Dennis Wilson, definitive edition, B******s!

Originally posted on on January 7th 2009


Like I’m sure many other Beach Boys fans did, I eagerly awaited the reissue of “Pacific Ocean Blue” by Dennis Wilson. I’ve had a very clean copy on Mini disc, taken from an original pristine 1977 cassette tape, for a number of years. I love the album, the songs, and I love Carl Wilson’s backing vocals.
This music is of course unmistakably the work of a Beach Boy. But certainly a sight more left field. And of course Dennis has this strangely Gothic, Operatic slant on certain songs (see “Cuddle up” as an example prior to POB) which fascinates me.
And as for “Bambu”, well I have countless versions, little of which I’ve ever particularly liked, as it’s raunchy R’n’B with Dennis’ croaky voice(as a result of somebody punching him in the throat in a bar room brawl) drunkenly meandering.
But “Bambu” or no, I started to get very excited about a trip into Dennis’ archives.
With songs like “Forever” from Sunflower, and the brilliant “A time to live in dreams”
from the Hawthorne, California compilation, I’ve always felt Dennis to be seriously underrated by the general listening public and  Beach Boy fans generally. Another near genius from a family of incredibly talented musicians.


I was rather taken aback by the amount of hype surrounding this re-ish, but then with Brother Brian once again being a cash cow for the music industry ( though through touring rather than cd sales nowadays) it shouldn’t have come as any suprise.
But what really suprised, and I must say personally disgusted me, was the media wheeling out the old “Wild man of Pop” chestnut, like, what the heck has that got to do with the music?  I thought that stupid attitude had been  buried with Kurt Cobain, who’s suicide was rightfully  deemed a shocking waste, and a dreadfully sad thing. I also think it laid to rest any glamour about Heroin, as both Cobain’s and Courtney Love’s squallid lifestyle were made very public. Post Cobain’s death, many Seattle scenesters took a public stand against Smack, at least the ones that hadn’t already o.d.’d……………….And I hate to dissapoint Pete Docherty, but most people think you’re a sad, talentless tosser.

The “Live Fast, Die Young” philosophy that the media once again promoted via the Dennis Wilson reviews was I think not just dreadfully irresponsible, but wholly unessessary, because  Dennis was indeed a major talent. And the only time the people that were close to him speak negatively about him, was when he was drunk or on Class A drugs.


When I was 15, in 1972, drugs were nowhere near as prevelant as they are today. And the penalties for possession were much harsher. Even simple Cannabis possession could result in a custodial sentence. But worse still, our peers like Keith Richards actively promoted drug use, via his lifestyle, the “Elegently Wasted” look, and the “Nudge nudge, Wink wink” innuendos in interviews. So the more impressionable types in my generation were convinced that drugs were cool, that drugs promoted creativity, and that the more you took, the cooler you were.
I think we can thank Keith Richard for a number of deaths, most noteably Gram Parsons, a major talent himself. Not that Gram wasn’t on his own excessive path to “the Gilded Palace of Sin”.
But certainly when they  became friends, Keith upped the ante, a period he now describes as his least creative. He thanks Jagger for keeping the band afloat, post “Exile on Main street” era. And indeed even David Bowie, for those that don’t know, helped to keep the brand name alive by penning “It’s only Rock ‘n’ Roll” for the Stones, and gifting it to them as their own. Neither Jagger or the rest of the band believed Keith would live very long with his then drug and alcohol consumption.
I do find it hysterically funny that Keith did those series of ads on US tv decrying drug use. And was it Bill Hicks that said “don’t worry Keith, we won’t do drugs, cos YOU DONE ‘EM ALL!!!’


Whilst LSD and Marijuana is said to have promoted brilliant studio experimentation before and around the time of “Sgt. Peppers”, it’s said the Beatles  decided after this period that creativity and drugs didn’t go hand in hand. George Harrison stopped taking drugs completely after visiting Haight Ashbury in 1967, as a result of seeing the Hippy dream going sour with young kids starting to use Heroin. And recently in an interview in Mojo about the White album, Macca said he thought the distance between him and Lennon was started when John started to dabble with Heroin.
And indeed. recently Brian Wilson was asked what he most regretted about his life, and he said it was the years of  serious mental illness brought on as a result of Heroin and Cocaine use.
I think we can deduce, from the most creative writers and performers of the 20th century, that far from promoting creativity, drugs, and alcohol destroy it.
Because Dennis’ drug and alcohol abuse wasn’t about the odd joint or a few beers.
Apparently him and Brian would snort OUNCES of Cocaine, and he’d drink Vodka by the quart. And ultimately what killed Dennis was being too drunk to swim after diving off a friends boat to retrieve stuff from the water he’d thrown over board, in a drunken rage. How tragic……
Charles Mason was apparently quoted as saying “Dennis was killed by my shadow”.
Yeah, right Dude……..Helter Skelter…..

So to return to Dennis Wilson, for the sad Fleet street hacks to wheel out the “Drugs and Alcohol are really cool” cliches is just sick making. Because the mega talent that was Dennis Wilson was killed by those cliches, Brian and Carl had their dear brother taken by them, and people that love Dennis’ music had a major talent stolen by them.
So how can someone  tell me drugs and alcohol are cool?

Dennis, Carl and Brian Wilson

As for the reissue its self, I have to sum it up with one word, dissapointment.
Pacific Ocean Blue is without doubt a beautiful album, showing Dennis to be blessed with a big chunk of the Wilson talent and it has to be said, the remastering is fabulous.The bonus tracks on the POB disc are great,”Tug of Love” is beautiful, and Dennis’ version of “Only with you” is a treat, a better master than the boot version. Mexico is certainly interesting, the melody is almost identical to “Court of the Crimson King” by King Crimson.

But as to  the much vaunted “Bambu”, with the exception of  4 tracks, a keen Beach Boys collector will already have the lot. And as I’ve already said, aside from a few tracks, Bambu for me is fairly desposible, though this master is better than most of the bootleg cds.  And I love Dennis’ version of “Love surrounds me” again a better master than the boots, as is this particular version of “It’s not too late”, though this version’s outro is a lot less Psychedelic than the numerous bootleg versions.
“Love remember me” is pretty, “Common” has potential, and no doubt would’ve been great with vocals. “Cocktails” is an interesting, sprawling, drunken drone, as is “I love you”, which is almost Prog in it’s tone and structure. For the completist these tracks are essential, but as far as Dennis’ performances on most of these, incohereant would be a kind description, though there’s a haunting loveliness to the songs.
I can’t understand why a beautiful song like “Carry me home” stays in the vaults whilst these aforementioned “works in progress” make the re-ish?
And here comes the really big question about this reissue, where is the “Sound of Free/Lady” single issued by Dennis under the name Dennis Wilson and Rumbo, featuring Daryl Dragon on instrumentation,in 1970? Thankfully, the bootleggers remastered the single long ago, even taking out the minor pressing fault on the A side.

And let’s not talk about chronology, as  Bambu is drawn from sessions from the late 60’s, right up til ’79.
There resides in Capitol’s vault, an unreleased album which Dennis made in 1971, with Daryl Dragon once more. Some of these tracks have been released, “Barbara”, on the “Endless Harmony” sound track cd, a version of “Cuddle up” and “Make it good” from Carl and the Passions. And apparently the Rumbo single is part of that album.
Top marks to the bootleging chaps, now if you guys could get a job with Capitol or Sony, perhaps we could get some of the “Up to 300” unreleased Beach Boys tracks in the various archives released too!
I suppose Sony are hanging onto “Sound of Free” for the next deluxe reissue, coming to  a webstore near you soon. Well, as soon as they can max out the sales on this particular edition. Then they’ll just add another track or two and hey presto another “ULTIMATE legacy edition”. Yeah right….
And great news, the Beatles back catalogue is being remixed and reissued, Hallelujah and EMI be praised! Still, now Macca has said he doesn’t mind people illegally downloading his music, at least it won’t cost us an arm and a leg, like all their other reissues!!!


I love the Beach Boys music. I consider myself an uber fan.  Brian Wilson is undoubtably a musical genius. Carl Wilson, as Brian says, had the voice of an Angel, probably the most beautiful  voice in popular music. Dennis was obviously a brilliant writer, and his production skills fantastic. The Beach Boys music has soundtracked the lives of countless millions these past almost 5 decades, and they stand along side the Beatles as musical giants. And I can’t begin to tell you what absolute joy this music has given me much of my life.
So why don’t the major labels give us what we want? Why can’t there be a properly organised trawl through Dennis’ and the Beach Boys archive? Why can’t Capitol employ some one who cherishes the Beach Boys music as much as we do, and organise a proper extensive reissue program?  By the time Capitol get it together the tapes will be particles of magnetic dust. What about the promised Brother records box set? The 5 cd Smile set? The definative Brian Wilson box set?

Again I’ll say, POB is a fabulous album. But it’s another missed opportunity. Because the record companies simply don’t care about the fans, and never have.  And the cynics amongst us are saying it’s just because they WILL produce yet another DEFINITIVE  version, or similar, for us poor saps to shell out yet more hard earned cash on. To line the already over stuffed  pockets of the record companies. Again and again. As they have done with so many major artists. Just like the Beatles catalogue. And Bowie’s catalogue. And  Elvis’ catalogue. And the Who’s catalogue. And soon XTC’s catalogue. And just about any other major artist you can mention. Watch this space……..

In the meantime, I’m off to visit these peer to peer sites and wait for the new Beatles remasters!

2 Responses to “Dennis Wilson, definitive edition, B******s!”

  1. 3 Responses to “Dennis Wilson, the definitive edition – bullshit!”

    Mark // Jan 19, 2009 at 12:31 am

    C’mon, you thought hyping the rock lifestyle was no longer used to sell records & concerts? Half of rock songs are glorifying destruction, so unfortunately destructive behavior will be part of many advertising campaigns. In Dennis Wilson’s case, the record companies had to get the casual fan past the idea of DW as just a clean-cut surfer boy. Otherwise they’d have thousands trashing POB for not being Surfin USA. In any case, if DW were not destructive, we wouldn’t have this great music to talk about. His sad life story is key to understanding the album, so of course it will be hyped.

    As for the value of Bambu, I think you’re missing the point. Sure we diehard fans have most of this stuff. The point is to get it to the general public. Linking it with POB was the only way to do that, and furthermore create demand for his other work. This was not supposed to be a career retrospective–most people don’t even know who he was! Now they do, so let’s be happy about that. I for one will be happy to shell out more for other DW songs, knowing that his talent is finally getting wider recognition. Plus we’ve got Brian Wilson getting good reviews for That Lucky Old Sun this year. What a great time to be a BB fan!
    Mike fusco // Feb 5, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    I agree with both of you whole-heartedly. On one hand, it’s agony to wait for Capitol to get their act together and SLOWLY release the hidden gems (4th of July being one) but I agree that it’s been a blessing to have the POB/Bambu reissue out. I’m 22 and the good vibrations boxset, occasional DVD release, and YouTube were the only way to get unreleased music. And through my whole life Dennis has been my idol and I was fortunate to have a cd copy of POB before. But now the cd set is beautiful and I love it and I received the 3 blue vinyl edition that was just… Gorgeous and out of this world in extensiveness. I recommends EVERYONE get one If u can find one

    I agree the demand is certainly there so please release the “vault” and don’t wait for the original fans to die before they get to hear it. I’m fortunate to be young but I can’t believe it took all 22 years before ANY dennis stuff was reissued. But I work at best buy and I lived to see a dream- “Holy Man” was on our loop! For a good 6 months blaring in the cd department. It’s been quite amazing and satisfying to see Denny get the spotlight… And reach new people

    -mike fusco
    Terence Ruffle // Feb 5, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    First up, thanks Mark, and thank you Mike, for your excellent and astute comments. It’s great that a couple of mega fans read and appreciated the article.

    Gotta say Mike, tho’ perhaps it’s true for some of the more aggressive and out there music, but I think Romantic Love still comes out tops for the inspiration for music and the Arts generally. But I think you’re absolutely right, in retrospect Dennis had to have some sort of special hype to make him appeal to the casual Beach Boys fan. And again, his music wouldn’t be what it is without his life style.
    I don’t know if you saw it, but unbelievably the British tabloids ran stories about Dennis and POB around the time of the re ish. And it was really dumb, “Wild man of Pop” shite, which really annoyed me because the drugs and alcohol aspect to his story was given more column space than the guy’s obviously huge natural talent.
    I suppose it’s the passage of time, but Jimi Hendrix was given similar treatment by the British press for years, but now the drugs and other BS just pales into insignificance compared to his guitar playing and influence.

    And I hate to say this guys, and you both know I adore Brian(heck, the amount of money I’ve spent seeing the man over the last is it 7 or 8 years should’ve been enough to put his kids through college!) but I fear “Lucky Old Sun” is dreadfully mediocre, with “Midnight” and “Southern California” being the only two tracks worthy of the man.
    And “Southern California” is a rehash of an 80’s, possibly 70’s demo, who’s name currently escapes me! Bugger! Either of you guys remember?
    Anyway, many thanks to you both, let’s hope 2009 brings more riches from the Beach Boys vault.
    P.S. Have you chaps ever heard “Sweet Insanity”. Now what were we saying about “Lucky Old Sun”?……..

  2. And here we go again, the Smile saga continues……
    Well chaps, if you’re gonna make that September deadline you’d better pull your fingers out……oh, I see, you meant 2012, right……

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