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Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall & Redemption of the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson    by Peter Ames Carlin order for
Catch a Wave
by Peter Ames Carlin
Order:  USA  Can
Rodale, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Daninhirsch

The enigmatic Brian Wilson is profiled in this revealing biography of the man and his music. Catch a Wave chronicles the over forty years since Brian Wilson first became an overnight sensation. Brian and his two brothers, Carl and Dennis, along with cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine, were the original Beach Boys. Their first hit, Surfin', was recorded when Brian was still a teenager. Other hits quickly followed, such as Surfin' Safari, Don't Worry Baby, Surfin' USA, Help Me Rhonda, and California Girls.

Wilson's life wasn't all Fun Fun Fun, though. In fact, although the Beach Boys practically invented surfer music, the reader may be surprised to learn that Brian was as far removed from the surfer life as someone could possibly be. Wilson was plagued by inner demons much of his life. His psyche was fragile, and he spent whole days in bed, while his weight spiraled dangerously out of control.

The book suggests that the root of Wilson's problems was his father, Murry, a deeply unhappy man whose own desire for success in the music world went unrealized. Brian went through life starved for the affection and approval of his father. 'A toxic cocktail of emotional manipulation,' described perfectly by the author, is how Murry controlled his family.

While the Beach Boys may have sung in perfect harmony, their relationships were anything but harmonious, even among the brothers. There was constant fighting and litigation was endless. Whether or not the author was trying to evoke pity for Wilson, I couldn't help but feel sorry for the man whose days were subsumed by his personal angst. One of the most fascinating aspects of Wilson's story is his relationship with his psychiatrist, Eugene Landy. For several years in the 1980s and 1990s, Landy manipulated Wilson's mind and controlled his every move twenty-four hours a day.

It helps if you are a fan - or at least familiar with Beach Boys music - to appreciate Brian Wilson's story. At times, it reads more like a Beach Boys musical retrospective. In fact, I felt that the book could have been much shorter, as the author got bogged down in details of songs, which may not bother a diehard fan, but is overload for the casual fan and reader. Nonetheless, you will close the book with a greater appreciation for the genius/madness of Brian Wilson, and will invariably find yourself humming old Beach Boys tunes.

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