The Beach Boys' Brian Wilson is arguably one of the most influential figures in music history, beloved by the Beatles and considered a genius by many for his songs that bridged the gap between pop and orchestral music. Wilson was also a deeply troubled figure whose use of drugs impacted both his music and his mental state. His turbulent career featured breakdowns, rehabilitation stints and an abusive relationship with his former doctor. Wilson claims to still experience auditory hallucinations to this day.
Despite his mental troubles, many of Wilson's songs are complex and moving. Others reflect both the state of his mental health and the effects that time had on his songwriting abilities. Here are just some of the most bizarre moments in Wilson's vast catalog of songs.
Though it's musically complex, "Vegetables" is one of the weirdest Wilson songs ever recorded mostly because of how close it comes to being a children's song. This homage to vegetables could only be written and recorded by someone who was experimenting with both drugs and the recording studio.
Maybe one of the most bizarre facts about "Vegetables" is that Paul McCartney appears on the song chewing celery. Yes, a Beatle appeared on a Beach Boys song doing nothing else except chewing celery.Groovy or too far gone?
"A Day In The Life Of A Tree" (1971)
1971's Surf's Up marked a transitional period for the Beach Boys, as Wilson's contributions to the band were growing smaller. One of his most powerful and weirdest later period songs, "A Day In The Life Of A Tree" follows the story of a tree, with Wilson's raw vocals surrounded by a church organ and whimsical production.
The song showcases how beautiful Wilson's melodies are, while also revealing how out there he could go thematically. Co-written with Jack Rieley, one reviewer called "Tree" "one of Brian's most deeply touching and bizarre compositions."Groovy or too far gone?
"Johnny Carson" (1977)
By the time of the Beach Boy's 1977 album Love You, Wilson's contributions were growing weaker and less frequent as he became more mentally unstable. "Johnny Carson" is a strange chapter in his musical journey, with particularly bland lyrics about the legendary late night TV host.
"‘Johnny Carson’ came about when I was sitting at my piano and someone was talking about him. I told them I was gonna write a song about him and they didn’t believe me. I had the whole thing done in 20 minutes," Wilson later explained.
One reviewer said that the lyrics to "Carson" were "ridiculous" but that the song's musicality made up for the lackluster lyrics.Groovy or too far gone?
"The Elements: Fire" (1966)
The story of The Beach Boys' abandoned Smile album is now legendary, and perhaps no song encapsulates the craziness that was ensuing in the studio at the time more than "The Elements: Fire (Mrs. O'Leary's Cow)." The song is simply a series of sirens and other noises, with a small section that finds the Beach Boys harmonizing with no lyrics.
At a little over two minutes, "Fire" is the stuff of legend because of the unorthodox recording session it resulted from. During recording, a fire broke out down the street from the studio and Wilson was so paranoid from his drug use and mental state that he thought he somehow caused it.
"I thought we caused the fire. I couldn't believe it. I said, 'There's a fire down the street!' But I don't think we caused the fire. I don't think so. I did at the time but now I know it wasn't," Wilson later recalled.Groovy or too far gone?