The Dennis Wilson Interview
Around the corner from the Pep Boys-Manny, Moe, and Jack-in Santa Monica, are the Wilson boys Brian, Dennis, and Carl-in the Brother Studio for the first time in four years to record Fifteen Big Ones (Warner Bros.).
Dennis is the one who looks the most like a Beach Boy. Dennis is the only Beach Boy who ever really surfed. It was he who suggested to Brian that they sing about surfing. Brian also got a lot of his ideas for car songs from Dennis. Dennis costarred with James Taylor in the film Two Lane Blacktop; he played the Mechanic. Dennis was also the one who hung out with Charles Manson, but that's a different story.
The following took place in the Brother Studio's lounge, which Dennis calls his office, a small room with one of those extra-large TV screens. The decor is rattan: couch, table, and chairs. It is perhaps the most tastefully decorated office around, fit for a Beach Boy.
Cohen: How big is your surf board? Wilson: 6' 7". 1 used to ride a 9'2".
Cohen: Are you the best surfer in the Beach Boys?,
Wilson: The only surfer. Al's tried it a couple of times; Brian likes inner-tubes; Carl likes boats.
Cohen: Was your childhood like a Beach Boy song?
Wilson: Yep. We wrote music about our lives--cars, surfin'-that's exactly what it was like. I think cars were a phase when you were 17 or 18, when you just got your license and enough money for gas to ride around. Then you got into who had the fastest car. Then you discovered cars got back seats.
Cohen: Were you fast in the back seat?
Cohen: Would you say you are "from California" or "part of California"?
Wilson: I'm from California, but I don't live as if I'm from one place. I feel like I have ownership of the whole world.
Cohen: Could the Beach Boys have happened anywhere other than California ?
Wilson: Like Peoria? Yeh. It had a lot to do with inner feelings - a state of mind.
Cohen: Where does that state of mind border on?
Wilson: The Four Freshmen.
Cohen: Do you live near the beach?
Wilson: Yes, in Malibu.
Cohen: Which beach do surfers prefer ?
Wilson: It depends upon what the shape of the wave means to you and the time of the year. September is good for the South; Hawaii is good from November until January; the West Coast is good in June; Australia's good in January . . .
Cohen: What do you look for in a wave?
Wilson: Speed, shape, size.
Cohen: Do the best surfers get the best looking girls?
Wilson: I don't know. I thought I was really good, you know-in fact, I thought I was great-but I never got the great girls. It was always the guys who walked around the beach looking for girls who got the girls. The guys out in the water . . . got wet.
Cohen: How did you become a Beach Boy?
Wilson: It must have started on Friday night. We used to pick up my Dad where he worked, and he'd take us out to dinner and we used to write tunes-the family was always involved singing together. The three of us would sing three-part harmony every Friday night in the back seat. I think that's where the group started. As for the Beach Boys singing professionally, that came one day when we got the idea to sing about surfing. My Dad said he knew a guy with a garage and we could tape record it in the garage, put it out, and that's how we got started-very hokey. There was no real concept behind the Beach Boys, just a couple of guys singing about what they liked . . .
Cohen: . . . in the great family tradition of the Mills Brothers and the McGuire Sisters. Was there much sibling rivalry?
Wilson: Of course. See, Brian was the oldest, I was in the middle and Carl was the baby. I was the troublemaker. Brian got great grades and Carl got the kind of grades like I did. I failed everything. I was too busy fighting and running wild.
Cohen: What's your favorite Beach Boys song?
Wilson: "Let Him Run Wild" -- the first sound I liked when we started to get into another level.
Cohen: Were you drumming on the bottom of a garbage can on "Surfin' " ?
Wilson: No. My parents went to Europe and left us each 100 dollars for food and I bought the worst set of drums you could possibly buy. My Mom had to beg the guys to let me play. I couldn't even play the drums right-Brian had to show me how on that song.
Cohen: What was the first Beach Boys song you wrote?
Wilson: I collaborated on almost all of them. I guess the first song I did alone, all by myself, was "Little Bird."
Cohen: Did you write the lyrics to "Never Learn Not To Love"?
Cohen: Did Manson write the other half ?
Cohen: Do you remember the first time you drove a car?
Wilson: Yeh. My friend's Dad had a Henry J., a 1950 Henry J., the ugliest car in the world. We were about 14. We'd get up around midnight, climb out the window, push the car about three or four blocks, hot wire it, and drive around.
Cohen: What kind of car do you drive now?
Wilson: VW Camper. I was out looking at a 1976 Rolls Royce yesterday-I might get the new Corniche-maybe I won't, I like my Camper. Anything that has a great stereo. Motorcycles are actually my main squeeze. I still think I'm a Hell's Angel. I've got a Harley-Davidson Sportster. The doctor said in a year maybe I can start one, when my foot's better.
Cohen: What happened to your foot?
Wilson: I go out to Carl's house and I smoke a little grass and Carl's father-in-law's there and Carl's back is out so he asks me to help him with the water sparklers. So Pop and I go around back and I'm barefoot and so loaded and I'm trying to maintain because Pop is saying, "Don't ever get loaded-it's bad for you. I've been in Manilla and I was in a concentration camp and you just don't get loaded-life is too dear." He goes on and on and I'm going, (sings) "Everything is beautiful," just having a great time. So, in the middle of this great dream, I pick up the bottle of water and it slips out of my hand and it's going to the ground in slow motion, and as the bottles going down I say, "Ah fuck, what do I do?" So I jumped up and came down on the broken glass. The cut was from the big toe to the little' toe. I'd like to show you . . . I used to be able to wiggle each toe individually, but since the tendons on the little toe were so small, the surgeon had to sew them all together, so now they all move together.
Cohen: Now you're like everybody else.
Wilson: Yeh, that's what he said and that I won't be picking up dimes with my toes anymore.
Cohen: When someone flips a coin, do you call heads or tails?
Wilson: Depends upon the moment. When you asked I was thinking heads.
Cohen: Did you see the photo of Bette Midler-where you can see up her skirt ?
Wilson: Where she's twirling and you can see her butt? I loved it. It's so great to see Bette Midler's crack. She's very sexy. Women are very sexy. Hey, listen-all girls excite me for some dumb reason. A 300 pound girl with the right thighs at the right time has got me.
Cohen: Do you have a dog?
Wilson: Two of them. One is Christain and one is Wagner.
Cohen: Did you watch "Ozzie and Harriet" as a kid?
Wilson: Yes: "Hi Mom, hi Dad."
Cohen: Ever cast a Popeil Pocket Fisherman?
Wilson: No. But I saw the commercial. I have a 14 foot fishing pole.
Cohen: Ever been to the Wilson House of Suede?
Wilson: No, but I saw one of them [a Wilson brother] eating with the most beautiful girl. I didn't want to smile too much at the girl, because he was real big.
Cohen: Do you have a pet peeve? Wilson: Yeh-that unconscious state of mind where people go out cold.
Cohen: Were you properly cast in the film, Two Lane Blacktop?
Wilson: At the time, yep.
Cohen: Were you playing yourself or the part of someone else?
Wilson: Just walking around. Sometimes I wasn't.
Cohen: Who would you want to play you in your life story?
Wilson: Don Knotts,
Cohen: Is there anything you can't live without?
Wilson: "Star Trek."
Cohen: What are you allergic to?
Cohen: How did you get out of the draft?
Wilson: They threw me out. They caught me with another guy peeing in my jar.
Cohen: What's the hardest thing about being a Beach Boy?
Wilson: Nothing at all. Well, maybe going on the road, leaving home, and business meetings.
Cohen: Would you want your son to grow up to be a Beach Boy?
Wilson: If that's what he wanted to do.
Cohen: If you wanted to dance, what record would you put on?
Wilson: "Bunny Hop."
Cohen: Did you ever meet Tuesday Weld?
Wilson: No. Yes. (She didn't leave a big impression.)
Cohen: Do you use an Ace comb?
Wilson: Nope-but I remember the name.
Cohen: Do you remember tassles on shoes?
Cohen: Do you remember blonde furniture ?
Wilson: I remember blonde wood.
Cohen: Do you remember when "communism" was a nasty word?
Wilson: Yeh--John Birch and communism.
Cohen: Do you remember your first pubic hair?
Wilson: I remember running and yelling, "Look Mom, Dad!" It was a big thing around the house. I remember the first one. It's probably grey now. I don't know where it is.
Cohen: When did you lose your virginity ?
Wilson: Gee, I was either 16 or 18. I've always messed around. I was a doctor when I was young. Emotionally my virginity was lost when I was four or five-with ice cream sticks.
Cohen: Did you ever kiss a Northern girl?
Wilson: Yes, as far north as North Canada, as far south as Bimini Bay, as far west as Japan and as far east as Germany (East).
Cohen: What's your biggest turnon in life?
Cohen: Where would you go on a dream date ?
Wilson: The ovaries.
Cohen: What do you do with your left hand that you don't do with your right ?
Wilson: I pick my nose with my left hand. And the left side of my nose I pick with my right hand.
Cohen: Are you a tit man?
Wilson: I have been. Yeah, I like breasts. They're very nice. Isn't it funny how some people say tits instead of breasts, penis and vagina instead of cunt or cock ?
Cohen: Is there a polite word for cunt?
Wilson: Cunt is a beautiful word.
Cohen: What do you call it on your first date and what do you call it a few months later?
Wilson: On my first date I'd call it a ba . . ., and on my second I'd call it a hum ....
Cohen: What sort of things do you think about to postpone orgasm?
Wilson: I don't. I try to come as fast as I can.
Cohen: What's the greatest feeling in the world?
Cohen: What's more beautiful than a 20 foot wave?
Wilson: A 21 foot wave, submitting, winning, a big climax, and when it all melts together.