Palisadian-Penned Book Offers New Glimpse into the Life of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys
Los Angeles, 1976: Beach Boys musical genius Brian Wilson is a recluse living in his Bel-Air mansion, flitting away his days in bed and his nights in stuporous bacchanals of weed, cocaine, LSD, heroin, Desbutal and booze. He has ballooned to 311 pounds, and his velvety falsetto, coarsened by chain smoking, has diminished to a rasp.
It has been three years since the death of his abusive father and former band manager Murry Wilson, and just months since he ended his first round of controversial treatment under the auspices of now-disgraced “therapist-to-the-stars” Eugene Landy.
This is the Brian Wilson we first encounter in “The Beach Boys’ Endless Wave: Inside America’s Band” by Palisadians Rushton “Rocky” Pamplin and Ron Hamady.
Pamplin, a college football star and Playgirl centerfold whose face even made it onto the Wheaties box in 1983, was hired between 1976-79 to be Wilson’s live-in warden and bodyguard alongside college roommate and former Laker Stanley Love, brother to Beach Boys co-founder Mike Love and band manager Stephen Love.“Stan and I were roommates at Oregon and remained good friends,” Pamplin explained in a recent interview with the Palisadian-Post. “When I first got to LA, Stan invited me to Brian’s. We get there and he stops me before we go in and he says: ‘Listen, I want you to prepare yourself. The Brian you’re going to see isn’t a clean-cut all-American Beach Boy.’
“The Brian we met that night was out of it,” continued Pamplin. “But I was meeting one of the greatest musicians of all time—it was a tremendous privilege, my whole experience. I knew how rare it was.”
“Endless Wave” is a firsthand narrative account of those pivotal years, an authentic reminiscence of brutal honesty and subtle detail taking its reader from the posh jacuzzis of Bel Air to the winding curves of the Palisades, from the hush of the recording studio to the chaos of the hospital ward.
It is a firsthand glimpse into the life of a modern-day Mozart, retold with Pamplin’s unabashed machismo and casual narrative voice. The book is full of historically rich anecdotes that will entertain and fascinate any Beach Boys fan, filling in some of the gaps between Wilson’s memoir “I Am Brian Wilson,” Mike Love’s “Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy” and the 2014 film “Love and Mercy.”
In early 1977, after a year under the care of Pamplin and Love, Wilson slimmed down to 190 pounds and became well enough to record music and even tour (something he preferred to avoid).
Wilson, mute and withdrawn for years, was again seen laughing, singing and enjoying life. Stephen Love organized the “Brian’s Back” public relations campaign around his recovery, securing an $8 million deal with CBS Records—one of the biggest music deals of the ’70s.
“Endless Wave” owes its page-turning readability to co-writer and editor RonHamady, former manager of the Platinum-album-selling R&B group Bloodstone and feature film producer with membership in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.
“Rocky came to me a couple years back with this manuscript about the Beach Boys he had written,” Hamady said. “I said, ‘Wow, this is great, I love the Beach Boys—I’ll find you a publisher.’”
Hamady got the interest of Culver City-based Westcom Press, LLC., which hired an editor to tackle Pamplin’s manuscript. After some issues between the editor and Pamplin, Hamady stepped in to finish the project.
“Rocky was very suspicious,” Hamady said. “’He kind of thought, ‘Who are you to rewrite my book?’’ and he had a legitimate point. I rewrote a couple chapters and he asked to see more. About halfway through the rewrite, he agreed it was a 180 and we decided to work together.”
Pamplin’s stories, carefully curated and edited by Hamady, are deeply engaging. They are accompanied by rare, intimate 35mm snapshots of Wilson and other California characters taken by Stanley Love himself.
“Endless Wave” captures the feeling of being in Wilson’s inner circle, of being near the “California sound” with all its pomp, frivolity, tumult and ultimately, harmony. The book privies its reader to details of the Beach Boys story found nowhere else, including Pamplin’s affair with Wilson’s wife and the Honeys singer Marilyn Rovell, and other surreal moments like the 1981 beating of Dennis Wilson by Stanley Love and Pamplin.
Other moments, like Brian Wilson’s scattered conversation with Joan Baez and Bob Dylan at the Troubadour, or his barefoot boarding of a random flight to Minneapolis with a stranger in the dead of winter, add depth to a portrait of an already beloved personality.
Retold in the often paternal, sometimes cocky, voice of Pamplin, “Endless Wave” imparts its reader with a deeper appreciation for Wilson’s misunderstood musical genius.
Ultimately, despite Pamplin’s affair with Wilson’s wife, the two end on amicable terms. Wilson contacts Pamplin with a phone call, greeting him after six months of silence with a “Hey, Big Daddy.” The last the two are in each other’s company, they are singing together at Wilson’s piano.
“Brian rarely talked at first,” Pamplin said. “His heart was broken at that time. He was fragile. But we got him back on stage, back in the studio—he had slimmed down, he was writing and singing. I knew we had helped him recover, even if he could never say that.”
From trough to swell to crest, “Endless Wave” is a wild ride—a story of friendship, loyalty, betrayal, fame, money, excess, recovery and forgiveness.