Three Reviled Men Who Need To Have Their Due

Posted by on February 12, 2012 in Bash On Pop | 6 comments

Three Reviled Men Who Need To Have Their Due

By David Bash

 

As most passionate Beach Boys fans would agree, Murry Wilson, Mike Love, and Eugene Landy have been villified, castigated, even reviled for having done so many heinous things over the years, several in particular which have adversely affected Brian Wilson.  I’m not here to take issue with any of that, other than to say that while these attacks are not errors of commission, they are definitely errors of omission, because each of these men, and I’m not exaggerating one bit, have played a vital role in making both Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys what they are today.

Let’s begin at the beginning, with Mr. Wilson: Murry, that is.  There can be no dispute that he was an abusive dad, both verbally and physically, particularly to Brian (as it is with most abusive fathers, directing it in most part towards the oldest boy), who he constantly bombarded with both blatant and thinly veiled put-downs…and of course, if it’s really true that he hit his eldest son with a baseball bat when Brian was two, effecting the deafness in his right ear, then he should have been put in jail (no doubt that if Social Services, as we know it today, was around back then, his ass would have been hauled off either to court or jail several times), and the verbal abuse greatly contributed not only to Brian’s nervous breakdown, but to many subsequent years of mental and physical degeneration.  Having said all that, had Murry not constantly been on Brian with exhorts to “work harder and do better”, there’s a good chance that Brian never would have created the output he has.  For better or worse, Murry kicked Brian’s ass (Brian actually thanked his Dad for “kicking my ass” in an interview he did with me), mainly emotionally, which caused Brian to seek Murry’s approval by working harder and harder to produce work of which his father would be proud.  The fact that, in Brian’s mind, he never reached that goal, and that this took an awful toll on his mental well being, doesn’t obscure the other fact that without Murry, Brian likely would have taken it a lot easier, possibly even giving up before The Beach Boys achieved even a modicum of fame, thereby depriving the world of years of genius.  Would Brian Wilson, with a dad who treated him with kindness and love, been a happier, more well-adjusted human being?  Almost certainly.  But would he have been as prodigious a songwriter and producer?  Almost certainly not.  For that, Murry must be given some due.

Next is Mike Love, who probably has the most ironic last name in the history of popular music.  To love Brian Wilson means you hate Mike Love, and no doubt there’s good reason for it: Mike was, and still is, a smug, smarmy ass who used to play constant mind games with Brian, put down the most brilliant work of Brian’s career, and tried to claim credit for many things for which it wasn’t deserved (to be fair, there were times where he had been denied credit that should have been forthcoming).  However, while all of the above is true, what’s also undeniable is that without Mike Love, The Beach Boys would never have been the live entity they have become, would likely have stopped touring after Brian retreated to the studio, and would never have created the enduring legacy that now exists for millions of people.  Why?  Because Mike Love was the only member of The Beach Boys who was an effective front man.  Brian had way too much stagefright, Carl and Al were too quiet (although eventually Carl exerted a bit of authority on stage), and while Dennis was an obvious sex symbol who was never short of female admirers, he was mostly in back on the drums, and really didn’t possess the sponteneity of articulation necessary to be the front man.  Mike Love craved being the center of attention, would strut around the stage, exhorting the crowd to get excited, and was, at least in that sphere, a reasonably articulate guy.  He was the glue that held the band together as a live entity, and both driven and narcissistic enough to hold tightly to those reigns to this day.  Love is also the one who advised Capitol Records on the track listing to Endless Summer, and album that, without its existence, may have left The Beach Boys dead and buried.  Those 400,000 people who came to see The Beach Boys play at The Washington Monument have Mike Love to thank…and so do we, for keeping the summer alive.

Finally, we get to Eugene Landy, a man who took power and abused it to the nth degree, which effected the eventual loss of his licence to practice psychiatry.  Landy’s therapy sessions put Brian through sheer hell, and once Landy brought Brian to a point where he could function with a modicum of ability, Landy assumed full control of his life, both outside and inside of the studio, a huge breach of ethics.  Many people in the Beach Boys circle felt Landy’s control was akin to a prison camp, and Brian himself, in interviews that were able to escape the verbal manipulation of Landy, revealed that he indeed felt imprisoned.  All this is well and good, and Landy deserved to lose his license and more, but there is one thing which cannot be denied: had Eugene Landy not come to Brian’s rescue in 1983, Brian would today likely be incapacitated at best, and six feet underground at worst.  At the time Landy came back into Brian’s life, Brian was in absolutely awful shape, his weight more than 300 pounds and climbing, snorting prodigious amounts of cocaine, effectively placing one foot into the grave.  Eugene Landy saved his life-call his methods extreme, highly unethical, reprehensible if you will-he saved Brian’s life.  Not only that, but he got Brian to *work* again, to write and record a very, very good record in 1988, and planted the seeds for Brian’s eventual work, including the newly recorded Smile album.  Of course there are many other people in Brian’s world who played a larger part in shaping the past 15 years of Brian’s life and career, but what I’m saying is, had it not been for Eugene Landy, there wouldn’t have been a Brian on this earth to shape, and that carries as much or more weight than anything else.

In sum, I’m not suggesting that you stop feeling the way you do about Murry Wilson, Mike Love, and Eugene Landy; I’m saying that there’s the other side of the story which simply cannot be denied, and must be given its due process.

6 Comments

  1. A very good synopsis of the infamous trio, and a good example of only the most persistent and strongest of personalities could penetrate and effect the mind of Brian Wilson. I read that in the early 80’s how Brian would listen to no one and foil his ex-wife and brothers attempts to alter the course of his self-destruction. Dr. Landy did save his life (selfishly for his own reasons of course) and enable Brian to write music again. If only some one would have been a strong enough “villain” to alter the lives of Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson.

  2. by and large i’m fine with all this. i’d add though: in no uncertain terms did dr. eugene landy save brian’s life at the time of treatment. period. however he didn’t know or accept limits and went on over years to abuse his power

    Murry Wilson. I could go on and on. He fought extremely hard for Brian and his developing producer status at Capitol Records. Buried in an un-marked grave, supposedly remaining even now so at the past wishes of his late wife Audrey

    Mike Love IMO kept the Beach Boys viable as a live act for many later years when their records, new releases anyway, did not sell. Howver you could argue the reason the latter new releases didn’t sell anything like their ’60s stuff is because Mike effectively shut cousin Brian out of his past leadership role

  3. Bullshit., I grew up with the BBs. I disdained them at first until Sloop John B. Then I listened over. Then I learned that BW was considered a musical genius. If his portrayal by Paul Dano is accurate, the guy was a fucking genius on the same green with Beethoven–who also had an abusive father.

    Those three bastards were too dumb to see–or here–his genius. With a different cast of characters in his life he would have composed and played Lincoln, Carnegie, Vienna, Venice with all kinds of innovative, original, always melodic with of course his gorgeous harmonies.

    Mike Love was a fucking creep in the early days. And he’s creepier now.

  4. Well written David! Bravo!

  5. I’m not certain where Mr. Trebecque is getting his information about Brian but it’s indisputable that Brian was on the fast track to certain early grave, it’s also indisputable that under Landy’s care he was able to get his OC behaviors under control so he could function (relatively) normally in life. Now a lot of people might say another therapy program could have done the trick but bottom line is that regular therapy wasn’t working for Brian so Landy’s more extreme treatment program ended being the one that did the trick. Some may also say Brian wasn’t that bad off and could have pulled himself out of his addictive behaviors but that’s speculation that doesn’t fit with the facts. I’ve never heard even Landy’s most virulent enemies deny his treatment saved Brian’s life.
    That being said, Landy stepped way over the line in terms of ethical behavior, as a professional therapist he should not have allowed the doctor patient relationship to evolve into a personal relationship, he also likely took some financial advantage though full time care wouldn’t have been cheap. Brian has said positive things about Landy but also called Landy was a “fucked up man”, though has never really publicly denounced him or his treatment, I’ve always thought there was some complicity with Brian also, he wasn’t stupid, he understood what was going on. I’ve heard Brian is writing his own bio so it will be interesting to see what he says about Landy in it, my guess is it will reflect something of Melinda’s hatred of Landy since he’s been with her for many years now but maybe we’ll get a more balanced view. Brian’s was more of a pro Landy book, Brian said he didn’t have much to do with the actual writing of it though I did hear him say it was essentially accurate in an interview.
    Landy did save Brian’s life and even though he was a user and an opportunist I think we should be grateful Brian is alive, healthy and musically productive well into his elder years and didn’t go the way of so many other rock stars.

    As for Mike Love, I rate him at a 9 in terms of evil influences on Brian’s life, just below the various pushers and substance abuse enablers that surround a rock star like Brian and would shove a needle in his arm knowing damn well and good it would kill him if they got a buck out of it. About 5 notches above Landy even!!! Just kidding, Mike isn’t that evil, just close.
    I can sort of agree that Mike has kept the Beach Boys alive as a live show but it’s the creativity of Brian’s original music that is the essence of the Beach Boys, without that live shows are meaningless. Mike was always jealous of Brian’s talent and tried to suppress his experimentation, just wanting to make “good time music”. His hard nose attitude toward Brian’s mental problems were only exacerbating Brian’s OC issues and he hired two goons, Stan Love being one of them, to watch Brian, they emotionally and physically abused him. Yes, Mike may have not gotten credit for some lyrics but he also claims more credit than he deserves and reality is, he’s always been replaceable, Brian is not.
    Mike now has control of the Beach Boys and fired Brian from the last world tour, he claimed the market was saturated with the “real” Beach Boys, then promptly went out and toured with his faux BB’s band. He’s a liar, it was a money move pure and simple. How much money does that asshole need? He’ll die before he can spend it all.
    In two of the last four albums by the Beach Boys, Mike Love allowed Brian to be involved, the other two were strictly Mike Love vehicles. Guess which albums sucked and which ones were good? That’s why god made the Radio and “the Beach Boys” had Brian involved and were very fine albums. Still Cruisin and Summer in Paradise had Mike in charge writing songs with no Brian and they sucked.
    How Mike Love can be so egocentric to believe that a true Beach Boys album can be made without Brian is beyond human reason. The man is simply sociopathic.

  6. Mostly agree except for Eugene Landy
    He deserves to be vilified. That was a monster and worse than the father since he was a licensed, medical professional of psychology. Brian could also have died being under Landy’s idea of mental healthcare. IMO. Otherwise, agree with other assessments.

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