The face of Brian Wilson stares at you from the cover. In his eyes is the enigma every biographer
has tried to answer. What caused this brilliant musician to give up his vision for almost four decades?
Using eleven published biographies, plus interviews with people close to Brian Wilson as well as the
musician himself, Peter Ames Carlin tells the story. Delving deep into the history of the Wilson family he begins in 1804
in New York with the birth of Henry Wilson, the first American-born family member. Mr. Carlin traces the many generations,
who were always moving westward, up through the time when Brian’s grandfather, “Buddy”, came to California.
Finally, he reveals the family life of Murray Wilson’s parents and his determination to become a songwriter. What ties
all of the generations together is each family’s love for making music together.
Coming from an abusive but hard working father, Murray Wilson wanted his sons to be on top. He pushed
them to work hard on everything. When they were younger, there were unconfirmed stories of abuse and Brian was always terrified
of his father. Yet, he credits his father for much of his success: “He was like our coach.” He scared me so much
I actually got scared into making good records.” Admissions like this one throughout the book help the reader gain a
better understanding of Brian Wilson’s thoughts and actions.
Using a combination of literary references, snippets of the songs themselves, and a close examination
of Brian Wilson’s life from childhood to the first Beach Boys’ record, “Surfin Safari” to the latest,
“Smile”, the reader becomes part of the story. Even through the parts when Brian Wilson became drug addicted,
and his mental illness began to rule him, Mr. Carlin lets Brian’s true personality show. Through all of his depressions,
his disappearances, and the times when he needed handlers to keep him sane, there is still a spark of Brian’s genius
alive. You find yourself rooting for that spark to ignite.
The book is very well researched, and it is as complete a story of how Brian Wilson rose and fell
and rose again, as can probably be told. One part of the story that many readers will appreciate is why Brian Wilson decided
to abandon the recording of “Smile” in 1967 and how this affected his life from that moment. Beach Boys’
fans have been trying to understand the reasons for this abandonment for years, and for those fans alone, this book will be
Beach Boys’ music has been a part of my life since college, and while reading the book as soon
as a song was mentioned I heard it in my head. If you want to learn the real history of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys and
how “Smile” affected his life Catch A Wave is the book for you.
One thing stands out from this book. That is the love that is felt for Brian Wilson wherever he goes.
It is obvious after reading Catch A Wave The Rise and Fall of the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, that Peter Ames Carlin has gained the
trust and confidence of the people close to Brian as well as the trust and confidence of Brian himself. If you love the Beach
Boys’ music you will love this book! In fact, for anyone interested in the history of American music, Catch A Wave is an excellent companion piece to the
So put on a Beach Boys song, maybe “Good Vibrations” find a sandy beach and tall, cold
drink and start reading.
My rating: Excellent or Outstanding – the highest