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- I approach my music-making as an art-form — something pure from the spirit to which I can add dynamics and marketable reality. Music is genuine and healthy and the stimulation I get from molding it and adding dynamics is like nothing else on earth.
- I love restaurants. You're sitting there and all of a sudden, there's food. It's like magic.
- I'm not a genius. I'm just a hard-working guy.
- I've never written one note or word of music simply because I think it will make money.
- For me, making music has always been a very spiritual thing, and I think anybody who produces records has to feel that, at least a little bit. Producing a record . . . the idea of taking a song, envisioning the overall sound in my head and then bringing the arrangement to life in the studio . . . well, that gives me satisfaction like nothing else.
- Some people might think that sex is the highest experience you can have. I tend to think that music is.
- To be a great producer, music has to be a big part of your soul. And when it comes to making music, if I could invent a way to get it from my heart into yours, without doing all that hard work, I would be very happy.
- Q Magazine to Brian Wilson: Did you ever meet Charles Manson?
Brian: Yes I did. He seemed like an OK guy, but he went and murdered some people, which was pretty bad.
Quotes about Wilson (unsourced)
- I listened to a lot of different bass players - mostly Motown records. They were great and the bass player, who I found out later was James Jamerson, was an influence. So smooth, melodic, and solid. I really liked Marvin Gaye records. And, of course, I’ve always liked Brian Wilson all the way through The Beach Boys. But Pet Sounds blew me away. It’s still one of my favorite albums. When I first heard it, I thought, Wow, this is the greatest record of all time! Brian took the bass into very unusual places. The band would play in C, and Brian would stay in G. That kind of thing. It gave me great ideas. That musical invention of Brian Wilson was eye-opening, I mean, ear-opening.
- It was Pet Sounds that blew me out of the water. I love the album so much. I’ve just bought my kids each a copy of it for their education in life … I figure no one is educated musically ’til they’ve heard that album … I love the orchestra, the arrangements … it may be going overboard to say it’s the classic of the century … but to me, it certainly is a total, classic record that is unbeatable in many ways … I’ve often played Pet Sounds and cried. "God Only Knows" is a big favorite of mine ... very emotional, always a bit of a choker for me, that one. On "You Still Believe In Me", I love that melody — that kills me ... that's my favorite, I think ... it's so beautiful right at the end ... comes surging back in these multi-colored harmonies ... sends shivers up my spine.
- I played [Pet Sounds] to John [Lennon] so much that it would be difficult for him to escape the influence … it was the record of the time. The thing that really made me sit up and take notice was the bass lines … and also, putting melodies in the bass line. That I think was probably the big influence that set me thinking when we recorded ‘Pepper’, it set me off on a period I had then for a couple of years of nearly always writing quite melodic bass lines.
- Without Pet Sounds, The Beatles’ next album, Sgt. Pepper, wouldn’t have happened. Revolver was the beginning of the whole thing. But Pepper was an attempt to equal Pet Sounds. Hearing Pet Sounds gave me the kind of feeling that raises the hairs on the back of your neck. You say, ‘What is that? It’s fantastic!’
- One of the great things about Brian's music is its marvellous unpredictability. He avoided cliches, he gives his melodies changes of direction that amaze and charm the listener. And Brian's sounds take us into a new, beautiful countryside.
- It could be argued that The Beatles had become, culturally, the most important group of the Sixties. They defined the era. Yet I have to say that Brian was the musician who challenged them most of all. No one made a bigger impact on The Beatles than Brian.
- By my standards, Brian Wilson is still a young man, a living genius of pop music. His invention and creativity reached a level that I always found staggering. He gave The Beatles and myself quite a good deal to think about in trying to keep up with him. And like them, he pushed forward the frontiers of popular music. His art is that magical combination of really original compositions, a wonderful sense of instrumental colour and a profound understanding of record production. I guess you could say I'm a fan.
- The records I used to listen to and still love, you can’t make a record that sounds that way. Brian Wilson, he made all his records with four tracks, but you couldn’t make his records if you had a hundred tracks today.
- Jesus, that ear. He should donate it to The Smithsonian.
- When I heard "Good Vibrations" for the first time on the radio I called Paul [Simon] immediately and I said: "I think I just heard THE greatest, MOST creative record of them all."
- Brian showed us all the endless possibilities in what's been recorded, and how it can be layered and combined or subtracted to create something eternal.
- Brian's sense of "the possible" certainly came from his California roots, which to me has always represented the promise and sweetness in America. He gave us the most lovely chords, that are shaded and illustrative of the lyric. And since he was able to achieve that with a sense of fun, with that joyousness, he became our Mozart of rock-'n-roll.
- The genius of his music is the joy that’s in it. I know that Brian believes in angels. I do too. But you only have to listen to the string arrangement on God Only Knows for fact and proof of angels.
- Unless you were Kate Smith and you were singing 'God Bless America', no one thought you could say 'God' in a song. No one had done it, and Brian didn't want to be the first person to try it. He said, "We'll just never get any air play." Isn't it amazing that we thought that? But it worked, and "God Only Knows" is, to me, one of the great songs of our time. I mean the great songs. Not because I wrote the lyrics, but because it is an amazing piece of music that we were able to write a very compelling lyric to. It's the simplicity — the inference that "I am who I am because of you" — that makes it very personal and tender.
- The first time I heard Pet Sounds, I have to admit that I did a little bit of knee-jerk in the same way probably the record company and some other people did because it wasn't as accessible as Brian's songwriting approach had been up to that time. I'm not sure I fully appreciated that until years later, I started making records myself.
- I consider Pet Sounds to be one of the greatest pop LPs to ever be released. It encompasses everthing that's ever knocked me out and rolled it all into one. Brian Wilson is, without a doubt, a pop genius.
- Brian Wilson the astronaut, peering down from the Heavens, cooly dreaming of California girls. An idealized pop utopia that widens the senses and soothes the ears. Lands the spaceship, finds nothing but disco and platform shoes and decided to take another trip around the moon for good measure and to search for the elusive lonely harmony. Landing back down for the millennium, our astronaut decided it's time. Time to stop and hear what he's brought back.
- Pet Sounds is an unbelievable record. It's like classical music. Wonderful compositions, beautiful singing. I think the compositions stand up to any kind of interpretation. I've heard "Put Your Head On My Shoulder" played on the cello and it sounds like a piece music that's been with us for hundreds and hundreds of years. It sounds like it's always been there. And I think maybe in a hundred years' time people will be playing their songs on the piano trying to work out where they came from.
- He was the most highly regarded pop musician in America, hands down. Everybody by that time had figured out who was writing and arranging it all. "In My Room" was the defining point for me. When I heard it, I thought "I give up — I can't do that — I'll never be able to do that."
- One of the hallmarks of Brian Wilson’s genius is to turn powerful emotions and terrible tragedy into life-affirming art that helps and heals. Music that in our darkest moments gives us hope and soothes our soul.
- I owe Brian. We all do. Everybody in American pop music owes him. He was the first and one of the best. [...] He pushed the envelope in pop music. He changed what was possible in pop music.
- Pet Sounds became an instant classic when it first appeared. Listening to it today, it is, perhaps, easier to see why it was one of the defining moments of its time, along with the music of the Beatles, Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead ... its willingness to abandon formula in favor of structural innovation, the introduction of classical elements in the arrangements, production concepts in terms of overall 'sound' which were novel at the time, all these elements give Pet Sounds a freshness that, thirty years later, is immediately there for the listener.
- Pet Sounds is a landmark album. For me to say that I was enthralled would be an understatement. I had never heard such magical sounds, so amazingly recorded. It undoubtedly changed the way that I, and countless others, approached recording. It is a timeless and amazing recording of incredible genius and beauty.
- Brian Wilson has influenced me more than any other songwriter, whether it's English or American. Because of the way he shaped his chords, the way...I'm getting very technical now, but he never used...he...the root note of a chord, he used the 5th or the 3rd and changed the chord sound completely. [...] I have never been influenced so much as songwriter by anybody as much as Brian Wilson.
- He was way advanced of what anybody was doing at that point. And I think the Beatles recognized that and I think every harmony group in the world recognized that there was some different thing going on — something very sophisticated.
- Music is Brian Wilson's best friend, lover, everything. On a one-to-one basis, it's the only thing that has never wronged him. It's when people, and gossip, and record companies came into play that things went askew. The music never betrayed him. And given Brian's vulnerable, exclusive nature, it's only natural that it's the central fact and concern in his life. He may forget a name or a contract, but he never forgets the music. It's a consequence of devotional thinking, and geniuses are prone to it.
- I think I would put him up there with any composer — especially Pet Sounds. I don't think there is anything better that that, necessarily. I don't think you'd be out of line comparing him to Beethovan — to any composer. You really wouldn't. The word genius is used a lot with Brian. I don't know if he's a genius or not, but I know that music is probably as good as any music you can make.
- I don't think there's anyone his equal in popular music for this fifty years. They were really deep, profound emotions that came out of a lot of pain.
- I love Brian. There's not many people I would say that about. I think he's a truly, truly, truly great genius.
- I don't think that the California Myth, the dream that a few of us touched, would have happened without Brian, and I don't think Brian would have happened without the dream. They're inseparable.
- I've always been into harmonies, so I was inspired by that part of what they (the Beach Boys) were doing. It definitely influenced a generation of kids.
- His music definitely affected mine — the harmonies. Of course I never played in a band that could sing like that.
- [Brian Wilson] is one of the greatest composers of the 20th century.
- It was perfect, vocally, in terms of the notes, and the timbre, and the quality. But Brian had another idea… I mean, it was some vibrations about it… somebody had an impure thought… I finally started calling him “dog ears”, because he could obviously hear something that most human beings cannot.
- Brian Wilson is the Beach Boys. He is the band. We’re his fucking messengers. He is all of it. Period. We’re nothing. He’s everything.
- Every once in a while, an individual is born into the world whose whole being is music. I think Brian is one of those rare people.
- [Brian] combines the brilliance of Rachmaninoff and the command power of General Patton.
- What Brian came to mean was an ideal of innocence and naivety that went beyond teenage life and sprang fully developed songs. Adult and childlike at the same time. I thought how it was difficult for me not to believe everything he said. There was something genuine in every lyric. That can be a very heavy burden for a songwriter.
- He's a modern day Stravinsky, the way he constructs his music, he's a madman...He was doing stuff [40 years ago] that modern people do now, looping his work and stuff. There's a track on Smile with a whole bunch of tubas having a conversation with trumpets. It's great.
- [...] true genius.
- In the fall of 1989, I was working with a band who turned me on to the bootlegged recordings of Brian Wilson's legendary, aborted Smile sessions. Like a musical burning bush, these tapes awakened me to a higher consciousness in record making. I was amazed that one, single human could dream up this unprecedented and radically advanced approach to rock 'n roll.
I was really stunned when I met him several months later. Far from the catatonic drug burn-out the tabloids loved to depict, the guy I got to know was lucid and happening. When we started to mess around in the studio, it became clear that he was capable of making a record every bit as complex and beautiful as Pet Sounds whenever he felt like it. How could a talent so great be so misunderstood and under appreciated?
My personal favorite is "Caroline No," his paean to lost innocence. I hear the weary voice of a man who's been hurled through the emotional wringer and yet, one can plainly discern the youthful sweetness, optimism and goodness that characterizes Brian's soul. It's that dichotomy that makes him one of the most enigmatic and endearing characters of these times.
- A lot of people just hear things like “Fun Fun Fun” and don’t get all this fuss about Brian Wilson the great genius. So much of it is subtle, and a large part of his genius is that it sounds simple. I was like that myself until I really started listening properly. I didn’t even understand all the fuss about Pet Sounds. But I think a lot of people who love The Beach Boys have had that experience when they first discover this music on a deeper level. It gets to you, and nothing else compares to it. You can’t listen to anything else. Professionally, I found it crippling. I couldn’t write a song for about three years afterwards. Every time I sat down to write, I just thought, What’s the point? Brian Wilson did it so much better 25 years ago.