Red Booth Notes: Grace and “Think About the Days” – Brian Wilson’s Unexpected Gift
I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to do that.
I was one of many who felt a deep gratitude upon the release, in 2004, of Smile—the great album Wilson attempted with The Beach Boys, but never finished—as near madness, substance abuse, and broken relationships became a perfect storm that conspired against its completion. No one ever thought to hear it. But then, there it was—finally finished, with shimmering harmonies, poetic lines, and shadings of the instrumental palette that prompted more than one comparison to the modernist composer Aaron Copeland.
And just last year, Capitol Records, using the now completed Smile as an aural reference, released the long shelved sessions The Beach Boys recorded in the late 1960s. Collectively, they became The Smile Sessions—a presentation of recordings never fully brought to completion, but a montage that shows how Wilson, an incredibly talented twenty-something, collaborated with lyricist Van Dyke Parks and his fellow Beach Boys to take pop music to places it had never gone before.
Over forty years had passed, but here those songs were. Pristine sound. Unquestioned artistry. There was something very just about being able to hear these recordings at last. And to hear the harmonies of Wilson’s now-deceased brothers, Carl and Dennis, only lent an added sense of poignancy.
One might have thought, and thought rightly, that these two album releases would be enough to ask for. To have them, in tandem with the classic album, Pet Sounds, and songs like In My Room, or Surf’s Up, is to possess a trove of recordings with few, if any, peers.
But then, today, came a wordless, startlingly brief soundscape—“Think About the Days”—the opening track of The Beach Boys’ new album, “That’s Why God Made the Radio.”
I was given this album as an early Father’s Day present, and so soon as I brought it home, I played it for my wife. She was quiet for several seconds, then said simply, “That’s beautiful.” She paused again, and said, “Thank you for sharing it with me.” Her eyes told me how much she meant it.
I could only say, “I don’t have words to describe how moving this song is.”
“That’s why there are no words,” she said.
She was right.
Many think of The Beach Boys, and think immediately of summer. Songs like Surfin’ USA and I Get Around come instantly to mind. Many love to listen to these songs at full volume with the windows down. I’m one of them. And to be sure, there are several songs like that to be found on “That’s Why God Made the Radio.”
But then, there are depths far beyond these songs to be sounded in the music Brian Wilson has given us.
The poet G.K. Chesterton once described music as “beauty in solution,” and “the liquid element of beauty.” I think of these words when I listen to “Think About the Days.” Spare, subtle brush strokes of sound—cast amid harmonies that still shimmer—a final orchestral flourish as dénouement. It’s all there. Composer Brian Wilson’s gifts are on full display. A Beach Boy he might be. But here, so memorably, he has caught “the liquid element of beauty.”
This stunning, elegiac piece is just one minute, twenty-eight seconds in length.
I marvel at that, as I do the fact that somehow, beyond all the brokenness and lost years, a place beckoned to Brian Wilson along the lonely shore—a place of grace. To listen to “Think About the Days,” is to walk there, if only for a few moments. But that we are able to walk there at all makes all the difference.
 From pages 95-96 of George Bernard Shaw, by G.K. Chesterton, (New York: John Lane Company, 1910).