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Journalist Jason Fine, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Jew and Brian Wilson Confidant

For many years, I’ve been a huge Brian Wilson and Beach Boys fan.
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December 22, 2022
Jason Fine

For many years, I’ve been a huge Brian Wilson and Beach Boys fan. I especially love “Pet Sounds,” one of the greatest albums in rock ‘n’ roll history. 

The unsatisfying thing about being a Brian Wilson fan is that unlike other musicians, where there is so much content on them that you feel like you know them, Brian was always a bit of a mystery. In most interviews I’d seen, he wouldn’t reveal very much about himself. He wasn’t an open book, to say the least.

Then, in 2021, a documentary called “Long Promised Road” came out. It followed Brian Wilson and interviewer Jason Fine, the editor of Rolling Stone, as they traveled around Los Angeles and talked about Brian’s life. 

The film was endearing and shined a light on a living legend. It was very sweet, and you could feel the love in it.  

Jason started writing for Rolling Stone as a freelancer for in the 90’s and has also interviewed Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. He’s a local – he grew up in Laguna Beach – and enjoyed the references to his hometown on Beach Boys records. 

“I loved hearing Laguna and the surf culture of Southern California mentioned in the songs,” Jason said. “One of the first records I ever bought on my own was ‘Endless Summer,’ the Beach Boys collection, when I was 8 years old. I was looking at these wild-bearded figures on the cover, who seemed almost mythological to me.” 

As soon as Jason put on the record, he fell in love with it.

“You can go in the sunshine and be pretty sad. I think that was Brian. I related to that.”
– Jason Fine

“I was pretty entranced,” he said. “But I didn’t really realize until much, much later that there was something else beyond the surf and the cars and the girls and Southern California mythology going on in the music. It wasn’t until much later that I realized it was Brian’s pathos and depths and sadness and melancholy, and those things had spoken to me too. You can go in the sunshine and be pretty sad. I think that was Brian. I related to that.”

When the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” came out in 1966, it revolutionized how musicians made songs. Today, it’s seen as a masterpiece and one of the first concept albums in rock. 

Brian Wilson

“Brian was able to balance these incredible arrangements and melodies and deep, personal emotions,” said Jason. “He put himself into those songs and was able to express them through the arrangements and voices in a way that really no one else has ever done. It’s unfathomable to think: How does this thing come into your head and then translate out into the real world in real time? It’s not like where it is now, where you could make a record with a Norwegian string quartet if you wanted to. Back then, it was done in the same room, at the same time. It was pretty mind-blowing.”

In “Long Promised Road,” Jason asks Brian if he’s making music these days. “You still get ideas for different ways to produce sounds?” he says.

“Yeah,” Brian says.

“What’s your process like?” Jason asks.  

“You start with a background track, you do the background vocals and then you do the leads,” Brian says, like it’s so simple. 

Much of the documentary is about Brian’s late brothers Carl and Dennis. Carl died of lung cancer in 1998 and Dennis died in 1983, drowning in Marina Del Rey. 

“I hadn’t thought about how significant his relationships with his brothers would be,” said Fine. “That’s what the film is centered on.”

Fine handles the tragedy in Brian Wilson’s life with care. He’s so respectful of Brian and comes off as an absolute mensch. 

He believes that “Long Promised Road” gives Brian a voice and inspires everyone who watches it.

“I hope it gives people a kind of comfort that maybe Brian himself didn’t feel in his own life for a long time,” he said. “It does what we set out to do, which was give Brian the chance to tell his story, in the way that he chose.”

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