No one expected it. Not in the beginning. Not from Dennis. It was Brian's show. He was the genius. Of course, you'd expect it from him...and you got it. And the others had possibilities. Mike was Brian's collaborator...not an instrumental musician, but he showed a knack as a lyricist, so maybe. Al had started writing early, so maybe he would be the one. Actually, the third Wilson probably showed the most promise. He was the youngest, but he was also the best musician of the group. But not Dennis. Why, they almost didn't let him in the group. The only surfer of the bunch, he was usually at the beach. Not a lot of time for practicing with a band. And that sweet blend of voices rarely included Dennis's...it just didn't always fit in. He was the drummer...by default.
In 1968, after Brian had moved away from the piano and the studio, the others had to step up. It began slowly...quietly. "Friends" featured two songs with quiet, unassuming titles."Little Bird". "Be Still". Quiet, contemplative, quirky...but the message was clear. Something was happening. Dennis was writing music, and it was good. And it was different...it was always different. As time went on, his contribution increased. An early attempt at a solo album was inturrupted by a film project. Some of that music was released, some wasn't. A solo single saw some airplay, and other songs appeared on the Beach Boys Album "Carl and The Passions, So Tough".
A Beach Boy Goes Solo
The Sixties was Brian Wilson's decade. That much is sure. But The Seventies was Dennis's. And as the decade proceeded, Dennis became more focused on making his big statement. Dennis was always an individualist. He always stood out from the rest of the group, and as 1977 approached, he was about to stand out again, but in a way that was completely unexpected by his brothers and bandmates.
It had been obvious that Dennis had been working hard, but no one anticipated the nature of the product. When "Pacific Ocean Blue" was released, it shook up the band. The Boys had been producing what many felt had been their worst records to date, but this new solo effort, while not acheiving record sales, garnered much praise from the critics and others in the industry. It put the band on notice. Jealousies became apparent in the group. In the next few years, two solo lps by other band members would appear, but neither would acheive the acclaim or even the sales of Dennis's offering.
End of the Show
Before "Pacific Ocean Blue" was out on the shelves, Dennis had already started work on his follow-up album, tentativly titled "Bambu", which he stated at the time would blow the first one away. As the decade turned, work on this music slowed, but some of the songs intended for this project were again released on Beach Boy Albums, most notably the Dennis Wilson contributions on "LA Light Album". Dennis was losing the momentum that had peaked in 1977 and '78. Trouble in the band, personal problems, substance abuse, and the loss of a studio all contributed to a slowdown in creative production. Then in 1983, it all came to an end. Dennis died in a drowning accident, and with him, many believed, one of the greatest possibilities of artistic renewal in the group may have dissapeared.
By special dispensation of the United States Government, Dennis Wilson was buried at sea, and a chapter in the history of the Beach Boys was closed. But Dennis left a strong, accomplished body of work behind -- music filled with emotion, honesty, and integrity. Not bad for the surfer and troublemaker whose mother had to advocate for his inclusion into America's Band.