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Author Topic: The Steven Gaines Thread  (Read 34684 times)
Surfer Joe
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« on: August 22, 2008, 06:54:36 PM »

I'll start it, since no one else did. Mr. Gaines, it seems you're willing to answer some questions and interact a little bit.  If this is too much, it can just slide down the board and disappear.

Anyway, I think we're all very pleasantly surprised to find you in our midst and appreciate anything you're willing to share about the writing of your book and (of course) the book itself. For me, Heroes & Villains was the first Beach Boys book I ever got my hands on; I picked it up at the mall in a small college town in Georgia right when it came out.  My copy is sitting here by my computer now.  This was my first substantial window into the band beyond the records themselves; my first good look at the Rovells, Murry, Hite Morgan, Landy, and the other guy on the covers, David Marks. 

Oddly enough, at the time, I was even more interested in finding a definitive Jan and Dean biography (a book we're still waiting for).   I had thought they'd be more interesting. After all, they'd had a TV movie.

The other Beach Boys books I fished out of used shops over the next few years were written by super-fans, and worked a different side of the street.

I have a list of questions, and I'm sure a lot of folks will, and (although it's remained with me pretty well), I'm going to re-read your book for the first time since the Fall of 1986.  I'll start simple:

Why is Carl such a rare interview?

Thanks in advance for your participation here.
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« Reply #1 on: August 22, 2008, 07:21:13 PM »

Oddly enough, at the time, I was even more interested in finding a definitive Jan and Dean biography (a book we're still waiting for).   I had thought they'd be more interesting. After all, they'd had a TV movie.


Hey, don't rush me . . . I work for a living.  Cheesy

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« Reply #2 on: August 22, 2008, 07:31:15 PM »

When I was a teenager, a guy at my church- I can't remember who now- had filled me in, in great detail, about Jan and Dean, right after I had seen the movie.  No memory now of what he had told me, or whether ANY of it was accurate- "information" that was out there back then was a mess-  but he had the passion, and he transferred it to me.  Hell, it was hard enough then for me to even collect the albums.

When I first laid eyes on Heroes & Villains at B. Dalton's in 1986, it was an exciting moment- but the first thing I did was look up all the Jan and Dean stuff, before I even took it to the counter.

One of you guys get to work- there's an equally amazing personal story there and I want to read it.
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« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2008, 06:18:54 AM »

I'll start it, since no one else did. Mr. Gaines, it seems you're willing to answer some questions and interact a little bit.  If this is too much, it can just slide down the board and disappear.

Anyway, I think we're all very pleasantly surprised to find you in our midst and appreciate anything you're willing to share about the writing of your book and (of course) the book itself. For me, Heroes & Villains was the first Beach Boys book I ever got my hands on; I picked it up at the mall in a small college town in Georgia right when it came out.  My copy is sitting here by my computer now.  This was my first substantial window into the band beyond the records themselves; my first good look at the Rovells, Murry, Hite Morgan, Landy, and the other guy on the covers, David Marks. 

Oddly enough, at the time, I was even more interested in finding a definitive Jan and Dean biography (a book we're still waiting for).   I had thought they'd be more interesting. After all, they'd had a TV movie.

The other Beach Boys books I fished out of used shops over the next few years were written by super-fans, and worked a different side of the street.

I have a list of questions, and I'm sure a lot of folks will, and (although it's remained with me pretty well), I'm going to re-read your book for the first time since the Fall of 1986.  I'll start simple:

Why is Carl such a rare interview?

Thanks in advance for your participation here.


I don't really know the answer to why Carl didn't give many interviews but he didn't seem to be very verbal and didn't really enjoy speaking to the press. 
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« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2008, 04:57:52 PM »

When I've seen filmed interviews of either Carl or Dennis, it's always struck me how much they shared characteristics of and talked similarly to Brian.  Which is probably not surprising for brothers, but things about Brian that might be interpreted as his "daftness" are things that might just be part of the Wilson family personality.  Brian has never been much of a talker, and maybe Carl shared that trait.
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« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2008, 07:05:55 PM »

Thanks for responding- did Carl talk to you at all? 


I'll be starting a re-read of your book tonight so I can come up with some good questions.
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« Reply #6 on: August 23, 2008, 08:26:07 PM »

Thats weird, I've heard radio interviews of Carl and he seemed really comfortable and quite chatty.
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« Reply #7 on: August 23, 2008, 09:08:41 PM »

He was the most opaque of the Beach Boys- outside of the music, we mostly only get glimpses of him through public things like his conscientious objector battle, and little anecdotes, like blasting the freshly mixed "Good Vibrations" through his neighborhood after hours.  I also think of the prostitute story from the book under discussion here- "She didn't even care".

A friend of mine caught him on the way to the stage in Atlanta before an eighties Beach Boys/Chicago show and got him to sign something.  He said "thank you" to Carl's back, as Carl walked away, and Carl turned to reply, with emphasis, "No, thank YOU." That's become my capsule image of him.
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« Reply #8 on: August 23, 2008, 09:15:12 PM »

Another thing about Carl -- he wasn't Brian, and he wasn't Mike.  So maybe he didn't get asked as much to be interviewed. 
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« Reply #9 on: August 23, 2008, 10:30:03 PM »

A friend of mine caught him on the way to the stage in Atlanta before an eighties Beach Boys/Chicago show and got him to sign something.  He said "thank you" to Carl's back, as Carl walked away, and Carl turned to reply, with emphasis, "No, thank YOU." That's become my capsule image of him.

Surfer Joe -- Your capsule image of Carl is totally correct.  I'm only sorry for your sake you don't have a memory or two of Carl of your own.

The last time I talked with Carl was on March 29th, 1996 at the Riviera in Las Vegas.  Through a friend's connections I was lucky enough to be there.  He had just been through what I thought would be a soundcheck but turned into a full-blown rehearsal due to two new members in the backing band (Chris Farmer who'd played with them before and Tim Bonhomme).  It lasted 160 mins from start to finish.  They had two shows to do that night but Carl still took the time to talk with me and my friend for about ten mins.  Carl remembered my name from me having spoken with him on the "Big Red Boat Cruise" in May of 1995.  The bulk of that conversation was about pictures of the house that Audree was born in in South Minneapolis.  I gave him copies of those pics I'd taken (the info courtesy of Timothy White's book...page 62 I think) .  Obviously, I lived in the Minneapolis area at the time.

How many "Rock Stars" would remember the name of just another fan from ten months earlier? 

I've said this before about Carl Dean Wilson.  He was both a gentleman and a gentle man!  I miss him tremendously and will until the day I die.

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« Reply #10 on: August 23, 2008, 10:49:04 PM »

I hate being so young. I was ten when Carl died, and I didn't even know who he was until six years after that.

Carl Wilson and John Denver are two of the people I would've most liked to have met, or even seen in person, but never ever will.
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« Reply #11 on: August 24, 2008, 04:54:22 AM »

A friend of mine caught him on the way to the stage in Atlanta before an eighties Beach Boys/Chicago show and got him to sign something.  He said "thank you" to Carl's back, as Carl walked away, and Carl turned to reply, with emphasis, "No, thank YOU." That's become my capsule image of him.

Surfer Joe -- Your capsule image of Carl is totally correct.  I'm only sorry for your sake you don't have a memory or two of Carl of your own.

The last time I talked with Carl was on March 29th, 1996 at the Riviera in Las Vegas.  Through a friend's connections I was lucky enough to be there.  He had just been through what I thought would be a soundcheck but turned into a full-blown rehearsal due to two new members in the backing band (Chris Farmer who'd played with them before and Tim Bonhomme).  It lasted 160 mins from start to finish.  They had two shows to do that night but Carl still took the time to talk with me and my friend for about ten mins.  Carl remembered my name from me having spoken with him on the "Big Red Boat Cruise" in May of 1995.  The bulk of that conversation was about pictures of the house that Audree was born in in South Minneapolis.  I gave him copies of those pics I'd taken (the info courtesy of Timothy White's book...page 62 I think) .  Obviously, I lived in the Minneapolis area at the time.

How many "Rock Stars" would remember the name of just another fan from ten months earlier? 

I've said this before about Carl Dean Wilson.  He was both a gentleman and a gentle man!  I miss him tremendously and will until the day I die.



Great story, thanks for sharing that- I'm sure we'd all like to hear more about that rehearsal.  I never met Carl, but was lucky enough to see him perform a number of times. I got to see Dennis once, too...

Which brings up another question for the subject of this thread: having been at the famous '76 birthday party, did you have any interaction with Dennis? Also, how did you go about recreating those last days so vividly?  It must have still been a VERY awkward topic.  Finally, did you show up in any of the documentaries that include footage from that party?
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« Reply #12 on: August 24, 2008, 03:32:07 PM »

I've got to admit my interaction with Carl was limited, and the observation that he didn't talk as much because most of the media centered on Brian or Mike or Dennis is probably closer to the truth than that he was just taciturn.  I also think its true that he was a gentleman, yet he had some of the same issues as the rest of the Wilson clan.

As for my easy, direct access to the group, most of my taped conversations took place during the preparation for the New West magazine article.  Also, I interviewed various members of the band over the years for my column in the Sunday News in New York.

Remember, after the New West article I wrote a book about the Beatles that was a huge international success but at the time seemed shocking. (The Beatles took drugs!  The Beatles had sex with girls on the road!  Cold Turkey was a song about John kicking heroin!)  The Beach Boys read or knew about the book, and when it was announced that I was going to write a biography of the Beach Boys they weren't any too happy.  They closed ranks.

As for the 1976 birthday party, you've got to remember that my being there was just luck.  I had no idea that the party would have any significance.  Maybe it didn't have any significance, maybe it was just because I wrote about it, who knows?  I have very vivid memories of being there.  I was nervous and an outsider.  The Beach Boys were wary of journalists.  I was very distracted by the presence of Paul McCartney (who I would later get to know when I wrote the book about the Beatles) and I spent a lot of my time talking to Audree about the weather.

I introduced myself to everyone, but there was a lot of big egos in the room and I could hardly breathe.

As far as I know I never showed up in any of the footage.  (The first thing Lorne Michaels said to me was "Don't ask me to write for Saturday Night Live.")

I don't remember Dennis at that party, but I had a long, weird, surprising interview with Dennis later that trip, I think.  Or maybe it was for a Beach Boy article I wrote for my Top of the Pop column in the Sunday News in New York.  I remember really liking Dennis, but he was marked for doom, he was out of control.

When I started work on the book I contacted Karen Lamm and arranged for her to read aloud to me in person, recorded on tape, all of her diaries from the time she met Dennis until his death.

I knew that journalistically I wanted to recreate Dennis' last days, the way Bob Wooward had done about John Belushi. 

It was very hard to get people to talk to me.  I was a vulture, and the tragedy of Dennis' death was a raw, painful subject, and everyone cried a lot in the retelling--well, almost everyone.  I'm glad now that I went through the embarrassment and uncomfortable moments to recreate his last days in such detail.

By the way, I hated the Beach Boy movie they made from my book, I had no say in it, and the producers did a lousy job.

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« Reply #13 on: August 24, 2008, 08:03:25 PM »

Fascinating reply; you've anticipated several of my next questions (though I may ask some of them anyway) and comments.  One comment I had wanted to make was that some of the younger posters on this board may not realize what a big, hairy, freaking deal the Peter Brown/Beatles book was at the time, so I think we (fans) did see you coming, and knew it might not be pretty.  I even had an argument with my high school girlfriend because she bought the Beatles book.  I'll never forget your appearance on the infamous Morton Downey Jr. show and what they did with your book there- which I'll leave to you to tell, if you recall. You kind of laughed your way through it. (You were slumming with idiots).

I am re-reading the book (H & V) now, and am not surprised at how vivid it has remained in my memory after 22 years.  It remains well-written, extremely well-researched, and extremely brutal.

Next up- and this is a no-brainer for us to ask- you mention that Carl showed signs of some of the Wilson "issues". Would it be out of bounds to ask you to expand on that? 

I won't keep saying this ad nauseum, but thanks for your participation here and for for opening up. You don't owe it to us to submit to a grilling, but we're very, very interested.
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« Reply #14 on: August 24, 2008, 08:15:40 PM »

Next up- and this is a no-brainer for us to ask- you mention that Carl showed signs of some of the Wilson "issues". Would it be out of bounds to ask you to expand on that? 

I would say drug abuse would be at or near the top of the list.

M.
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« Reply #15 on: August 25, 2008, 02:36:22 AM »

Speaking of Carl that 1978 Australian meeting you included is fascinating. Did you get a tape or transcript? In any case it provides great insight into why the Beach Boys went into a personal and creative decline.
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« Reply #16 on: August 25, 2008, 05:53:51 AM »

Next up- and this is a no-brainer for us to ask- you mention that Carl showed signs of some of the Wilson "issues". Would it be out of bounds to ask you to expand on that? 

I would say drug abuse would be at or near the top of the list.

M.

Without a doubt...hoping to get some more detailed insight.  While we're waiting I might as well lob a soft one in there to balance the tougher  one: since 1986, how much have you kept up as a fan, and have you kept close tabs on things like Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE, the lawsuits, the Was documentary, and the California Board Of Medical Quality sticking its big, black foot up Landy's ass*?

*Metaphor courtesy of Chris Rock
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« Reply #17 on: August 25, 2008, 06:24:20 AM »

I appeared on the Mort Downey show, with a good haircut as I remember, because Albert Goldman had just published a scathing, lying, nasty book about John Lennon and he left the country because he couldn't take the heat.  Downey was looking for another Beatles' author and I agreed to go on the show.  The book Downey put in the pirhanna tank was Goldman's book, not mine.  All the anger that the audience and other people on the show had for Goldman was directed at me.  They were "pieing" people (throwing pies in the face of people they didn't like) and I wanted to avoid that embarrassment.  Most of all I found myself defending the right to write a book about living people.  I do remember there was a jerk from Twisted Sister on the show with me who was bitching about the possibility that one day somebody would write a book about him.  What a laugh!  John Lennon changed history, as far as I'm concerned.  I think I told Downey and his audience of idiots that Lennon wasn't just some guy with a guitar and that he was an important figure in the 20th century and he deserved a full-fledged biography, but not the crap that Goldman has written.

Twisted Sister is part of the junk pile of rock and roll.  Goldman died of a heart attack on an airplane, all coked-up.  Downey died of lung cancer. 

Yes, "The Love You Make" about the Beatles was huge, and not just with Beatle fans.  It was an international blockbuster and it's still the biggest selling book about the group.  The Beatle Book had an emphasis on the private lives of the group, and their personal relationships.  When I set out to write the Beach Boy book I took the same tact.

I have to repeat what I've said all these years.  I love rock and roll.  Music saved my life.  But I've never been a musicologist or a music critic.  I always wrote more about the people in the business and the business of rock and roll, with much less of an emphasis on the music itself.

As for Carl, like the other brothers, he had a problem with drugs and alcohol.  That didn't change the fact that he was a really nice guy.

Stan and Rocky sold me a copy of the "heroin tape" from Australia.  They hid a tape recorder in the room under a chair.  You can actually hear the sound of the punch connecting with Carl's face. 

Finally, I haven't kept up with the Beach Boys since I wrote the book.  I was asked to testify as an "expert witness" in three lawsuits over the years and so I was still involved on the periphery--and I had something to do with Brian and the others getting back royalties (Marilyn loved me for this) but otherwise I drifted away.

I still listen to the music, all the time. 


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« Reply #18 on: August 25, 2008, 07:10:56 AM »

I appeared on the Mort Downey show, with a good haircut as I remember, because Albert Goldman had just published a scathing, lying, nasty book about John Lennon and he left the country because he couldn't take the heat.  Downey was looking for another Beatles' author and I agreed to go on the show.  The book Downey put in the pirhanna tank was Goldman's book, not mine.

Ah, thank you for that- after posting, I was asking myself why I was watching that 1n 1988 (because I remember where I was) when your Beatle book was much earlier. That explains it, and it all comes back to me. You were taking someone else's beating. And to anyone who still doubted the identity of our guest (I never did for a second), here's your polygraph key, as I could find no other reference to this incident on the net just now.  (It wasn't intended as a test, though!)

Just came from re-reading the passage on Dennis' death in your book- extremely affecting, once again.  Just painful. As an aside, former Los Angeles County Coroner Thomas Noguchi wrote a book about famous L.A. cases he wasn't personally involved with, including Freddie Prinz, for example, and Dennis.  He theorized that Dennis died in a state of euphoria. I hope he's right.

I guess what frustrates me is that we'll never really get that vivid fly-on-the-wall glimpse into Carl's life and what really made him tick.  So- time for another of my questions.

You've indicated that the friendliness with Marilyn survived the book- not surprising in one sense, because she is such a warm and charming person (a few of us here have met her, too)- but surprising in another sense: she may have benefited the most in your text, sympathetically, and she may have also suffered the most. Have you had any other responses from  or encounters with your old subjects, good or bad? 

Also, can you tell us where and how you found David Marks in the mid-eighties?  (I mean life-wise; he was in my Burbank phone book for years!)  Nowadays he seems like the wise old reformed hippy who's kind of beaten the house, he's had a (very positive) book written about him, and he's putting out great music, old and new, through his website.

And everybody else, please get in on this.  Don't leave it to me.  It's an opportunity. Andrew?  Josh?  Cam? We have this guy here who has done, in numerous ways, probably the most thorough job of research on the band members' lives ever (especially in a concentrated period); he's opening up to us; giving excellent, candid answers; we haven't even bought him a drink yet; if he gets out of here unmolested, or insufficiently molested, we'll hate ourselves in the morning. 

And incidentally, I hear Kitty Kelly is currently working on that Twisted Sister book.

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« Reply #19 on: August 25, 2008, 07:17:20 AM »

Sorry to prattle, but one other thing: because I mixed up the circumstances with the Downey show, don't think I would mix your work up with Goldman's. I picked up his Elvis book in the drug store when I was in high school, not knowing what it was.  After about thirty pages of total disgust, I shelved the thing and never looked back-even though I had read the bodyguard book (Elvis- What Happened?) with great interest.  Even at that age I knew slime when I read it. Sliming your subject (like Goldman did)  is very different than shining a very harsh and not always sympathetic light.
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« Reply #20 on: August 25, 2008, 10:06:28 AM »

And everybody else, please get in on this.  Don't leave it to me.  It's an opportunity. Andrew?  Josh?  Cam? We have this guy here who has done, in numerous ways, probably the most thorough job of research on the band members' lives ever (especially in a concentrated period); he's opening up to us; giving excellent, candid answers; we haven't even bought him a drink yet; if he gets out of here unmolested, or insufficiently molested, we'll hate ourselves in the morning. 

Surfer Joe and Stevne Gaines: it might look bit egoistic, right now I'm just really enjoying your conversation. To be more exact: just when I was thinking that, I started reading your calling to participate. I should really start re-reading that book again (has been a while).

But - again - great questions and answers thus far. Will try to come up with questions as well (if Steven doesn't mind  Smiley  )
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« Reply #21 on: August 25, 2008, 02:19:51 PM »

Hi Steven (and Surfer Joe),

It's a little intimidating to answer this particular call for participation if you're not a heavyweight (Cam Andrew Alan etc.) but in the spirit of egalitarianism
I will try to add a worthwhile interjection.

I don't have historical details at my fingertips as some do, and it feels a little voyeuristic to dig too deeply into interpersonal band relations, but there is an
undeniably compelling quality to their lives and music, at once poignant, tragic and triumphant, that inspires curiosity. It's fascinating to hear your anecdotes.

Thank you for posting your frank and interesting comments, and hope we can continue to contribute adequately to the dialogue to make it worth your while. I unfortunately can't think of anything right now!

I also need to find and reread my copy of the book, but as I remember it was very well written, if sensational (true to the source material), and it's good to
hear that you disavow the cheapening and distastefulness of the filmed version.
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« Reply #22 on: August 25, 2008, 05:41:47 PM »

Hi Steven (and Surfer Joe),

It's a little intimidating to answer this particular call for participation if you're not a heavyweight (Cam Andrew Alan etc.) but in the spirit of egalitarianism
I will try to add a worthwhile interjection.

Not meant that way at all- just calling for more people to take advantage of this opportunity, which should not be blown.  This guy has not been generally available to us for 22 years and there's a lot of knowledge and insight here.

Re-reading the book right now, I'm amazed at how completely I remember it- I must have read it more than once.  Somewhere on almost every page, I can remember a sentence that's coming later in the paragraph.  But it's a very different experience in another way- in 1986 it was the first Beach Boys book I'd read. This time around I've read a dozen or so others, but none seem to compare except for maybe the Timothy White book in terms of research- who the hell else talked to Murry's brothers? Or other residents of W. 119th Street? (Relax, I'm sure someone did).  But how many people have given us much insight into Bud Wilson?

Which begs another question, and though I think it'll rate a one word answer, I'll ask it: other than Wouldn't It Be Landy, have you read any of the other things published on Brian and the band since 1986?
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« Reply #23 on: August 25, 2008, 06:53:37 PM »

Welcome Steven. I recently re-read the book too. The first Beach Boys book I ever read, bought it when I was probably 10 or so but didn't really read it for a few years after. I still enjoy it today. No questions come to my mind right away, but I will try and think of something.
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« Reply #24 on: August 25, 2008, 09:47:50 PM »

Thanks for the insight about the tape. Rocky sure doesn't come off good on the tape but I guess he saw the value in keeping it. It was worth what you paid, it is very compelling.

I figured Goldman was on hard drugs, he was always nervous and paranoid. There is a clip on Tom Synder interviewing him on the Tomorrow show in 1981 after his Elvis book came out. He insisted that the audience be cleared first. I always liked the anti drug stances in your Beatles and Beach Boys books. That and some of the Beach Boys documentaries helped me never go down that road.
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