A guy named Jeffrey Stillwell has put together a great video essay focused on the so-called “rivalry” between the Beach Boys and the Beatles; and in particular the relationship between Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson. They were most certainly inspired by each other creatively and each wound up bringing out the best in each other as both are quick to confess. When “Pet Sounds” came out, it blew the minds of the Beatles, and that was a big catalyst to what would become “Sgt Pepper” in terms of musical experimentation — both are still such iconic albums that it’s hard to believe it’s been 50 years (on average) since each was released. This video biopic also chronicles the relationship and interactions between Paul and Brian over the decades, and ultimately the deep respect they have for each other —and it’s worth investing the 20 minutes to watch it.
There’s also a personal tie for me here in a couple of ways. As a teenager, I was hugely influenced by both groups and in particular the Beatles; I became a life-long Beatle-ologist as a result (as a hobby). It also led me to a career in music & music tech (initially wanting to be a record producer having immersed myself in the techniques of production) — first as young A&R exec at EMI/Capitol, and then when I launched and ran Apple’s earliest focus on music and entertainment during my lengthy tenure there (where among my responsibilities, I had to deal with the fall out of the lawsuits between Apple Inc and Apple Records – the Beatles’ company).
I also parlayed that early production passion into being a talent producer of award shows and celebrity fundraiser events over several decades. One of the events I was asked to co-produce was called “Adopt-a-Minefield” in conjunction the with the United Nations. Paul’s then-wife, Heather Mills, was heavily involved in the cause, and she organized these annual events (I believe there were five) featuring Paul and his band, and another major artist. I co-produced the event in 2002; Paul had invited Stephen Stills and Brian Wilson to perform with him — and the event was hosted by Jay Leno.
The event took place in LA, and was a high-ticket event; I believe it was limited to 500 in attendance.
I had some interesting conversations and interaction with Paul that evening, who was determined to ensure all the details to do with the production of the event were flawless and well-thought-out. For the 500 of us in attendance, it was magical to watch Paul and Brian doing a duet on both “God Only Knows”, a favorite of Paul’s, and on “Let It Be”. It’s too bad it wasn’t taped so it could be streamed.
There can be no doubt of the creative genius and respect these two have for each other’s music and as individuals. As a final aside, Paul and Brian were born just two days apart in June 1942; geniuses in good company from the very start! (There’s a cute clip in the video essay of Brian calling Paul on his birthday and singing a verse from Paul’s “Birthday” song).