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Interview With Brian Wilson

Aired August 20, 2004 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, exclusive, Beach Boy Brian Wilson talks for the first time on television about his own private hell.

Tonight, exclusive, Beach Boy Brian Wilson talks for the first time on television about his own private hell.

The nervous breakdown, the years of drug abuse, the voices in his head that torment him and how he pulled through it all. Brian Wilson, in-depth, personal exclusive, next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: A great pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, one of the legendary figures in the history of music. Brian Wilson, the creative genius behind the Beach Boys has dealt with a lot of controversies over the years, come through it and we're going to discuss a lot about it. But his newest CD is "Getting in Over My Head" which might have double meaning. On that CD, Elton John records with him, so does Paul McCartney.

Brian Wilson. And with Brian is Melinda Wilson, she has been married to Brian since 1995 and she and Brian, by the way, have adopted three children, ranging in age from five months to seven years.

Why, Melinda?

MELINDA WILSON, BRIAN WILSON'S WIFE: Why not? We just -- about a year into our marriage we decided we wanted to have children and we didn't get married until I was 48 and so we decided that we would adopt.

KING: Do you have grown children, Brian?

BRIAN WILSON, MUSICIAN: I've got two kids that are in their early thirties, Carney and Wendy. They are in a group called Wilson Phillips. That's their name, Wilson Phillips.

KING: Did you readily go along with adopting, did you say...

B. WILSON: Oh yes, I was all in favor of it. I was thrilled, yes. I was thrilled to be able to do it.

KING: Is it fun to have kids again?

B. WILSON: yes, it's great. It's wonderful.

KING: No different feeling in adoption, is there?

B. WILSON: No, no, they're -- it's just the same as if we had them. We're just as close.

M. WILSON: It's almost more special. For some reason...

KING: They were chosen.

M. WILSON: Well, that's what we tell them and it's very true.

KING: All right, let's find out before we go back a little how you are doing. You have come through a lot. Overcome psychological problems that everyone knows the history of the Brian Wilson. How are you doing?

B. WILSON: I'm doing good. I've had a slight nervous breakdown in the '60s. I got through that. And I got through the '70s. And I was in a doctor's program during the '80s and then I met Melinda and we've been together ever since. I've got a happy life.

KING: Why -- when you met Brian, was he having problems?

M. WILSON: He was having a lot of problems when I met him. We met back in 1986 and that was during the Landy years and...

KING: Explain what that means.

M. WILSON: There was this psychologist named Eugene Landy who...

KING: Was treating?

M. WILSON: Was treating Brian. He was brought in, I guess it was late '70s by Marilyn originally?

B. WILSON: 19 -- mid 70s.

KING: Marilyn, your first wife?


M. WILSON: His first wife. Because Brian was kind of out of control. And then again in the early '80s the Beach Boys hired Dr. Landy. I don't even want to call him Dr. Landy.

KING: Now what did he do that so changed Brian? He was called in to help and it turned out worse, right?

M. WILSON: He was called into help and I think originally he did help. He helped Brian lose weight and he helped Brian care about himself physically again, but then, as time went on, he became very captive of Brian -- or Brian was primarily a prisoner...

B. WILSON: I wasn't allowed to call my family or my friends at all for nine years. KING: He had that much control?

B. WILSON: Yes, he had that much control of my life, yes. He doped me up with medication. He kept me doped so I couldn't resist what he told me to do.

KING: For what purpose, Brian?

B. WILSON: He was a control freak. He gets off on controlling.


B. WILSON: Gene Landy, I'd like you to say hello to reporters. This is Gene Landy. He covers everything from managerial to psychiatrist and singer.

EUGENE LANDY, BRIAN WILSON'S FMR. THERAPIST: People don't know how to really justify the fact that he's returned so completely so they have to give it some sort of media concept that says Vengali (ph) type brainwashing. But if I washed his brain, I've certainly washing out all the drugs, all the obese characteristics he had, his eating problems, his smoking problems, all the trouble that he had in his much publicized prior life and we've washed it clean to be a healthy whole human being. If that's brainwashing then yes, that's what we did.


KING: Have you sued him?

B. WILSON: Oh no. I never had to sue him.

M. WILSON: Oh yes, we did.

B. WILSON: Well, I don't remember suing him, but I guess we did. She says so.

M. WILSON: Actually, when I married Brian, we were in the midst of nine separate lawsuits.

KING: How did they come out?

M. WILSON: They all came out fine.

KING: He did OK?

M. WILSON: For the first time in years and years we're lawsuit free.

KING: Is Dr. Landy still practicing?

M. WILSON: From what I understand he's teaching in Hawaii.

KING: Did you suffer from depression, Brian?

B. WILSON: Did I suffer from depression? Yes, a little, from time to time. Yes.

KING: Did it occur while the Beach Boys were No. 1?

B. WILSON: Yes. It occurred then. Yes, it did. Then it occurred later in the '90s, a little bit in the '90s. 2000s, I'm not as depressed as I was. I get depressed now and then but not very much anymore.

M. WILSON: Actually, depression is something that if you have it it never really goes away.

KING: It's treatable.

M. WILSON: It's treatable.

B. WILSON: It's been minimized -- my medicine has minimized it. Right, been minimized?

M. WILSON: It's absolutely been minimized.

KING: At the height of it, though...

M. WILSON: At the height of it it was just God-awful. It was really bad.

KING: Contemplating ending your own life?

B. WILSON: No -- well, a couple times I had those thoughts, but I never got serious about it -- I never got serious.

KING: What attracted -- you were stepping in -- did you ever feel, Melinda, you were stepping into a minefield? I mean, you meet a guy with enormous talent and enormous problems.

M. WILSON: Actually, Dr. Landy is the one that introduced us.

KING: Really?

M. WILSON: Yes, we just -- he could probably kill himself now for it but he brought Brian into an automobile dealership that I was working at at the time for Brian to buy a car.

KING: You sold him a car?

M. WILSON: I sold Brian a car. And it was like surreal. It was like I knew of the Beach Boys but I really didn't know that, like Brian was the genius behind the Beach Boys. Growing up in California...

B. WILSON: She didn't know that much about the Beach Boys but she learned later.

M. WILSON: I knew I always thought Dennis was cute. His brother.

B. WILSON: Dennis was a nice little guy. He's a really nice guy.

KING: Let's go back and find out a little. Let's get into the history because it's been a long while since we talked to anyone from the Beach Boys. How did it all start? It was you, Dennis and Carl. You were the brothers. The cousin was Mike Love and Al Jardine was the friend, right?

B. WILSON: Right.

KING: Five of you.


KING: How did it start?

B. WILSON: It started out -- my mom and dad took a little vacation to Mexico and they left $250 for food. But instead of food we went and bought some instruments. We got a bass, guitar and a set of drums.

KING: You were how old?

B. WILSON: I was 19. Dennis was 15. Carl was 17. Mike was 18. Al was 19. And so we wrote a song called "Surfin'" in my living room. We were all playing and singing and Mike and I wrote a song called "Surfin'" and that's how it all started.

KING: How did that song get around and what did you do with it?

B. WILSON: Well we went to -- my dad took us to a record producer in Hollywood who produced "Surfin" with us -- for us. And they put it on the radio and it was a hit. It was a hit. And that started our career.


KING: Who named them the Beach Boys?

B. WILSON: Who named them? A promotion man named Russ Regan.

KING: And you became California music, right?

B. WILSON: "Surfin' USA," "Surfer Girl," "California Girls."

KING: At your top you were the No. 1 selling group in the world, right?

B. WILSON: We were one of the No. 1s -- we weren't No. 1, we were one -- the Beatles were No. 1. We were No. 2.

KING: But you were on a ride?

B. WILSON: Right. Yes.

KING: More in a minute with Brian Wilson and Melinda Wilson on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away. (MUSIC "SURFIN' USA")



KING: We're back with Brian Wilson and Melinda Wilson, the saga of the Beach Boys and their new CD is "Getting in Over My Head." Featured on it, Elton John and Paul McCartney. We'll talk about that later on right now. Right now we're tracing the history. Did you surf? Were you a surfer?

B. WILSON: I couldn't surf. I never learned. No. Dennis surfed. I couldn't surf. I never learned how.

M. WILSON: He doesn't even like the ocean.

B. WILSON: I don't like the ocean.


DAN AYKROYD: We did the "Beach Boys Special." And...

JUDY BELUSHI: And he did the "Richard Pryor Show."

AYKROYD: We were California Highway Patrolmen and we went and arrested Brian Wilson and made him surf because he had written all those surfing songs but never surfed. So we made him go surfing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on Brian. Let's go surfing now. Everybody's learning how. Come on and surf safari with us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Wilson, here's your wave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But I haven't waxed my board yet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You should have thought of that sooner. Let's go.


KING: How would you explain what the sound was the Beach Boys had? What were they doing that caught the public?

B. WILSON: The sound was essentially background sound, myself, and Carl, Dennis and Al Jardine, Mike was our lead singer. The four of us put our voices together. We had done it really beautifully. We had a beautiful blend. We really did.

KING: You harmonized well?

B. WILSON: We harmonized very, very -- we were famous for our harmonies mostly.


KING: And how about instruments?

B. WILSON: Instruments -- we were all pretty good. I was bass. Dennis was drums. Carl was guitar and Al was guitar. So we all played together on our shows.

KING: How long were you a group?

B. WILSON: From 1961 to 1998. Then we broke up after Carl died. Which is too bad.

KING: And Mike, he has the group now, is that it...

B. WILSON: He licenses the name, yes.

M. WILSON: We licensed the name to Mike because he is actually the only one that really -- well, I shouldn't say the only one, Al would like to too, but we decided Mike would be the guy who...

KING: So he takes the group out called the Beach Boys.

M. WILSON: He's got some Bruce with him...

B. WILSON: Bruce Johnston.

M. WILSON: Yes. And the other ones I really don't know who...

KING: But they go out and they have the license to use the name.

M. WILSON: They have the license to use the name.

KING: And you get a cut of what they do?


KING: So you get a percentage.

M. WILSON: Mmm-hmm.

KING: Now this album, "Gettin' in Over My Head," that's just you?

B. WILSON: Right. Well, "Desert Drive" was -- some of them that I think that one of us and some of my band were on "Desert Drive" I think. But all the others I did all the harmonies myself. It's all my voice.

KING: Do you write your own songs?

B. WILSON: Yes. I write them sometimes alone sometimes with collaborators. Yes.

KING: But the Beach Boys, they wrote all their own songs.

B. WILSON: Yes, we al wrote our own songs.

KING: When your father got home from the vacation and he learned that the $250 was spent on things other than he left it for, was he mad?

B. WILSON: No, because we played him what we wrote and he started smiling. He goes: "That's great. That's a great song." I thought he was going to go: "Get in the bathroom you're going to get beat with a belt.," you know, like he usually does.


KING: How did you deal with early fame?

B. WILSON: It never fazed me until later on in my career. I remember I was too young to really understand what fame was. I couldn't understand what it was. I knew I was famous but it didn't sink into my head.

KING: How did you deal with having a lot of money?

B. WILSON: I was very, very financially secure my whole life. I have been very lucky to say that.

KING: So even through the depression everything, you took care of yourself?

B. WILSON: Yes, I always had that money in the bank. yes.

KING: How do you explain that, Melinda? Normally you would think when someone goes on the downward spiral everything goes down.

M. WILSON: He had people -- well, actually, to be honest with you, after the Landy years it wasn't great. Because Brian wrote the songs he continues -- he gets paid for the songs, and the amazing part about the Beach Boys catalogue is that it doesn't take a dive. Probably the Beatles, Beach Boys, maybe the Rolling Stones that each year a new generation finds the music and it increases.

B. WILSON: Our catalogues keep moving. The Beach Boy catalogue moves. We get a substantial amount of money from Rondor Music, A&M Records owns. They bought the catalog from my dad.

M. WILSON: Well, actually, your father sold it to them.

B. WILSON: My father sold the catalog to A&M.

KING: And you got played everywhere on the air, right?

B. WILSON: Oh, we got played like crazy, yes.

KING: You don't know them at this point. Did you know the Beach Boys?

M. WILSON: Yes, I knew the Beach Boys but I didn't know that Brian was the genius behind the Beach Boys. I didn't realize that he wrote the songs, produced them, sang and arranged them. In fact, it was amazing because we had George Martin visit us a couple of years ago and he was unaware of that. Where the Beatles had George Martin and John and Paul wrote the songs together, Brian was kind of like a one-man team.

KING: You wrote most of the songs?

B. WILSON: Yes, I did. Most of them I wrote by myself but some of them I wrote with Mike -- Mike Love but -- and Tony Asher and (INAUDIBLE) Parks (ph) also.

KING: When you were kids in school, before you recorded, before you bought these instruments, were you signing in school, were you a group?




KING: Why the five of you? Why those five in that room?

B. WILSON: Because my cousin came over to my house one day just to fool around and we said -- he said, some day we should start a rock n' roll group. We could all get together. And I said, I know I guy named Al Jardine who plays bass and could probably sing good. You know. So we went from there.

KING: And how about Mike Love. He was a friend?

B. WILSON: He was my cousin, yes. He was family and he was quite the talented singer.

KING: And "Surfin'" was the first thing you did.

B. WILSON: Yes, that was our first one and then we did "Surfer Girl" then we did "Surfin' Safari" and "409" and then from there it's history.


KING: What was it like to hear yourself on the radio?

B. WILSON: Oh it was a thrill. It was a big thrill. It really was. It was a big thrill for me to hear on radio.

KING: Did you do a lot of concertizing (ph)?

B. WILSON: Oh, all the time. We toured all the time.

KING: You were always on tour.

B. WILSON: We were always on tour. yes.

KING: And you were a big smash?

B. WILSON: Yes. Yes.

KING: And were there a lot of groupies? B. WILSON: Oh yes, a lot of groupies, yes.


KING: Were you married at the time?

B. WILSON: Yes I was, to Marilyn.

KING: Was that tough to deal with?

B. WILSON: No. I loved her.

KING: So you didn't have a problem. You never got...

B. WILSON: Never got...

KING: Did the group ever get carried away with themselves?

B. WILSON: Not really carried away. Mike became a little egotistical about things but the rest of us were pretty humble people.

KING: We'll be right back with Brian Wilson and Melinda Wilson, the saga of the Beach Boys. Don't go away.




KING: We're back with the Wilsons. Did you notice early on though, even with the success for a while in school that you had some problems?

B. WILSON: In school I didn't but in the early '60s when the Beach Boys started out I had a little bit of a nervous breakdown.

KING: What did that entail, what happened when you had a nervous breakdown.

B. WILSON: I was on an airplane and I -- "I want to get off this airplane, I don't want to be on this airplane!" and people were looking at me, I made a fool of myself, you know. I was flipping out so I -- you know, and then when we landed my mom flew to the city where I was where I landed and she flew me back and I didn't go on that tour.

KING: And they diagnosed this as a nervous breakdown.

B. WILSON: Right.

KING: You were hospitalized.

B. WILSON: No, no, I wasn't.

KING: What did they do for you? B. WILSON: They gave me some medicine.

KING: And what did they think caused it?

B. WILSON: No one knows. I don't know and they didn't know.

KING: You had no pre-indication of any problems?

B. WILSON: No one knew. No.

M. WILSON: That's kind of how depression works. Usually with males it starts somewhere late teens, early 20s. And because he was under a lot of pressure that's when it seems to come out.

KING: Do you think maybe you had too much too soon?

B. WILSON: Probably so. I probably had a little too much too soon, that's probably what happened. yes.

KING: All that success, young age, dealing with it...

B. WILSON: Right.

KING: You don't think so?

M. WILSON: No. I don't believe in that at all. I think it's genetic. His father suffered from depression and from what I know about it now it's definitely genetic, it runs in the family.

KING: How about your brothers?

B. WILSON: My brother Carl was fine. Dennis was a very, very nervous kid. Very nervous. Very, very high strung and nervous and had a lot of problems, a lot of emotional problems.

M. WILSON: The problem is they came from a very dysfunctional family. So it was hard to distinguish from the beginning whether it was the dysfunctional family causing Brian's problems or eventually what we found out, it was depression. You couple the two and it's not a good...

KING: But look at all the talent emanating from that.

M. WILSON: But look at all the talented people that do suffer from depression. They're beginning to believe that it has something to do with the creative part of the brain.

KING: Yes. Because we're just beginning to study. We know depressed people often are very successful.

M. WILSON: That's correct.

B. WILSON: Right.

KING: All right. When after this plane episode you come back. And when you went out singing again, was that hard? B. WILSON: No, actually, I was over the nervous breakdown and I went out and had a good time and performed. Then I haven't had a nervous breakdown since.

M. WILSON: At some point he decided that he didn't want to go out anymore.

B. WILSON: With the Beach Boys?

M. WILSON: Mmm-hmm.

B. WILSON: In 1965 that was, yes.

KING: What happened?

B. WILSON: I took LSD and some different kinds of amphetamine pills and it messed my head up to where I couldn't concentrate very much on music so I had to bow out of the Beach Boys. Plus I also wanted to stay home and write songs for them. So while they were on the road I would be home writing and when they came back they would just record with it.

KING: So they went out as a foursome?

B. WILSON: Right, right. No, they hired Glen Campbell to go out with them.

KING: Was it called Glen Campbell and the Beach Boys or just the Beach Boys?

B. WILSON: No, just the Beach Boys. Glen Campbell was -- and then when Glen left Bruce Johnston came in and took my place so...

KING: He is with them now, right?


KING: Yes? Where did you find Glen?

B. WILSON: Mike found him. I didn't find him. Mike found him.

KING: That's a pretty lucky find.

B. WILSON: Yes. He's a great singer, Glen.

KING: And a pretty good guitar player.

B. WILSON: Yes. He is very good at guitar, yes.

KING: So he blended right in.

B. WILSON: Oh yes, he blended in beautifully.

KING: Why didn't you want to sing anymore?

B. WILSON: It wasn't that I didn't want to sing it was that I didn't want to go on tour. It had nothing to do with singing, I just wanted to write new songs.

KING: When they recorded, did Glen record with them or you?

B. WILSON: I did.

KING: So you still remained in the recording studio?

B. WILSON: Right. I was part of the recording group but not part of the touring group. Right.

KING: You didn't miss that?

B. WILSON: No. Then in 1969 or 1970 I started going back out with them. Throughout the '70s sporadically I was going out with them, in the '70s.

KING: And did you have problems? Was it difficult to be on the stage?

B. WILSON: Oh no, I got off on it. I loved it. I loved every moment of it. Every minute. It was...

KING: Were you, by nature, Brian, an experimenter? You say you took LSD and the like. Were you attracted to that kind of thing?

B. WILSON: Not really, no. No, actually not, no. I had had medicine, a lot of medicine in my life but I've taken few drugs since the '60s.

KING: But in the '60s you did what a lot of people did.

B. WILSON: When everybody -- the big thing was taking dope, smoking dope, yes. I did my share of that.

M. WILSON: The funny part about it is Brian's doctor now says that in terms of what most people were doing in the '60s, Brian didn't do much. I mean, when he talks about LSD, he went on -- he took three trips. In the '60s that wasn't a lot. But what people have a tendency to do who suffer with depression is they use drugs and alcohol to medicate themselves.

B. WILSON: To try to -- it's called nepenthe. Alcohol and morphine -- nepenthe means numbing the soul, numbing your soul.

M. WILSON: Because all of the sudden -- I mean, you're normal and all of the sudden you start hearing voices in your head and things start happening to you that you don't know whether to tell people or -- I think with Brian he went a long time without discussing it with...

KING: Why not?

B. WILSON: I was afraid to. I was afraid to.

KING: Yes, I would imagine. I can understand. When you say you heard voices can you describe what that's like? Because we read stories like that about people who -- what happens?

B. WILSON: Well, a voice is saying: "I'm going to hurt you, I'm going to kill you." And I'd say: "Please don't kill me."

KING: It's an actual voice.

B. WILSON: Actual voice in my head. Yes.

KING: Not your voice?

B. WILSON: No. No.

M. WILSON: That's called auditory hallucinations and if somebody's depression is deep enough that's what happens to them.

KING: And at the same time you're still writing songs?

B. WILSON: Yes, I could still write songs, yes, during that period.

KING: Right hit songs.


M. WILSON: That's the thing that's amazing. Right now when he goes out on tour I can look at him and I say to myself: "Oh my God, I can tell just by his face he's hearing voices."

KING: You still hear them.

B. WILSON: Oh yes. I still hear them.

M. WILSON: And yet he continues to do the concerts. It's amazing.

KING: Is that a form of schizophrenia?

M. WILSON: There is a very -- it's a schizo-affective disorder is what they call it actually. And there's a very fine line between depression, schizophrenia, bipolar. It's a degree.

KING: You're very great to come and talk about it. We'll be right back with more Brian Wilson and Melinda Wilson. "Getting' In Over My Head" is currently out. That's the CD. We're going to talk about that, too, don't go away.




KING: Discussing the life and times of the brilliant Brian Wilson. With us is his wife Melinda. They have three adopted children. Brian currently tours as just Brian Wilson and you tour as -- you can't do the Beach Boys, right? B. WILSON: No, I just go under my own name.

KING: Were you -- were you hit as a kid?

B. WILSON: Was I hit?

KING: Yeah, did your father, was he rough with you? Did you have a physical...

B. WILSON: Yeah, quite rough for me. I was whipped a lot. Yeah.

KING: Are you hard of hearing?

B. WILSON: I'm deaf in my right ear.

KING: Was it due to beatings?

B. WILSON: No, no. I was born deaf.

KING: Oh, born deaf.

B. WILSON: Yeah, my right ear.

KING: Boy things were not easy, were they?

B. WILSON: No. Not easy at home, not when I was growing up, no. But then after I got out of my house I felt better.

KING: All right, back to the hearing things. You could hear them now?

B. WILSON: I can still hear things like, "I'm going to kill you," but I don't hear very many other kind of thoughts. Just usually negative thoughts or negative...

KING: Ever hear them while you're singing?

B. WILSON: No, not when I'm singing, no.

KING: When you're writing?

B. WILSON: No, not then, either.

KING: When, then, would you hear them?

B. WILSON: When I'm not singing or writing.

KING: You might hear them driving in a car?

B. WILSON: It comes in periods. There will be three or four hours that will go by and then all of the sudden they will come back in.

KING: And how do you deal with it? M. WILSON: I deal with it in a manner of understanding what it is. And when he's going through these bouts of depression, which, by the way, used to last somewhere from a month to a couple of weeks. Since he's got a new doctor and since he's been taking these new medications...

KING: He's better.

M. WILSON: Much better. I mean, he never spends a day in bed.

KING: How do the kids deal with it?

M. WILSON: The kids don't even -- they don't even really see it, I don't think.

B. WILSON: They weren't really told, actually. They were never told that I had auditory hallucinations.

M. WILSON: And they're young enough to where, you know, sometimes they'll say, "Is Daddy feeling not good today?"

KING: Do your grown children -- how do they react to all of this?

B. WILSON: Well, they love me. They don't really relate to me as a crazy person that has voices. You know.

KING: Do they ever issue commands, these voices?

B. WILSON: What?

KING: Do they ever tell you to do things?


KING: Just, "I'm going to kill you," or...

B. WILSON: Yeah, right.

KING: That's all they -- it ever says?

B. WILSON: Yeah.

KING: Is that some sort of self-wish?

M. WILSON: No. No. I don't think so. But -- they tell him other things as well, like...

KING: Like?

B. WILSON: They'll say, like...

M. WILSON: You're no good, or...

B. WILSON: Or something like that, yeah.

M. WILSON: And then there are days that they might be good to him.

B. WILSON: That happens every few days, they'll have...

KING: Good to you by praising you, you mean?

B. WILSON: Right. They'll say, "We love you, we love you, we can't do without you," stuff like that, yeah.

M. WILSON: Basically what it is, it's an imbalance of the chemicals in his brain. So that's...

KING: Has nothing to do with low self-esteem or...

M. WILSON: It could. I mean, it could. There's no one particular reason, there's just a conglomeration of reasons for Brian. I mean...

KING: Because the great puzzle would be how on earth could Brian Wilson have low self-esteem.

B. WILSON: I have self-esteem, I have...

M. WILSON: Yeah, but the perfect example, Bri, was like the first time we went on tour, like about four or five years ago where he really had no indication of knowing how much people loved him, because he hadn't been on tour for years. And I think you were really quite surprised by the reaction that you got from people, weren't you?

B. WILSON: I did. I was very, very surprised. I never thought I would be that loved or respected.


KING: And when you walked out on stage, what was that like?

B. WILSON: Scary. It was scary at first but after, I'd say, our first note I was OK. I was all right. A little scary for me.

KING: And then the crowd. Their appreciation of you.

B. WILSON: Oh, that thrilled me to death, I was thrilled to death, yeah.

M. WILSON: And he was so surprised by it. It was like...

KING: Didn't you know how well-regarded you were...

B. WILSON: I didn't know.

KING: You were an institution.

B. WILSON: How was I to know? I didn't know until I tried my first tour and found out.

M. WILSON: People were just happy to see that he...

KING: What, Melinda, was the most difficult part for you in the beginnings of this relationship?

M. WILSON: Brian having a tendency to push me away at times when he felt that things were becoming too close and too intimate. And I think he does that because he's afraid to be disappointed. He's afraid that he's going to get disappointed. So, consequently, he's goes, "I'm going to walk away from this."

KING: Still does it?

M. WILSON: Not to me, but he does it, I think, to other people.

KING: Do you think that's true?

B. WILSON: I think minimally. I don't think I do it to too many people. Now and then I'll be a little brief with some of my band members. I won't talk or I'll refrain from talking to my band while we're rehearsing. But basically I am friendly with people.

M. WILSON: But how about, like, with your collaborators?

B. WILSON: I'll go on cold streaks. I'll work with a collaborator then I'll stop calling the collaborator for a couple weeks. I'll say I need a break from you for a couple weeks. But they're "OK, fine, fine, I'll see you in two weeks."

M. WILSON: And that was the hardest thing for me to understand. He's so honest. He'd just call me up and say -- this is before we were married -- "You know, I really like you and everything but I need a break and I'm gone."

B. WILSON: And I'll try my best -- I'll try not to hurt feelings, or people's feelings when I say that.

KING: But he's honest.

M. WILSON: Honest. And now I totally understand why.

KING: We'll be right back with Brian and Melinda Wilson. Don't go away.





KING: We're back with Brian Wilson and Melinda Wilson. Tell me about "Getting' In Over My Head," how it came together.

B. WILSON: Well, we decided -- we all decided we should do another album, another solo album, because the last one was in 1998, called "Imagination." So I started writing songs and then we picked songs from the past and songs of recent years and I wrote some original songs. So all in all, it's over a period of like 15 or 20 years.

KING: Who titled it?

B. WILSON: Who titled it? The record company did. Yeah.

KING: Is there a song called "Getting' In Over My Head"?

B. WILSON: Yeah, there is. Yes.

KING: Is there a personal saga in that?

B. WILSON: No...

KING: You don't think you're in over your head.

B. WILSON: No, I actually did not write that lyric. It was written by Andy Paley and I don't know -- I think he means he's getting into a love affair to deep...

KING: How did Elton John get involved?

B. WILSON: I met him, I think, either in New York or London, I'm not sure about two years ago, and I said to him, "Would you ever consider working with me on an album of mine?" and he says, "I'd love to."

So come about four months ago I called him up and asked him if he would let me send him a tape or a CD of the song called "How Could We Still Be Dancing" and he -- I sent it to him and he learned how to sing the song and he came to L.A. and he did it in 20 minutes. It took him 20 minutes to get the thing done and he left the studio. 20 minutes.

KING: What was it like working with him?

B. WILSON: Oh, it was a thrill. It was a big thrill for me.

KING: Now how about the meeting with Paul McCartney?

B. WILSON: I talked to Paul McCartney over the years ranging from 1967 to 2004.

KING: Talked to him in person, you met him and...

B. WILSON: At the landmine show he did "God Only Knows" with me and I did "Let It Be" with him. And then I called him about four months ago asking him if he could come out and do -- sing a song called "A Friend Like You," which I wrote for him, me and my collaborator wrote for him. And he said he'd love to come out. And he came to the studio and that was one of the bigger thrills of my life to tell you the truth, to produce Paul McCartney. And that was a thrill for me. That was a thrill.

KING: You wrote the song? "A Friend Like You."

B. WILSON: And the lyrics were written by Steve Kalinich. KING: And it was referring to Paul?

B. WILSON: To Paul. Yeah.

KING: And he sang it?

B. WILSON: Yes he did. He sang some of it. Yes.

KING: What a thrill that must have been.

B. WILSON: Oh, it was such a thrill!

M. WILSON: I think the first time we ran into him was at the Queen's Jubilee. When they invited Brian to back to do the 50th Jubilee for the Queen.

KING: Oh, you were at that?

B. WILSON: I was there. I sang and performed at that show. I met the Queen, too.

M. WILSON: Brian and Tony Bennett were like the two only Americans.


KING: I didn't know you performed. That's great.

B. WILSON: ...with Eric Clapton, Elton John and Paul McCartney.

M. WILSON: And so that's kind of how he got reunited with these guys...

KING: And who's distributing "Getting' In Over My Head"?

M. WILSON: Rhino. Rhino Records. Warner Bros.

KING: Rhino Records. That's great. It's everywhere now.

B. WILSON: Oh, it's selling like crazy. Yeah.

KING: This doctor. Back to this doctor. How did that connection occur and how did it last so long? You were here for all that, right?

M. WILSON: I was here for the ending of it.

KING: Did you end it?

M. WILSON: I had a lot to do with ending it. Mmm-hmm. It was...

KING: It was a control thing.

M. WILSON: It was a control thing. Sometimes I equate it as almost a child being abused by somebody and I didn't know what to do about it because every time we were out there was never a family member or a friend, it was always Landy and his goons, as I call them.

And one time Brian called his mother from my cell phone and I finally got a phone number and so I tried to get a hold of her and she was very suspicious about the call, so it was like so scary I didn't know what to do. It was like really scary.

So then I met a friend of Brian's, David Leaf, who was a biographer that had written a book about Brian and he filled me in on all the background of what was happening. And I went to the attorney general and told him that something really wrong was happening here.

KING: And did they investigate?

M. WILSON: They did investigate. But they'd tell me that they needed a family member to be involved. And so after three years of having meetings with his brother and his brother's attorney, his brother decided to do something about it.

KING: You weren't a family member?

M. WILSON: I wasn't a family member, couldn't do anything about it. It's amazing how these things happen.

KING: Do you know how you got sucked in, Brian?

B. WILSON: To the Landy (ph) program? I was referred to him by my wife in 1975, December the 20th of 1975.

KING: You remember the date?

B. WILSON: Yeah. He said I'm going to put you on a program to try to get you back into mental shape so you're not going to go looking for heroin and drugs like that. And I had bought some heroin and my wife found the heroin. Can you believe that?

KING: So his intentions at that time were noble, right? I mean he wanted to get you off drugs.

B. WILSON: Yeah, during that period of time he was OK, yeah.

KING: Then what happened?

M. WILSON: Here's the deal. Here's the deal that always like strikes me. They lived ten minutes from UCLA. The best doctors in the world are at UCLA. And finally that's who we took Brian to, UCLA, with a team of three doctors who helped get him in the shape that he's in today. It was just like -- why would you find the kookiest kook out there, why wouldn't you -- why wouldn't you...

B. WILSON: My wife didn't know he was a crazy man.

KING: Was it hard to let go?

B. WILSON: A little bit hard for me to let go. Yes.

KING: It was hard. And you'd had a control figure in your life for that long a period.

B. WILSON: Nine years, starting from 1983-1992. It was nine years of control and...

KING: Were you singing, recording and writing during that time?

B. WILSON: Yeah, I was writing, singing, recording. I did a solo album in 1988.

M. WILSON: Which Dr. Landy had -- he was involved on that one.

B. WILSON: He was involved in the songwriting.

M. WILSON: He had his name all over the songs.

B. WILSON: He did write. He and his wife did write some songs with me. They collaborated.

KING: Well, in our remaining moments, find out what Brian Wilson does now, how optimistic he is, what the story of this whole family is and where they go from here. The CD is "Getting' In Over My Head." We'll be right back.




KING: We're back with the Wilsons. One other thing, there was once an attempted album, right? 1967, "Smile"?

B. WILSON: We got some of it done then, but we junked it. We threw it away because I thought it was too advanced for people to hear. I thought it was a little too advanced.

KING: Advanced.

B. WILSON: It had a very avant-garde feeling about it. It was a little bit too advanced.

KING: What ever happened to it?

B. WILSON: We didn't do anything to it until 2004.

KING: And?

B. WILSON: And...

KING: So when's it coming up?

B. WILSON: We think September or October, we're shooting for.

KING: And how better is he now than when you met him?

M. WILSON: Oh my God. It's day and night different. When I first met him he would have bouts of depression that would put him in bed...

B. WILSON: Scare her.

M. WILSON: But not only that, he would stay in bed for months at a time. And it never happens anymore.

But I think a lot of it has to do -- for people who are suffering with the depression they need to, number one, find a great psychiatrist, number two, get the proper medication, that they need.

And it's not an easy task to do that. You go through a lot of medications before you find the combination that works. But the most important thing, I think, is a person's environment. They have to be in a loving environment.

B. WILSON: If there's not love present, it's much, much harder to function. When there's love present, it's easier to deal with life.

KING: It's still hard, though.

B. WILSON: Yeah. It's still hard, but easier when I have the love of my family I feel a little bit better.

KING: Can you write while depressed?

B. WILSON: Yeah, absolutely. I can be depressed as hell and write, yeah.

KING: Do you ever listen to old Beach Boys records?

B. WILSON: No, we don't wallow in the mire over the Beach Boys. I used to listen to Andy Williams and Kenny Rogers and stuff like that. Perry Como and Nat King Cole, of course, that was our song, "When I Fall in Love" was our song.

When I fall in love, it will be forever -- you know, that song.

KING: Or I'll never fall in love in a restless world like this is.

B. WILSON: Yeah.

KING: I know that.

B. WILSON: Yeah, it's a beautiful tune.

KING: You're a beautiful guy.

B. WILSON: Thank you very much.

KING: Thank you.

M. WILSON: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Brian Wilson and Melinda Wilson. The new CD is "Gettin' In Over My Head" and this fall, "Smile" will finally be released. Thanks for joining us. I'll be back in a couple of minutes. Don't go away.



KING: Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE with Melinda Wilson and the great Brian Wilson. Stay tuned now for more news around the clock on your most trusted name in news, CNN. See you tomorrow night, good night.


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