“He’s a talker” is a phrase that has never been used to describe Brian Wilson, then – in the heyday of the Beach Boys in the 1960s – or especially now. So, director Brent Wilson perhaps embarked on one of the most chimerical cinematic quests of all time when he set out to make a documentary that would mostly be about extracting thoughts and memories from one of the great geniuses. music from the last century, whose interview shyness and mental health issues are well known. That such a film – “Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road” – not only exists, but offers real windows into the inner world of its subject seems almost incalculable.
Today, Brent Wilson (no parents) is in Brian Wilson’s upstairs music room in a house overlooking the San Fernando Valley, holding a yard to talk about the doc and the new music that’s coming up. found there. The singer, who has had multiple surgeries for extremely painful back problems, sits in front of his piano after entering the room using a walker … but at around 190 mph. “It’s the fastest move I’ve seen you!” »Marvels the producer, delighted to see his subject move so quickly. Brian, for his part, is content to let Brent do most of the talking, unsurprisingly, and happily play a few bars of “California Girls” for our benefit.
When a visiting reporter asks Brian what he thought of the film, he replies, “I felt happy.” This apparent news sends Brent to the moon: “I was never going to ask that question!”
Brent asks Brian, “Remember when I did the first interview?” That was a few years ago, and everyone thinks it went really well… not well. At this point, Brent believed he would conduct all of the on-camera interviews for the film, a notion he was disillusioned with after a few sessions. “The very first time I interviewed you,” Brent told Brian, “I sat there [across the room] and you sat here at the piano. And it was hard, ”Wilson laughs. “I was like, this isn’t going to work. We’re not going to make a movie of it. And that’s when the idea of having Jason was born.
“In My Room” might be a great Beach Boys song, but it’s not a good instruction on where to conduct an interview for a feature film, as it turns out. So Brent Wilson, knowing the rapport Brian Wilson had developed in the past with reporter Jason Fine (then managing editor at Rolling Stone), thought of trying to film the musician and reporter having conversations while they drove around. the greater Los Angeles. region, visiting places that made sense to Wilson or the Beach Boys. There was also an idea to locate Wilson and Fine at a stand at his favorite grocery store for non-mobile conversations. It worked, miraculously (although a parcel kilometers have been covered on this car) by loosening the doors of a great artistic spirit that has taken off in interview situations.
“Long Promised Road” also includes numerous testimonials from talking heads; among those who sat down for tribute interviews were Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Don Was (who made a previous Brian Wilson documentary) and Gustavo Dudamel. But if you’re a die-hard fan, those star-studded moments pass the time as you wait in suspense for the film to return to its true driving force, so to speak: Fine’s oft-successful attempts to gently nudge the subject into divulging key memories. or just what’s going on in his head now, whether it’s tender longing or deep anxiety.
“What I discovered when I looked at the footage is that this is not an interview. It’s just two friends talking, ”says the director. It was a relief. “It was a gamble – we didn’t know if it was going to work or not. Was it a crazy idea? Are we wasting our time? And then we saw Brian relax and talk to his boyfriend and maybe even forget the cameras were there for a while, which was the hope.
Brian always let the music do almost everything, and so for the purposes of the film he went to a studio with his band and re-recorded several old songs for the film right before his last back surgery in 2019. He also did. a new original song, “Right Where I Belong”, co-written and performed with Jim James of My Morning Jacket. “I was talking to Jim and said, ‘Brian wrote this beautiful melody especially for the movie, and I was going to use it for sheet music, but how about putting lyrics for that?’ I sent it at 9pm and my phone rang at 2am, and I played it with my wife and I was teary-eyed. Jim really got into Brian’s mind. (This included starting to tackle his well-known issues right away: “I’m anxious. I’m very scared,” James wrote in the lyrics.) “And when Brian said, ‘That’s cool’, that’s the seal of approval. ”
James and Wilson recorded it with former Beach Boy Blondie Chaplin. At Brian’s request, this trio also recorded a new take on the 1971 Beach Boys classic that ended up being the title song. The director said, “I knew if we even considered ‘Long Promised Road’ for a track, I was going to catch diehard fan hell:” It’s a song by Carl! “He recounts some of the dismissive comments that came from aficionados when it was advertised as being named after a song by Brian’s late brother:” Here’s another weapon for hire, brought in to do a doc. They always say, don’t sign up! “These people don’t know what they’re doing. This movie is going to be terrible. And I saw, you know, 500 comments on Brian’s Instagram and I was like, “I have to say something.” And so I jumped in and said, just do me a favor and watch the movie and I promise it’ll make sense why ‘Long Promised Road’ is here.
“Because Brian kept asking to hear it during filming, I realized that it represented Brian’s life and his connection to Carl and Dennis in a way that hadn’t really been expressed before. . “
Brian confirms it and, and this is his way, sums it up succinctly. What was it about Carl’s song “Long Promised Road” that meant so much to him? He answers: “Love”.
For the recording sessions and the soundtrack, “I didn’t mean to make any suggestions,” says Brent Wilson, “but I remember you saying, ‘Let’s make a rock n roll album’. And I remember Jason even asking him, ‘I don’t know what it is, what’s a rock’n’roll album for Brian Wilson?’ “
Right now, the answer couldn’t be more obvious to Brian: “Rock ‘n’ roll! But they got a more specific answer as the sessions approached, in the form of her song choices, which included the Beach Boys song “It’s OK” from “15 Big Ones” from 1976 and a cover song. from a Jimmy Rogers song, “Honeycomb.” “I called Paul Martins, his music director, and I was like, ‘Do you know what song this is? What is he talking about? I don’t even know what the “honeycomb” is. And luckily Paul knew and was able to do some graphics that night. Other songs that weren’t re-recorded but came up repeatedly in the conversation as meaningful to Brian include “The Night Was So Young” and “Ten Little Indians”. The director is as intrigued as anyone by what these choices mean on his subject’s psyche. “‘It’s OK’ is a funny song, but when Brian asks to hear it two or three times, you go back and listen to it, and now I hear it differently.”
Brent Wilson is delighted that Brian Wilson is back on the road, pointing out that the musician has taken vocal lessons every other day to accompany physical therapy on his back to ensure he is fit for the tour. . Beyond the more immediate upcoming dates, Wilson is set to headlining with Chicago next summer, echoing the tour the Beach Boys and Chicago did together in the mid-1970s.
And there is a new album, in addition to the soundtrack of the film: “At My Piano”, a nice collection of 15 Beach Boys and solo songs performed as purely instrumental piano pieces. This is the kind of album that will soothe you if you too suffer from great anxiety, though there won’t be any talkative responses from the man himself on what the collection means to. him.
According to Brent Wilson, “Until we started doing the news I hadn’t seen it that much, because of course everything was closed with COVID. And I came to see Brian a few months ago and I said, ‘Well what have you done?’ And you said ‘I was in the studio’ and I was like ‘What do you mean bydid you go to the studio? You can’t go to the studio, I’m supposed to shoot! For Brent Wilson, even though the movie is over, there is still no missing cinematic opportunity that he can possibly catch a glimpse into Wilson’s mind and method.