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Author Topic: Carl Wilson: A Biography by Kent Crowley (2015)  (Read 2800 times)
guitarfool2002
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« on: November 07, 2015, 05:02:58 PM »

Carl Wilson: A Biography by Kent Crowley (2015)
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« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2015, 03:26:24 PM »

I think this book has been unfairly maligned. It probably would've been better to call it a "musical biography" because Crowley is more interested in the role Carl's guitar playing brought to the band than he is Carl's foibles (I suppose we all have H&V to turn to if that floats your boat). Yes, it's a retelling of The Beach Boys saga but with more attention paid towards Carl than usual. The late 80's and early 90's are glossed over but I have a feeling they'll continue to be glossed over in future books as well, because what the group did from 1961 to about '74 is really the meat of the matter. Their legend is built on the work created during that time period, one in which Carl played a pivotal role. 
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« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2015, 09:01:07 PM »

I think this book has been unfairly maligned. It probably would've been better to call it a "musical biography" because Crowley is more interested in the role Carl's guitar playing brought to the band than he is Carl's foibles (I suppose we all have H&V to turn to if that floats your boat). Yes, it's a retelling of The Beach Boys saga but with more attention paid towards Carl than usual. The late 80's and early 90's are glossed over but I have a feeling they'll continue to be glossed over in future books as well, because what the group did from 1961 to about '74 is really the meat of the matter. Their legend is built on the work created during that time period, one in which Carl played a pivotal role. 

It just seems disappointing because from my perspective, and what others seemed to be saying here, is that the late 70s thru 90s are what we havent heard yet and wanted to regarding Carl. The hit making and post-SMiLE years have been covered to death. What we want is how Carl felt seeing his brother get further removed from reality, controlled by Landy, his other bro and cousin going at it on a regular basis... How did he feel when he got sidelined for an obviously unwell Brian in '76? It seems he just gave up creatively in the 80s, rolled over and let Mike take over...how and why and what are the specifics? Theres a really interesting if probably sad story that should be told someday, especially since this is a Carl BIOGRAPHY and thats a significant and unexplored area. I havent read this so I cant comment, but just saying it seems fair to want those years covered.
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« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2015, 09:21:35 PM »

There IS a book in there about those subjects but I would think that would have to be a Brian/Landy book (which would be the most fascinating book ever probably). I don't buy the idea of Carl rolling over creatively in the 80's. If you've heard his solo albums, that's kind of where he was at musically, which wasn't too far off from where The Beach Boys were musically in the 80's (and that includes the Beckley, Lamm, Wilson album).
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JakeH
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« Reply #4 on: November 08, 2015, 10:47:03 PM »

This book was fine. Yes, there's a bit of a disconnect between the book's title (and cover) and its contents. Nevertheless, I have no regrets about purchasing. The book basically reads as a Beach Boys summary, with additional stress on Carl at certain points. Nothing terribly earth-shaking here, no smoking guns, etc. but the narrative is peppered with various insights and opinions that might make you think differently about various things.  The author has clearly been a fan for a long time; he cares and it comes through in the writing.

What we want is how Carl felt seeing his brother get further removed from reality, controlled by Landy, his other bro and cousin going at it on a regular basis... How did he feel when he got sidelined for an obviously unwell Brian in '76?
Crowley does occasionally offer a brief comment, or opinion, on matters like this but usually moves on so quickly that you might not notice it. For example, re: Carl being "sidelined," Crowley basically submits the idea that Murry raised Carl to be second banana (i.e., Brian comes first) and that Carl "served the family by serving Brian." (These were not his exact words, perhaps, but very close). There was no indication in the book that he got this interpretation from interviews. I assume it was the author's opinion. 

Theres a really interesting if probably sad story that should be told someday, [...]
Agree. Quite a bit out there already from which reasonable inferences can be drawn. Also, as the person living who knew Carl the longest, and who lived with him under the same roof during some critical years, Brian Wilson is currently as well positioned as anybody to reliably talk about Carl. I would expect that at least some of the information you're looking for will be in Brian's book.
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Lonely Summer
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« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2015, 11:35:49 PM »

There IS a book in there about those subjects but I would think that would have to be a Brian/Landy book (which would be the most fascinating book ever probably). I don't buy the idea of Carl rolling over creatively in the 80's. If you've heard his solo albums, that's kind of where he was at musically, which wasn't too far off from where The Beach Boys were musically in the 80's (and that includes the Beckley, Lamm, Wilson album).
I would say Carl basically stepped aside creatively after the 1985 album. If that album bore the personal stamp of any band member, it was Carl. He sang most of the leads, co-wrote several songs, and was probably more involved in putting it together than any of them. After that, it becomes the Mike and Terry show. But it would be nice to get some comments from insiders about why this change happened.
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Lonely Summer
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« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2015, 01:15:01 PM »

I've actually read the book now - got it from the library - and it's not a bad history of the Beach Boys in the 60's and 70's, but really drops the ball in the 80's/90's. And there is not much emphasis on Carl, although the author has high praise for Carl's work in the band. Too much of it could be just another BB's bio. He does go into a little detail about Carl's solo albums and tours, but not nearly enough. I learned more about Carl's solo work in The Beach Boys in Concert. Really a disappointment, as the author seems like a nice guy, and quite knowledgeable about rock music, especially surf guitar.
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marcella27
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« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2018, 01:12:41 PM »

I finished the book recently and overall I have positive things to say about it.

As others have noted, it's not a biography of Carl and shouldn't have been described that way. There is virtually nothing about his private life aside from straight facts (like Carl and Annie divorced - but zero discussion about why or the impact on Carl or others). I get that Carl was very private and it seems that few family members or friends are willing to talk about him in detail. But if you don't have that kind of material, you shouldn't set out to write a biography.

What would have been more truthful would be to call it a musical biography. Because that's really what this is. What music inspired Carl, how did he learn to play, how did he improve as a musician and a producer...it's here that Crowley's book is at its best. There's interesting material here including some analysis that I haven't seen elsewhere.

It's well-written and nicely organized (straight chronology) and Crowley is obviously knowledgeable about surf music and the BB's later works. Just don't read it thinking you're going to learn a lot about Carl's personal life.
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