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The Beach Boys And The Satan [Film Review]

beach boys and satan

In the song they slapped onto the Garden State soundtrack, Coldplay sung We live in a beautiful world repeatedly. But really, do we? Everything around us is subjective — science tells us that, when even the most noteworthy, respected theories, like the theory of gravity, remain just that… theories. Ethics are subjective — I was recently reading about the killing of a homosexual as not being a hate crime; something I find absolutely ridiculous. When some sound-minded person responded Why can’t we just accept people for who they are, another with contradictory views responded Sure, why don’t we just accept murderers because that’s what they do, and they went on to list a few other undesirables.

Society has built up and championed what it believes is right, and we will be cursed to object. The neanderthals may have killed one another, and we may continue to murder other human beings in what we like to call WAR, but, at the most rudimentary of levels, when it comes to individual realities, and on a philosophical level, the difference between right and wrong differ vastly between even neighbors in the burbs.

Why this tirade? The opening elements to “Pop Odyssee”, the producers of this film, show thousands of people, generally youths, screaming. We can only speculate that they are screaming about their favorite band. But the mass followings can also be compared to the mindless acceptance of genocide. Charisma comes in many forms.

Beach Boys & The Satan is a documentary that, simply put, shows the intense dark side surrounding America’s Band. When you think of it, they really were America’s band — in the 60s The Beach Boys‘ music dominated. It was a positive force amidst the intense strife that was Vietnam, or even here at home, the civil rights movement. But while their early music reigned in its upbeat nature, when Pet Sounds debuted, it shocked a lot of people.

Early on in the film, David Thomas, talking about the significance of Pet Sounds, states: You can’t consider the history of rock music as an artform — as a serious art — without referring to Brian Wilson’s work, and without understanding that something like Pet Sounds was a milestone.

The first half of the film simply discusses The Beach Boys as a band. Yeah, it dips lightly into the darker elements of the band, but it’s overwhelmingly about the era and the band itself. Around minute 37, the film starts moving toward the dark side of Free Love and the drugs culture of the era, and Manson’s Spahn Ranch. And here’s the meeting of Dennis Wilson and Charles Manson. The get the full story, you’ll have to watch the film.

But even then, it doesn’t really seem like the full story. The film certainly mentions Manson and his connection with D. Wilson, and goes further into speculating why the murders took place — as more a revenge on the producer (whose house it was in which the atrocities occurred, but who was not present when the tragedy struck) who didn’t really respond to Manson’s music. Instead, it focuses in great detail on Brian Wilson himself who, as we all know, has an intense dark side himself via his mental state.

If you cannot listening to an album like Pet Sounds without getting teary-eyed, there’s gotta be something wrong with you. (Yeah, I am now contradicting my opening paragraphs.) To understand Brian Wilson’s place in the bigger picture of The Beach Boy’s music — in songs like “The Warmth Of The Sun” and “In My Room” — is to understand society as a dark entity, one that imposes faux rights and wrongs on every human being. I’m not saying that anarchy is the right way, but it was apparent even in the 60s that something was very wrong, when something as wonderful as Pet Sounds could be born of such pain, such heartache. And have we really improved? With the horrendous news of terrible things on a daily basis. And we’re all accepting of it; we all participate because we are part of the society in which it occurs. Have we lost all moral ground? What is moral ground? Maybe that’s the problem. We’ve simply lost touch with reality. We’ve become a world that looks back and looks forward, but doesn’t appreciate the now.

I guess it’s fitting to close with the lyrics of Brian Wilson himself. Yeah, he may have been talking about sex, or even simply thinking about a woman or women in general — but maybe, just maybe, he was referring to a world brighter and better than the one that continues to exist today: Wouldn’t it be nice if we were older / Then we wouldn’t have to wait so long / And wouldn’t it be nice to live together / In the kind of world where we belong.

Final thought: Beach Boys And The Satan wasn’t quite what I expected. Seeing the cover, and noting the Manson connection, I figured the documentary would focus on that aspect. But it does not. There’s more about the iconic Brian Wilson than anything else. And when it comes down to it, that’s OK with me. If you’re a fan of The Beach Boys, or just a fan of great pop music, this documentary receives a strong recommend from me.

MVD Entertainment [DVD, 2008]

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