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Question: Rate The Nearest Faraway Place: Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys, and the Southern Californian Experience
5 - 5 (29.4%)
4 - 6 (35.3%)
3 - 4 (23.5%)
2 - 2 (11.8%)
1 - 0 (0%)
0 - 0 (0%)
Total Voters: 12

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Author Topic: The Nearest Faraway Place: Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys, and the Southern Califo  (Read 7652 times)
Charles LePage @ ComicList
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« on: February 15, 2006, 07:37:38 PM »

Discuss, review and rate The Nearest Faraway Place: Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys, and the Southern Californian Experience, released January 1, 1996.

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Mitchell
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« Reply #1 on: February 16, 2006, 06:04:56 AM »

I borrowed this from the library and started to read it. It was very dense and historically detailed, taking forever just to get at Brian and the Boys. It's cool to get the background, though, because it's good to know where people come from. Unfortunately, I had to return the book before I could finish it and I never renewed it (I couldn't at the time, anyway) so I have yet to finish it. Someday!
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« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2006, 08:50:09 AM »

I liked this one quite a bit, especially the historical details of the Wilson clans pilgrimage to the West Coast and Brianís relativeís history of mental illness. I though overall Mr. White did a nice job, and itís a shame he didnít live long enough to see the release of Smile.
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« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2006, 07:22:22 AM »

I bought this in hardback not long after it's release.  Good thing.  Its a bit of a long tedious read in places but well worth the effort if you're the sort that finds a thorough back ground useful in in fully appreciating a subject.

I think a must have for the library of the serious BeachBoys fan.
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The Heartical Don
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« Reply #4 on: August 07, 2008, 07:28:10 AM »

I gave it a qualified 5 stars. Why? Because on the one hand it is a must-have, for all the historical detail and family history. The 'qualified' amounts to this: I could not dock one star for certain types of info that are, erm... a bit redundant, one might say. Like (to paraphrase): do I really want to know the composition of the glue that was used in the early '60s to build a decent surf board? No. And there are many more such examples.
But, as I said: this in itself is not a good reason to dock points. I have the hardback, and it's a wonderful thing to behold: luxurious, fat, and informative.
Now, on to the next question: did they use 'Dapper Dan' brylcreem in those days?
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« Reply #5 on: February 21, 2012, 11:23:50 AM »

Bit of an over-rated book for me, this. It's well written I suppose and the early sections are fascinating, but the author has some unusual tastes and opinions, especially in his wild praise for Beach Boys 85. Almost as good as Sunflower eh? Hmm...
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« Reply #6 on: May 29, 2012, 12:13:48 PM »

I liked this one quite a bit, especially the historical details of the Wilson clans pilgrimage to the West Coast and Brianís relativeís history of mental illness.
I liked all that stuff, too. Great amount of research. This is something else in the field of BBs-related books. A definite must-have/must-read.

5/5
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« Reply #7 on: July 28, 2012, 11:31:02 AM »

Like all the other reviews, White did a great job of researching the Wilson family. Some casual readers may find it long and tedious (Brian doesn't come in until a few chapters into the book) I thought it was interesting to read. If you want to read about the music, this may not be the book for you, which is why it appealed to me. When I become interested in a band I prefer to read a decent biography that not only focuses on the music but also what goes behind it. Like I said, it's a tad bit long and tedious at some points but otherwise a good read. 4/5 for me.
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« Reply #8 on: June 13, 2020, 08:27:47 AM »

I think about this book often. There are better Beach Boys biographies, but no other will give you such an exhaustively perfect background of California life and the Wilson family history.

This book gives the casual fan such detailed history of California, surfing, cars, pop culture. It is tedious and at times downright boring - but it's not meant to be constantly exciting. History is sometimes boring but sometimes it is necessary to read the boring stuff to see why events happened the way they did. It immerses the fan into the world The Beach Boys grew up in, and for that I give it a 5/5.
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« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2020, 11:04:45 PM »

I think about this book often. There are better Beach Boys biographies, but no other will give you such an exhaustively perfect background of California life and the Wilson family history.

This book gives the casual fan such detailed history of California, surfing, cars, pop culture. It is tedious and at times downright boring - but it's not meant to be constantly exciting. History is sometimes boring but sometimes it is necessary to read the boring stuff to see why events happened the way they did. It immerses the fan into the world The Beach Boys grew up in, and for that I give it a 5/5.

My thoughts exactly. I finally purchased this book after wanting for a long, long time. Got a nice 1st Edition in wonderful shape (basically new).
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« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2020, 04:56:46 PM »

This book shows, frankly, how much work remains to tell a really full and complete story of Brian, much less the band. White does such an amazing job on the background, then it all just sort of ... well, not falls apart, exactly, but definitely starts to simply compile his earlier articles. Imagine a big book that sustained that level of reporting from the early years, then went into the 50s and 60s and 70s and beyond. Something along the lines of Lewisholn's ongoing work with the Beatles.
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« Reply #11 on: July 27, 2020, 09:26:08 AM »

The Jim Murphy book is fantastic if you want to learn about the early years and far more historically accurate
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« Reply #12 on: July 27, 2020, 10:33:19 AM »

The Jim Murphy book is fantastic if you want to learn about the early years and far more historically accurate

Yes (with respect to the early years of the actual group, starting in 1961), but White's book is notable for its psychological insight - that is, the kind that can never really be "factually" verified; he makes several statements in the book that in my opinion are correct about what occurred with respect to the lives of certain figures; one problem, however, is that his prose is sometimes so convoluted that his valid insights get obscured. For example, this is from the book:

"Mike Love had no great fondness for his [maternal] grandfather, but he, like Buddy [the grandfather in question] knew what it felt like to be scorned and dismissed. And all these actions and reactions, hurts and harbored grudges, would be stored in the souls and psyches of the Loves, the Wilsons, and their offspring, building on one another, exerting an insidious sway on the shapes and structures of the lives of those who retained and inherited them. They would enforce old cycles of behavior, wheels grinding within wheels, as their reservoirs of dark energy seeped and sputtered and sometimes exploded into the tidal currents of each descendant's destiny" (p. 179)

or:

"In each family there are strengths and weaknesses, the obvious star and the apparent goat. The former sets forth the grand agenda, while the latter tries to avoid undermining it. The rest of the players in the blood matrix do their best to expand the atmosphere of expectation while keeping the whole tribe on course. A family needs to grow up in order to flourish and fulfill its promise. Given enough time, inherent fallacies and conceits are grappled with and dispelled, unforeseen individual merit is displayed, and each accepts the othersí contributions." (p. 59)

This book shows, frankly, how much work remains to tell a really full and complete story of Brian, much less the band. White does such an amazing job on the background, then it all just sort of ... well, not falls apart, exactly, but definitely starts to simply compile his earlier articles. Imagine a big book that sustained that level of reporting from the early years, then went into the 50s and 60s and 70s and beyond. Something along the lines of Lewisholn's ongoing work with the Beatles.

The book clearly was very ambitious, and he probably  had to leave it in a somewhat unfinished state; the family history/geneaology was  (is) very important, but the stuff about hula hoops and pet rocks and hot rod customization wasn't really relevant to the core narrative.  It doesn't lead anywhwere and it was unnecessary to have that stuff in the book, but he probably wanted to present an all-encompassing picture. Also, the book was published around 1994, right in the midst of the heavy lawsuit-era for the Beach Boys. I have nothing really to base this on, but my hunch is that a lot of stuff was left out of the book due to litigation concerns; the book, if i recall correctly, sort of stops around the time Brian gets involved with Landy in the early '80s. Obviously, there was more to say about all of that, but it's not in the book.  And lastly, White could never really finish the book, because the story he presumably would have wanted to tell was far from being finished; a lot had yet to happen. 

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« Reply #13 on: July 27, 2020, 01:25:14 PM »

I give it a 3.  Probably deserves a 5 for effort, because obviously tons of research went into it, and White is a sympathetic writer, but it's not a book i go back to very often.
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rab2591
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« Reply #14 on: July 27, 2020, 04:03:00 PM »

but the stuff about hula hoops and pet rocks and hot rod customization wasn't really relevant to the core narrative.  It doesn't lead anywhwere and it was unnecessary to have that stuff in the book, but he probably wanted to present an all-encompassing picture.

I think this is the part I treasure the most out of the entire book - I had no idea about a lot of the culture stuff he delves into. And while sometimes it was painfully boring, it helped me understand the world where this music originated from...which helped me appreciate the music much more (especially the Little Deuce Coupe album).

This book shows, frankly, how much work remains to tell a really full and complete story of Brian, much less the band. White does such an amazing job on the background, then it all just sort of ... well, not falls apart, exactly, but definitely starts to simply compile his earlier articles. Imagine a big book that sustained that level of reporting from the early years, then went into the 50s and 60s and 70s and beyond. Something along the lines of Lewisholn's ongoing work with the Beatles.

I would love a multi-volume overview of the entire band history. And someone mentioned Murphy's amazing book - definitely a great book #1 for such a collection.
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« Reply #15 on: July 27, 2020, 04:51:41 PM »

This is something I wrote previously about this book, and it is still my very high opinion of it today:

I'll add my two cents and my recommendation for the Timothy White book, The Nearest Faraway Place. Definitely seek this one out.

What White did was place the history of the band *in context* with the other histories which intertwined in and out of the band's own journey through generations, times, and places. It was far more than a family tree...In fact as mentioned, this was one of the first if not the first books to go into the family trees of the Wilsons, the Loves, etc. But White took it beyond that.

In discussing, let's say the song "409", White had already branched off and traced the history of Chevrolet and Ford, and how Ford's V-8 engine and Model A car became key elements of the hot-rod scene to follow in the 50's and 60's. White got into the Chevy Corvette, and the move toward high-power race inspired engines. And he got into how the hot rodders came about, devoting time to key players like Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, etc. Then it wrapped up with how Gary Usher came to own and drive a Chevy which he was hot-rodding piece-by-piece as many in the scene had to do as they earned more spare change to buy new parts...and Usher's hot rod Chevy was the car they revved up and recorded on the street with Brian's tape deck, which became the intro to "409", and how the ideas for that song started to flow as Brian and Gary were driving around car parts stores looking for things Gary wanted to add to his Chevy. "Giddy up...".

So that's just one example of how Timothy White wove so many elements and backstories and related histories into telling the story of the Beach Boys.

Too much of history - especially as taught in the schools but I won't jump on that soapbox - is now relegated to a system of rote memorization and programmed regurgitation of dates and names. Where is the context? What came before and after? *Why* did this event happen and what led directly to it happening? The dates and names have been recorded already...at some point the importance of memorizing and repeating those wears out its value...and you need to explore *why* beyond those names and numbers.

White did a masterful job at doing just that, and as this element of connecting the histories instead of spitting out data that had appeared elsewhere, it's a terrific read. I actually wish he had expanded more on the intertwining details and cut some of the band's data which had been reported and published elsewhere, or expanded the book in general, but what we got is top-notch writing and historical research.

Nothing happens in a vacuum, and this book demonstrates that notion very well.






Restating the biggest appeal of the book for me: What White did was put the history of the band - especially in the 60's relative to what they were singing about - in context. That, to me, was and is the best part of White's exploration of the narrative. His sidebar explorations are what made the things the band was singing about (and living everyday) relevant to a bigger context. Where other historians (those without agendas, mind you...) may write about something like the song "409", and mention it was a coveted yet flawed Chevy engine at the time that a lot of kids aspired to own, White goes into detail about how and *why* Chevy put a big-block engine like that on the market. So it explains why the Beach Boys sang about that particular engine rather than singing about a Chevy 327 or a Hemi or something. That is the stuff I look for in a history of any topic: Context and what it was like at the time.

Years after first reading that book, I had my own epiphany about the music of the 1960's, mid-to-late 60's specifically, after I discovered and started collecting broadcast airchecks of radio stations and the DJ's from that time. It blew my mind and shattered my perspective on all of that after I could hear exactly what the kids were listening to driving down the Sunset Strip in February 1967 for example. Totally different than many would think, and a lot more diverse and open-minded than some histories of FM and free-form radio had reported about AM "Top 40" radio for years. While White's book does sometimes bog down in the detail, all of his explorations into the bigger scene surrounding this band and their music are well worth checking out and very educational. When you hear those airchecks you can get a sense of everyday life, and maybe a glimpse into what, say, Brian Wilson had on the car radio as he was driving to the studio to cut a section of Good Vibrations in '66. It's all part of the story and the tapestry that was woven from the entire scene - not just dates and times. White captured some of that, although to do a complete job of it, the book would probably be no less than 2000 pages.
« Last Edit: July 27, 2020, 04:53:56 PM by guitarfool2002 » Logged

"All of us have the privilege of making music that helps and heals - to make music that makes people happier, stronger, and kinder. Don't forget: Music is God's voice." - Brian Wilson
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