Lost & Found: Brian Wilson’s Dad Was Kind of a D—
If you ever need proof that your dad wasn't nearly as much of an a--hole as he could have been, take a listen to the fascinating 40-minute studio session for the Beach Boys' 'Help Me, Rhonda.' Even though the group was led by Brian Wilson, you'd never know it by the way his dad bum-rushes the mic.
The above audio document -- recorded on Jan. 8, 1965 -- is one of the greatest behind-the-scenes music moments ever put down on tape. Who needs seven hours of 'Pet Sounds' outtakes when you've got a most-likely drunk-off-his-ass Murry Wilson berating his oldest son throughout a recording session for one of the Beach Boys' biggest and most-loved hits?
It starts well enough with the group harmonizing on 'Help Me, Rhonda,' but around the four-minute mark, Murry chimes in with a comment about Brian's backing vocals. It's innocent enough advice, but before long, he takes over the sessions, at turns congratulating and criticizing Al Jardine (the lead singer on the song), tearing into Brian and diving into pools of moaning self-pity.
The tape reaches its apex (but seriously, you need to hear the whole thing) near the end, when Brian and Murry can be heard physically struggling for control in the control room. Another high point: Murry, a failed musician who steered his three sons during the Beach Boys' early successes as their manager, telling his oldest, "Brian, I'm a genius too."
Historical note: The session captured here yielded the album version of the song, which is titled 'Help Me, Ronda.' The group, without Murry around to f-- things up, returned to the studio a few weeks later, re-cut the song without his interference, retitled it 'Help Me, Rhonda' and scored their second No. 1 single.