I’m a firm believer in the adage that experiences are more important than things and that investment in meaningful experiences that enrich your life in some way are a greater source of happiness than the latest gadget or iThing. Don’t get me wrong, gadgets and iThings are very nice, but I suspect my sons’ memories of the time their mum lost her job and flew them to Paris to eat a jambon beurre baguette at the top of La Tour Eiffel will remain with them for their lifetimes. And besides, who doesn’t like a nice ham sandwich!
I also do this with them with cultural experiences. Not to the point that they find it a pain in the neck (hopefully), but certainly to the point of being exposed to far more than I was shown as a child. I want them to see people doing cool stuff that, as a child, I only thought ‘other’ people did. So my kids are growing up knowing people who do real science for a job, or make music for a job, or paint or write for a job.
As part of their ‘compulsory music education’ I took them to the Sydney Opera House last week to see former Beach Boy, Brian Wilson, performing the iconic Pet Sounds album live on stage. Most people would be even vaguely aware of Brian Wilson’s mental health challenges throughout his lifetime and the impact that various treatments have had on him over those decades. I think we’re lucky to still have Brian Wilson alive, even if now he’s showing signs of how troubled his life has been.
The show was wonderful with Brian accompanied by a group of stellar musicians, including former Beach Boys partner Al Jardine, and Al Jardine’s son, Matt Jardine. Part of Matt’s role as a backing vocalist was to take over the vocal parts that are just too challenging for Brian these days. It was beautiful to watch and to hear the son of his lifelong band mate have his back. There were numerous standing ovations throughout the show from a full-house of just under 3,000 people.
Yet one high-profile critic wrote in his review, “Beach Boy was once genius but it’s time to let it go” and on Twitter wrote, “This has to stop.”
My kids probably won’t quite understand for another 30 years what they saw that night, but one day it’ll dawn on them that they saw one of the greatest songwriters we’ve ever had perform for them. Yes, he was physically past his prime, but his gifts to us are extraordinary. The kids often accuse each other of having ‘shit taste in music’ and that’s about the time I always chime in to point out that this is exactly the point of any form of art. It’s subjective. One of the things I was most sure about during my radio career was the simple fact that no matter what I did, or what I said, or which song I played – SOMEONE would hate it enough to want to tell me about it. Often abusively.
That Brian Wilson is now a senior who has been through some really, intensely rough stuff is without doubt. That his life has had negative impacts on him is also without doubt. But that he still wants to join us and play for us is his choice, and only his. We simply don’t have the right to tell people that they should stop doing the thing that has made them who they are just because they’re getting on a bit and aren’t as sharp as they once were. I couldn’t give a flying f*ck about Madonna or the fact that she’s still performing in not-very-much-at-all at however old she is. Her choice. Don’t like it? Don’t go!
To the critic who thinks that Brian Wilson is now too old and too damaged to go on and should stop performing for the rest of us because it apparently makes you, Dear Critic, a wee bit uncomfortable to see a person who is less than perfect doing their thing – you can only dream of 3,000 people standing to applaud you with tears of joy streaming down their faces. On numerous nights.
Neil Finn gets it.