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on 29 March 2012
The Beach Boys produced the most achingly beautiful harmonies, in the history of rock, but, off -( and occasionally even on) stage, they fought like proverbial cats in a bag. At the centre of it all sat Brian Wilson, the bewildered, and often bewildering , prodigy, who led them to fame and whose story provides the focal point for Peter Ames Carlin's engrossing, often lyrical, book.

Wilson's life almost defies belief. A gifted, partially deaf, young songwriter -producer who took the music of the 1960s to such heights that even the Beatles were awestruck, he followed the Beach Boys' masterpieces, `Pet Sounds,' and `Good Vibrations', with a spectacular dive into substance abuse and mental illness brought about, in part, by his failure to complete his `Teenage symphony to God', `Smile'. From what might have been a commonplace tale of rock n'roll implosion, however, came redemption. After thirty years in his own personal wilderness, Brian Wilson staged an astonishing return, putting his myriad demons (including chronic stage fright) to rest with triumphant live performances, throughout the first decade of the new century, and beyond. And he even completed 'Smile'.

It is the stuff of legend, and like many legends, it has gathered a concretion of half-truths and clichés. To his credit, Peter Ames Carlin resists the temptation to fall back on well-worn anecdotal material and approaches his subject with scrupulous fairness. The abusive behaviour of the Wilson family patriarch, Murry, is mentioned, but not vicariously dwelt upon. Likewise, Mike Love, so often depicted as the pantomime villain of the Beach Boys, is depicted with occasional, albeit archly knowing, sympathy. We learn that Dennis Wilson was a charismatic alcoholic, with the soul of an artist- so no surprises, there. On the other hand, Carl Wilson, usually `the angel' of the Beach Boys emerges, for a change, with a selection of all-too human failings. But then, marshalling a band frequently spun into chaos by an unpredictable big brother would have tried the patience of a saint. Brian Wilson, at his worst, could be infuriating, eccentric, occasionally violent, and surprisingly manipulative, and, in Catch a Wave, we are not spared this. We are also, however, swept along with the sheer beauty of the music, and the nebulous, but beguiling concept of the American dream.

On occasions, the author's research is flawed, with some statements that even a non-historian can deflate. (For example, Carl Wilson's eyes were blue, not brown. Check any photograph. ) Although this raises niggling suspicions about the overall credibility of the facts, in the end it fails to distract from a haunting account of one of rock's most enigmatic figures, delivered, throughout , with fairness, love and mercy.
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on 11 March 2016
Being a massive Beach Boys fan, I loved this book. So much has been said about Brian and the boys and this book covers this well. A great read for all Beach Boys fans.
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on 3 November 2016
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on 29 September 2016
Informative and sympathetic.
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on 2 August 2011
I am providing a more cautious approach to Catch A Wave as i myself purchased this book on the strength of the hyperbolic 5 star reviews.A good biography can be just as artistically valid as a work of fiction Peter Cook by Harry Thompson,Life And Death Of Peter Sellers,John Belushi bio Wired by Bob Woodward most recently John Frenchs bio of Captain Beefheart are great examples of biography where you come away feeling a strong sense of the subject.Catch A Wave is certainly well written,author Curin is clearly a fan but i finished the book not knowing much more then i already know.And boy the story of the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson is a biggie factoring complex emotional family issues,massive success,drugs,breakdowns,law suits,death...you name it its there.But here its all kind of told in a rather pedestrian fashion,never really stracthing the surface.What is abundantly clear is the AWFUL treatment of Brian Wilson,shocking unethical stuff.Really gross.Mike Love emerges as a grade one fool.I mean i am not a massive Beach Boys fan but i believe it was Brians band.Full stop.I respect the bands work but do not share the looming reverence here.One thing i detest is when an author spends CHAPTERS describing every sound,nook and cranny of album tracks.Its repetitive disrupting the narrative,the author literally writes "drums go...bbbbbrm".But then writes 2 paragraphs on the death of Dennis Wilson.A more big,definitive work is needed 300 or so pages do not cover it.So the book does fill a niche and is worth reading i suppose till a more weighty tome emerges.
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on 12 September 2015
A friend and fellow band mate took me to the recent film. I sat there with no background and preparation apart from having listened to some early surf Beach Boys stuff about 30 years ago. I was gradually drawn in and enthralled by the story and stunned to find out at the end it was actually all true. With a view to finding out a bit more background on Brian Wilson I bought this book. At first sight I wasn't thrilled. I haven't been reading much recently and found the rather large book, very white paper and quite dense type a little off putting. However this is a brilliantly written and researched work. I abosolutely loved it. My movie friend, who I also bought a copy for, and who is much more of an afficiado than me having been raised to the soundtrack of Pet Sounds back in the '60's, loved it too.
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on 6 June 2013
I`ve read other books about Brian and the Beach Boys, but this one is one of the best. It`s about his creative peak and about his mental illnes. How he comes back to the music industry.
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on 25 August 2015
Not the best writing ever, but a treasure trove of information that goes right up to the post-Smile (2004) era.
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on 22 August 2006
The story of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys..their journey from teen idols, to outrunning The Beatles as the epitome of psychedelic cool....to utter drug-addled weirdness, financial,physical and mental collapse, mayhem, appalling business decisions, Hawaiian shirts and the nostalgia circuit (which they still occupy without Brian) and Brians own return to public life, is a fascinating story. Its also rather bleak, sometimes disturbing, sometimes very funny story and it is very well told by Peter Ames Carlin here.

He explores not just how, but *why* it all went so wrong so many times. He adds useful context about the history; and the driving forces, for better or worse, that influenced how the band conducted its affairs.

The Wilson brothers each deserve a Biog their own, here the author concentrates on the pivotal Brian, his story being the most extraordinary of all. This isn't an 'authorised' biog as such but appears to have the thumbs up from Brian's 'people'. Brian apparently has disowned his ghost-written "Autobiography" of a few years back, the author is sceptical of it to say the least, so perhaps this is as close as you'll get to the truth for now.

This is very measured, balanced, sober account of the rather less than sober individuals involved. He sticks to the facts, and hence this is a far cry from the sensational story in Stephen Gaines classic "Heroes and Villains" (which easily sits alongside Motley Crue's as one of the more hair-raising rock stories) but the writer doesn't shy from the more grim aspects of the story and is no less readable or entertaining.

Similarly, die hard fans may not learn much they don't know but will enjoy this approach and angle to the story. Ames-Carlin clearly loves the music and writes in depth about each of the Beach Boys and Brian Solo albums (something always lacking in other Biogs of the band). Its the kind of writing that should inspire fans to dig out those overlooked late 70s LPs again or hopefully encourage new listeners to seek out Surfs Up, Sunflower, Holland, So Tough et al, and discover the world beyond Pet Sounds and Smile.

An Excellent, well researched book, and a worthwhile purchase for both die hard fans and newcomers alike.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 25 June 2007
This book combines an up-to-date biography with detailed musical assessments of the Beach Boys' output, both collectively and individually. I thought it was good, readable, thorough and (as far as I could judge) accurate, except for one thing.

Some of the musical assessments are complete gibberish.

For instance, on p.24 we're told about voices "sliding from one augmented minor chord to the next". This sounds very impressive, but there's no such thing as an augmented minor chord (an augmented chord has a sharpened 5th: e.g. an E major comprises the notes EG#B, and an E augmented chord is thus [enharmonically] EG#C. But since E minor consists of EGB, E minor augmented — if it existed — would consist of EGC, which is merely an inversion of C major).

Likewise, on p. 30 we hear about a "major seventh triad chant". Unfortunately, a chord may be either a major seventh or a triad, but not both.

On p.79 we learn that "God Only Knows" has harmonic counterpoint and inverted bass patterns. "Sloop John B" is described as a sea shanty. In short, I was unable to distinguish the author from a total musical illiterate trying to pretend otherwise.

To be sure, these blemishes only form a tiny part of the whole, but they did make me wonder about the accuracy of the rest of it.
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