Books

Any author purporting to retell the life story of Beach Boy Brian Wilson must be prepared to limn the two-year downward spiral Wilson rode from 1973 to 1974, as the troubled genius faced bad vibrations triggered by the unexpected death of his control-freak father, Murry—a "hard oyster shell of a man," as a postmortem press release put it pithily. But few spin the yarn in a voice as hilariously terse as English writer Keith Badman's in this paperweight, subtitled The Definitive Diary of America's Greatest Band on Stage and in the Studio. "Permanently dressed in his bathrobe, he will pass time in a state of self-destruction," Badman writes. "His eating habits will include eggs and toast for breakfast, four hamburgers for lunch, and an array of steaks, cookies and candy bars last thing at night." (In a 1967 entry Badman notes, "Carl [Wilson] is arrested because he has refused the draft to join the US Army. . . . Subsequently the group's coming tour of the UK and Europe is thrown into doubt.")

If Badman writes with the unbearable dryness and rock-canonical reverence of the Mojo contributor he is, the best parts of his day-by-day labor of love unearth fascinating record-nerd arcana like legendary bassist Carol Kaye's wage for recording "Wouldn't It Be Nice" ($142.36) and a beyond-creepy publicity photo of Carl (for "personal appearances," call 213-461-3661). Like Brian's meticulous pet sounds, Badman's data find a certain magic in certain tedium.

 
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