Sunday, August 23, 2009

It Might
Get Wiggy:
Part Two

Click here for Part One: Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey

(Don Was, US, 1995, 70 mins.)

"I think he stayed in bed for two years."
-- His mother on her son's lost weekend

Like PBS pledge perennial Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black
and White Night (1988), this tune-filled television documen-
tary was shot in grainy B&W and looks artier than you might
expect from big-league composer/producer Don Was.

Was interviews a few surprisingly iconoclastic artists, as well,
such as the Velvet Underground's John Cale and Sonic Youth's
Thurston Moore, as well as the expected hitmakers: Tom Petty,
David Crosby, and Linda Ronstadt in full-on Mexican regalia.

So far so good, but unfortunately he repeatedly cuts from in-
terview segments to footage of Wilson performing updated ver-
sions of Beach Boys and solo material. I wanted to hear the or-
iginal numbers and would imagine most viewers feel the same.

The only new track that works well is a version of "Do It Again" featuring Wilson's daughters, Wendy and Carny, on harmony vocals and Benmont Tench from the Heartbreakers on keyboards.

Wilson Phillips, one-hit wonders best known for "Hold On"
(with Chynna Phillips), might not have been anything to write home about, but the ladies have pleasant enough voices.

Also, Was explores Wilson's music more extensively than his personal life, though he openly discusses his drug problems and
hermit period. It's not that he's holding back; it's just not a focus.

Dr. Eugene Landy, however, doesn't merit a single mention, which
seems odd, although there might have been legal reasons for the
ommission—as in ongoing litigation. If not, it's a dishonest move,
since Landy (micro-)managed Wilson's career for almost a decade.

Trailer with irritating Don "The Voice" LaFontaine narration

I suspect Was made this documentary, his only full-length
feature, to prove that Wilson is healthier and more productive
than the rumors would suggest (see Theremin: An Electronic
Odyssey for a glimpse of the subject in nonsensical mode).

Fortunately, the former Beach Boy can still sing and tickle the
ivories with some degree of finesse. At times, I found him diffi-
cult to understand, but that's because he slurs his words, not
because he doesn't express his thoughts clearly. Worth a look.

Related reviews: You're Gonna Miss Me and Scott Walker: 30 Century Man

Endnote: As with Theremin, this piece is slightly revised from the original text. Also, it just occured to me that the director's name appears in the title, i.e. I Just WASn't Made for These Times, a song that appears on Wilson's 1966 masterpiece, Pet Sounds. Images from The Gentlebear and I'm Starting to Feel...

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