AFP Music has a peculiar power. It's long been known that listening to…
- Posted on Aug 16th 2010 9:30AM by Mike Ayers
Spinner spoke with Wilson about tackling the Gershwin catalog, the impact the great composer had on his own songwriting and those rumors floating out there regarding the Beach Boys getting together for a 50th anniversary concert in 2011.
When the Gershwin estate contacted you, what was your initial feeling?
Well, I was proud that that they'd come after me to do an album. It was both exciting and scary. I was scared to be associated with Gershwin, the greatest music maker of the world. It looked like a mountain I wasn't going to be able to climb, but we did it anyways.
From start to finish, how long did it take to record?
About three months.
The two pieces that you were presented with that were unfinished -- 'The Like In I Love You' and 'Nothing but Love' -- what state were they in when you got them?
They were in the form of 104 little Gershwin melodies. So we had to narrow it down to two out of those 104. 'Nothing but Love' is probably one of my favorites. We wanted to give that one closest to the experience of love. Love and beauty. We had 25 Gershwin songs to choose from and had to narrow it down to 12 -- those 12, we were all pretty familiar with them.
As a songwriter and pop musician yourself, what makes the Gershwin catalog so special to you?
Well, it's because everyone loves George Gershwin. And so do I. And it's a pleasure to work an album of his songs, you know? The song 'I Loves You, Porgy' was a challenge. First of all, it was sung by a girl. I should be a girl to sing like a girl. But it's a pretty tune. It's a good tune.
That song in particular lends itself to a wide range of interpretations over the last 70 years. Why is that?
I don't know. He wrote from his heart.
It's been noted that you first heard 'Rhapsody in Blue' at a very young age.
Yeah, when I was 2.
Do you remember what kind of impact that had?
Well, when I was 2 years old, it stole my heart, you know? I loved it. Later on when I heard it, I was able to say to myself, "I really do love this," because when I first heard it, I couldn't think about it. But it still loved it.
When you were just starting to get into writing and composition, in the 1950s and 1960s, did Gershwin's work have an impact on you then?
No, I wasn't really inspired then by Gershwin. I didn't really quite make music that sounded like him, but some of my chords sounded like him.
A few years ago, you reteamed with Van Dyke Parks on completing 'Smile' and 'Lucky Old Sun.' Did working with him on those sessions inform how you approached this?
Well, he was an inspiration: His music alone is enough of an inspiration. He had quite a bit to say about music.
Do you find arranging in this style a tough thing for you at this point in your career?
No, not really. I just go on and on. From day to day.
Can you talk about finding the arrangement for 'Someone to Watch Over Me'?
That wasn't difficult. I used Herb Alpert and the way he phrased it.
Rumors are persistent about a 50th anniversary of the Beach Boys next year. Is this possible?
Maybe, we don't know yet. I don't think so, though.
How would you feel about that?
Well, I don't really enjoy working with Mike [Love] and Bruce [Johnston], you know. It's not my style to work with those guys.