak, inventing a kind of modular recording. At one point in 1987, a suite linking the as-yet-unreleased “Saturday Morning In The City” and “Saturday Evening In The City” was talked about but “Rio Grande” became Brian’s remarkable musical response to Lenny’s challenge.

Brian Wilson (in 1988): “A labor of love, probably the best thing on the whole album … it’s a song that expresses the need to be … Lenny wanted me to get a little bit into that kind of Smile bag, and I did. It wasn’t directly influenced by Smile, just the vibes, the basic feeling of it … At first, it was uncomfortable for me – real hard to do at first – but Lenny figured there was one left in me, that there was a suite, a rock opera that I could do. It looks like Lenny was right.”

Back in ’88 Brian admitted that his favorite part of the track was the “take me home” section. In explaining the feeling that inspired that piece, Brian offered that the character in the song “has so many obstacles that he just wants to go home. He wants to run away from all that stuff and go back to his home, wherever that might be, [like] in the sky. That’s symbolism, right? God cannot be conceived of, so therefore we give him a literal meaning that he’s in the sky, so that people can understand what is being said.”

(Note: To get a sense of how modular recording works, listen to the bonus tracks of the early “Rio Grande” and “Night Bloomin’ Jasmine.” You’ll hear how Brian resurrected the hook [he never wastes a good one] and made it work in “Rio Grande.”)


He Couldn’t Get His Poor Old Body To Move /
Too Much Sugar
Brian Wilson (in 1988): “[Exercise] is the most important thing in the world if you want to have a brain to think with.”

One of Brian’s many (e.g. “Vegetables,” H.E.L.P. Is On The Way,” and “Life Is For The Living”) paeans to the importance of health and exercise, “He Couldn’t Get His Poor Old Body To Move” was coproduced by Brian devotee and Fleetwood Mac mainstay/production ace Lindsey Buckingham. It was the B-side for the album’s first single, “Love And Mercy.”

Given Brian’s legendary love of sweets and the extended periods in his past in which exercise was not a primary activity, it’s amazing (or maybe just his Gemini nature) how he can note without irony that both this cut and “Too Much Sugar” were “way ahead of their time, lyrically. You would think people would write more about health.”

Being With The One You Love
The B-side of the album’s second single was originally called “Doin’ Time On Planet Earth,” a song Brian wrote for the movie of the same name. When it wasn’t used in the film, the lyric was rewritten.

Let’s Go To Heaven In My Car
With the 1987 single “Let’s Go To Heaven In My Car” (on the soundtrack for, of all things, Police Academy 4) b/w “Too Much Sugar,” Brian Wilson formally began his solo career.

The verses for “Heaven” were originally part of a still-unreleased song of Brian’s, “Water Builds Up.” The late Gary Usher suggested they use the verse’s melody for this track. “I like ‘Water Builds Up’ better,” Brian points out, “With ‘Let’s Go To Heaven In My Car,’ it’s all in the title. Interesting title, but the music itself…”

To this fan, both the 1986 Usher-era demo of “Let’s Go To Heaven” and the 1990 unreleased recording of “Water Builds Up” are superior to this single, a result that is unfortunately very typical of much of Brian Wilson’s recording career of the past quarter century.

Rio Grande (Early Version)
As did the original album, the music on this CD ends with “Rio Grande.” This alternate version includes rough mixes of backing tracks and sections (e.g. “Cool, Cool Guy”) that were later deleted from the final, released version of the Wilson/Paley suite. During the making of the album, Andy Paley and Brian Wilson became great friends, and between 1992 and ’94, he and Brian wrote and recorded several dozen songs. To date, the only official releases from those writing sessions are “This Song Wants To Sleep With You Tonight,” a bonus track on a rare 1995 U.K. CD single, and “Where Has Love Been” (from Imagination).

Brian Wilson: “I wasn’t sure where or how it was going to go; we experimented as we went along. ‘Rio Grande’ rambles a little bit … covers a lot of ground. It gets me in the gut. I feel such a love from it … a very special piece of music. One of my favorites on the album.”

Final Thoughts
It’s rare for Brian to expose his innermost thoughts and feeling in any form other than music, but in a 1988 video Q&A (excerpted as bonus tracks on this CD), he gave one of the most revealing interviews I’ve ever seen. Brian explained that in making this album, “People are being love under the disguise of a record, but something much higher inspired the record. A record is an apparent level of sound and experience. But it’s intangible in itself in that it’s art. And art is intangible. Art is not a finite thing; it’s an infinite thing … So we wanted somebody somewhere to understand what we’d gone though, and at the same time they could say ‘Well, I did too. And I can vouch that I went though the same thing. I feel very close to that song.’ You know, that’s the same old story for years now – people say, ‘I love that song.’ What they’re really saying is, ‘That song makes me feel spiritual.’ You know, that’s all it is. It takes away fear. It adds strength. It’s life-supporting.”

Recently, in looking back at this record, Brian added one more thought on both this album and his future: “Even though there are some times I don’t sing like it, I want people to know that I have a lot of love left in me … unadulterated, unconditional, spiritual love.” As the Supremes sang a long time ago, “You can’t hurry love …” We’ll wait.

David Leaf

David Leaf, a television writer/producer (You Can’t Do That: The Making Of A Hard Day’s Night and The Unknown Marx Brothers), is the author of the acclaimed Brian Wilson biography The Beach Boys & The California Myth, a new edition of which will be published soon. For information, go to www.brianwilson.com for send an SASE to Leaf, P.O. Box 1404, Santa Monica, Ca 90406 © 2000 David Leaf


1. Love And Mercy
(Written by Brian Wilson) © 1988 Beach Bum Music (BMI)
Produced by Brian Wilson and Russ Titelman

2. Walkin’ The Line
(Written by Brian Wilson and Nick Laird-Clowes) © 1988 Beach Bum Music (BMI) and EMI Music Ltd (PRS)
Produced by Brian Wilson

3. Melt Away
(Written by Brian Wilson) © 1988 Beach Bum Music (BMI)
Produced by Brian Wilson and Russ Titelman

4. Baby Let Your Hair Grow Long
(Written by Brian Wilson) © 1988 Beach Bum Music (BMI)
Produced by Brian Wilson and Russ Titelman

5. Little Children
(Written by Brian Wilson) © 1988 Beach Bum Music (BMI)
Produced by Brian Wilson and Russ Titelman

6. One For The Boys
(Written by Brian Wilson) © 1988 Beach Bum Music (BMI)
Produced by Brian Wilson

7. There’s So Many
(Written by Brian Wilson) © 1988 Beach Bum Music (BMI)
Produced by Brian Wilson and Russ Titelman

8. Night Time
(Written by Brian Wilson and Andy Paley) © 1988 Beach Bum Music (BMI) WB Music Corp. obo Twilite Tunes (ASCAP)
Produced by Brian Wilson and Russ Titelman

9. Let It Shine
(Written by Brian Wilson and Jeff Lynne) © 1988 Beach Bum Music (BMI), SBK April Music (ASCAP)
Produced by Brian Wilson and Jeff Lynne

10. Meet Me In My Dreams Tonight
(Written by Brian Wilson, Andy Paley and Andy Dean) © 1988 Beach Bum Music (BMI)
Produced by Brian Wilson
Co-Produced by Andy Paley

11. Rio Grande
(Written by Brian Wilson and Andy Paley) © 1988 Beach Bum Music (BMI)
Produced by Brian Wilson and Lenny Waronker
Co-Produced by Andy Paley

Tracks #1-11 issued as Brian Wilson, Sire #25669 (7/12/88) LPs #54


12. Brian on “Love And Mercy”
Excerpt from Warner Bros. Electronic Press Kit (8/88)

13. He Couldn’t Get His Poor Old Body To Move
(Written by Brian Wilson and Lindsey Buckingham) © 1988 Beach Bum Music (BMI) and New Sounds Music (ASCAP)
Produced by Brian Wilson
Co-Produced by Lindsey Buckingham
Mixed by Mark Linett at Ground Control (4/29/88)
Issued as B-side of Sire single #27814 (7/1/88)

14. Being With The One You Love
Written and Produced by Brian Wilson
© 1988 Beach Bum Music (BMI)

Mixed by Mark Linett at Ground Control (4/16/88)
Issued as B-side of Sire single #27694 (1/19/89)

15. Let’s Go To Heaven In My Car
(Written by Brian Wilson and Gary Usher) © 1988 Beach Bum Music (BMI) and Irving Music Inc. obo Fire Mist Music (BMI)

Produced by Brian Wilson
Mixed by Toby Wright at One On One Studios (3/19/87)
Issued as Sire single #28350 (4/8/87)

16. Too Much Sugar
Written and Produced by Brian Wilson
© 1987 Beach Bum Music (BMI)

Mixed by Toby Wright at One On One Studios (3/19/87)
Issued as Sire single #28350 (4/8/87)

17. There’s So Many (Demo)
(Brian Wilson)
Demo recording (1979)

18. Walkin’ The Line (Demo)
(Brian Wilson)
Produced by Brian Wilson and Gary Usher at House Of
Usher (8/27/86)
Remixed by Mark Linett (2/00)

19. Melt Away (Early Version – Alternate Vocal)
(Brian Wilson)
Recorded and Mixed by Mark Linett at Ground Control
(10/87 – 11/87)

20. Night Time (Instrumental Track)
(Brian Wilson/Andy Paley)
Recorded & Mixed by Mark Linett at Ground Control
(12/87 – 1/88)

21. Little Children (Demo)
(Brian Wilson)
Demo recording (1983)
Remixed by Wayne Erwin (10/99)

22. Night Bloomin’ Jasmine
(Written by Brian Wilson) © 1988 Beach Bum Music (BMI)
Demo recording (8/22/79)
Remixed by Mark Linett (10/99)

23. Rio Grande (Early Version – Compiled Rough Mixes)
(Brian Wilson/Andy Paley)
Recorded and Mixed by Mark Linett at Ground Control (10/12/87 – 10/13/87)

24. Brian on “Rio Grande”

25. Brian on “The Source”
Excerpts from Warner Bros. Electronic Press Kit (8/88)

Tracks #17 – 25 previously unissued.

Copyright renewed.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.


Engineered in Los Angeles by Mark Linett at Ground Control and The Village Recorders

Additional Engineering: Brad Gilderman

Engineered in New York by Josh Abbey at The Hit Factory
Additional Engineering: Craig Vogel

“Love And Mercy” Engineered in Honolulu by Jim Linkner and Ros Klohs at Dolphin Sound

“Love And Mercy,” “Melt Away,” Baby, Let Your Hair Grow Long,” “Little Children,” and “There’s So Many” Mixed by Hugh Padgham at A&M Studios, Los Angeles, Assisted by Bob Vogt

Assistant Engineers: Tom Biener, Rick Caughron, Claudio Ordenes, Will Rogers, Roger Talkov, Craig Vogel and Dave Way

“Night Time” Remixed by Brad Gilderman at A&M Studios
“Walkin’ The Line” Recorded & Remixed by Mark Linett & Brad Gilderman at Suma

“One For The Boys” Mixed by Mark Linett at Image, Assisted by Squeak Stone

“Let It Shine” Recorded & Mixed by Bill Botrell at Larabee & Smoketree Ranch

“Meet Me In My Dreams Tonight” Recorded by Brad Gilderman, Mixed by Mark Linett & Brad Gilderman

“Rio Grande” Recorded and Mixed by Mark Linett at Ground Control and Soundcastle (Bluegrass Sections Recorded by Bill Dimit at Twilight Sound, Boston)

Executive Producer: Dr. Eugene E. Landy
Art Direction/Design: Jeri Heiden

Terence Trent D’Arby appears courtesy of CBS Records
Elliot Easton appears courtesy of Elektra/Asylum Records
Philippe Saisse appears courtesy of Windham Hill Records


Brian Wilson: piano, organ, keyboards, Emulator, vibes, bells, chimes, glockenspiel, percussion, sound effects, lead and background vocals, vocal arrangements

Andy Paley: electric and acoustic guitars, bass, drums, percussion, keyboards, harmonica, additional background voices

Michael Bernard: computers, synthesizer programming, drums, keyboards, percussion

Christopher Cross: additional background voices on “Night Time.”

Terence Trent D’Arby & Russ Titelman: additional background voices on “Walkin’ The Line.”

Great Additional Players / Musicians / Programmers:

Michael Andreas: flutes, saxophones
The Bayside Bluegrass Band: mandolin, banjo, bass, steel-string acoustic guitar
Stuart Blumberg: trumpet
Jeff Bova: keyboards, programming
Jimmy Bralower: drum programming, shaker
Lance Buller: trumpet
Robbie Condor: synthesizer programming, additional keyboards
Andrew Dean: keyboards, vibes, percussion, synthesizer programming, jingle bells
Elliot Easton: guitar
Todd Herreman: Fairlight
Tris Imboden: drums, hi-hat, cymbals
Hymen Katz: flute, piccolo
Robbie Kilgore: keyboard programming
Harry Kim: trumpet
Kevin S. Lesley: footsteps
Steve Lindsey: synthesizer programming, additional keyboards
Jeff Lynne: keyboards, bass, six-string bass, guitar
Jay Migliori: baritone saxophone
Frank Morocco: accordion
Rob Mounsey: Emu tympani, piano, synth guitar, Emulator cello
Dean Parks: guitar
Bob Riley: drum machine
Phillippe Saisse: keyboards, synthesizer programming
Tony Salvage: violine, saw
Carol Steele: percussion
Larry Williams: horn, saxophone solo, synthesizer programming, additional keyboards

Reissue Produced for Release by Mark Linett, David Leaf & Gary Stewart
Project Supervision: Michael Wesley Johnson
Sound Produced by Mark Linett
Mastered by Joe Gastwirt at Oceanview Digital, using Pacific Microsonics HDCD System
Discographical Annotation, Research: Ted Myers
Editorial Supervision: Sheryl Farber
Editorial Research: Daniel Goldmark
A&R Editorial Coordination: Shawn Amos
Art Direction & Design: Rachel Gutek
Front, Back Cover & Inside Inlay Photos: Kamron Hinatsu
Water Background Photo: David Skernick

Special Thanks To: Marta Martin Amos, Bob Hanes, Wayne Johnson, Ray Lawlor, Robbie Leff, Jerry McCulley, Cameron Parks, L. Lee Phillips, Jean Sievers, Jerry Weiss & Melinda Wilson

All selections (P) 1987, 1988, 1989 & 2000 Sire Records Company, produced under license from Warner Bros. Records, Inc.

This Reissue Compilation (C) 2000 Warner Bros. Records, Inc. & Rhino Entertainment Company
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