The problem, he says, is less with Brian Wilson than with other people: “When Brian Wilson’s in a room, people don’t know how to approach him.”
Foskett thinks that his latterday career has been therapeutic. “It was obvious that he was having some memories, and they weren’t necessarily the best memories, when we started to rehearse Smile. I think it absolutely did exorcise those problems. It was therapeutic, even for me to watch.”
Love did his bit to add to the ongoing weirdness by accepting the band’s induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame with a rambling speech in which he variously attacked Paul McCartney, Diana Ross, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel and called Mick Jagger a “chickenshit”
In any case, he says, he didn’t find the bedridden, unwashed, irreparably damaged tragedy of popular myth. “I knocked on the door and Brian answered and said, ‘Come on in.’ We hung out, we jammed for an hour, we had some lunch and then he said nice meeting you, stay in touch. And I did. I think God really wanted it to happen.” Eventually, Foskett ended up in the Beach Boys’ 1980s touring band: “I think it was some of the more serene times for the band,” he says, which seems an odd way of describing a erica’s Favourite Band finally tipped over into the realms of soap opera: quite aside from the business with Brian and Dr Landy, Dennis drowned a few months after fathering a child by a woman alleged to be vocalist Mike Love’s illegitimate daughter.
“Well have a peek at this website, Dennis did die unfortunately. But was it a positive experience? Absolutely. Brian was there on and off, he wasn’t in great shape at the beginning, but by the end he looked great, he was physically sound. It was fun having him around.”
In fairness, it was probably less turbulent than the 1990s, which the Beach Boys largely spent suing each other over songwriting royalties, the rights to the Beach Boys name and the contents of Brian’s Landy-era “autobiography” Wouldn’t It Be Nice, which it later transpired Wilson had never actually read, let alone written. Most of the litigation seemed to stem from Mike Love: when his most recent legal claim – that Wilson’s promotion of the finished Smile album “shamelessly misappropriated Mike Love’s songs, likeness and the Beach Boys trademark as well as the Smile album itself” – Rolling Stone gleefully reported it with the headline: “Brian Wilson finally defeats one of Mike Love’s dubious lawsuits.” By the end of the decade, Brian Wilson had left the band, as had vocalist Al Jardine, Carl had died of cancer, leaving Mike Love the sole original member, alongside Bruce Johnson, drafted in to replace Wilson after his mid-60s breakdown. More recently there seems to have been a thaw in relations. “I haven’t spoken to Bruce Johnson in years, wouldn’t even know what he looks like now, but I speak to Mike Love on the phone,” Wilson says. “It’s friendly although…” He searches for the right words. “No one wants to put their foot in the fire too long.”
Their relationship began in the mid-70s, when Foskett simply turned up at Wilson’s Bel Air home unannounced, desperate to meet his hero, unabashed by the lurid stories that surrounded him
Still, Love seems to have unexpectedly overcome his animosity to Smile, declaring that a forthcoming box set of the Beach Boys’ original sessions for the album features “cousin Brian at his creative peak… I’m unaware of anything that comes close in popular music.” When I read this quote to Wilson, he looks blank. Doesn’t he find it odd? “No. Why?” Van Dyke Parks is a little more effusive, or at least he is when finally he stops laughing. “I’m just incredulous. I can’t believe that he’s an enthusiast. I wouldn’t condemn him if it took him some time to come to that conclusion. I’ll just say that they have an expression in Texas that goes along with such a delayed reaction and that is: he’s a little slow out of the shoot. All hat and no cowboy,” he says, before dissolving into laughter again.