The Beach Boys' "Heroes and Villains" always hits me in the most unexpected ways.
The song was meant to be at the center of the band's 1967 album, Smile. But even after 20 grueling recording sessions, Brian Wilson (singer/lead songwriter/producer/co-founder of The Beach Boys) was unimpressed. Al Jardine even said Brian sabotaged the record because it wouldn't meet his ridiculously high expectations. The track that was initially released was underwhelming and sparked seven years of under-performing Beach Boys albums.
Today, it's a cult favorite.
"Think of it as musical deconstruction: You get a fly-on-the-wall view of the control room as Brian Wilson orchestrates everyone from the famous Wrecking Crew (the L.A.-based session musicians employed specifically for the arduous task of bringing this vision to life) to The Beach Boys' other singers, as Wilson nitpicked down to a 16th note being slightly late. That perfectionism didn't always yield chart-topping results, as 'Heroes and Villains' illustrates, but Wilson's brilliance — and that of the performers and songwriters around him — is still worth taking apart and examining, more than 40 years later." - NPR
Since my brother introduced me to The Beach Boys and their "not-so-popular" hits, I've had a special place in my heart for this song, because it embodies the pain, frustration, and genius of Brian Wilson.
"Numerous segments, specifically written in modular fashion, are sewn together to create a pop-music piece that's arguably more adventurous than its similar cousin, 'Good Vibrations,' NPR's Eric Luecking wrote in 2012. The chorus chords (starting at 0:48 seconds in the video below) break me every single time. I feel this heavy rush of utter disappointment, but at the same time, I'm overcome with how beautiful the struggle is. And I felt that even before I knew of Brian's health.
D#m Heroes and villains Just see what you've done G# pom pom pom pom pom pom pom pom D#m Heroes and villains Just see what you've done G# pom pom pom pom pom pom pom pom F Bb D#m F# Na na na na na na na na na
Regarded as one of the "most innovative and significant" songwriters of the 20th century, Brian also deeply struggled with mental illness.
Nervous breakdowns in the 1970s led to tensions within the band and later, a court ordered Wilson be removed from the care of his psychologist, who had been taking advantage of him and helped drive him deeper into a debilitating life of substance abuse.
After receiving conventional medical treatment, Wilson began performing and recording as a solo artist. I saw him last year in Atlanta.
If you're interested in Brian's story, I recommend the movie "Love & Mercy." Trailer below:
The #100daychallenge writing series is my way of holding my right brain accountable for all the brain fog in hopes that I'll learn to creatively organize my thoughts and learn something(s) new about myself in the process. The challenge includes prompts from the San Francisco Writers' Grotto's 642 Things to Write About. You can also follow my #100daychallenge here.