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.216Groovy 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."178Groovy or too far gone?
"Solar System" (1977)
A song about astrology, music critic Robert Christgau wrote in a review that "Solar System" was "impossible to shake." It's musically a highlight on the Love You album, but lyrically falls short. Lackluster lyrics like "Then there's the Milky Way, that's where the angels play" make it a strange listen - and Christgau's review of the album wasn't exactly forgiving:
Painfully crackpot and painfully sung, but also inspired, not least because it calls forth forbidden emotions. For a surrogate teenager to bare his growing pains so guilelessly was exciting, or at least charming; for an avowed adult to expose an almost childish naivete is embarrassing136Groovy 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.125Groovy or too far gone?