“Dennis was a pioneer. The first Beach Boy to surf, drag race, drink, take drugs, meet the Maharishi, star in a film, and
release a solo album...And it was no surprise that he was also the first to die...I just want this book to stand testament to a wayward and forgotten genius, and to relate a truly extraordinary story.”
When you think of the Beach Boys, who normally comes to mind? Brian Wilson of course. However, now that Dennis and Carl Wilson have died and Brian is pursuing a solo career, it is left solely to Mike Love to carry on the "torch" of the Beach Boys. And if you were to believe Mike Love's version of revisionalist Beach Boys history, you would follow his mantra of, " I wrote the biggest Beach Boys hit KOKOMO, therefore I am the ALPHA Beach Boy". Just take a look at the recent Mike Love influenced script for the TV Beach Boys "docudrama". Dennis Wilson is portrayed as a drug-taking, womanizing, immoral Charles Manson follower. Recently, the Capitol records website has proclaimed Mike Love as "as one of rock's foremost songwriters". (Yeah, right...and that's why the Mike Love solo album sold so well!)
Well, Adam Webb is here to set the record straight. His book, DUMB ANGEL: THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF DENNIS WILSON, is a refreshing analysis of the second creative genius of the Wilson family. Not only was Dennis the original inspiration for the Beach Boys (being the ONLY one who surfed), but also he was a surprisingly creative and productive songwriter when Brian retreated from the band. Unfortunately, Dennis wasn't more assertive when it came to promoting his own songs with the band. He often let his own songs remain "in the can", while allowing sub-standard tunes by other band members to surface on Beach Boys albums. He even put off his plans for a solo album, not once, but many times for the sake of the band. And that is the real tragedy behind the Dennis Wilson story - his genius is only just now being recognized.
However, music is only one side of Dennis Wilson. If Adam Webb does nothing more, he does show that Dennis was a complicated and multi-faceted person - much more complicated than Mike Love's shallow portrayal. Sure, Dennis liked to party and he LOVED women. And yes, he was involved with Charles Manson. But, Adam Webb puts this in a correct perspective. In fact, Webb devotes a large portion of the book to analyze the Manson period.
This is one of those rock biographies that is truly a rare find...an entertaining and factual book that isn't sycophantic. Plus, Webb's intro about the current state of rock 'n roll is a MUST read. He hits the nail straight on the head!