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Article The Beach Boys

February 20th, 1965: Brian Wilson suffers nervous breakdown, abandons touring.

Brian Wilson suffers nervous breakdown, abandons touring.

The events we write about at Gaslight Records happened in some form or another 50 years ago to the day. Roll along with us and imagine you are back in 1969.

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On board a flight from L.A. to Houston on December 23, 1964, Brian Wilson suffered a nervous breakdown that would prevent him from touring with The Beach Boys until 1983.

"I felt I had no choice," said Wilson of his decision to quit touring with the band. "I was run down mentally and emotionally because I was running around, jumping on jets from one city to another on one-night stands, also producing, writing, arranging, singing, planning, teaching—to the point where I had no peace of mind and no chance to actually sit down and think or even rest."

Wilson's staying put in L.A. would yield mixed results. On one hand, he contracted what could perhaps best be described as truly whacked-out cabin fever, leading to the recording of some of the greatest, let's say, 'innervision' pop music the world has ever seen: Pet Sounds, Summer Days; and later opus's like 71's Surf's Up. But the flip side of Wilson's refusal to leave his home state—which later turned into a long-standing refusal to even leave his house—was that he fell in with a questionable crowd, and ultimately ended up facing a series of psychological crises.

Wilson allegedly refused to speak to CBS record executives, instead opting to answer questions via a portable tape player that was rigged to respond with either “yes”, “no”, or “thank you”.

The ol' gateway drug: Wilson was introduced to marijuana in late December '64 by his pal Lorren Daro, and from there it seems to have been a slippery slope, as your mum'd say. The following April, Wilson began his long-term relationship with LSD. He considered his first time with the drug "a religious experience" from which he took a new grasp on things like "patience and understanding." The first trip also proved musically fruitful: "California Girls" was written directly afterwards.

Soon after such revelatory moments, however, came the fall. Wilson began suffering auditory hallucinations in mid-65, which have persisted throughout his life; he also became increasingly paranoid and anti-social, leading to a disintegration of relations between him and his collaborators. Following the first playback session of Pet Sounds, for instance, Wilson allegedly refused to speak to CBS record executives, instead opting to answer questions via a portable tape player that was rigged to respond with either "yes", "no", or "thank you".

The end of 1964/beginning of 1965 marks the birth of Brian Wilson's golden period as a songwriter and pop music architect. Ironically, though, it was also the beginning of a "psychodelicate" (a term coined by Wilson himself) phase that would bring some harrowing outcomes to bear upon the singer.

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