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Author Topic: Carl's relationship with Brian before his death  (Read 2115 times)
juliansuess
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« on: May 03, 2022, 02:13:08 PM »

I've recently read an article on the internet about Carl's death. In that article they suggested that Brian and Carl were not very close in the time before Carl's death, and that only Carl's wife and his children were with him when he died. It surprised me to read this.

Does anyone know if it is true that they were estranged? If so, what was the reason for that?
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Emdeeh
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« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2022, 03:31:05 PM »

Landy is behind the estrangement, as far as I can tell. He worked to drive a wedge between Brian and all of his family members. I've also heard that the brothers reconciled towards the end.
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Tony S
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« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2022, 03:56:54 PM »

I've read in several places, that Brian watched the Super Bowl with Carl very close to his passing.
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juggler
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« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2022, 04:02:42 PM »

Yes, that's correct.  It's been reported by multiple sources, including Brian himself, that the two brothers watched the 1998 Super Bowl together.  That was approx. 10 days before Carl's death.

It's inaccurate to say they were estranged at the end.  The Landy years were bad, but they had largely reconciled by the mid-90s, and Brian had Carl as his best man at the Melinda wedding in 1995.  Obviously, the years of acrimony took some toll, and it's sad, tragic really, that they weren't as close as they had been up until the early '80s.   We can chalk that up to the price of fame and the difficult rock-star life, but let's face it, even non-famous siblings often grow apart due to geographical distance, their own family priorities, etc.  It is what it is.
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phirnis
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« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2022, 10:42:04 PM »

This is pure speculation but aside from family stuff and Landy I wouldn't be surprised if Brian had mixed feelings about the way that Carl continued the band's work as their new de-facto leader both in the studio and live after Brian really stepped back from the role of leader around 20/20 or Surf's Up; and it wouldn't surprise me either if Carl, despite being in awe of his brother's musical brilliance, had a hard time living in the shadow of Brian's work despite his own efforts during some of the band's most difficult times. Brian was the genius (and we all know he really was!) but Carl had to be always reliable and I'm sure he had to neglect his own feelings more than once in the process. This kind of stuff makes human relationships incredibly complex, especially if there's a family history of bad communication too. In any case it's nice to read stories of the brothers getting back together despite their earlier estrangement(s).
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Wirestone
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« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2022, 08:16:55 AM »

Carl didn't care for the Paley co-writes and scotched a proposed live Pet Sounds tour by the band because he thought Brian wouldn't be up for it. That had to sting.
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NateRuvin
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« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2022, 09:08:09 AM »

Brian and Carl watching the band perform without them on the SuperBowl has always been framed in a negative light, but I wonder if they took it in stride, and perhaps were honored by the "celebration". It was obvious Carl couldn't perform by that stage, and Brian wasn't playing with the band at this point, so it's not like they would've been there anyways. I seem to recall the sentiment of "embarrassment" being attached to the scenario of them watching the show, but I can't help but wonder if seeing not only Mike and Bruce, but their old buddies Glen Campbell, Dean Torrence, and David Marks playing what can ultimately be considered a tribute to BW's songwriting. He wrote or co-wrote every song they played that day. Knowing that Brian likely wouldn't have been interested in joining along, and that Carl physically couldn't, I wonder if they watched the performance, and reflected on all the success they had together.

Of course the relationship had become strained, like many brotherhoods do, but I like to imagine this last visit was positive, and that with the positive kinda guy that Carl was, that he wouldn't have gotten hung up on the SuperBowl show, and would've been proud of his friends & family up there playing their music for countless people.

Of course this is all speculatory and 'what if' kinda things. I have no idea what the encounter was like, I wasn't there. But knowing that Carl was so positive and that the brothers did love eachother so much, I like to picture their final time spent together as being filled with love.
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HeyJude
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« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2022, 10:44:21 AM »

Regarding the Super Bowl, there’s no way to ignore the political ramifications of Al not being there (and not being invited, and not being told about it). I’m trying to imagine a bizarro world where Carl and Brian would both *care* about the nature of that gig, and *appreciate* it on any level, but also ignore that it was a big flashing sign of the band disintegrating (and ignore how campy and cheap and awful it was).

And that performance truly was awful on every level, regardless of who was called or not called to be there.

Regarding Carl during this era, it seems as though he rightly reached a point by some time in late 1997 where he wasn’t particularly concerned with what was going on with the band, between his mother’s illness and death and his own illness. I think his feelings about David Marks being there have never been (and probably never will be) fully explored. Yes, he sent well wishes to David through an intermediary. But there’s no way, if Carl *was* thinking about it, he’d be oblivious to the myriad of political ramifications. If he was aware that Mike (according to the Marks/Stebbins book) was seeking out David as a replacement for *Al*, then Carl would recognize that brewing issue. If he wasn’t aware of all those machinations, it would certainly feel like he was quickly being replaced, and there’s no way that wouldn’t feel kind of awkward and weird even if Carl was generally magnanimous about such things.

Regarding Carl and Brian’s relationship during this era, as has been pointed out, the Landy situation had strained the Carl/Brian relationship, and really the relationship between Brian and *all* of the members. Remember that Brian didn’t play a single gig with the band after 1990 until 1995. He didn’t do much with the band for several years *after* being extracted from Landy. I think Carl and Brian had a complicated relationship both inside and outside of the context of Landy.

I don’t think any of the band members ever had, pre-1998 anyway, what I’d call a full “falling out” or full “estrangement”, because they inevitably ended up working on something or other together again. At the same time, even if they socialized outside of the band (e.g. Carl and Brian watching the Super Bowl), or did projects together, it didn’t mean there wasn’t still some strain. I don’t think it’s accurate to say Carl and Brian were ever fully estranged. But I also don’t think it’s likely they were completely devoid of strain in their relationship, even at the end. I would imagine they put that stuff aside.

I think the “autobiography” and resulting lawsuits was also a strain between Brian and the other guys (which is kind of still related to Landy issues, but it’s also its own ball of wax). I think Carl (and Al and Mike) were pretty pissed about what was written about them in that book, and it didn’t completely smooth it over when it came out in court that Brian didn’t really write the thing.

Carl worked with Brian sporadically all during this time. He did a “Proud Mary” session with Brian at some point. Brian appeared at some live gigs. They did the Paley tracks and the “Stars and Stripes” stuff (and the equally awful “Status Quo” thing too). I think they weren’t at each other’s throats or anything like that, but as Wirestone mentioned, not only did Carl likely still have some issues with Brian, Brian also had issues with Carl concerning Carl’s reported lack of enthusiasm for the Paley material on one level or another, and also the often-forgotten discussion of a “Pet Sounds” tour. Is it crazy for Carl to have thought Brian couldn’t do a PS tour, given Brian did just that only three years later? Or would most of us have wondered in 1996 or 97 how integral a part Brian could play in a full, live concert performance of the album? It’s complicated, right? Maybe some newer fans don’t remember how the situation was viewed back circa 1996/97 and through to the beginning of Brian’s touring. A lot of fans went to those live 1999 Brian solo dates in part because they thought it was going to be only chance to ever see him do such a show.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2022, 10:48:02 AM by HeyJude » Logged

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adamghost
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« Reply #8 on: May 05, 2022, 08:23:23 AM »

This is pure speculation but aside from family stuff and Landy I wouldn't be surprised if Brian had mixed feelings about the way that Carl continued the band's work as their new de-facto leader both in the studio and live after Brian really stepped back from the role of leader around 20/20 or Surf's Up; and it wouldn't surprise me either if Carl, despite being in awe of his brother's musical brilliance, had a hard time living in the shadow of Brian's work despite his own efforts during some of the band's most difficult times. Brian was the genius (and we all know he really was!) but Carl had to be always reliable and I'm sure he had to neglect his own feelings more than once in the process. This kind of stuff makes human relationships incredibly complex, especially if there's a family history of bad communication too. In any case it's nice to read stories of the brothers getting back together despite their earlier estrangement(s).

One of the most surprising things that's become clear to me doing the PET SQUARES shows and doing/being exposed to deep research about the band is that Carl was the true band leader for most of the band's history, but in a very subtle way. Brian was indeed fully in charge up in studio until 1968, but Carl was almost always at Brian's side and had the most integral role *as a musician* (as opposed to songwriter/arranger) of any person in the band live and in studio, including even Brian. Onstage, Carl certainly was in charge from 1965 on and given the "Carl Wilson and four musicians" contract that dates back to the bands earliest days, plus Brian's frequent absences from the road, Carl was probably the default live band leader (even though Brian certainly was in charge when he was there and as producer) from almost day one.

The reason this isn't that obvious - though it was impossible to completely ignore, particularly during the early '70s - is Carl wanted it that way. He kept the focus off his own contributions for most of the band's history, deferring to Brian and Mike publicly.  If you think about Carl's role as band mediator, and how this would have evolved from the earliest days figuring out how to make things work with Brian and Murry pulling in different directions but Carl being the point guy to make sure it happened, you can see exactly why he would have evolved such a low profile, almost shadow leadership style...which served him well at various other periods where the other guys, particularly Mike and Dennis, asserted themselves. Had Carl been a more prolific or talented songwriter, with his first rate vocal chops and solid all-round musicianship and production skills he might have dominated the band outright, whether he wanted to or not. It had started to move that way in the '80s until "Kokomo" happened and reshuffled the deck.

Given Carl's actual vital contributions, though, there had to have been tension at various periods where Brian tried to reassert his leadership and it probably wasn't up to the standard that Carl could get behind (however we all might feel about Brian's work as fans). You can see how complicated that would have been...Carl clearly wanting Brian back in the fold so the band could excel, but likely not being happy with the level of playing/singing/writing that was produced when they tried it. And you can also imagine Carl at some point becoming tired of not being recognized not just for his incredible voice but for essentially keeping the band going for nearly the whole of its existence, while his brothers and cousin gained more notoriety. It's even easier to see how Carl's position could have rankled Brian's sensitivities at various points along the way.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2022, 08:30:47 AM by adamghost » Logged
HeyJude
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« Reply #9 on: May 05, 2022, 11:14:40 AM »

I’m sure some rivalry/tension in terms of “leadership” of the band (creatively in terms of new music, and to some extent even on the road) was present between a number of members, including between Brian and Carl.

But a big gap in our understanding comes from what was going on with Carl by the 1990s. The evidence suggests Carl had largely abdicated “leadership” of the band to Mike apart from performing the literal on-stage musical director role. He let Mike take full charge of the “Summer in Paradise” project, and prior to that had not even contributed any material to the “Still Cruisin’” album. By later in the 90s, he appears to have allowed Mike to take the prominent business role in running the touring band (apparently not siding with Al in being opposed, which Al has said led to a slight “estrangement” between he (Al) and Carl.)

It’s also worth noting that, apart from scattered “Beckley/Lamm/Wilson” sessions over many years, Carl didn’t pursue releasing more solo material after 1983, and after putting a few songs on the BB ’85 album, he didn’t write anything else that was released during his lifetime.

This all makes Carl’s supposed hesitancy/mixed feelings about the Paley material more strange, or at least retrospectively frustrating or ironic. He wasn’t writing and releasing anything himself, nor were any of the other members for that matter.

Why didn’t Carl release solo albums all through this time, just for his own expression/enjoyment? (The same goes for Al, although we know Al specifically is infamous for taking 30 years to finish a song). Or other side projects? They were busy touring, but surely had spare time to do more than sporadic sessions for the Beckley-Lamm-Wilson project over many, many years. Does he have a ton of demos we haven’t heard? (In which case, it’s a whole separate bag of questions as far as why his estate seems to have no interest in doing anything as far as Carl product/releases).

Apart from Brian, it was Mike who was ironically the most active outside of the band in the 90s, with his various side hustles doing corporate gigs with side bands and knocking out quickie re-records with Adrian Baker. Not that he was necessarily doing those gigs and projects because they were like super artistically expressive. I think those things were just side deals to make extra money and stay active.

Carl’s hesitancy about Brian doing “Pet Sounds” gigs is understandable, though. But if we’re going to be frank, it has to be said that while Carl maintained a great voice through his final show, and he kept the touring band sounding professional and solid, the live band by 1995/96 (I’ll speak mainly to prior to his illness) was not exactly A+ status. The setlists were pretty stale. The shows weren’t bad by any stretch. But they often sounded kind of tired and lethargic. A lot of super slow tempos on the songs. And I hate being unkind, but the drumming was, let’s say problematic to put it politely (which continued for another decade with Mike’s shows). The shows seemed to be a bit on rote/autopilot mode. But Carl seemed to be taking a pretty conservative approach to the live shows by that point. Not shaking up the setlist (which a full “Pet Sounds” album performance would have done all on its own, with anybody singing the leads).
« Last Edit: May 06, 2022, 06:48:20 AM by HeyJude » Logged

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« Reply #10 on: May 05, 2022, 09:07:49 PM »

In terms of leadership, what Carl's work in the studio mostly lacked - and I'm saying this as a big fan of all the different phases they went through - was a clear artistic vision, which Brian had had pretty much from day one but more or less gave up after the Friends album (with the exception of a handful of later projects - thinking of the fairy tale, Child of Winter, 15BO / LY, Adult/Child, and the Paley sessions). The only album where they arrived at what I feel can be identified as a real and artistically cohesive "Carl sound" in the same way that the earlier albums had a "Brian sound" was Holland - while Sunflower sounded like an attempt to do a Brian-sounding album and Surf's Up / CATP were all over the place stylistically, much like 20/20. What I mean to say is, during his years of leading the band in the studio, Brian changed their sound every couple of albums but the entire journey feels perfectly cohesive from start to finish, whereas the albums under Carl's guidance often sound like they were all trying out lots of different stuff here and there, hoping that some of it could maybe give them a new career as recording artists. It's all great but not everything feels as confident and inventive as what Brian had done earlier.
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Tony S
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« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2022, 03:43:59 AM »

Regarding Carl's estate not releasing any of Carl's demos or solo recordings after his passing, it could well be that there just wasn't much, if anything worthwhile, to release. I love Carl's solo recordings and releases, but after BB85 he seemed to be more and more content with the meat and potatoes live shows as his primary source for artistic release. Maybe he just lost his creativity, or his desire to record, other than Beckley, Lamm, Wilson...which I thought contained 2 of his greatest songs, I wish for You, and Like A brother. But realistically, it's possible there just wasn't anything else to release, because he didn't record anything. Not sure we'll ever know, but it would be great to ask Justyn and Jonah these questions, without getting too deep into their privacy.
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HeyJude
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« Reply #12 on: May 06, 2022, 06:45:41 AM »

Regarding Carl's estate not releasing any of Carl's demos or solo recordings after his passing, it could well be that there just wasn't much, if anything worthwhile, to release. I love Carl's solo recordings and releases, but after BB85 he seemed to be more and more content with the meat and potatoes live shows as his primary source for artistic release. Maybe he just lost his creativity, or his desire to record, other than Beckley, Lamm, Wilson...which I thought contained 2 of his greatest songs, I wish for You, and Like A brother. But realistically, it's possible there just wasn't anything else to release, because he didn't record anything. Not sure we'll ever know, but it would be great to ask Justyn and Jonah these questions, without getting too deep into their privacy.

It's true, we don't know what is out there. There's probably not like 100 new songs laying around. However, in interviews post-BB'85, he talked about writing more songs with Robert White Johnson, and only one of Johnson's co-writes ended up on "Like a Brother", so somebody somewhere surely has some demos of Carl co-writes we haven't heard.

Some Carl stuff from that late era probably is also kicking around the BB archives. We don't know, because obviously the 80s and 90s have barely been touched on as far as archival BB releases.

As far as Carl's estate, my occasional mentions of their lack of activity have always pertained to any and all possibilities. They clearly are not motivated to do anything, because there are other projects they could try out even if there are no recordings to work with. Books, photo books, documentaries, any kind of internet or social media presence just to keep his name/music/career alive in the public consciousness. Obviously, some of this is served via BB projects, and perhaps that's why his estate doesn't do more. But there are things they could do that BRI (BRI/Iconic) could not or would not do, like a book of photos (I mention photos because it's pretty clear they are not interested in a detailed authorized biography; the fact that that guy a few years back did a Carl biography and got zilch as far as informative interviews with most pertinent parties makes that clear).
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« Reply #13 on: May 08, 2022, 08:21:58 PM »

I was browsing through some old Billboard magazines online recently, and there were a couple of different places where it was mentioned that Carl was working on another solo album; the first mention of this was in 1985 or 86; and then I saw it mentioned again in 1987. I don't know what record label this would have been with, and no song titles were mentioned; I would like to know more about this period. I don't think Carl ever had great ambitions for a full time solo career; I can only guess that, after the qualified success of the 1985 album, he was disappointed that the guys opted not to do another album, focusing instead on just recording a couple of singles.
Beach Boys Stomp had an article in 1987 about Carl producing a demo session for a singer named Jenni Muldaur; IIRC, the song recorded was another collaboration with Robert White Johnson. it was titled "You Oughta Know" (no, not THAT song!)
I, too, would have been skeptical about Brian's ability to do a Pet Sounds tour back in 1996. It had been years since he'd done a full tour with the group, and his live vocals were very hit and miss. Now think about how many Brian Wilson lead vocals there are on Pet Sounds. Wouldn't it Be Nice, You Still Believe In Me, That's Not Me, Don't Talk, I'm Waiting for the Day, Sloop John B, I Know There's an Answer, I Just Wasn't Made for These Times, Caroline, No. Some of those were shared leads, but still, you're going to put all of that on the shoulders of a very fragile man? Probably the group would have doled out some of those leads to Carl and Al and maybe Bruce.
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Ian
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« Reply #14 on: May 10, 2022, 05:57:58 PM »

Also has to be said that the Wilson dynamic was complicated-as it is in many families. Multiple people have stated that they had trouble expressing their feelings and could not really deal with emotional scenes -Brian and Dennis were both MIA at Murry’s funeral. Certainly modern Brian seems to have trouble dealing with those kinds of things.
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