Search our site
Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron Read the opening extract of the brand new Sophie Cameron book before its publication on 22/03/2018

Brian Wilson by Kirk Curnutt


Brian Wilson by Kirk Curnutt

Brian Wilson is a genius. Ever since British press agent Derek Taylor launched a publicity campaign with that theme to promote the landmark LP Pet Sounds in 1966, some variation of that claim has been obligatory when discussing the significance of the Beach Boys' founder and chief composer. Originally designed to liberate Wilson from his outmoded image as a purveyor of sun-and-surf teen pop so the symphonic sophistication of his music might be properly appreciated, the assertion has been repeated so often in the forty-plus years since as to render it virtually meaningless. Indeed, if anything, the label today seems an albatross around the man's neck, inasmuch as Wilson's slow-but-steady reemergence as a working musician since the mid-nineties after three decades of mental illness and drug abuse, has been freighted with expectations that he again produce something as epochal as Good Vibrations to justify the adoration he inspires in impassioned defenders. Brian Wilson interrogates this and other paradigms that stymie critical appreciation of Wilson's work both with the Beach Boys and as a solo artist.This is the first study of Wilson to eschew chronology for a topical organization that allows discussion of lyrical themes and musical motifs outside of any prejudicial presumptions about their place in the trajectory of his career. The chapter on lyrics explores questions of quality, asking why the words to Wilson's songs are often considered a detriment, before surveying such tendencies as melancholy and introspection, the conceit of childlike wisdom, his depiction of women, and Americana/nostalgia. The section on music focuses on his falsetto, the famous harmonies, the peculiar whiteness of the Beach Boys' sound, as well as song structure. A final chapter on iconicity asks how rock criticism's investment in auteurship both maintains and limits his reputation. Finally, Curnutt examines what Brian Wilson means to his most fervent fans. Together, these issues emphasize the often overlooked point that, despite his status as a living legend, Brian Wilson does not always fit neatly into the paradigms of taste and value by which critics grant certain artists entry into the pantheon of pop and rock importance.

About the Author

Kirk Curnutt is Professor of English at Troy University, Montgomery, Alabama. He is the author of a number of works of fiction and scholarly books, including the novels Breathing Out the Ghost (2008) and Dixie Noir (2009), as well as several studies of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein.

More books by this author
Author 'Like for Like' recommendations

Loading other formats...

Book Info

Publication date

27th April 2012


Kirk Curnutt

More books by Kirk Curnutt
Author 'Like for Like'


Equinox Publishing Ltd


192 pages


Individual composers & musicians, specific bands & groups
Rock & Pop music



Lovereading helps me decide what real people read.

Kerry Bridges

I love reading because my cares & woes vanish for an hour or two whilst I read of the joys, adventures, lives of the characters in the book.

Jennifer Moville

It gives a chance to read about new titles, invites comments from all kinds of readers and is run by such a nice bunch of book lovers.

Joy Bosworth

My horizons have been broadened by some of the books I have been lucky to review and I expect it to be no different in the future.

Daran Bellingham

I love Lovereading because I get to read great books and then get to tell everybody how good they are.

Sally Doel

Lovereading recommends, honestly reviews and promotes books-what more can I say?!

Rachel Bridgeman

At Lovereading there are fabulous books available in every genre, with great reviews to help you pick the right book for you.

Teresa O'Halloran

They are bright, breezy and eager to offer a great book, then genuinely listen/respect the review one writes.

Maggie Crane