One of the advantages of this career is that I find myself in situations where I can talk to some really cool people one on one and find out what they really are like. One example of this was the two years that I spent as Brian Wilson’s road manager. One of the greatest songwriters and arrangers of our time, he is a very humble guy who always likes to talk about his music and influences. Of course, one of those was legendary producer Phil Spector (Every night Brian and the band would do the Ronettes “Be My Baby” which Brian would always introduce as his favorite song. He told me several times that it was the most perfectly produced songs that he had ever heard. One of the highlights of that time was bringing Ronnie Spector backstage after a New York show to meet Brian and seeing her sit on Brian’s lap and sing Be My Baby to him!!
One night after sound check, he and I were sitting in his dressing room watching a baseball game. Between innings, I asked him which bands were the most influential to his career. The answer made perfect sense but was kind of surprising. The answer was The Four Freshmen www.4freshmen.com/
So it was kind of cool when I got word that one of the Four Freshmen wanted to come back to say hi in Las Vegas. Never found out which one he was, but Brian was thrilled.
This brought to mind all the bands of today that were, and still are, influenced by Brian. First up is the Barenaked Ladies, who were so enamored with Brian that they wrote a song titled “Brian Wilson.” When we were in Toronto, Steven Page of BNL called and asked me if he could come to the show. I left him a pair of tickets in the 4th row, along with a note telling him to make sure that he was in his seat for the start of the second set. I stood on the side of the stage and watched him standing with tears in his eyes as Brian and the band started out the set (as they did every night) with his song written about his idol and sung by his idol.
Toward the end of my time with Brian, we participated in a TNT special taped at Madison Square Garden called “A Tribute to Brian Wilson.” Many artists participated, including Elton John, Billy Joel, The Go-Gos, Matthew Sweet, and Ricky Martin. The night before the taping, I went out to dinner with a bunch of band members and we started a discussion of the lineup (nobody could figure out the Ricky Martin thing). The discussion turned to who should have been invited, and someone made a great comment. The two biggest bands in America at that time should have been there. Who were we talking about? N’SYNC and Backstreet Boys of course! Makes perfect sense to me. Five guys, great harmonies, teen idols!!
Driving around in my car this week I heard a song on the radio that was so obviously a Brian influenced song. Performed by Broken Bells, (James Mercer of the Shins and Danger Mouse) the song is filled with those beautiful Beach Boys harmonies! So, the influences continue.